The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War

The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War

The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War

The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War


The cultural Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West was without precedent. At the outset of this original and wide-ranging historical survey, David Caute establishes the nature of the extraordinary cultural competition set up post-1945 between Moscow, New York, London and Paris, with the most intimate frontier war staged in the city of Berlin. Using sources in four languages, Caute explores the cultural Cold War as it rapidly penetrated theatre, film, classical music, popular music, ballet, painting and sculpture, as well as propaganda by exhibition. Artists such as Miller, Picasso, Eisenstein, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky became involved in this fierce cultural competition through which each of the major Cold War protagonists sought to establish their supremacy. Caute challenges some recent, one-dimensional, American accounts of 'Cold War culture', which ignore not only the Soviet performance but virtually any cultural activity outside the USA. The West presented its cultural avant-garde as evidence of liberty, even through monochrome canvases and dodecaphonic music appealed only to a minority audience. Soviet artistic standards and teaching levels were exceptionally high, but the fear of freedom and innovation virtually guaranteed the moral defeat which accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union.


This book started out as a larger design, embracing literature and the key academic disciplines, as well as what is to be found in these pages: theatre, film, classical and popular music, ballet, painting and sculpture, and exhibition culture. However, the available material from the United States, the Soviet Union, and Europe is so vast that my findings in the fields of fiction, literary criticism, political theory, and historiography are now scheduled for a subsequent volume.

Meanwhile, I would like to thank colleagues to whom I am indebted for advice and assistance, particularly those who have checked and corrected my translations from foreign languages. Frank Althaus, Elena Smolina, and Vera Adian provided invaluable help with Russian texts. I thank Frank for his patience and encouragement as the years passed. Elena worked miracles on my behalf in Moscow as facilitator of archival access and interpreter during film screenings at Belye Stolby, the central state film archive an hour’s dash from Moscow.

Professor Julian Graffy, of SSEES, University of London, has very kindly and beyond any call of duty supplied me with numerous videotapes of Stalin-era films, a contribution all the more generous and valuable since I ran afoul of the 1988 Copyright & Patents Act, which effectively denies freelance scholars access to video material held in educational libraries.

In Russia the following kindly offered me permission to access material, or valuable time, perspectives, and historical recall: Svetlana Dzhaforova, Naum Kleiman (director, Museum of Cinema), Vitaly Mishin (deputy director, Pushkin Museum), Alla Evgeniovna Osipenko, Lydia Romachkova (deputy director and curator of avant-garde art, Tretyakov Museum), Ekaterina Kyrilovna Simonovna (daughter of Konstantin (Kyril) Simonov), Ella and Ivan Zadorozhnyuk, and Mark Zak (deputy director of the State Institute for Film Research, NIIK).

For all manner of help, I am grateful to Sergei Bek, Nicole Boireau, Anna Caute, Colin Chambers, Michel Ciment, Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht, Cora Sol Goldstein, D. W. Ellwood, Ronald Hayman, J. L. Krabbendam, Marc Lazar, Alan Nadel, Nora Sayre, Giles Scott-Smith, Solomon Volkov, Peter Watson, and the late John Willett.

Not least of my debts is to my editor and copy-editor Jeff New, who subjected the text to the most expert, well informed, and scrupulous critique . . .

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