Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview

Chapter 19
Public Opinion and the "Hungarian Syndrome"

Noticeable changes were taking place in the country. Above all, the public atmosphere was changing; a modest liberation of society was proceeding. The Soviet Union opened up to the world. International contacts and exchanges developed, trips of Soviet delegations abroad and of foreigners to the Soviet Union became an ordinary phenomenon. One such occasion was the World Youth and Student Festival in Moscow. But the most substantive change was that the life of the people inside the country was palpably different: it no longer resembled so much a one-way street, and it actively embraced new forms of open social intercourse. On the wave of public élan new forms of literature, painting, and the theater were born. The experimental theater Sovremennik (Contemporary) evoked open discussion, a reborn avant-garde defended its right to interpret the world, and literature and journalism--nearly indistinguishable--became an active part of everyday life, forcing everyone to choose this or that side of the barricades. The processes of emotional and cultural liberation and rebirth, which had been gestating for decades, suddenly burst forth with a mighty impulse and a new face.

A critical glance backward at the year 1956 is almost like stumbling into the present. People began to react more sharply to the problems of their own time. The volume of readers' mail to the newspapers and journals increased. A major theme of this correspondence was the cult of personality. Some demanded that the past should not be stirred up; others wished to pursue the issue to its end. But the most important questions had to do with the past and with expectations of the future.

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