Creating a Cold War Boogeyman: Aron Vergelis's Political Career
In November 1963, Aron Vergelis, editor of the Moscow Yiddish journal Sovetish
Heymland (1961–1991), visited the United States for the first time. This was the first
American voyage of a Soviet Jewish cultural personality since 1943, when Solomon
Mikhoels and the Yiddish poet Itsik Fefer famously toured the United States as leaders
of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. As it turned out, this would be the beginning of
Vergelis’s quarter-century career as a globetrotting Cold War era propagandist. This article
analyzes the circumstances by which Vergelis, a figure of modest influence and stature, appeared as a visible figure in the arena of Soviet-Western ideological confrontation.
The paper explores the work of the British working class author Harold Heslop, whose sponsor was the Soviet diplomat Ivan Maisky, as part of the Soviet cultural diplomacy. Its focus is the Soviet publications of the writer, 1926-1931, and their Soviet criticism. Discussing the British author as a Soviet cultural project demonstrates the shift of cultural paradigms in the Soviet cultural policy, from the internationalist projects of the 1920s to the messianic ‘cosmopolitan’ (Clark) projects of the 1930s.
The article discusses the publication history of André Gide’s book Return from the USSR written after his trip to the Soviet Union. It explains how the Kremlin gathered information about the book and how official Soviet reaction to this publication was developed. Since Gide’s decision to join in the camp of the “friends of the USSR,” information about it had been deliberately mispresented, that is why at the end of 1936 communist ideologues had to reap the fruits of their shortsightedness. Immediately after the Congress in the Defense of Culture, which took place in 1935 in Paris, Gide converged with the anti-Stalinist opposition in France and Belgium, and welcomed a campaign in support of Victor Serge, politician and writer who had passing in the case of the so called Zinoviev group and had been exiled to Orenburg. Soviet authorities knew about Gide’s conversion but accepted Mikhail Koltsov’s position who vouched Gide’s absolute loyalty. When Gide began preparing his manuscript for publication, the Kremlin was immediately informed about it. Among the informers were I. Ehrenburg, F. Masereel, and E. Ratmanova. Attempts to dissuade Gide from publication all failed. The book was translated into Russian for the leaders of the Communist party and Gide was condemned in the Soviet press. The history of the book’s publication and attention that the Kremlin paid to this question, however, demonstrates that the State control of the literary and cultural field was circumscribed within the Soviet borders. The Soviets failed to implement their program in the West. The case of Gide’s Return from the USSR shows the obvious failure of Soviet cultural diplomacy and its strategies.
On April 14, 1965, The New York Times reported on the upcoming solo exhibition of Pavel Korin in New York - “the first solo exhibition of an official Soviet artist in the United States, organized as part of a cultural agreement”. This article is focused on the issue of the background of the organization of this exhibition, the history of the stay of Pavel Korin and his wife in New York, their impressions of the USA, meetings with Americans and Russian emigrants, as well as the reaction of the American and Soviet press.
Despite increasing scholarship on the cultural Cold War, focus has been persistently been fixed on superpowers and their actions, missing the important role played by individuals and organizations all over Europe during the Cold War years. This volume focuses on cultural diplomacy and artistic interaction between Eastern and Western Europe after 1945. It aims at providing an essentially European point of view on the cultural Cold War, providing fresh insight into little known connections and cooperation in different artistic fields. Chapters of the volume address photography and architecture, popular as well as classical music, theatre and film, and fine arts. By examining different actors ranging from individuals to organizations such as universities, the volume brings new perspective on the mechanisms and workings of the cultural Cold War. Finally, the volume estimates the pertinence of the Cold War and its influence in post-1991 world. The volume offers an overview on the role culture played in international politics, as well as its role in the Cold War more generally, through interesting examples and case studies
This chapter is based on an examination of the writings of the leading fellow-travelers of the 1930s and archival study of their Soviet visits. At its center is the web of concrete ties binding them to Soviet intel- lectual mediators and cultural institutions. It will make several inter- locking arguments that address longstanding debates about Western intellectuals and communism.