Enduring Hard Times Through Peace and Unity

New show in the Museum of Moscow looks back at the World Festival of Youth and Students.

The World Festival of Youth and Students was first held in Prague in 1947 with the participation of 17,000 people from 71 different countries. The event would take place over the next decade in the other Eastern Bloc capitals of Budapest, Berlin, Bucharest and Warsaw, before eventually making its way to the capital of the USSR in July 1957. The two-week long Moscow festival was attended by 34,000 people from 131 countries, including 2,000 journalists. Organizers strove to achieve the longest possible country roster, with a single person often representing smaller countries. Such was the case with the New Zealand delegation, which elected a Maori girl as its only cultural ambassador. 

The Moscow festival was engineered to be used as a powerful propaganda vessel, containing a pronounced anti-American sentiment that sought to accentuate the global super-power’s imperialistic and neo-colonial politics. During the parades, the Japanese representatives unfurled a huge banner that read “No more Hiroshimas.” A week later, the Japanese delegation initiated a meeting dedicated to nuclear arms control with representatives from the USSR, USA and Great Britain – countries that by that time had already created and tested their own deadly atomic weapons.

The photo above, currently on display at the Museum of Moscow until September 25, is featured in the exhibition “Three Festivals.” Coinciding with the XIX World Festival of Youth and Students that is set to be held at Sochi later this year, the show seeks to transmit the spirit of such historical gatherings, that were created to promote peace and intercultural exchange among the younger generations of the globe.