Socialist InterNationalism. Envisioning and Experiencing Nationalism and Internationalism in the Soviet Union, 1945-1990

Socialist InterNationalism. Envisioning and Experiencing Nationalism and Internationalism in the Soviet Union, 1945-1990

Humboldt Universität zu Berlin Lehrstuhl für Osteuropäische Geschichte Jörg Baberowski Maike Lehmann
Humboldt Universität
From - Until
10.07.2008 - 11.07.2008
Maike Lehmann

‘Friendship of the People’ and ‘Socialist Internationalism’ were two closely entangled official slogans of Soviet propaganda. They were to conjure both a vision of peaceful relations between ‘liberated’ Soviet nationalities within the Soviet Union and an image of Soviet commitment for other countries’ struggle for radical social justice and national liberation. At the same time, these slogans addressed people not just along the lines of social class, but according to their nationality. In doing so, they established the national alongside the international in its propaganda.

The meanings and interpretations of the slogans ‘Friendship of the Peoples’ and ‘Socialist Internationalism’ have however rarely been subject to inquiry. Still, these slogans often seem to structure postsocialist narratives combining nationalist sentiments with nostalgic memories of enabling and enriching encounters with other nationalities and foreigners. Therefore, these slogans might be crucial for our understanding of the cohesion and disintegration of the Soviet Union. The question is what meaning these visions acquired for those groups and people, who made their own experiences in encounters shaped by national or international aspects.

This workshop seeks to bring about a discussion of these slogans and their diverse meanings during the Cold War period, which saw an increase in the usage of these twin terms. During the Cold War, Soviet leaders and local officials as well as subjects of the Soviet Empire and visitors to the Soviet Union often used these slogans in order to invoke common values, praising international connections, ordering everyday encounters and even fostering national(ist) self-assertion. An interrogation of the terms ‘Socialist Internationalism’ and ‘Friendship of the Peoples’ might provide an insight into different groups’ views of themselves, ‘others’, and the outside world in a multi-national empire that was reinforcing its global mission after 1945.

Especially since the postwar period was a time of new encounters for citizens and foreigners in the Soviet Union. Soldiers had made new experiences during the war; evacuation and the violent expulsion of large portions of the population and campaigns did bring different nationalities together in one place. Nationality became the determining category for Soviet citizens’ standing within Soviet society. Day-to-day interactions between citizens in multi-national cities and regions of the national republics fostered peaceful coexistence together with conflict and repression. Travelling and business trips increased during the Khrushchev and Breshnev-years leading to more interactions between members of different nationalities, using Russian as a lingua franca. At the same time such encounters extended on a more regular basis also to the different nationalities from the so-called Eastern Bloc after World War II. And the ‘Third-World’ became a Cold-War battlefield for influence; as students, intellectuals, workers and politicians travelled from and to the Soviet Union, the values and aims of ‘Soviet Internationalism’ and the ‘Friendship of the Peoples’ became tested against Soviet and foreign realities.

While recent research has focused much on social and cultural change after 1945, the national/international dimension has so far been neglected in most inquiries. Therefore, the aim of this workshop is to provide a forum for researchers dealing with the decades between the end of World War II and the disintegration of the Soviet Empire and encourage them to put their research in a national/international context. How are ‘Socialist Internationalism’ and ‘Friendship of the Peoples’ represented in Cold War propaganda, art, and literature and how did this differ from the pre-war years? In which ways did officials, intellectuals, members of different nationalities or foreign visitors to the Soviet Union interpret these slogans in the particular environments they were moving in? How was the ‘Friendship of the Peoples’ experienced in everyday life in a multi-national society? What was the impact of both positive and negative official campaigning on self-perceptions and ‘othering’ of different groups in the Soviet Union? How might these different aspects have had an impact on the cohesion of the Soviet Union? And, to which extend can the ‘national’ and the ‘international’ be seen as interconnected phenomena within Soviet self-imaginations?

Such questions might be dealt with in panels such as:

‘POLICIES & POLITICS’ – looking at Moscow’s policies and their interpretation by different actors, conflicts between centre and periphery or different institutions – possible fields: issue of deported peoples, the Comintern, the new western provinces/republics after WWII, 1956 and its impact on nationalist/internationalist views

‘VISIONS & VIEWS’ – dealing with the official or local imaginations about internationalism and the friendship of the people i.e. by party officials, Soviet and international intellectuals, scientists, artists, letter writers etc.

‘ENCOUNTERS’ – between groups usually living apart but holding certain views about each other to be affirmed or challenged in the encounter i.e. during All-union Komsomol meetings, pioneer camps, ethnic violence, tourism, Olympic games, the International Youth Festivals or during wars

‘COMMON PLACES’ – dealing with the everyday interaction between nationalities/ locals and foreigners i.e. in mixed families, school, the working place, the university, artefacts, leisure, ethnic tensions and prejudices

‘MEMORIES’ – i.e. of wars, whether fought together in the context of the Soviet Union as a multi-national, internationalist Empire such as WWII or Afghanistan, or wars fought against each other such as in the Caucasus or the Baltic states (WWII)

We welcome papers form areas such as history, anthropology, literature or art history that address these or related questions while discussing different actors’ visions and experiences of ‘Internationalism’ and the ‘Friendship of the Peoples’ in the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1990. Papers considering the relation between nationalism and internationalism in connection to the different empirical sites are particularly welcome.
Our aim is to bring researchers from different countries together on an international and interdisciplinary forum at the Humboldt-University Berlin on July 10th - 11th, 2008. Depending on the workshop’s outcome, we would like the best papers to be published collectively. The language of the workshop will be English.

Please, send a paper proposal of 500 words along with a short CV including relevant publications and research interests to both and by December 21st, 2007.



Contact (announcement)

Maike Lehmann

SFB 640, HU-Berlin

030-2093 4865

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