CWAR Professor and Fellows Present at ASEEES Convention

December 07, 2018

The Cold War Archives Research (CWAR) program was thrilled to have an outstanding showing at the 2018 Annual Convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES).

Professor Victoria Phillips, who leads the CWAR program, was featured in a panel along with CWAR Fellows Tinatin Japaridze (2016 & 2017 Fellow) and Sarah Roth (2016 & 2017 Fellow). Read more about the CWAR program here.

Transcending Bodies, Crossing Diplomatic Borders: Launching Cold War Ideology with the Unheard, Unseen, and Undone
Friday, December 7, 8:00-9:45am

  • Panel Description:
    Cold War cultural diplomacy has begun to infuse historical narratives, yet archival silences remain potent. In the wind from Germany, the United States dropped prose through leaflets from balloons in Eastern Europe, long ignored by historians who emphasize what can be seen and heard. As gender studies considers the power of motherhood in Cold War battles, what of their children as propaganda? In the study of dance as diplomacy, scholars eagerly write about ballet’s defectors and touring but never consider the implications of the Soviet body in modernist works of Americana planned for the USSR which seemed triumphalist at the end of the Cold War; tours were cancelled. These three papers seek to uncover new insights into Cold War cultural diplomacy through what is unheard, unseen, and undone in the archives.


  • Vladimir Dobrenko, Sichuan U (China)


  • Youth Diplomacy in the Cold War: Children as Goodwill Ambassadors
    Tinatin Japaridze, Columbia U

    In the heat of the Cold War, the cultural trope employed by both United States and Soviet policymakers portrayed the historical image of a child as an allegory of moral legitimacy of the state and its society. By early 1980s, an innocent child as a soft power weapon had evolved from untainted idealism into a symbol of discredited promises. While most of the late Cold War literature attributes the policy of perestroika to Mikhail Gorbachev, it was under his mentor Yuri Andropov that children as Cold War ambassadors began to appear on the diplomatic scene. Just weeks after Ronald Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech, a ten-year-old American girl, Samantha Smith stepped forward to defend her generation's endangered future by writing to the newly appointed Andropov. Her letter was printed in Pravda, and in a personal note, Andropov invited Samantha and her family to visit the Soviet Union. A year later, Soviet schoolgirl Katya Lycheva attempted to replicate this story by writing to President Reagan, but her trip across the Iron Curtain could not match her American predecessor's success. Exploring Andropov's foreign policy vis-à-vis the Cold War opponent and Reagan's drastic change of policy towards the USSR through a cultural lens demonstrates that cultural exchanges utilizing children as weapons of peace were being enacted on both sides to encourage bilateral dialogue while public propaganda seemed to be leading to war. With Russian-American tensions dominating today's headlines, can citizen diplomacy and the reintroduction of the youth as goodwill ambassadors help rebuild the communication bridge?
  • Operation Focus: The Controversial Role of Print Propaganda in the Lead-Up to the 1956 Hungarian Uprising
    Sarah Roth, Columbia U

    Between 1954 and 1956, Hungary was inundated with millions of leaflets and newspapers, delivered by specially designed weather balloons in a propaganda campaign known as Operation Focus. Initiated by the Free Europe Press and funded by individuals and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Operation Focus was designed to supplement Radio Free Europe's programming with printed material. Operation Focus created a fictional resistance group, Nemzeti Ellenzéki Mozgalom, which encouraged "realistic opposition" to the communist regime, strongly implying American financial and military support for the cause. This not only put the Hungarian people in a vulnerable position should they call upon it for assistance, but also misrepresented American foreign policy, presenting a highly subjective interpretation of the "truth."
    Operation Focus is almost completely absent from the historical narrative, with most historians dismissing the leaflets as insubstantial in content, unrealistic in practice, or simply ignored by the Hungarian people. Using State Department, CIA, and presidential archives, internal documents from the Free Europe Press, the text of the leaflets, and oral histories from Hungarian members of the operation, this paper demonstrates that Operation Focus significantly impacted the Hungarian political milieu in the lead-up to the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. By dismissing Operation Focus as insubstantial or unimportant, historians have failed to address the true complexity of Radio Free Europe's role in the lead-up to the 1956 Hungarian Uprising using various forms of propaganda that supplemented one another with the American message.
  • Carrying Bodies Across Borders: The End of Modern Dance Americana and the Cold War in Eastern Europe and Russia
    Victoria Phillips, Columbia U

    While avowing, "I am not a propagandist," modern dancer Martha Graham performed in over twenty-five countries for every seated president from Dwight D. Eisenhower through Ronald Reagan. With the "freed body," a seemingly a-political artistic modernism was fused to the ideology of political freedoms brought by the United States. While asserting the power of democracy to fight the Soviets with works from the Western canon and the Bible, Graham added characters from the frontier to the list of promotional archetypes. Graham tells a "Big Woman" history in West Berlin, 1957, in Yugoslavia - sponsored by George Kennan, the "Father of Containment" - and Poland in 1962. Under Reagan, while he stood in the West demanding "Tear Down This Wall," her company traveled to East Berlin with her work of Americana, Frontier, that promoted a land without walls. Indeed, the dancers had defected: Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov worked with Graham and played American frontier characters on Broadway. The Soviet body had found freedom with the American modern dance. Graham planned a November 1989 tour of the USSR. Yet when the Wall fell, the Americana that had made Graham useful during the Cold War became overbearing triumphalism for the George H.W. Bush administration: the tour never took place. While the Graham legacy is certainly a caricaturistic Americanism, the current-day end of United States cultural diplomacy and Wall-building would have been decried by the man credited with ending the Cold War, Kennan, who celebrated exchange and free expression with Graham.


  • Vladimir Dobrenko, Sichuan U (China)
  • Anna A Mazurkiewicz, U of Gdańsk (Poland)


Panel details above were copied from the ASEEES convention site, where more information can be found.

        Samantha Smith Stamp
        Samantha Smith at Artek