Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921-1941

Sheila Fitzpatrick writes:

The Soviet Union claimed leadership of the world revolution in the 1920s and 1930s – not surprisingly, since of all the European upheavals at the end of the First World War, theirs was the only revolution that succeeded. But the trouble with leading the world revolution, as far as Stalin and his associates were concerned, was that you had to deal with foreigners. Abroad was scarcely less of a problem for them than for Lord Redesdale, immortalised by his Mitford daughters and famous for saying that ‘Abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends.’ The bloodiness of Abroad was something that Stalin and his cohort knew by repute rather than direct experience. Stalin himself made only a couple of brief forays outside the Russian Empire in the years before the First World War, and his political intimates were equally unfamiliar with Europe and its languages. But the fiendishness of foreigners, or at least of the capitalist exploiters who controlled the affairs of foreign nations, was a given.

(LRB 8 March 2012)