Soviet Globalization: Indo-soviet Public Diplomacy and Cold War Cultural Spheres

By Jeremiah Wishon.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

My paper discusses Soviet cultural diplomacy with India from 1948–1964, focusing heavily on Nikita Khrushchev’s tenure. It identifies Soviet efforts to produce favorable relations with India, the nation most central to Khrushchev’s “peace offensive” strategy towards the Third World. My paper outlines Soviet goals in the subcontinent and discuss how adopting public diplomacy as a vehicle of improving Indo-Soviet relations served as a variant of the Indo-American globalization currently altering the political, cultural, and economic landscape of India. My paper draws on fourteen months of research in archives in Moscow, with additional research in the National Archives of India, at Stanford (California), and of Indian publications. It is part of a larger project which will additionally explore the Enlightenment-inherited impulse to “culture building” that I take to be central to Soviet soft power in the Third World after WWII. In addition to Soviet “soft power,” I am interested in the impact that Soviet-South Asian relationships had on domestic policy, status groups, and both infrastructural and cultural change within the USSR. As such, my work lines up with scholarship on European empire, which looks at how involvement in colonial projects shaped experiences in the metropole (ex. Gary Wilder). Methodologically, my project draws on trends within the historical discipline of observing cultural phenomena as objects of study while relying on sustained archival analysis (particularly those interested in Soviet-American cultural competition, such as Greg Castillo and Norm Saul). In terms of implications, I understand that influence works two-ways: Soviet efforts abroad required dedication of resources to winning the hearts and minds of Indians, so policymakers committed funds into universities, opened tourist routes, imported consumer goods (most famously Bollywood movies), and sent delegates abroad. These side effects of cultural work contributed to diminishing barriers between the two partners.

Keywords: Cultural Exchange, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, India, Khrushchev, South Asia

Global Studies Journal, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.103-114. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 336.801KB).

Jeremiah Wishon

PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of California-Riverside, Riverside, USA

Jeremiah Wishon is a PhD candidate at the University of California in Riverside under the mentorship of Dr. Kiril Tomoff. Born in California, Jeremiah completed his undergraduate work at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he obtained dual Baccalaureates in History and Philosophy. His research and teaching interests include the USSR, India, cultural history, world history, the exchange of ideas, popular culture (primarily comics), and food as a cultural product. Jeremiah’s current research project, tentatively entitled “Reorienting Khrushchev’s USSR: Cultural Diplomacy and the Third World, 1948–1968,” explores Indo-Soviet cultural exchange and how the unintended consequences of Soviet “soft power” in the subcontinent had implications on cultural change in the USSR.

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