“Russia and the West” in a Soviet Key
This introductory chapter provides a historical excursion into comparative cultural diplomacy, distinguishing Soviet approaches from the efforts to influence foreign public opinion within diplomacy and propaganda that emerged in Europe especially during World War I. It also sets Soviet cultural diplomacy in the context of the long history of foreign visitors in Russia from the Muscovite period on. Both Russian and Soviet responses to foreign travelers were historically intertwined with major cycles of openings and closings to the outside world and major shifts in European views of Russia. But the Soviet imperative of overtaking the West and combating capitalism at once fostered heightened aspirations to influence the world and intense ideological xenophobia. The Soviet approach to cultural diplomacy sharpened the geopolitical and ideological importance attached to the “West” in earlier periods, but later became far more statist, mobilizational, modern, and innovative.
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