“We are for peace, we are for friendship!”
The idea of World festivals of youth and students belonged to the young leaders of the anti-fascist Resistance movement. The World youth conference, which was held in London in 1945 supported the idea of organizing such events. On behalf of millions of young people of different nationalities, representatives of more than 200 Youth organizations declared their aim as “to fight for the solidarity among young people of all races, skin colours, nationalities and beliefs… to fight for the liquidation of traces of fascism on the planet … to strive for the close, earnest friendship of the peoples, for the just and long peace, for the eradication of poverty and unemployment”.
It was then when the World federation of democratic youth and the International union of students were established. Basically, those two bodies were in charge of organizing the Youth festivals. Soviet Union was the major founder and the sponsor of such “progressive youth” meetings, however preferred to hold the festivals in the capitals of the “people’s republics”.
Slogans of the first five World festivals (Prague – 1947, Budapest – 1949, Berlin – 1951, Bucharest – 1953, Warsaw – 1955) reflected on the protest against cold war and aggression of the Western states. The festivals were to encourage young people never let a new war to be unleashed, but to stand together in the struggle for the lasting peace, democracy, national independence and for a better future for all people.
The VIth World festival of youth and students opened in Moscow in 1957, twelve years after the end of the Great Patriotic War. By that time the country had healed its bleeding wounds and people’s interests towards what lied beyond the simple needs of survival had awaken. The Twentieth congress of the Communist party in 1956 had led to some serious changes in the state’s political atmosphere and that definitely helped to establish a good ground for the following festival. Soviet society tried to get rid of the image of closeness and militancy.
Massive ideological and propagandistic campaign was launched a year before the USSR Festival opening in order to prepare people for the event. The Central Committee of the Komsomol and the Antifascist Committee of Soviet Youth were among the organizers of the festival.
Negative perception of the USSR by a number of festival’s participants was caused by the fact that back in 1956 Soviet troops had been sent to Hungary to suppress the anti-communist rebellion. For that reason, the large Hungarian delegation turned out to be in the focus of attention of tourists from capitalist countries.
After a long break caused by the confrontation between Stalin and Tito, representatives of Yugoslavia came to the festival once again. The even fact of the Yugoslavian delegation presence reflected on the new realities of the relationships within the socialist countries – the restoration of Soviet-Yugoslav relations. Many festival events had anti-American orientation; the small US delegation was under constant pressure.
Despite the fact that the festival had been planned and regulated very carefully, the atmosphere seemed to be easy and informal. People from different countries and continents talked and discussed various issues in spite of having sometimes opposite political views. That could be described as genuine informal communication among people who had never met before, but who had developed most sincere feelings towards each other.
Moscow festival of youth and students became a significant event for Soviet people and it turned out to be the biggest one in terms of people participating for the entire Festival history.
What the next five festivals (the VIIth in Vienna in 1959, the VIIIth in Helsinki in1962, the IXth in Sofia in 1968, the Xth in Berlin in 1973 and the XIth in Havana in 1978) had in common was the anti-imperialistic focus. That was the time when the colonial system collapsed, peoples in Africa got their independence, the Vietnam war broke out and the struggle for peace in the Middle East unfolded.
The new XIIth World festival took place in Moscow in 1985. The new radical ideas of Gorbachev's perestroika had not yet developed in people’s minds, therefore the preparation for the festival was as formal and regimental as before. The "new thinking" had not yet come into life, so the usual anti-American and anti-imperialist ideas took place once again.
The USSR’s idea to hold the XIIIth Festival in North Korea received a negative response from the Youth organizations of a number of countries. However, the Central Committee of the Communist party insisted and the World federation of democratic youth had to agree to organize the next festival in Pyongyang in 1989. Many democratic and student organisations left the World festival movement at that point. Representatives of social democrats in Europe also organised a separate festival in Paris. The festival movement crisis coincided with the fall of the Soviet Union and of the entire Socialist coalition.
Nevertheless, the young people’s need for peace, friendship and reunions overcame all complications and the World festival movement revived. Five World youth and student festivals were held throughout 1997-2013: the XIVth in Havana in 1997, the XVth in Algiers in 2001, the XVIth in Caracas in 2005, the XVIIth in Pretoria in 2010 and the XVIIIth in Quito in 2013.
Today young people are looking for solutions to such problems as the dangers of globalisation, human rights protection, international terrorism, etc. The XIXth World Festival of youth and students in Sochi in 2017 should lay a foundation to a new period in the history of the festival movement and transform the festival into a forum, where the participants can communicate and discuss various issues freely; the forum, which should become a new step towards strengthening peaceful relations and friendship among young people of different countries.
The Museum would like to thank Russian National Library, Russian State Film and Photo Archive, Russian State Archive of the Economy, Central State Archive of Historical-Political Documents in St. Petersburg, Central State Archive of Documentary Films, Photographs, and Sound Recordings of St. Petersburg and personally A. S. Olkhovsky, who participated in the World Youth and Students Festivals in the 1990-2000s.
Публикация от: 21.06.2017 16:51:04