The Soviet Students Clap Back, Letter-Style

Well well, if it isn’t the youth making another noteworthy appearance on my blog. We’re more than halfway through the 20th Century (and the spring semester) of studying Soviet history, and these youngins have a lot to say from their knowledge and experiences influenced by things outside the Stalinist USSR!

JT was the first guy I found in my search for a ‘man hold a Russian newspaper’. For more photos of celebrities holding foreign newspapers, click here

I came across a pretty fascinating letter written during the days of soviet cultural “thaw” as well as the Cold War, as it was published in The Current Digest of the Russian Press on January 23, 1957 (note you need VT library online access to access the newspaper database). The title of the published letter is as follows, and I have also included the opening paragraph to provide some perspective:

“DON’T SLANDER, MR. ALLEN DULLES!-Letter Abroad From Y.C.L. Students of Molotov Power Institute in Moscow”
Author: A. Golikov, R. Pavlenko, A. Serebryansky and A. Trutko
A Reply to Allen Dulles
Molotov Power Institute, Moscow – The other day we heard over the air: “Soviet students are restless” We became interested. The speaker, it turned out, was Mr. Allen Dulles, head of American intelligence, and he was speaking about us Soviet students and about our ‘mood.
(click here for the full text/source)

For anyone thinking Who in the heck is Allen Dulles? and Why do these students care so much about this guy’s speech?, I highly recommend giving Mr. Dulles’ Wikipedia a quick read. He was essentially the head of American intelligence during the 1950s and early 1960s, formally known as the Director of Central Intelligence. Based on what the letter states, the students’ response to Mr. Dulles’ words specifically came from the concern that his audience (who were students at Princeton University) was given a false perspective of Soviet academia.

The letter is a wonderful read, and if you have any interest in national security studies or US/Russia foreign relations I highly suggest reading it. It’s almost sarcastically written to make a point (we call that a clap back on twitter today, no?), and it’s full of witty remarks about outside perspectives concerning Russia and the ‘mood’ of the Soviet student population. The students directly reply to Allen Dulles himself, and though I’d happily paraphrase what they say I don’t think I would do them any justice. The students’ rebuttal is both entertaining and informative:

So, Mr. Dulles, you maintain, on the basis of information from “reliable sources,” that there is “unrest” among Soviet students. You display an obvious interest when you speak of this; one senses at once that every shift of our minds, every shade of our thinking, is being watched very closely across the ocean. Thank you for this attention.
Yes, Mr. Dulles, you are not mistaken: There is unrest among us, plenty of it, and we shall not conceal it.
 We are having meetings, stormy meetings. How pleased you probably are to hear this! Recently, for instance, there was even a demonstration. Just imagine, about 3000 persons marched through the city. You could have used this by saying that “Soviet students poured into the streets,” and your friends in the British and French Embassies could have told you that we were very angry. “Hands off Egypt!” “Aggressors, Get Out!” This, as you may have already guessed, was at the time of the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt, which deeply incensed us.
 Yes, Mr. Dulles, we have heated debates and real discussions. Some comrades, unfortunately, spend even too much time on this.
(click here for the full text/source)

The letter from the students in Moscow to the American head of intelligence brings another interesting perspective to the Soviet cultural thaw. The Soviet Union was in a state of ‘figuring things out’ after Stalin’s death in 1953. The young soviet population had an ‘its complicated’ relationship status with Stalinist rule and ideals, and as time goes on we see that the youth do become catalysts of the removal of the iron curtain. However that’s jumping to far ahead. At this point in time it’s the students’ freedom to be a little more curious and observant of the external happenings in the world after Stalin’s death that pave the way for the progression and innovation of Soviet society in the future.


6 thoughts on “The Soviet Students Clap Back, Letter-Style

Add yours

  1. Wow great article. Thank you for using the Current Digest. As you show, there is plenty of great material to be found and used for research on there. I also loved JT and the celebrities holding Russian newspapers. Great work!


  2. This was a wonderful title, and was written in a easy to understand voice, it was very fun to read! The link of JT holding Russian newspapers was hilarious as well. From the letter the line “After hearing Mr. Dulles, we decided to answer him, and to do so for several reasons” ( demonstrates the Soviet youths urge to project themselves in a positive light, and in national security studies, perception is everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Being a National Security major and having taken US/Russian Foreign Policy it is awesome to see this letter from Allen Dulles and response tied into our 20th Century Russia class! Awesome post, very well done!


  4. Such a cool post! I loved the letter you found and I think it’s so cool! I am interested in how it relates national security to our class. I like all the links to pop culture/twitter, it really made the post interesting on top of the already interesting letter you found!


  5. I loved your post, starting with the title! It was very creative and you chose to write about a topic that not many other people did. I thought the picture of JT was great and I thought you wrote in a way that was very easy for readers to follow! Well done!


  6. What everyone else said! Love the tone of this — couldn’t wait to read it. Great close reading of a Current Digest source – in this case a letter that Komsomol students at the Molotov Power Institute wrote in response to what they saw as Dulles’ mis-representation of The Thaw and de-Stalinization. Check out the end: “Our country is unswervingly marching toward communism. For us this Is not a phrase, but a deep conviction and faith. The reason for our restlessness is that we want to eliminate all shortcomings as fast as possible and help our party and people on their great march forward.”


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