Kiril Tomoff, "Soviet Cultural Empire in Crisis: The National, the Imperial, and Musical Life in the Soviet Cultural Community, 1956-1957"
March 8, 2017
Lecture by Kiril Tomoff, Department Chair and Professor of History, UC Riverside
Kiril Tomoff examines a series of remarkable proposals penned by then Soviet Ambassador to Hungary, Yuri Andropov, and Soviet Minister of Culture, Nikolai Mikhailov, in early 1957 to investigate how the Soviet political elite began considering how to rebuild and strengthen the cultural bonds of the Soviet imperial community that had been obliterated by their handling of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. It argues that essential to this effort was a conceptualization in the Soviet Ministries of both Foreign Affairs and Culture of an empire in which periphery-to-periphery and periphery-to-center cultural flows - including of music and musicians - could sometimes form more powerful bonds than cultural arrangements in which the flow was predominantly from Moscow out. In other words, observant Soviet cultural and diplomatic officials alike recognized the value of allowing, or even promoting, a balance between national and imperial priorities within the Soviet empire’s cultural community. At the same time, a passing unease within the Central Committee regarding perceptions in the empire of a domineering Moscow prevented or delayed the creation of the legal, diplomatic, and institutional infrastructure that could promote this sort of flexible cultural imperial community. Despite this structural paradox, the Soviet cultural empire came to be characterized increasingly by decentralized connections that balanced national and imperial concerns.
Kiril Tomoff is Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside, where he is also currently Chair of the Department of History. His research interests include the intersection of musical life and Russian history, as well as twentieth-century world history, transnational cultural exchange, and the Cold War. He is the author numerous articles and two books: Virtuosi Abroad: Soviet Music and Imperial Competition during the Early Cold War, 1945-1958 (Cornell, 2015), and Creative Union: The Professional Organization of Soviet Composers, 1939-1953 (Cornell, 2006). He is also co-editor, with Golfo Alexopoulos and Julie Hessler, of Writing the Stalin Era: Sheila Fitzpatrick and Soviet Historiography (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). He is a past Director of the University of California's Moscow Study Center (2004-05), a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Abroad Fellow (1998-99), and a Senior Fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University (2012-13). He is currently working on a major research project tentatively entitled "Dominant Chords: Music and Soviet Cultural Empire, 1945-1958."