BETWEEN STALINIST PROPAGANDA AND THE DISSEMINATION OF CULTURE. THE ACTIVITY OF ALL-UNION SOCIETY FOR CULTURAL CONTACTS WITH ABROAD (VOKS) AND POLAND IN 1945-1956
Polish–Soviet relations during the Stalinist period were realised by a number of assorted 'channels', organisations and institutions. In the domain of culture or, more precisely, of propaganda and culture, an essential rank was attributed to the All-Union Society for Cultural Contacts with Abroad (VOKS). The Society dated back to 1925, and was formally a special organisation composed of the representatives of sciences and the arts, who were to acquaint Soviet society with the cultural accomplishments of other nations and to propagate Soviet culture abroad. Already in 1945 the Society embarked upon the establishment of cooperation with Poland. Its main partner was the Society for Polish-Soviet Friendship (TPPR), created in 1944. VOKS also co-worked with a number of other institutions and organisations, including the Committee for Cultural Cooperation with Abroad, established in 1950. The 'Polish activity' of VOKS grew particularly intense in 1948-1953, when it stressed propaganda work, i. e. the propagation of communist ideology and an idealised, false image of the USSR. Cultural exchange was secondary, although it was not ignored since it reinforced various propaganda campaigns. The decline of VOKS initiatives after 1953 was not only the result of political transformations in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death, but also of the emergence of a strong communist propaganda apparatus in Poland. In 1940-1948 the Chairman of the Board of VOKS was V. Kemenow, and in 1948-1956 - A. Denisov. During the first post-war period the deputy chairman of VOKS was A. Karaganov. At the end of the 1940s this post was held by E. Mitskevich and V. Yakovlev, especially well acquainted with Polish issues since he had spent four years in Warsaw as councilor at the Soviet Embassy. Greatest importance as regards all questions dealing with Poland was attached to the Department of Slavonic and Balkan Countries, whose head from 1946 was I. Chastukhin, and from 1948 - V. Kuzmenko. An essential role was also performed by specialised departments, e.g. those concerned with publishing or exhibitions as well as various VOKS sections dealing with particular fields of science and the arts. A prominent part in the work conducted by VOKS in Poland was played by the Soviet diplomatic-consular network. In 1946-1949 the VOKS plenipotentiary was I. Kuznetsov, third secretary at the Warsaw Embassy, and subsequently J. Lubimov. At the time of its activity in Poland, the Society made a great contribution to the intensification of communist propaganda as well as rendering TPPR one of the largest and most enterprising Stalinist organisations in postwar Poland; at the end of this period TPPR had about 7 mln members, and conducted an extremely expansive propaganda campaign encompassing the whole country.
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