Simon Heffer

Culture Clash

The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy During the Cold War

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AT THE TIME of the Cold War there may have been two superpowers, equally capable of obliterating each other with nuclear weapons, but in some thmgs they were very unequal: notably culture. In the century before the Iron Curtain came down America had managed to produce no one of the calibre of Dostoevski, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Stravinsky or Diaghilev. Yet, as David Caute illustrates in the hefty first volume of his two-part study of how the cultural cold war was fought, the Russians faded abysmally to dominate with ths superior inheritance of firepower. America may have had the vulgarities of cheap fiction, Hollywood and ‘negroid’ jazz, but it also had one other precious cultural commodity: freedom. In contrast to conditions in the Soviet bloc, there were few restraints on creativity or cultural expression. As such, the lirmts placed on culture in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in that empire made a distinct contribution to the eventual collapse of the system.

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