Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas:  jgo.e-reviews 3 (2013), 2 Rezensionen online / Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien in Regensburg herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Verfasst von: Simon Huxtable


Anne E. Gorsuch: All This is Your World. Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad after Stalin. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. X, 222 S., 18 Abb. = Oxford Studies in Modern European History. ISBN: 978-0-19-960994-9.

Anne E. Gorsuchs All This is Your World is the latest of a number of recent works to examine the consequences of the Soviet Unions cautious opening out to the world after Stalins death. This policy ofpeaceful coexistence” marked a sea change from the inward-looking xenophobia of the late Stalin period. The second half of the 1950s saw Picasso exhibited at the Pushkin Museum, the Festival of Youth in Moscow, the American exhibition at Sokolniki Park and Khrushchevs much trumpeted visit to the United States in 1959a visit during which Khrushchev was upset by his hostsrefusal to allow him to visit Disneyland. Gorsuch quotes an anekdot about Khrushchev which circulated during the 1950s:Can we use the letterT’ to describe all the leaders of the Soviet Union? We can: LeninTitan, StalinTyrant, Khrushchev and BulganinTwo Tourists.” But it was not just Khrushchev and Bulganin, but thousands of ordinary citizens who now had an opportunity to glimpse the world beyond Soviet borders, as Gorsuch shows. She begins with a whistle-stop tour of tourism in the late Stalin period, while the next four chapters focus on the Khrushchev era, beginning with the Sovietinner abroadof Estonia, before examining tourism to Eastern Europe and, finally, the Western world, focusing mainly on France, Italy, and Great Britain. The final chapter analyses a number of films which allowed Soviet citizens, if only from their cinema seats, to consume images of travel, whether to the Soviet Union or beyond its borders.

The question of consumption plays an important role in Gorsuchs monograph. The term is used, not just in the commonplace sense of acquiring goods, but also as a distinct mentalité. In films like Ia shagaiu po Moskve (d. Georgii Danilov, 1963), Moscow is presented as a space of shiny surfaces and sensory experiences, where opportunities for enjoyment lurk around every corner. But if Soviet viewers were invited to consume the world visually, tourists themselves were also able to taste and to touch, whether by enjoying coffee followed by strawberries and cream in Tallinn, or crossing the Ponte Vecchio. All of these experiences fitted comfortably into Soviet categories of cultured consumption. Butand this was the paradox of Khrushchevs vision of utopiathere was no natural boundary between acceptable consumption and the spectre of excess. Tourists were condemned for their shopping habits, others were sent home for drunkenness, while others took the opportunity to enjoy more illicit delights, such as a striptease at the Moulin Rouge, while their guide looked on inlust combined with panicked fear.

Such excesses troubled Soviet authorities because, in the climate of thecultural Cold War, impressions mattered. Tourism, argues Gorsuch, was a way ofsellingthe Soviet Union, but also ofbuyingfrom other nations. She suggests that the role played by Soviet tourists was a kind ofperformancethat sought to convey a message of Soviet culturedness and superiority. Many were happy and proud to perform the role of cultural ambassadorand perhaps even craved the adulation of their localaudience. However, the quality of theseperformanceswas a source of constant anxiety for Soviet authorities. Although Soviet authorities rigorously vetted candidates for foreign travel and policed their actions through tour guides and the KGB, they nevertheless expressed embarrassment at the lack ofculturedisplayed by their countrys representatives. It was considered unacceptable, for instance, that Soviet tourists went swimming in their underwear, woregreasy beaver coats, or dressed in appropriately revealing attire. In the process, Soviet authorities described their most loyal citizens in disapproving tones strikingly similar to those used by Western commentators. She also contends that foreignaudiencescould be alienated by the scripted nature of Soviet touristsself-presentation, just as Soviet tourists were upset when others failed to act their designated rolesparticularly in Eastern Europe, where localsapparent ingratitude for theirliberationwas a bone of contention.

Gorsuch argues that tourists witnessing the comparative prosperity of Eastern Europe challenged the narrative of Soviet superiority, which placed the USSR in the centre andfraternal states” in the periphery. But while some Soviet citizens saw their illusions destroyed upon coming into contact with the world outside the USSR, most touristsimpressions were more complex. Although travellers surely noticed the difference between the comparative affluence they had witnessed and life in the USSR, most of the individuals cited by the author tended to believe, either that such images of plenty were (as was so often the case at home) mere window-dressing; that the country would soon attain such wealth in the foreseeable future; or else that such vulgar considerations were of minor importance. To a certain extent, this can be attributed to the status of many of the travellers, who represented a loyal and elite stratum of Soviet society. However, the book also suggests that the Soviet Union of the Khrushchev period was a far more robust entity than has sometimes been creditedcontact with the rest of the world did not necessarily damage it. There is a good reason for this. The Soviet Union may not have lived up to the roseate visions presented by its mass media, but it was a country where peopleespecially the privileged elite described in the bookwere confident that life would improve or, at the very least, not undergo any more upheavals. The monograph thus captures the Soviet Union at the cusp of a major turning point where vaulting ambitions and grand ideological visions would eventually give way to more mundane markers of progress. For this reason, it would have been interesting had the author devoted more space to the shifting cultural meanings of tourism after Khrushchevs ouster.

All This is Your World represents a notable addition to the literature on Soviet internationalism after Stalins death, and makes an important contribution to the scholarly literature on tourism. Convincingly argued, the book employs a wide range of sources, ranging from trip reports completed by tour guides to archival documents from many different countries. The book is perhaps stronger on the official responses to tourism than it is on touristsown understanding of their travels. Although Gorsuch provides evidence from guidesreports and memoirs, one would have liked to hear more about how ordinary individuals understood (and understand) the significance of their travels. For all that, this is a well-written and engaging work, which will appeal to scholars in a wide range of disciplines. It makes a valuable contribution to the social and cultural history of the post-war period and will surely become the standard work on the subject.

Simon Huxtable, London

Zitierweise: Simon Huxtable über: Anne E. Gorsuch: All This is Your World. Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad after Stalin. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. X, 222 S., 18 Abb. = Oxford Studies in Modern European History. ISBN: 978-0-19-960994-9, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/erev/Huxtable_Gorsuch_All_this.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

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