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Cold War Cultures

July 20 – 31, 2020

2 ECTS, 20 contact hours in total


This course in an opportunity to explore unknown cultural dimensions of the major 20th century political conflict at the time, when Cold War patterns seems to re-emerge in American-Russian relations.

Course Description

What roles did cultural contacts play during the Cold War? How did cultural dimensions of the Cold War correlate with political agendas? Was culture during the Cold War entirely subordinated to dominant political discourses, or one can single its autonomy? During this course, students will study the complex cultural significance of the major global ideological conflict of the 20-th century.

Exploring cultural dimensions of the Cold War, the course covers topics from spy movies and abstract art, to American-Soviet students exchange and media representations of the space race. Overcoming dominant understanding of the Cold War as a political rivalry, students will explore the significance of cultural developments as can be seen in the history of exchange visits, international fairs and art exhibitions, etc. Such themes as modernity, economic competition, politicization of art, and imagining the other will be covered. The course consists of lectures, and seminars to take place both in the classroom and relevant museums of St. Petersburg.

The course is taught by Kirill Chunikhin, Senior Lecturer of the Department of History, St. Petersburg School of Arts and Humanities, HSE.

This course in an opportunity to explore unknown cultural dimensions of the major 20th-century political conflict at the time, when Cold War patterns seems to re-emerge in American-Russian relations 

Kirill Chunikhin
Course Lecturer

Why Choose This Course?

This course discusses cultural premises of a major 20th-century political rivalry between the two superpowers. Considering a renewed tension between America and Russia, a re-examination of the Cold War is a crucial step for understanding current state of affairs. 

Content 

Lecture 1. Cold War Basics: Who Started the Cold War?

Seminar 1. Coming to Terms with the Cold War

Lecture 2. Domestic Fronts of Cultural Cold War

Seminar 2. Cold War Binaries in the Arts and Politics

Lecture 3. Cold War Engagements: Transnational Contacts during the Thaw

Seminar 3. Local and Global Cold Wars

Lecture 4. Hot Art during the Cold War 

Seminar 4. Russian / Soviet Art and the Cold War (Visit to the State Russian Museum)

Lecture 5. Poetics of Atom

Seminar 5. Commemorating the Cold War (presentations of students’ final projects)

Skills and Competences

Upon completion of this course, students will:

  • acquire an understanding of the complex transnational history of cultural contacts during the Cold War 
  • learn how the Cold War impacted artistic production (as can be seen in fine arts, cinema, theater, etc.)

Teaching Methods

The course consists of lectures, seminars and field work in museums of St. Petersburg. 

Final Assessment 

Final project (presentation). 

Final Grade Background

The final grade consists of 40% (final project) + 60% (participation in seminar discussions). Students are expected to be present at each class. As final projects, students will present a research into strategies of commemorating the Cold War.

Recommended Reading List

Greenberg, C. “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” Partisan Review, 1937.

Farbøl, R. “Commemoration of a Cold War: the Politics of History and Heritage at Cold War Memory Sites in Denmark,” Cold War History, 2015.

Gille, S. Transnational Materiality, in Framing the Global: Entry Points for Research, edited by Hilary E. Kahn. Indiana University Press, 2014. 

Hilcer, A. “The Global Cold War and Its Legacies,” Kritika, 2019.

Shaw, T. and Denise J. Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War: American and Soviet Struggle for Hearts and Minds, University Press of Kansas, 2010. Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2.

Westad, O.A. The Cold War: A World History. Hachette, 2017. Chapter 8.

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