Thirty years after a trip to the GDR, Soviet cardiologist V.I. Metelitsa still remembered mistakenly trying to buy a dress for a ten-year-old daughter...

Thirty years after a trip to the GDR, Soviet cardiologist V.I. Metelitsa still remembered mistakenly trying to buy a dress for a ten-year-old daughter in a maternity shop: ‘In our country I couldn’t even imagine that such a specialized shop could exist’.” Well-stocked shops, attractive cafes, and medieval streets were among the many discoveries that Soviet citizens made in their trips abroad. After decades of closed borders and rumors of life abroad, the 1950s ushered in a new era — an era in which Soviet citizens would be able to participate in the transnational circulation of people, ideas, and items.

In All This is Your World: Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad After Stalin (Oxford University Press, 2011), Anne Gorsuch discusses the varied experiences of Soviet citizens traveling at home, to the “near abroad” of Estonia, and to Eastern and Western Europe, in the Khrushchev era. For many, this travel was no holiday but a purposeful excursion. Tourists were to learn about other parts of the world, but most importantly, they were to represent the Soviet Union in a Cold War struggle over culture. The Soviet tourist was an actor and the world his stage. If tourism was an olive branch and propaganda tool, however, it was also an opportunity for personal encounter and pleasure, including shopping on Oxford Street in London and enjoying the French Riviera. These experiences did not inevitably lead to anti-Soviet opinions or actions. For many elite travelers in the late 1950s and 1960s, it was possible for them to admire, purchase, and envy Western consumer goods, and still believe in the future of Soviet socialism. Dr. Gorsuch examines new opportunities for cultural exchange and transnational encounter, exploring the meaning of travel and exploration for a country breaking the chains of Stalinization.

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