Trapped in History
This chapter begins with a discussion of how The Ugly American, a novel about U.S. effort to win over the hearts and minds of the masses in Southeast Asia during the early Cold War, mirrors the realities of Soviet soft-power politics during the Cold War. Against the received knowledge of a lockstep oppressive Soviet regime, the present volume has drawn attention to individuals who tried to improve Stalin's new empire by forging sensitive and reciprocal cultural relations with their East European allies. It also acknowledges the enormous influence of Soviet-sponsored political, economic, and cultural integration. The communists profoundly transformed the East European landscapes, languages, fashions, rhythms of industrial production, identities, and values. By the 1970s, the inhabitants of the Soviet Bloc or, more broadly, the “socialist second world,” came to share a distinct culture that eventually outlived socialist political systems. This book does not negate the vast influence of Soviet transformative energies; it merely suggests that particularly in the postwar decade, all those changes had little to do with the Soviet Union's authentic power of attraction.
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