When the Soviets came to stay: Soviet influence on Cuban cultural institutions, 1961-1987

Story, Isabel (2017) When the Soviets came to stay: Soviet influence on Cuban cultural institutions, 1961-1987. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Cuba’s post-1960 political and economic relationship with the USSR has long been debated, especially the extent to which the connection shaped the Cuban Revolution. Consequently, readings of the occasionally conflictive relationship between Cuba’s state authorities and its cultural world have often relied on stereotypes inherited from Western interpretations of the USSR or the 1948-89 Socialist Bloc; such readings assuming that cultural policy was clearly defined and enforced by Soviet-style apparatchiks or Castro. While perhaps understandable for 1971-6, when the National Cultural Council (CNC) was led by ex-members of the pre-1959 communist party, recent research suggests that we look beyond the surface to see that ‘policy’ was often empirically formed and constantly challenged. Yet, perhaps due to those common assumptions, little has been written about real Soviet influence on Cuban culture, and different sub-periods during the 30-year Cuban-Soviet alliance have largely been ignored.

This thesis seeks to address this oversight in the scholarship of Cuba and the USSR by examining the Soviet influence on Cuban culture, specifically the theatre and the visual arts, between 1961 and 1986. It interrogates the ways in which culture was linked to the political priorities and nation building goals of the revolutionary leadership and how these differed from, or coincided with, the aims of the Soviet government. In doing so, it analyses the way in which culture and cultural interactions between the two countries were organised. Using evidence from materials (magazines, pamphlets, work plans, declarations) gathered from archival work in Havana and Moscow, and supported by interviews with Cuban artists and intellectuals, this study establishes that culture acted as a discursive space in which deliberations about the nature of the Cuban Revolution could take place in a way that they could not in other spheres. It also concludes that, throughout the period studied, the USSR occupied a conflicting position, acting as both a model to be learned from but also a force to be resisted. Furthermore, this thesis makes two important contributions to existing knowledge of the Cuban-Soviet relationship. First, that the 1970s, and the period known as the quiquenio gris in particular, were not ‘Soviet’ but rather nationalist and macho. Second, that the most ‘Soviet’ period in terms of structure, organisation and demands placed on artists was the 1980s when the component roles of art were separated as part of the revolutionary government’s ongoing fight for independence.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Kapcia, Antoni
McMichael, Polly
Keywords: Cuba, Cuban Revolution, Soviet Union, USSR, Culture, Cultural Policy, Visual Arts, Theatre, International Relations
Subjects: F United States local history. History of Canada and Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
Item ID: 46468
Depositing User: Story, Isabel
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2018 12:07
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2020 10:52
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/46468

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