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The Language of Superpower: A Global History of Russian in the Cold War

Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

During the Cold War, Russian joined the ranks of world languages. It became an official language of international organizations and an important language in international scientific research. Around the world, diverse categories of students studied Russian: elementary school pupils in Hungary, housewives in New York, the royal family in Cambodia, and factory workers in Afghanistan. This talk will explore official Soviet campaigns to promote Russian globally as a form of soft power. These campaigns, which began in the late 1950s after the launch of Sputnik and lasted until the late 1980s, built upon domestic efforts to enshrine Russian as the lingua franca of the diverse peoples of the USSR. They included developing Russian courses for foreign students in the USSR; producing Russian textbooks for export that accurately reflected “Soviet reality”; and sending thousands of Soviet citizens—predominately women—abroad to teach Russian at Soviet cultural centers and foreign secondary schools and institutes of higher education.

The lecture takes place on 10 May 2022 at 16:00 CET (11:00 EST)