Culture and Diplomacy
Developing an understanding and appreciation for other cultures is often a first step in building positive diplomatic relations between countries. During the height of the Cold War, a cultural exchange was created between the Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts and the Moscow Musical Theatre for Children. The main goal of the exchange was to foster cultural understanding between Russian and American children with theater. Ultimately, the organizers viewed their work as an opportunity to initiate a friendship between the two countries. Jasmine Bumpers’ article, Dolly Diplomacy, provides the details of this attempt to thaw the tensions of the Cold War through the arts.
Click on the image above to access the Dolly Diplomacy article.
This resource includes supporting questions to aid students in the reading of the article and analysis questions for understanding the primary sources. All educational materials are aligned to the New York State Social Studies Framework. The learning objectives are taken directly from the Social Studies Practices and the content fits within the framework.
Courtesy: New York State Archives
Compelling Question: How does cultural understanding contribute to the development of diplomacy between nations?
Setting the Stage
Introduction to Russia and the Cold War
Elementary: Show the following video about Moscow and Russian culture. https://ny.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/luna-moscow/luna-russia/
Middle/High School: Show the following video about U.S.-Soviet Relations and the Cold War.
Guided Reading Questions
1. Why were cultural exchanges between the Americans and Soviets banned in the 1980s?
2. What was the first cultural exchange that took place after the ban was lifted?
3. What did Patricia Snyder advocate for with the founding of the Empire State Youth Theatre Institute?
4. What happened to Natalia Stats that interrupted her career?
5. What is a magnum opus?
6. What was Snyder’s ultimate goal for the cultural exchange?
7. What was the storyline of Rag Dolly?
8. How was Rag Dolly different from Russian theater style?
9. What does the word “panned” mean?
10. What did American children learn about the Russians from the cultural exchange?
11. How did the Soviet troupe feel about the idea of cultural exchanges?
12. How do you think this cultural exchange influenced American-Soviet diplomacy?
1. Where was this photograph taken? Provide evidence for your answer.
2. What people do you see in this photograph?
3. What time of year is it? Provide evidence for your answer.
4. Why do you think the people on the right of the photograph are there?
5. What do you think the people on the left think about the two people on the right?