International History and Politics
02 December 2020

Cold War Era Public Diplomacy: Soviet Professors of Russian in Indian Universities in the 1960s

Severyan Dyakonov, PhD candidate in International History and Politics, discusses his research on Cold War Era Public Diplomacy, with Professor Cyrus Schayegh as commentator.

Event Summary

The final history brunch of the semester took place on Tuesday 1st December 2020, with the now usual online formula. In this session, PhD candidate Severyan Dyakonov presented his paper titled: “Propaganda in Every Phrase?” Soviet Professors of Russian in Indian Universities in the 1960s”. In his presentation, Severyan questioned if it is possible in the study of Cold War to go beyond the narrative of superpower confrontation to explain various issues that took place in the Third World, or if the ideological strains still represent a key framework that influenced most of post-1945 history.

To this end, Severyan looked at the case of Soviet professors that were able to travel abroad to teach Russian. In particular, due to the new cultural programs developed in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, Moscow was able to strengthen its relationship with India, whose non-aligned position was praised by the Soviet leadership and judged as a great achievement. Indian non-alignment, however, was also a source of concern for the Soviets, as it opened the country to influence both from Moscow and Washington. Indeed, in the late 1950s, 6000 Indian students were studying in the US, compared to only a few hundreds in the SU. Thus, when Russian professors, mostly women, arrived in India, they realized that the local academic context was suspicious towards them because of US influence and because of a fear that learning Russian would have turned India to a Communist country. By revealing the experiences of Soviet professors in India, Severyan was able to provide relevant insights into the nature of non-alignment policy and superpower confrontation. Moreover, India emerged as a unique case, with both Soviet and US professors teaching in the same universities, and with Delhi’s openness to Moscow, that permitted the SU to be active there as nowhere else in the world.  


KEYWORDS: International History ProgrammesInternational History and Politics