Internationalism without Contamination? Youth Exchanges and Cultural Diplomacy in the Late Cold War

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 9:20 AM
Salon B (Hilton Atlanta)
Diana Georgescu, University College London
The presentation will focus on the increasing participation of Romanian adolescents (aged twelve to fourteen) in international children’s camps in the Soviet Bloc and Western Europe from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, a period when Nicolae Ceauşescu’s ambitions to emerge as a mediator of Cold War conflicts generated a boom in international youth exchanges. In an attempt to explain how the Romanian Pioneer Organization, which administered these exchanges, reconciled its mission of socializing children into socialist patriotism with the principles of internationalist solidarity, I will examine how child ambassadors were selected, trained, and monitored to perform an ideal vision of “socialist Romanianness” for diverse international audiences. Seen through the lens of child participants and adult supervisors, international children’s camps emerge as sites of both internationalist solidarity and tension, of both expected and unexpected alliances. Drawing on research in the archives of the Romanian Pioneers and some of its leftwing partner organizations in Western Europe, the larger goal of the presentation is to explore the competing visions of “internationalism” that informed transnational encounters among youth, exposing the limits of internationalist solidarity during the Cold War.