Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Barbier, Mary Kathryn

Committee Member

Hui, Alexandra E.

Committee Member

Damms, Richard V.

Committee Member

Hay, William Anthony

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms

MSU Only Indefinitely

Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only


Modern European History

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


Recently, scholars have begun to examine American and Soviet relations in the 1950s. These studies, however, do not concentrate upon the Soviet leadership’s use of cultural exchange, nor do these studies explore the Soviets’ reliance on the arts as a foreign policy tool. Similarly, though studies analyze evidence for a possible thaw in American-Soviet diplomatic relations and investigate this potential thaw’s ramifications within the Soviet Union, no major studies concentrate on the thaw with regard to cultural exchange. This dissertation explores whether the Bolshoi Ballet’s 1959 American tour provided evidence of a genuine thaw in American-Soviet relations, and simultaneously seeks to understand the arts’ prominent role within Soviet foreign policy and examine the role of tsarist culture within Soviet society. Specifically, this study investigates the rationale behind the creation of the Bolshoi’s repertoire and the Soviet leadership’s objectives and interpretation of the tour’s effectiveness as well as Americans’ responses to the tour. The dissertation’s main focus concerns the four ballets, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Giselle, and The Stone Flower, and the Soviets’ attempt to use these ballets to alter Americans’ anti-Soviet opinions. Soviet officials’ public and private statements demonstrate their reliance on the arts as a political weapon. The Soviets conceived of the ballet as an effective political tool that disseminated Communist messages. Conversely, the American public and critics understood the ballet as an art form divorced from political overtones. These contrasting viewpoints weakened the Soviets’ cultural offensive. At the official level, members of the American government deliberately tried to minimize the Bolshoi’s effect as Cold War propaganda. This study concludes that the Bolshoi’s 1959 tour indicated the Soviets’ determination to employ the ballet as a weapon designed to achieve a Soviet Cold War victory. Even though the Bolshoi’s tour did not represent a thaw in American-Soviet relations and did not sway American impressions of the Soviet Union, the tour played an integral role in the Soviets’ grand strategy for a worldwide Soviet Communist victory.