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7. The Soviet Agit-Prop Offensive in Republican Spain, 1936-39


I. The Dissemination of Soviet Agit-Prop in the Republican Zone

We have seen how, beginning in the late 1920s, Moscow established a regular dialogue with hundreds of Spanish contacts. Before February 1936, frequent and significant changes in the orientation of Spanish politics had often thwarted the Kremlin's attempts to launch a broad campaign of propaganda on the Iberian Peninsula. Obstacles to Moscow's penetration of Spain would greatly decrease after the election of the Popular Front on 16 February 1936, and they were further diminished during the course of the civil war. By late October 1936, the Soviet Union had emerged as the only major supplier of arms to the Republic. For many Republicans, the USSR's intervention quickly transformed the reputation of the Communist state and produced a generally favorable impression, not only among communists and socialists but among more moderate members of the Spanish left as well. Sensing a greater opening, Moscow moved to capitalize on its newly won prestige, and launched a renewed propaganda assault in the Republic. Far exceeding any earlier attempt to export Soviet agit-prop to a Western state, the intensified propaganda campaign in the Spanish Republic took advantage of a wide range of local media resources and involved officials and personnel from many different Soviet ministries and organizations. A number of unpublished primary sources now provide tantalizing glimpses of the broad parameters of Moscow's cultural intervention in the Loyalist zone: its initial advances in certain areas, the wholesale failures experienced elsewhere, and its unceremonious withdrawal near the end of 1937.


It appears that the chaos of the first weeks of the civil war interrupted a correspondence between VOKS and individual Spaniards that had grown steadily in the months since the election of the Popular Front. After the war began, VOKS evidently did not receive a letter from the Republican zone until 20 August 1936—fully a month after the rebel uprising. But that letter, sent from the head of the Barcelona daily Las Noticias, reveals a dramatic shift in the expectations of some Spaniards regarding not only the direction of future Soviet propagandizing in the Republic, but the about the potential benefits of that propaganda:

We have been formally designated to organize artistic and theatrical events for soldiers at the front and to entertain during their days of rest. Would it be possible to send to Spain several Soviet artists, especially singers, to participate in these demonstrations? It would be preferable if they are not professionals but rather workers who appear in a chorus or club in their factory, performing revolutionary songs. This would be, without a doubt, a wonderful way of aiding Spain to defeat fascism in the terrible struggle in which we are currently engaged. At this moment, everything Soviet makes a great impression and fortifies the morale of the combatants.....
Proletarian salutations,
The General Director. 1

This letter would have required at least one week to arrive at its destination, and probably reached Moscow on one of the last days of August. On 1 September, VOKS sent a Russian translation of the Noticias letter to the head of the Cultural Enlightenment section of the Politburo. The agency also included a brief note, stating that, "in the opinion of VOKS, this is a serious request, and it should receive appropriate attention." 2

While VOKS and the Politburo deliberated on the question of sending cultural ambassadors to Spain, pro-Soviet propagandists in the Republican zone continued to intensify their own activities. It should be remembered that, while the first Soviet ambassador arrived in Madrid at the end of August, Largo Caballero did not appoint his representative to Moscow until several weeks later. Consequently, just as in the earlier days of the Second Republic, in late August and early September 1936, the naming of an ambassador to the USSR was the primary focus of the Republic's Soviet-Spanish friendship organizations. In an internal circular of 4 September 1936, the central committee of the Spanish AUS issued a new program aimed at broadening public awareness of the societies and increasing general sympathy for the Soviet Union. The directive called on all AUS chapters to "rapidly" organize public acts calling for the establishment of relations with the USSR, and to widely distribute Soviet journals and newspapers, including URSS en Construcción, Le Journal de Moscú, and Rusia de Hoy. 3

Taken together, the Noticias letter of 20 August, its subsequent forwarding to the Politburo, and the AUS internal circular of 4 September are quite revealing. If, as the Barcelona writer alleges, "everything Soviet makes a great impression," one must conclude that, by mid-August 1936, a significant, though not quantifiable, amount of Soviet agit-prop materials were already in circulation in the Republican zone. These were no doubt the result of propaganda activities pursued by both the AUS and PCE, and backed by the ECCI decision—and the accompanying 50,000 pesetas—of the previous February. 4 The timeframe of these two letters is also worth noting. The Noticias request was written ten days before the arrival of Ambassador Rosenberg in Madrid and six weeks before Consul General Antonov-Ovseenko appeared in Barcelona. More obviously, it was written two months before the first large shipments of Soviet weaponry arrived in the Republic. The VOKS-Politburo exchange and the AUS circular clearly indicate that Soviet propaganda was widely disseminated in the Republican zone before the Soviets had entered into the military conflict. Soviet agit-prop did not accompany or follow arms deliveries to Spain, as one has long assumed; it preceded them.

If AUS members in Republican Spain were soliciting the augmentation of already existing Soviet agit-prop efforts as early as late August and early September 1936—as noted, to rally support for the war and cement ties between the two states—curiously, the Kremlin did not immediately respond, nor did it aggressively capitalize on the opportunity that was fortuitously presented. The regular dispatch to the Republic of large quantities of Soviet propaganda products did not occur until November and December 1936. In fact, as late as 31 October 1936, Consul Antonov-Ovseenko's wife had alerted VOKS that, although the diplomatic mission had drawn up a plan for propaganda activities, it had received practically nothing from Moscow:

I want to draw your attention to our cultural work here in Barcelona. Vladimir Aleksandrovich wrote a letter ... outlining the general agenda, but I will repeat his message: the cultural exchange here is of the same conception, but there is as yet no material. The task before us is vast and possibly unrealizable. But please send us some material. 5

The VOKS-Politburo exchange and the Sofiia Antonov-Ovseenko letter lead one to conclude that in the fall of 1936, the ECCI's February decision to expand its propaganda activities in Spain had only been partially implemented. This disconnect between Soviet and Comintern goals in Spain and the actual efforts made toward their realization is worth underlining, for it points to a constant problem that runs through every aspect of Soviet involvement in the Spanish Civil War. In the area of agit-prop and cultural incursions in the Republic, just as with attempted Soviet control of Republican politics and military strategy—or, indeed, the mobilization of the Soviet citizenry in a large-scale campaign of solidarity—the Kremlin never succeeded in achieving its ambitious goals vis-à-vis the Spanish conflict.

Let us now examine what agit-prop materials, overtly political or otherwise, did reach the Republic, and when, as well as their overall effectiveness. Archival records show that the bulk of Soviet propaganda products were sent to Spain between December 1936 and October 1937. This period saw the dispatch to the Republic of thousands of Soviet books, pamphlets, and journals, and hundreds of different posters, musical recordings, and films. By the fall of 1937, the high-water mark for Soviet propagandizing in the Republic had passed. Indeed, it would appear that Moscow began scaling back its cultural activities in the Republic even as some Republicans were clamoring for deeper Soviet involvement. On 20 October 1937, the Valencia AUS chapter bluntly questioned why VOKS's shipments to them had dropped off: "We find it very strange that at present less material is coming into Spain from Russia than earlier." 6

If the VOKS archive is indicative of the extent of Soviet cultural activities in the Republic, it is clear that by the first months of 1938, Moscow was no longer promoting an active agit-prop campaign in Republican Spain. In the last sixteen months of the war, new Soviet products arrived in the Republic at only a slow trickle. In February 1938, VOKS exchanged its last letter with a Republican correspondent—improbably, a boxing impresario who had published articles on Soviet sports organizations and hoped to take two Spanish boxers on tour in the USSR, a heavyweight and a featherweight. 7 The parallels between the withdrawal of Moscow's cultural resources from the Republic, the downgrading of the Kremlin's diplomatic missions, and the decline in military aid are clearly interrelated developments and will be considered in detail in the conclusion of this work.

To disseminate its propaganda in the Republican zone during the Civil War, Moscow employed essentially the same mechanisms that it had in place during the first five years of the Second Republic. The Soviet Union could rely on the constant assistance of local friendship and cultural exchange organizations, which by early 1937 included some thirty chapters of the AUS, 8 as well as several chapters of a new society, the Asociación Española de Relaciones Culturales con la Unión Soviética, known by its acronym AERCU. 9 Before the war began, the lack of even low-level diplomatic relations between Moscow and Madrid had greatly impeded attempts by these organizations to communicate with officials in the USSR. At that time, Spanish orders for propaganda materials or requests for Moscow's organizational assistance had to go through the regular national mail system, and thus relied to a great degree on the cooperation of the Republic's authorities. While outgoing Spanish requests were allowed to pass through the mails, the reception of incoming materials was frequently hindered by Spanish customs. Of course, these obstacles varied with the political climate. Under Azaña's leftist coalition of 1931-33, pro-Soviet Spaniards had greater freedom to organize and communicate with Moscow. During the subsequent Lerroux government, the antipathy of the Republic's ruling rightist coalition toward the USSR rendered many propagandizing activities between VOKS and its Spanish sympathizers impossible.

As we have seen, by early October 1936 the Soviets had established a well-staffed embassy and consulate in the Republic. The presence of official Soviet representation in the Republican zone immediately transformed the breadth and scope of the Kremlin's propaganda activities. From the first days of their arrival, Moscow's diplomatic personnel in the Republic served as active and effective facilitators for the importation and distribution of all variety of Soviet cultural and political materials. Embassy officials also made appearances at AUS-sponsored agit-prop events. 10 Again, the VOKS archive provides a clear window onto the role of the Soviet diplomatic missions in implementing Moscow's cultural policy in the Republic.

The Soviet diplomatic staff in the Republic collaborated closely not only with the friendship societies, but with many other cultural organizations at the local, regional, and national level. How did this arrangement work in practice? Typically, having initiated or responded to contact with a Spanish organization, the Soviet embassy or consulate then communicated the details of its association to the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (NKID). In a letter of 2 November 1936, the NKID informed VOKS that the embassy in the Spanish capital had received a request from the Madrid AUS for a large quantity of Soviet propaganda materials. NKID directed VOKS to immediately dispatch:

  1. A wide variety of photographs for publication in Spanish journals. The themes of the photographs may be collective farms, construction projects, the role of women and children in the USSR, and any other contemporary scenes.
  2. Soviet propaganda posters.
  3. Soviet press publications.
  4. Any and all materials related to the history of the Russian civil war, including articles, posters, photographs, books concerning the military lessons of the Russian civil war, the role of women in the Russian civil war, questions of civil defense during the Russian civil war, etc.
  5. Literature and photographs on life in the collective farms.
  6. Phonographic records of revolutionary hymns and war marches.
  7. Above all else, a portable cinema projector. 11

Having received a shipment order from the NKID, VOKS then contacted the specific Soviet agency responsible for each product with detailed requests for the desired materials. VOKS worked closely with state ministries and organizations, including the Commissariat for Education, the Lenin Library, the state film distribution division, the Literary Museum, the Museum of the Revolution, the Cultural Office of the Red Army, the State Union of Composers, and many others. The VOKS archive preserves many of the orders sent to the specific Soviet state agencies for agit-prop materials. In early April 1937, for example, VOKS instructed the Soviet State Music Publisher to prepare for shipment to the Spanish Republic an array of scores of Soviet hymns and songs, with Spanish translations. 12 Ten days later, the publisher sent the materials to VOKS, which promptly forwarded them to the Soviet embassy, by that time located in Valencia. Upon receiving the scores, the Valencia embassy staff distributed them to a local friendship society for incorporation into their propaganda program. 13

On occasion, the Foreign Commissariat (NKID) was dissatisfied with the efficiency of the system for supplying Republican organizations with propaganda materials. Thus on 27 October 1937, the commissariat sent VOKS a sternly worded warning not to delay in expediting future material requests. 14 Reacting defensively, VOKS quickly supplied the NKID with detailed lists of all propaganda materials recently sent to the Republic. 15

While the NKID often facilitated material requests, and the Soviet diplomatic mission in the Republic occupied itself with disseminating Moscow's propaganda, VOKS continued to maintain direct contact with many Republican correspondents or organizational allies. As in the first days of VOKS's activities in Spain, the agency often responded to individual requests. In January 1937, a Valencian asked VOKS for a recent Soviet novel in order to work on his Russian. 16 In March of that year, a utilities union in the same city expressed a desire to exchange materials of common interest with an identical gas and water works in the Soviet Union. 17 Several months later, a Barcelona radio station asked VOKS to send samples of Soviet music, which the agency belatedly supplied several months later. 18 In general, however, most Spanish Republicans preferred to avoid the delays involved in writing to Russia and instead directed their requests to one of the friendship societies in Loyalist Spain. Indeed, for the period of the war itself, the unpublished AUS papers in the Salamanca archive contain many more requests from individual Spaniards than the VOKS archive in Moscow. 19

A closer comparison of the request letters to the AUS chapters and those sent to VOKS reveals another important development. Not a few of those requests sent directly to Moscow were simply ignored, most likely because VOKS concluded that they diverged too sharply from what the authorities considered fruitful activities for propaganda. The agency evidently did not respond to an October 1937 inquiry from a group of Republican skydivers who wished to begin an exchange with a Soviet parachuting club. 20 More significantly, VOKS never permitted direct communications between its Republican correspondents and Soviet citizens, nor even with the Soviet organizations in which an interest was being expressed. This policy led to some exasperation on the part of the Valencia AUS. In the fall of 1937, the organization expressed disappointment at the limited nature of the cultural exchange:

If at all possible we would appreciate having a list of the addresses of diverse industries, cultural organizations, sport clubs, collective farms, etc, given that on a daily basis we are visited by comrades who wish to establish correspondence with your country.... We are hopeful that you will attend to these requests, since only you are able to do anything about it. 21

Some of the above-cited correspondence gives an indication of the variety of agit-prop products that the Soviets sent to the Republic. In general, any propaganda materials in circulation in the USSR inevitably found their way to Republican Spain. Chief among these were the standard-issue, mass-produced tracts of 1930s Stalinist Russia, including many of the writings of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, and works on the Stalinist Constitution, the Second Five-Year Plan, the collectivization of agriculture, the achievements of Soviet literacy, the role of women in Soviet society, the state of Soviet health organizations, and the feats of Soviet science, technology, and engineering.

The total volume of Soviet literature sent to the Republic during the Civil War is difficult to assess with any precision. VOKS directed Soviet books and pamphlets to many addresses, including the embassy and consulate of the USSR, chapters of friendship organizations, and to individual Spaniards. Though the VOKS archive indicates that the size of shipments to the Republic varied over the period of active cultural intervention—that is, from November 1936 to February 1938—the amounts far exceeded what VOKS had sent in the years before the war began.

During the Second Republic, VOKS typically sent its correspondents nothing more than a single copy of a Soviet-made newspaper or propaganda sheet, an occasional book, and, even rarer, a dictionary or grammar. Large-volume mailings to Spain were extremely uncommon. After November 1936, however, VOKS's mailings to the Republic increasingly became bulk shipments. Whereas before the agency needed only a sheet of butcher paper to wrap a copy of VOKS Bulletin, the wartime shipments of propaganda required boxes and crates. Orders of 40-50 books became commonplace, and orders much larger, from 300 to 800 items apiece, occurred several times each month. In seven weeks between late February and mid-April 1937, for example, VOKS sent a total of 2,887 volumes of printed agit-prop materials to the Valencia embassy alone. 22

On many occasions, efforts by VOKS to export and deploy Soviet agit-prop in the Republican zone were stymied by linguistic limitations. This is perhaps surprising, given that by 1937 Moscow had two decades of experience in manipulating popular opinion in the multi-lingual USSR. Moreover, it should be recalled that, in the first Soviet attempts to penetrate the Iberian Peninsula between 1931 and 1933, the agency's lack of Castilian and Catalan materials clearly handicapped the diffusion of Soviet propaganda. Despite the benefit of five years of experience, in late 1936 and 1937 the language barriers had not yet been surmounted. Many of VOKS's correspondents during the war continued to complain not only of the paucity of translated materials, but particularly of a lack of Russian dictionaries and grammars. 23 In mid-1937, VOKS began belatedly responding to requests for Russian-Spanish dictionaries and grammar books, sending as many as thirty at a time. 24

An August 1937 letter from VOKS to the head of the Valencia chapter of AERCU is characteristic of Moscow's poor grasp of the language issue. The bulk of the letter provides routine information concerning upcoming cultural exchanges. Two features, however, are worth noting. First, this letter, like many others from the same period, is written in French, revealing that, even at the high point of Soviet participation in the Civil War, Moscow did not have sufficient personnel trained in Castilian. 25 Second, the letter closes with a startling postscript: VOKS asks its Spanish correspondent if his organization would be amenable to receiving agit-prop materials printed in Esperanto. 26 VOKS's linguistic bewilderment was not lost on its many Republican contacts who hoped to overcome the language divide. It is certainly a reflection of the agency's poor reputation in this area that in January 1937 the Musical Section of the PSUC chose to pen a request to the Moscow agency in broken German. 27

Indeed, Moscow never fully rose to the linguistic challenges that lay at the very heart of its deep cultural involvement in the Republic. This conclusion is buttressed by ample evidence that many of the Soviet propaganda products sent to the Republic were not printed in any of the languages of the Iberian Peninsula. In February 1937, VOKS dispatched a large shipment of books to the Soviet consulate in Barcelona. The order comprised a total of 675 books, including multiple copies of 19 different titles. 300 of those books were copies of an English translation of Lenin's Tasks of Soviet Youth, and another 50 of the volumes were Stalin's Marxism and the Nationalism Question, also in English. The remaining books were in German and French. The entire shipment did not contain a single Spanish-language book. 28 But this situation was hardly unique. A month earlier, in January 1937, the consulate received a shipment of 312 Soviet books, including 50 copies of a tract entitled On the Constitution and 10 copies of Children's Parks of Moscow. All books were in English, German, or Russian. 29 VOKS records also indicate that in April of the same year, the agency sent its consular and Republican contacts a major shipment of literature, totaling over 3000 individual books or pamphlets. Apart from 100 copies of a Spanish-language version of The Trotsky Trials, the shipment consisted of Soviet literature translated into German, French, Italian, or English. 30

An examination of the shipping receipts in the Moscow archives reveals that a large portion of Soviet printed products sent to the Republic was in Russian, a language with few readers on the Iberian Peninsula. In June 1937, VOKS sent the Valencia-based AERCU a shipment of textbooks that included between ten and twenty-five copies apiece of forty-five different volumes. All were in Russian. In all likelihood, the Soviet agency did not seriously expect its AERCU colleagues to be able to use these books. VOKS was good enough to include a small package of literature that the Valencia group might decipher: twenty-four Soviet books for toddlers. 31

A recent survey of holdings in the Salamanca Civil War archive—largely an archive of captured Republican materials—indicates that the Nationalist army seized over one thousand different Russian-language books, pamphlets, and journals at the end of the war. More strikingly, the archive preserves only a handful of Spanish translations of Soviet works dating from the 1930s. If this observation is coupled with VOKS's demonstrable reliance on non-Castilian propaganda materials in its cultural campaign in the Republic, one must conclude that Soviet officials never elevated Spanish to a language of primary importance in their broader geo-political strategy.

Yet, paradoxically, it cannot be doubted that Moscow appreciated the critical importance of the language issue. Let us only recall the Comintern resolution of 28 February 1936—the decision that initiated a heightening of Soviet cultural activities in the Republic just twelve days following the election of the Popular Front. The decision ordered not only a wholesale expansion of propaganda dissemination in Spain, but, most importantly, the translation into Spanish of dozens of Soviet works. The decision stated in unambiguous terms that no works were to be distributed in Spain without having first been translated. 32 It thus appears that the Soviet and Comintern leadership, despite their understanding of the linguistic issue, were never able to implement the most fundamental aspect of the cultural program: the translation of propaganda materials.

Stalin Stalin and Lenin Lenin

Of course, the problem of language was of far less consequence in areas of agit-prop that relied less heavily on the printed word. Soviet imagery In correspondence with its Republican contacts, VOKS tended to encourage the wider use of sound recordings, graphic art, photographs, and especially film.
archive Soviet newsreel:
Loyalist soldiers

archive Soviet newsreel:
Streets of Madrid
In May 1937, the agency solicited the assistance of the Cultural Committee of the People's Commissariat for Enlightenment (Narkompros) to assemble a shipment of sound recordings, requesting specifically "revolutionary songs, marching hymns and battle hymns." 33 Soviet poster art was also a staple of VOKS shipments to the Republic, though as with literature, the original language of most of the posters limited the effectiveness of their employment. Mundo Obrero In at least one case, VOKS suggested that the Valencia embassy affix Spanish translations to the Russian language posters. 34 Soviet photographsTo the same end, and safer still, was the use of large posters of Stalin and Lenin, the widespread dissemination of which is frequently noted in contemporary testimonies—oral, print, or celluloid—from the Republican zone. 35 Photographs, meanwhile, posed no such challenges, and VOKS sent many thousands to its contacts in the Republic. These could be easily inserted into local newspapers or journals, or posted in exhibitions on different aspects of the Soviet Union. 36

II. The Role of Soviet Cinema in the Republican Zone


Whatever the effectiveness of Soviet literature, records, posters, and photographs, it paled in comparison to the impact of Soviet cinema, which was far and away the most widely disseminated form of Soviet propaganda employed in the Republican zone. It should not surprise us that the cinema—Lenin's "most revolutionary" of all art forms—played a key role in the Kremlin's agit-prop campaign in the Republic. The years of the Spanish Civil War coincided with the climax of a decade-long expansion of the Soviet film industry. Since the late 1920s, Stalin had vigorously promoted the cinema as the preferred medium of entertainment for the masses. 37 While the domestic market was booming, however, Soviet filmmakers' access to foreign screens had always been restricted. The unique position Moscow came to occupy in wartime Loyalist Spain gave the Soviets a rare opportunity to export abroad a large number of titles. It will be recalled that the censorship restrictions that had hampered distribution of Soviet film in Spain before 1931 had not entirely disappeared during the Second Republic, and only a handful of Soviet films were screened in the five years prior to the civil war. But as the Soviet Union emerged as the lone supplier of weaponry to the Republic, all remaining barriers to the distribution of Soviet cinema vanished.

We of KronstadtIn the fall of 1936 a new company, Film Popular, was organized to oversee the production of propaganda newsreels and Spanish-language versions of Soviet films. 38 Film Popular's first widely distributed Soviet film was Efim Dzigan's We of Kronstadt (1936), which premiered in Madrid's Cine Capital on 18 October 1936. The film's arrival in the besieged city was accompanied by a massive propaganda campaign initiated by Dolores Ibárruri, the PCE's principal spokeswoman. We of Kronstadt The city center filled with advertisements for the picture; on the Gran Vía, the main east-west boulevard, these posters were strung across the lines of every traffic light. 39 According to Mikhail Kol'tsov, the Pravda correspondent in the Republic, the film's premiere was attended by the entire cabinet, leaders of various political parties, and many parliamentary deputies, who were greeted at the theater by a large crowd shouting "¡Viva Rusia!" If Kol'tsov is to be believed, the film concluded to extended and tumultuous applause.
archive The Premier of
We of Kronstadt
40 In fact, there is little reason to doubt the Soviet journalist's version. A Soviet-made newsreel shot at the debut captures much of the excitement: advertisements for the film pasted all over town, and a long line of enthusiastic cinephiles queuing up to see the picture. 41

In the weeks following its premiere, We of Kronstadt would be screened in dozens of Loyalist cities and towns. Republican schools sometimes arranged special showings in place of regular lectures. 42 Even the inhabitants of dusty outposts in remote sections of the Basque country managed to see the film. This achievement was in part due to the efforts of the Soviet journalist-propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg, who, with a mobile cinema sent from Moscow, showed the film to thousands of Republican soldiers on the northern front. 43 Elsewhere, the Popular Army's Comisión de Trabajo Social organized its own mobile screenings of We of Kronstadt; on a forty-four day tour between Teruel and Andalucía, forty-seven separate showings were conducted. 44

The choice of We of Kronstadt to initiate the Film Popular series was based on careful considerations of the film's value to the Republican war effort. Set during the Russian civil war, the film chronicles the transformation of an anarchistic band of marines into a disciplined Red Army unit. The immediate parallels with the Spanish conflict were obvious to many at the time, and were often discussed in minute detail. 45 As the film was being screened, Nationalist troops were closing in on the Spanish capital, and disorganized Republican formations were rapidly losing men and territory. In the weeks after the premiere, observers noted the impact the film had already begun to have. "Young Spanish communists," Kol'tsov wrote, "are trying to repeat the feats of the red soldiers in the events of Petrograd...." 46 Some may have even succeeded. According to one observer, not a few Republican fighters left the mobile theaters and immediately put into the action the military lessons depicted in the film. While this may have occurred in some isolated examples, it is hard to believe, much less verify, the claim that, after seeing We of Kronstadt, Antonio Coll, a Republican militiaman, single-handedly destroyed five Italian tanks. 47

Even more influential was Film Popular's next major presentation, Georgii and Sergei Vasil'ev's Chapaev (1934), a picture released in the USSR to commemorate the seventeenth anniversary of the Revolution. Chapaev posters First screened in Madrid on 2 November 1936, Chapaev, like We of Kronstadt, was a war story that strongly resonated with Republican soldiers. 48 The film recounts the life of Vasilii Chapaev, a mythic figure of the Russian civil war who in 1919 terrorized White troops in the Urals and inspired the peasants to defend the Revolution. In the film, Chapaev is promoted to commander, brilliantly leads his men in an offensive, and then heroically falls in battle. 50 Chapaev still 49 Chapaev became the most frequently viewed film in the Spanish Republic; the Spanish Communist Party believed it held great pedagogical value, and many soldiers saw it repeatedly. Whether or not Franco considered the film a threat to the Nationalist advance, and deliberately shelled the Gran Via as viewers emerged from screenings, is a matter of pure speculation. Chapaev stills 51 Equally unverifiable is the claim by a leading Spanish film historian that Republican troops were often heard to shout "Remember Chapaev!" as they stormed the Nationalist lines. 50 52 These dubious claims aside, it is certain both that one brigade elected to name itself after the fictional Soviet hero, 53 and that an unusually brave British brigadista company commander was nicknamed the "English Chapaev." 54 In connection with the film, Ehrenburg relates the following anecdote:

We organized film screenings in town squares, where a house wall took the place of the screen.... The anarchists worshipped Chapaev. After the first evening we had to cut out the last reel of the film: the young soldiers could not tolerate Chapaev's death. "Why should we wage war, they asked, if the best men must perish?" 55

Other Soviet films distributed by Film Popular were designed to serve a specific function. The Youth of Maxim Ivan Pyr'ev's The Party Card (1936) demonstrated how to best expose saboteurs in the rear guard; Grigorii Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg's The Youth of Maksim (1935) recounts the civic training and political indoctrination of young Pioneers, while Josef Heifitz and Alexander Zarkhi's Baltic Deputy (1937) illustrates the role of intellectuals in a Communist regime. 56 Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) illustrated the ability of enlisted sailors to seize and command their own ships. Baltic Deputy Given the Republic's naval fortunes, Potemkin was an odd choice for agit-prop screenings. The Republic's sailors required little tutoring in overthrowing their superiors—in the opening days of the civil war they slaughtered over 500 officers. But the command skills of the Potemkin crew were not to be emulated in Republican Spain: once in charge, the revolutionaries proved wholly unable to command their ships, a development that contributed to the Nationalists' rapid domination of the seas.

The Last NightRather unexpectedly, some Soviet films screened in the Republic had little or no clear pedagogical value. For example, Film Popular distributed the Semen Timoshchenko comedy Three Friends (1935), Grigorii Aleksandrov's The Circus (1936), Grigorii Roshal and Vera Stroeva's Petersburg Night (1934), and Iulii Raizman's The Last Night (1936), none of which would appear to fit neatly into Soviet agit-prop goals in Republican Spain. It is reasonable to assume, however, that to some extent Soviet authorities and their Spanish allies wanted above all for Soviet film to become a visible presence in the Republic. To this end, a great many Soviet features were screened, some possessing more propaganda value than others. As a result, numerous Soviet films were often playing at once in the same city. For example, in the second week of December 1936 alone, the film page of the Madrid daily Claridad listed five different Soviet films playing in separate venues. 57

Guerrilleros Lenin in October Advertisement

The last Soviet film screened in the Republican zone, Aleksandr Faintsimmer's The Baltic Sailors, premiered in Madrid on 16 January 1939, just six weeks before Franco's victory. 58 In all, some three-dozen Soviet feature films were shown in Republican Spain during the war. Not a few were viewed many times by the same audience; Kol'tsov reports that in the village of Don Fadrique, the locals ordered Ilia Trauberg's Blue Express (1929) four times. 59


Apart from feature films, the Soviets produced numerous newsreels and documentaries for Spanish audiences, including Nuevos Amigos, a 1937 short feature on the Spanish children evacuated to Russia (discussed in detail above). Nuevos Amigos was clearly intended to buttress Republican popular support for the Soviets, though this was hardly the only such effort. The Arrival of Ambassador Pascua in Moscow, meanwhile, chronicled Marcelino Pascua's first appearance in the Russian capital, his greeting by throngs of enthusiastic locals, and his presentation of credentials in the Kremlin. Designed as a display of Spanish-Soviet friendship, the film was screened in theaters throughout the Republican zone. 60

A different tack was taken with the release of V. Erofeeev's The Victory is Yours (1936), which also received extensive distribution throughout Loyalist Spain. Soviet films The film contrasts the privation and violence of the Russian Civil War with depictions of the markedly improved conditions in the USSR at the time of the nineteenth anniversary of the Revolution. The message was apparent: like the besieged Soviet state, the Spanish Republic would emerge from the civil war and construct a prosperous new society. 61 To sum up, the cinema proved to be the medium of propaganda most effectively exploited by the Kremlin on the Iberian Peninsula. As we shall see below, however, Soviet cinematic efforts in relation to the Spanish war were even more far-reaching within the USSR itself.

III. The Anniversaries of the Revolution and Other Propaganda Events


Film was one of many Soviet cultural products employed in the Republic to underline the purported achievements of the Soviet Union. VOKS and its Republican collaborators often staged elaborate celebrations of milestones in recent Soviet history. With few exceptions, these propaganda events were lifted directly from the holiday calendar in the USSR. Although throughout the entire Soviet period the Kremlin encouraged secular holiday celebrations, the Spanish Civil War coincided with the most frenzied period in the promotion of these public commemorations. 62 The events most relentlessly touted in the Republic, and which consequently drew the most attention, were the November anniversaries of the Russian Revolution. During the course of the Spanish Civil War, Republicans had the opportunity to celebrate three of these commemorations, the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first. A brief examination of how each was promoted reveals much about the evolving role of Soviet propaganda during the thirty-two-month war.

As the above periodization indicates, the mobilization of Soviet propaganda in the Republican zone remained at a relatively low level up to and during the nineteenth anniversary of the October Revolution, which occurred during the first week of November 1936. One might have expected the nineteenth anniversary to be the first major showcase for the recently-established triad that constituted the Soviet propaganda machine on the Iberian Peninsula; that is, VOKS, the supplier; the two Soviet diplomatic missions, the coordinators; and AUS, the distributor. This system was essentially operational by early October 1936, but the dearth of propaganda materials available in the Republic that Sofiia Antonov-Ovseenko had complained about on the eve of the nineteenth anniversary was only part of the problem. 63 Only after the first week of November—indeed, at the time of the anniversary itself—did events begin to unfold in a way that favored increased Soviet cultural involvement in Republican society. It was at this time that the first Soviet military aid was successfully deployed on the Madrid front. The role played by Soviet advisors, tank crews, and pilots in repelling Franco's advance on the capital rapidly transformed popular attitudes towards the Soviets and greatly contributed to the USSR's growing prestige throughout the Republican zone. 64

If the commemorations marking the nineteenth anniversary were a far cry from those marking the twentieth, it could hardly be said that the event passed unnoticed. Towards the end of October 1936, a delegation of Republican workers had left Spain to attend the nineteenth-anniversary celebrations in numerous Soviet cities. The delegation was organized and funded by the AUS, although its Soviet itinerary was naturally dictated by Intourist and VOKS, the invitation to attend having come from the Soviet syndicates. 65 In Spain, the group's departure was treated with much fanfare, and touted by the Communist daily Mundo Obrero as an indication of the rising level of Soviet-Republican solidarity. 66 In a similar way, the delegation's subsequent participation in the Soviet festivities marking the Revolution received extensive coverage in communist and left-wing newspapers. 67 A surviving Soviet newsreel of this event gives some sense of the privileged status enjoyed by the Spaniards in the Red Square festivities. 68

In various Republican cities, the AUS attempted to organize public gatherings marking the Revolution. In Bilbao, the regional government granted the local AUS chapter permission to hold a 7 November rally in the city's largest meeting hall, the Coliseo de Albia. 69 The event, however, was poorly attended, as many of the invited groups declined to participate. 70 In Bilbao, as in the Spanish capital, the AUS was more successful at screening Soviet films in conjunction with the anniversary. 71 These included a gala showing in Madrid's Cine Monumental of a hagiographic treatment of Lenin entitled Genius of the Revolution. 72 Nor were commemorations limited solely to the AUS and their followers. The Socialist UGT organized a public rally celebrating the October Revolution. 73 At the same time, the leftist press devoted significant attention to the celebrations occurring in Moscow. One paper, Heraldo de Madrid, attempted to draw parallels between the Soviet example and events unfolding in Spain: "In history, November 7, 1917 marks the triumph of the Russian Revolution; November 7, 1936 will become the date marking the victory of our forces." 74

Russian RevolutionThese scattered events, though not without their enthusiastic supporters, were the high points of the propaganda campaign for the nineteenth anniversary of the October Revolution, which was doubtlessly handicapped by the shortage of Soviet-supplied materials available in early November 1936.
archive Pro-Soviet
celebrations, 1937 [1]

archive Pro-Soviet
celebrations, 1937 [2]
Just as important, however, it should be remembered that the anniversary occurred during the Battle of Madrid, a time of massive chaos, desperate defensive mobilization, and the relocation of the Republic's government to Valencia, which took place on 5 November 1936. But while Moscow's Republican proponents failed to fully exploit the potential of the anniversary to advance their agenda, Soviet participation in the military struggle taking place at the same time became the spark that soon ignited the Soviets' renewed propaganda assault.

Antonov-Ovseenko and CompanysBetween the nineteenth and twenty-first anniversaries of the Russian Revolution, the Republic's pro-Soviet sympathizers and their Moscow contacts endeavored to convert other essentially Soviet holidays and commemorations into events worthy of mass mobilization in Republican Spain. Some of these, like the 1937 and 1938 observations of International Worker's Day, had a global appeal that did not necessarily limit their application to Soviet society. Nonetheless, the Soviet friendship organizations treated the May Day celebrations in a way that focused most attention on the USSR.

Spanish workers Stalin Communist Pioneers

As in the earlier and later celebrations marking the Russian Revolution, the AUS organized a national lottery to select a group of workers who would represent Spain in the May Day festivities in Moscow. 75 After receiving a rousing send-off, the group steamed to Odessa aboard a Soviet ship, the Feliks Dzerzhinskii. 76 In a pattern by then typical of coverage of Spanish delegations in the USSR, the left-wing and communist Republican press breathlessly followed their month-long itinerary through Soviet cities, factories, collective farms, and cultural institutions.
archive Madrid celebrates
1st of May, 1937
77 As one might expect, the Soviet press also gave substantial coverage to the Spanish visitors, stressing above all the delegation's supplication before Stalin at the Moscow May Day parade, an event duly recorded by Soyuzkino's newsreel teams. 78 Back in Spain, meanwhile, May Day was fêted with extensive references to all things Soviet, with the usual variety of propaganda marshaled to the cause. 79 May Day 1938 was treated in much the same fashion, with wide Republican press coverage of the celebrations occurring in the Soviet Union, the dispatch of Spanish delegates, and the deployment of various slogans and platitudes concerning the nature of Soviet-Republican relations. 80


When the Spanish delegation to May Day 1937 finally returned from the USSR in early June, the AUS immediately put them to use in propaganda events celebrating Soviet society. 81 At conferences, lectures, and rallies, the delegates spoke in hyperbolic terms of the glories they had witnessed in the USSR. Said one, "I have returned with a magnificent impression." 82 At Barcelona's Ateneo Popular, one recent returnee presented a series of six talks on different issues concerning the USSR, including: economic life, the rural question, social life, the family in the USSR, maternity and infant care, and the problem of prostitution in the USSR. 83 In the August issue of the AUS's own publication, Rusia de Hoy, a two-page spread provided an overview of the delegates' visit, and included several pictures of the Spaniards interacting gaily with Soviet citizens and members of the government. 84 To support the augmented interest the AUS hoped to generate in the wake of these activities, the society stepped up its attempts to disseminate a wide variety of propaganda materials. On the Plaça de Catalunya, the busy pedestrian circle in the center of Barcelona, the local AUS chapter erected a literature stand where pamphlets, books, and other small items were sold to the public. 85

The propaganda activities that followed May Day were not the first in which AUS recruited returning delegates to muster support for their cause. To a lesser degree, delegates returning from the nineteenth anniversary visit had also been employed in this way. Evidence suggests that the incorporation of these worker eyewitnesses into pro-Soviet campaigns was part of VOKS's strategy in the Republic. Indeed, in an October 1936 letter to VOKS, Sofiia Antonov-Ovseenko indicated that returning delegates would enhance the propaganda program being implemented by the Barcelona consulate. "We plan on making broad use of their statements," the consul's wife wrote. 86 Thereafter, the post-tour speaking engagements and appearances became a standard feature of all five major delegations from the Republic to the USSR. Moreover, these events were always carefully monitored by high-ranking Soviet officials present in Spain, who reported the reactions back to Moscow. 87

The appropriation of Soviet holidays for the Republic's calendar continued apace after the limited successes of the nineteenth anniversary and May Day 1937. To ensure a wider audience at the more significant twentieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution in November 1937, VOKS and its allies in the Republic made every effort to publicize the event more fully. In view of the shortcomings of the November 1936 event, VOKS began planning for the coming anniversary well in advance. As early as 25 May 1937—while the Republic's May Day delegation was still in the USSR—VOKS sent a letter to AERCU/Valencia outlining a tentative schedule of activities for the November commemorations. "We think it appropriate to make arrangement for the widest possible variety of happenings related to the twentieth anniversary," VOKS wrote to the friendship society. "This should include, but need not be limited to, soirées, concerts, expositions, demonstrations and so forth." To close, VOKS indicated that it was prepared to organize the entire program from Moscow. 88

No sooner had AERCU received this letter than it dispatched the society's general secretary, Manuel Sánchez Arcas, to a special meeting with VOKS officials in Moscow. To facilitate AERCU's upcoming participation in the twentieth anniversary, VOKS agreed to supply Arcas with a large and diverse assortment of materials, including portraits and photographs of Soviet leaders, phonographic records, propaganda posters, and literature on life in the USSR. In addition, VOKS proposed that AERCU begin publishing its own propaganda journal, to be called Cultura Soviética, the publication of whose first issue would coincide with the twentieth anniversary. VOKS would provide AERCU with all the necessary content for the new journal. In exchange, Arcas assured VOKS that he would organize shipments of Spanish literature and other Republican cultural products for use in Soviet expositions on the Republicans and the civil war. 89

Throughout the summer of 1937, VOKS continued to vigorously push its agenda for the early November propaganda campaign in the Republic. At times, the agency indicated disappointment that its allies at AERCU were not sufficiently zealous in their preparations for the approaching anniversary. In mid-August, VOKS sent Arcas a thinly veiled reprimand:

A month has passed since you left Moscow and we haven't even heard if the return trip went well. As agreed during your visit in Moscow, we are beginning the shipments of various sorts of materials. What progress has been made on your end? 90

A month later, when no reply had been received in Moscow, the VOKS functionary could barely control his frustration:

It is simply incomprehensible to us that we have heard nothing from you in over two months. We await the agreed upon shipments from Spain as well as an update on your preparations. 91

With this letter, as with the correspondence sent earlier in the summer of 1937, VOKS diligently forwarded large amounts of materials to AERCU, including books on Soviet architecture and music, copies of the French-language daily, Revue de Moscou, and dozens of articles on all aspects of modern Russia. 92 The Moscow agency even designed a propaganda flyer that they instructed AERCU to distribute during the twentieth anniversary. The proposed sheet mixed Soviet and Republican imagery, quotations by Stalin, and portraits of Soviet (though not Spanish Republican) leaders. 93 At the same time, VOKS made dozens of shipments of propaganda materials to the two Soviet diplomatic delegations and to the main AUS chapters in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. 94

If VOKS had feared that its recruitment of Arcas and support of AERCU would come to naught, the agency's doubts and apprehensions were soon quelled. Arcas's summer-long silence was not for want of devotion to the Soviet cause. The AERCU secretary had spent the better part of July and August working in collaboration with the AUS to establish an umbrella committee to oversee all Republican observations of the twentieth anniversary. 95 The result of these efforts was the founding on 11 September 1937 of the Comisión Nacional de Homenaje a la URSS en su XX Aniversario. September appeal 96 This body brought together some twenty social and political organizations whose professed purpose was the widest possible diffusion of pro-Soviet propaganda on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Headed by the Madrid AUS, the commission included various political, labor, and intellectual groups that spanned the left and far-left spectrum of the Republic. Among those represented were the CNT, FAI, PCE, Partido Socialista, Partido Unión Republicano, Partido Sindicalista, Alianza de las Juventudes, Izquierda Republicana, Alianza de Intelectuales Antifascistas, Mujeres Libres, Mujeres Antifascistas, Casa de Cultura Popular, and Esquerra Valenciana. 97

Between the activities of the commission, supported by a broad coalition of Republican support, and the increased shipments of propaganda materials from Moscow, the November commemorations in Loyalist Spain marking the twentieth anniversary very nearly rivaled those occurring in the USSR. Catalan poster Far from merely scheduling events on 7 November, the commission declared a "Week of Homage to the USSR" between 1 November and the culminating anniversary date on the 7th. Each day of this week dedicated to the USSR was the occasion for numerous and diverse activities whose unifying purpose was, of course, the celebration of twenty years of Soviet rule. 98 Even before the week commenced, on 21 October there occurred the by-then familiar ceremony marking the departure for the USSR of a delegation of Spanish workers, an event which, as usual, was given extensive coverage in the press. 99

On 1 November, the commission unveiled an exposition of Soviet graphic arts in Valencia, while a separate installation in that city commemorated the centenary of Pushkin's death. Soviet flag In Madrid, a similar propaganda exposition was opened, entitled "Twenty Years of Struggle in the USSR for the Peace and Well-being of the People." 100 Also in the capital, Soviet flags were hung in the Puerta del Sol alongside giant posters depicting Lenin and Stalin. The Madrid daily Claridad proclaimed that "All of Madrid's souls are united today in a single cry: ¡Viva la Unión Soviética!" 101

The second day was given over to a series of conferences and lectures, including one by a member of the May Day delegation of the previous spring. In the evening, a gala concert of Soviet music was given in Valencia, broadcast by radio to the rest of the country. The third day, 3 November, was dedicated to Soviet cinema, and included not only screenings of several recent Soviet films in Valencia theaters, but also lectures on the theory and function of the cinema in the USSR. The following day, 4 November, was organized around the theme of childhood and education. This was not limited only to conferences on Soviet policy regarding children, but was intended to involve the children of Republican Spain, who in their schools and classrooms were required to "demonstrate their love and admiration for the Soviet Union." 102

5 November was loosely organized around the twin themes of intellectuals and higher education in the USSR. A conference and ceremony at the Universidad de Valencia examined various aspects of this topic, and its proceedings were broadcast nationwide via radio. The sixth day of the Week of Homage was dedicated primarily to women—their role in Soviet society and their potential role in a postwar Spanish Republic. A series of lectures, films, and expositions on women in the USSR took place in several Republican cities, with the proceedings directed by one or more women's organizations, including Mujeres Antifascistas, Mujeres Libres, and the Unión de Muchachas. A secondary focus of 6 November was the Red Army, which was celebrated with the usual array of gatherings, graphic art, and film.

Finally, the week was capped by a massive public celebration in Valencia on 7 November, in which all the members of the commission participated, and whose proceedings were again broadcast via radio throughout the Republic. Avenida De La Union Sovietica This marathon event, which began on the morning of the 7th and continued into early hours of the 8th, including countless speeches by Commission signatories, resolutions of friendship with the USSR, and athletic and musical performances. Earlier in the day, officials had unveiled new street signs on what used to be Valencia's Calle Conde de Peñalver; the street's new name was Avenida de la Unión Soviética. 103

The celebrations in Valencia and Madrid were nearly equaled by events occurring elsewhere in the Republican zone. Handbill Barcelona had its own commission—the Comité Català Pro-Homentge a la URSS XXe Aniversari de la Seva Revolució, an umbrella organization that included Acció Catalana, Amics de Mèxic, Amics de la Unió Soviètica, CNT, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Estat Catalá, FAI, Front de la Joventut, PSUC, Partit Federal Ibéric and others. 104 Throughout the week, a full range of meetings, demonstrations, conferences, concerts, and lectures were organized by the commission to mark the occasion of the twentieth anniversary. In addition, many smaller towns and even hamlets organized events marking the anniversary, including Blanes, Guixolls, Palafrugell, la Bisbal, Figueras, Gerona, Olot, Bañolas, Farnes de la Selva, Caldas de Montbui, and Ollería. 105

To complement the scheduled events for the week of 1-7 November, the commission, the AUS, and AERCU also oversaw the publication of many pamphlets and books devoted to the twentieth anniversary. Commemorative stamps 106 Postcards depicting a variety of Soviet settings were printed and sold, and a series of commemorative postage stamps were issued. Mundo Obrero 107 The AUS journal Rusia de Hoy issued a special anniversary issue, in addition to the already mentioned first number of the AERCU journal, Cultura Soviética. The leftist press issued numerous special twentieth-anniversary pull-out sections, the glossiest and most unabashedly pro-Communist that of Mundo Obrero on 7 November. In addition, the AUS attempted to use the occasion to boost enrollment in Russian language classes offered in the larger cities. 108

The commission and AUS also collected tens of thousands of signatures in "Golden Books"—in essence, open letters to the Soviet people, with dozens of pages of signatures attached, the text of which expressed congratulations on the anniversary and gratitude for Soviet assistance to the Republic. Soviet women 109 These were sent via VOKS to the Soviet authorities. Some of the golden books, for unknown reasons, never left Spain, 110 while others evidently reached the archive (if not the desk) of President Kalinin. 110 Many other individual Republicans and Republican organizations wrote similar, separate messages to the Soviet leadership. 112 Not a few of these were published in the Soviet press, and may be assumed to have served the regime well in the continuing solidarity campaign. 113

Red Army DayIf 7 November and 1 May marked the calendar dates that generated the most energetic dissemination of Soviet propaganda in the Republic, they were by no means the only Soviet holidays appropriated by Moscow's Republican allies for celebration in the Loyalist Spain. AUS postcard Garnering significant attention, though never equaling the status of the anniversary of the Revolution or May Day, were a number of Soviet-style days of observation. These included International Women's Day, 114 the aforementioned Pushkin Jubilee, 115 the anniversary of the founding of the Comintern, 116 the anniversary of the Red Army, 117 and Lenin Day, 118 which commemorated the revolutionary's death on 23 January.

KomsomolFinally, a not unrelated propaganda campaign centered on the Komsomol sinking of 14 December 1936. For several months after the incident, the AUS undertook a subscription drive to raise funds to cover the loss of the ship and cargo, which allegedly had consisted of humanitarian assistance sent from the USSR. 119 The campaign bore a striking similarity to all other large-scale pro-Soviet propaganda events that took place in the Republican zone: demonstrations were organized, special publications issued, commemorative stamps sold, and conferences held—all organized around the general theme of Soviet benevolence and sacrifice for the Republican cause. 120 Among the larger of these acts were an evening of homage in Valencia on 27 December 1936, 121 and a tribute in Barcelona's Palau Nacional on 3 January 1937. Led by the regional AUS, the latter event included musical acts, speeches, and a collection of donations. The many invitees included Lluís Companys. 122

By any measure, the twentieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution marked the high-water mark of pro-Soviet propagandizing in the Republican zone, and gave rise to the widest possible dissemination of favorable pronouncements concerning the USSR. Yet even before the first week of November 1937, Moscow's determination to pursue an energetic agit-prop policy in the Republic appeared to be lagging. If in the spring and early summer of that year it was VOKS that vigorously advocated the cultural agenda to be pursued by Republican friendship organizations, by October the Soviet agency was being outdone, if not left behind, by the pro-Soviet Republicans themselves. A telling letter is one sent to VOKS from the Valencia chapter of AUS in mid-October 1937. In the missive, the group proposed to considerably augment not only the quantity of Soviet propaganda disseminated in the Republic, but also to aggressively target rural areas where the friendship societies had not yet penetrated. In effect, the Valencia AUS proposed a large-scale campaign to indoctrinate the uneducated masses:

[We] would like to organize a series of expositions in the city of Valencia and in the province, and above all in the villages that still have no idea of the conquests achieved by your Socialist Construction. [We intend to] present conferences on technical and cultural topics, all of which will be accompanied by graphic expositions outlining the work in the farm, the factories, the life of the child and mother, the youth, and, in brief, make Russia familiar to all those who do not yet know her. But we need your help. We are requesting your assistance to publish pamphlets which will expose life in your country, so that the masses will realize what they are capable of once they set about realizing [their goals]. You must understand how enormously important it is that, in these moments, the Spanish people be able to learn things about Russia - a knowledge which will facilitate the education of our masses and a confidence in their own powers. 123

That VOKS never addressed the specific requests in this letter is indicative of a general shift in the Soviets' propaganda policy in the Republic. Much of the correspondence between VOKS and the main friendship society chapters in the Republic in the early fall of 1937 show that large requests for materials from Moscow were rarely filled. On several occasions, instead of increasing shipments to a correspondent, VOKS instructed him to borrow materials from a neighboring AUS or AERCU chapter. 124 The limited quantity of materials circulating in the Republic was not to be replenished, but rather was stretched thinner.

Thus, after November 1937, if not somewhat earlier, VOKS sharply curtailed its shipments of propaganda materials to both the friendship societies and the Soviet diplomatic missions in the Republic. At the very least, the agency clearly ceased to do all it could to exploit the potential of propagandistic activities in Republican Spain. To a degree, of course, Moscow's cultural policy was dictated by factors beyond its control. By autumn 1937, the agency's principle contacts in the Republic—the Soviet diplomatic missions and the friendship organizations—had either disappeared or were in rapid decline. Even Soviet political workers in Spain were complaining to Moscow officials that they had insufficient propaganda materials to carry out their agitation work among Soviet military personnel. 125

The gradual decrease in the dissemination of Soviet propaganda is most evident if the Republic's twentieth anniversary celebrations are compared to the observations of the twenty-first, in November 1938. Whereas the twentieth anniversary was an event of vigorous and widespread involvement at many levels of Republican life, the twenty-first passed almost unnoticed in the rapidly shrinking Loyalist zone. Regular contact between Spanish Republicans and VOKS had ended in the first months of the year, and the late 1937 downgrading of the Soviet diplomatic missions—which had earlier served as the key conduits between Moscow and the friendship societies—created a void that would not be filled before the end of the war. The AUS itself, with a few scattered exceptions, had all but ceased to exist by mid-1938—their active membership diminishing daily, their presses silent, and publication schedules abandoned. 126 The result of these developments was a steep decline in the number of propaganda products making their way from the Soviet Union to the Republic.

Only a handful of commemoration activities prevented the twenty-first anniversary of the Russian Revolution from being totally forgotten in Republican Spain. The dwindling Barcelona AUS, for example, issued a number of bulletins indicating plans for early-November observances of the Revolution, but few of these appeared to have taken place. Stamps 127 The Madrid AUS, the only other functioning friendship society at this late date, announced a conference on the Russian Revolution at the Ateneo. 128 This event included four days of lectures and presentations on Soviet society. Only Mundo Obrero covered the proceedings. Just before the anniversary, in October 1938, the fifth and final delegation of Spanish workers left the Republican zone to attend the Soviet celebrations in the first week of November. The group, composed of twenty men and women—mostly Communist workers—remained in the USSR until the end of November. 129 They were quite active in various events associated with the twenty-first anniversary, and their participation was closely followed in the Soviet press. 130 As at the commemorations in 1936 and 1937, a Soviet newsreel again gave the Spanish group's presence in Red Square the requisite coverage. But in contrast to the exposure afforded earlier delegations, the group's activities in the Soviet Union not only went unexploited by propagandists in the Republic, they garnered only the briefest attention in the Loyalist press. 131 But by then the Kremlin had already deemed its agit-prop offensive within the shrinking Republican zone more trouble than it was worth. A greater return on its investment could be earned in exploiting the Spanish struggle domestically, within the Soviet Union. It is to that gradual shift, towards an emphasis on the Soviet home front, that we next turn our attention.


Note 1: Las Noticias to VOKS, 20 Aug. 1936. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 978, l. 5.  Back.

Note 2: VOKS to Angarov, Chair, Cultural-Enlightenment Section, Politburo, 1 Sept. 1936. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, ll. 2-3.  Back.

Note 3: AHN-SGC, PS Bilbao, Caja 253/11, 59.  Back.

Note 4: "Resolution on the Development of Publication Activities in Spain." ECCI session of 28 Feb. 1936, Protocol No. 30. RGASPI, f. 495, op. 18, del. 1078, ll. 317-324.  Back.

Note 5: Sofiia Antonov-Ovseenko to VOKS, 31 Oct. 1936. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 180.  Back.

Note 6: M. Monleon, Comite Provincial de AUS-Valencia, to VOKS, 20 Oct. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1016, l. 10.  Back.

Note 7: Josep Alavedra to VOKS, 3 Feb. 1938. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1012, ll. 4-5.  Back.

Note 8: Antonio San Román Sevillano, "Los amigos de la Unión Soviética: Propaganda política en España:1933-1938," Ph.D. diss. (Universidad de Salamanca, 1993), 136.  Back.

Note 9: The first contact between AERCU and VOKS probably occurred on 30 January 1937, when the Valencia-based organization informed the Soviet agency of its founding, and requested assistance in disseminating propaganda. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1015, l. 117.  Back.

Note 10: For example, Arthur Stachevsky, the economic attaché who arrived in late August 1936, participated in an AUS meeting in mid-December of that year. RGVA, f. 33987, op. 3, del. 853, l. 322.  Back.

Note 11: NKID to VOKS, 2 Nov. 1936. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 191.  Back.

Note 12: VOKS to Soviet State Music Publisher, 3 April 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 845, l. 138.  Back.

Note 13: VOKS to Soviet Embassy in Valencia, 14 April 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, l. 136.  Back.

Note 14: NKID to VOKS, 27 Oct. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1010, l. 7.  Back.

Note 15: VOKS to NKID, 28 Oct. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1010, l. 6.  Back.

Note 16: Abelardo López Leira to VOKS, 28 Jan. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1017, l. 58.  Back.

Note 17: Sindicato Provincial de Trabajadores de Agua, Gas, Electricidad y Similares to VOKS, 26 Mar. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1017, l. 61.  Back.

Note 18: Radio Barcelona to VOKS, 3 June 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1012, l. 3; VOKS to Radio Barcelona, 22 Oct. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1012, l. 1.  Back.

Note 19: Examples of individual requests to the AUS chapters are available at AHN-SGC, PS Madrid-83, leg. 1050; PS Madrid-410, leg. 3259; PS Madrid-630, leg. 875; PS Barcelona-1059, exp. 4.  Back.

Note 20: Ministry of Public Health to VOKS, 18 Oct. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, l. 71.  Back.

Note 21: M. Monleon, Comite Provincial de AUS-Valencia, to VOKS, 20 Oct. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1016, l. 10.  Back.

Note 22: Internal VOKS memo, undated, but probably late April 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 132.  Back.

Note 23: Between early December 1936 and mid-January 1937, VOKS received four requests for dictionaries and grammars from the Sociedad General Española de Librerias, Diarios y Publicaciones. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1017, ll. 8-11.  Back.

Note 24: VOKS to Manuel Marquez, ? Jun. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 845, l. 104. VOKS to AERCU-Valencia, 6 Sept. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1016, l. 3.  Back.

Note 25: This problem will again be addressed in Chapter Fourteen below. In short, the archival evidence indicates that in 1936 key members of the VOKS staff trained in Spanish were sent to the Republican zone to work as interpreters for Soviet military advisors. These included VOKS's principal Spanish-language writer from 1931-35, Olga Nikolaeva Filippova.  Back.

Note 26: VOKS to Manuel Sanchez Arcas, 16 Aug. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1015, ll. 83-84.  Back.

Note 27: Musical Section of the PSUC to VOKS, 9 Jan. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 845, l. 133.  Back.

Note 28: VOKS to Soviet consulate-Barcelona, 28 Feb. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 198.  Back.

Note 29: VOKS to Soviet consulate-Barcelona, 26 Jan. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 197.  Back.

Note 30: Internal VOKS memo, 17 April 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 164.  Back.

Note 31: VOKS to AERCU-Valencia, 8 June 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 845, ll. 61-63.  Back.

Note 32: "Resolution on the Development of Publication Activities in Spain." Decision of the ECCI session of 28 Feb. 1936, Protocol Nr. 30. RGASPI, f. 495, op. 18, del. 1078, ll. 317-324.  Back.

Note 33: Internal VOKS memo, 21 May 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 843, ll. 40-45.  Back.

Note 34: VOKS to Soviet ambassador Leon Gaikis, 4 Mar. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 175.  Back.

Note 35: Compare, for example, the eyewitness account referencing posters of Stalin in Ronald Fraser, "The popular experience of war and revolution 1936-9," in Revolution and War in Spain, 1931-1939, ed. Paul Preston (London: Methuen, 1984), 232, with the frequent appearance of similar graphic materials in the Soviet-made newsreel series K sobytiiam v Ispanii ("Sobre los acontecimientos de España").  Back.

Note 36: For example, in February 1937, VOKS sent the Madrid AUS a total of 1724 photographs, documenting a variety of scenes of Soviet culture, the economy, the natural landscape, and science and engineering achievements. According to the NKID, which made the request on behalf of the Madrid AUS, the friendship society planned to use them widely in propaganda efforts that would include new publications, exhibitions, and the creation of new graphic art. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, ll. 187-195.  Back.

Note 37: The unique position the cinema occupied in the Soviet Union during this period is discussed in Stephen Kotkin, "Modern Times: The Soviet Union and the Interwar Conjuncture," Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 2:1 (Winter 2001): 119-122.  Back.

Note 38: On the history of Film Popular, see Arturo Perucho, "Una organización cinematográfico nacido en la guerra," Nuevo Cinema (Barcelona) 2 (June 193): 12-14.  Back.

Note 39: El Mono Azul (Madrid), 29 Oct. 1936, 2.  Back.

Note 40: Mikhail Kol'tsov, Diario de la guerra española (Madrid: Akal, 1978), 156-158.  Back.

Note 41: See the ninth installment of Karmen and Makaseev's twenty-volume series, K sobytiiam v Ispanii ("Sobre los sucesos de España"), which was shown throughout the USSR in November 1936. The Filmoteca Española preserves a copy.  Back.

Note 42: This according to eyewitness testimonies collected in Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza and Diego de Álvaro, Historias orales de la guerra civil (Barcelona: Ariel, 2000), 107.  Back.

Note 43: Ilya Ehrenburg, Menschen, Jahre, Leben: Memoiren (East Berlin: Verlag Volk und Welt, 1978), vol. II: 379-80.  Back.

Note 44: Michael Alpert, El ejército republicana en la guerra civil, 2nd ed. (Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno, 1989), 53.  Back.

Note 45: Interestingly, however, on at least one occasion it was the tactics of the Whites, and not the Bolsheviks, that were referenced as a model for Republican success. See Louis Fischer, Men and Politics (London: Cape, 1941), 374.  Back.

Note 46: Kol'tsov, Diario de la Guerra española, 167.  Back.

Note 47: José Sandoval and Manuel Azcárate, Spain, 1936-1939 (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1963), 63-64.  Back.

Note 48: On the Spanish premiere, see Heraldo de Madrid, 4 Nov. 1936.  Back.

Note 49: The film's genesis, and its wide popularity within the Soviet Union, is described in Jay Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, 3rd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 314-321.  Back.

Note 50: Kol'tsov, Diario de la Guerra española, 123.  Back.

Note 51: The claim appears in Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s (New York: Knopf, 2000), 381. No reference is cited.  Back.

Note 52: Carlos Fernández Cuenca, La guerra de España y el Cine, 2 vols. (Madrid: Editorial Nacional, 1972), vol. I, 315.  Back.

Note 53: Ehrenburg, Menschen, Jahre, Leben, vol. II, 359.  Back.

Note 54: The volunteer was Jock Cunningham, a long-time communist and the leader of a 1920 rebellion in Jamaica. See Hugh G. Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, 3rd ed. rev. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), 479-480.  Back.

Note 55: Ehrenburg, Menschen, Jahre, Leben, vol. II, 391.  Back.

Note 56: On the reception of Baltic Deputy, see Cultura Soviética 2 (Sept. 1938): 28.  Back.

Note 57: Claridad, 16 Dec. 1936, 2.  Back.

Note 58: Fernández Cuenca, La guerra de España y el Cine, 312-313.  Back.

Note 59: Kol'tsov, Diario de la guerra española, 351.  Back.

Note 60: Fernández Cuenca, La guerra de España y el Cine, vol. I, 309. The film is also described in Alfonso del Amo and Maria Luisa Ibañez, Catálogo General del cine de la guerra civil (Madrid: Editorial de la Filmoteca Española, 1997), 605-606.  Back.

Note 61: Fernández Cuenca, La guerra de España y el Cine, vol. I, 309.  Back.

Note 62: The general topic of Soviet celebrations receives thorough analysis in Karen Petrone, Life has become more joyous, comrades: Celebrations in the Time of Stalin (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000). On the late-1930s upswing in celebration activity, see 14-15.  Back.

Note 63: Sofiia Antonov-Ovseenko to VOKS, 31 Oct. 1936. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 180.  Back.

Note 64: For a discussion of the broader euphoria that gripped the Republic in the last three months of 1936, and the role of the USSR therein, see E. H. Carr, The Comintern and the Spanish Civil War (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 32-34.  Back.

Note 65: One of the Soviet invitations for a Spanish workers' delegation sent to the Bilbao AUS is preserved in AHN-SGC, PS Bilbao, caja 253, exp. 11, doc. 29.  Back.

Note 66: Mundo Obrero, 22 Oct. 1936.  Back.

Note 67: Mundo Obrero devoted a large feature to the Soviets' "enthusiastic" reception of the Spaniards at Red Square on the anniversary date, 7 November. Mundo Obrero, 8 Nov. 1936. The paper gave identical coverage to the group's activities in Leningrad several days later. Mundo Obrero, 12 and 14 Nov. 1936. Heraldo de Madrid reported their activities in Moscow in the edition of 7 Nov. 1936.  Back.

Note 68: The newsreel, entitled XIX Anniversaire de la Révolution D'Octobre 1917-1936, and preserved in the Filmoteca Española, was distributed during the war by the Juventut Socialista Unificada de Catalunya. For a brief discussion, see del Amo and Ibañez, Catálogo General del cine de la guerra civil, 279.  Back.

Note 69: AHN-SGC, PS Bilbao, caja 253, exp. 11, doc. 62.  Back.

Note 70: The archive of the Bilbao AUS reveals that the group received many more letters declining the invitation than accepting. AHN-SGC, PS Bilbao, caja 253, exp. 11, docs. 65-85.  Back.

Note 71: As we saw above, Chapaev received its Spanish premiere on 2 Nov. 1936 in Madrid. The same week, Eisenstein's The General Line opened in Bilbao. AHN-SGC, PS Bilbao, caja 253, exp. 11, doc. 20.  Back.

Note 72: Mundo Obrero, 29 Oct. 1936.  Back.

Note 73: Mundo Obrero, 31 Oct. 1936.  Back.

Note 74: Heraldo de Madrid, 7 Nov. 1936.  Back.

Note 75: Claridad, 9 Apr. 1937.  Back.

Note 76: Izvestiia, 26 Apr. 1937.  Back.

Note 77: Claridad, 3, 13, and 21 May 1937.  Back.

Note 78: Izvestiia, 4, 9, and 29 May 1937.  Back.

Note 79: Mundo Obrero devoted nearly the entire issue on 1 May 1937 to a spread entitled, "Twenty Years in the Soviet Union."  Back.

Note 80: Claridad, 2 and 23 May 1938; 2 June 1938. Mundo Obrero, 1 and 5 May 1938; 2 June 1938.  Back.

Note 81: One such event took place in Valencia on 14 June, where the AUS arranged for members of the delegation to give speeches on their experiences. See Claridad, 7 June 1936, and Mundo Obrero, 14 June 1937.  Back.

Note 82: Claridad, 10 June 1937.  Back.

Note 83: The presenter was Pau Balsells. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1016, l. 31.  Back.

Note 84: Rusia de Hoy, 3rd epoch, 1 (Aug. 1937): 14-15.  Back.

Note 85: Barcelona AUS to VOKS, 5 June 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1016, l. 29-30.  Back.

Note 86: Sofiia Antonov-Ovseenko to VOKS, 31 Oct. 1936. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 180.  Back.

Note 87: For example, the above-mentioned appearance by the Soviet economic attaché at one such event in December 1936. See Stachevsky's report from 14 December, circulated among the entire Soviet leadership. RGVA, f. 33987, op. 3, del. 853, l. 322.  Back.

Note 88: VOKS to AERCU/Valencia, 25 May 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 845, l. 122.  Back.

Note 89: VOKS internal memo regarding Arcas's visits to the Moscow organization on 20 and 22 June 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1015, l. 94-96.  Back.

Note 90: VOKS to AERCU, 16 Aug. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, ll. 83-84.  Back.

Note 91: VOKS to AERCU, 13 Sept. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, l. 63.  Back.

Note 92: VOKS to AERCU, 16 Aug. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, ll. 83-84.  Back.

Note 93: GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, l. 74.  Back.

Note 94: GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1014-1016.  Back.

Note 95: AERCU to VOKS, 17 Sept. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, l. 41.  Back.

Note 96: The founding of the commission is discussed in thorough detail in San Roman Sevillano, "Los amigos de la Unión Soviética," 155-163.  Back.

Note 97: The original manifesto of the commission was published in the first number of AERCU's journal, Cultura Soviética in November 1937. The documents chronicling the evolution of this body are assembled in the record of the commission, Libro de Actas de la Comisión Nacional para la celebración del XX Aniversario. The commission was also quick to point out its unity and purpose to the Soviet authorities. On 3 October, the group sent Kalinin a detailed, three-page letter outlining its intentions and listing all the participating parties. RGASPI, f. 78, del. 667, l. 18.  Back.

Note 98: This outline of the events between 1 and 7 November 1937 was culled from the principal unpublished archival collection on the week-long celebration; AHN-SGC, PS Barcelona-87, including newspaper articles from El Sol, La Vanguardia, and La Voz Valenciana, all from Valencia, and Mundo Obrero and Claridad in Madrid; and San Romano Sevillano, "Los amigos de la Unión Soviética," 163-65.  Back.

Note 99: Mundo Obrero, Claridad, La Vanguardia, 22 Oct. 1937.  Back.

Note 100: AHN-SGC, PS Madrid-1187, leg. 3101.  Back.

Note 101: Claridad, 1 Nov. 1937.  Back.

Note 102: The words of San Roman Sevillano, who has worked most closely with the AUS and Homage documents at AHN-SGC; "Los amigos de la Unión Soviética," 164.  Back.

Note 103: San Romano Sevillano, "Los amigos de la Unión Soviética," 167. At the same date, according to this source, the Gran Via Madrileña had already become known as "Avenida de Rusia."  Back.

Note 104: Documentation on the Barcelona Homage Committee is preserved at AHN-SGC, PS Madrid-630, leg. 875, and PS Barcelona-770.  Back.

Note 105: On the twentieth anniversary events in these and other remote presidios, see San Roman Sevillano, "Los amigos de la Unión Soviética," 167-69, and the same author's "Valencia, 1937: Fallas para el XX aniversario de la URSS," Historia y Vida 348 (Mar. 1997): 112-123. Also, AHN-SGC, PS Barcelona-770.  Back.

Note 106: These included, for example, the short pamphlet 20 Años de Solidaridad humana en la URSS.  Back.

Note 107: Examples of the commemorative postcards and stamps are preserved in AHN-SGC, Tarjetas y Sellos.  Back.

Note 108: AHN-SGC. PS Madrid-1187, leg. 3101.  Back.

Note 109: Signatures for the Golden Books began to be solicited in August 1937, and continued up to the end of October. The AUS announced the signature drive in the August issue of Rusia de Hoy (2).  Back.

Note 110: Some of the golden books circulated at the front were likely captured before they could be sent. They are preserved at AHN-SGC, PS Madrid-83, leg. 1050, exp. 26-30; PS Madrid-410, leg.3259, exp. 32; PS Barcelona-798.  Back.

Note 111: RGASPI, f. 78, del. 667, ll. 27-33.  Back.

Note 112: Kalinin's archive at RGASPI contains several bulky folders of these personal letters. RGASPI, f. 78, del. 667, ll. 39-220.  Back.

Note 113: Izvestiia published open letters from the Republic on 1, 4, 5, 7, and 10 Nov. 1937.  Back.

Note 114: The role of women in Soviet society was a frequent topic of the Soviet cultural propaganda disseminated in Spain. In 1937, the AUS attempted to mimic the Soviet Day of Women by organizing conferences, screening films, and sending press notices to local papers. On these events, see AHN-SGC, PS Barcelona-87.  Back.

Note 115: VOKS worked with the Barcelona consulate to disseminate cultural materials on Pushkin, for the expressed purpose of a large celebration of the poet's life in early 1937. VOKS to Consulate of the USSR, 4 Jan. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 840, l. 179.  Back.

Note 116: Mundo Obrero, 19 Mar. 1937.  Back.

Note 117: Mundo Obrero, 24 Feb. 1937; Claridad, 24 Feb. 1938. The celebrations in the Republic of the 1938 anniversary of the founding of the Red Army were significantly more visible than those of the year before. The 1938 date was the occasion for one of the larger displays of pro-Soviet propagandizing in the last fourteen months of the war. On 23 February 1938 the Madrid AUS staged a large gathering at the Cine Monumental, complete with the usual panoply of dignitaries and guest speakers. The record of the event is preserved at AHN-SGC, PS Madrid-2134, leg. 3042.  Back.

Note 118: Izvestiia, 24 Jan. 1937.  Back.

Note 119: Among the few scholarly inquiries into this topic is Antonio San Roman Sevillano, "La ayuda de la URSS: el "Komsomol," Historia y Vida 338 (May 1996): 67-71.  Back.

Note 120: On the extent of the pro-Komsomol events in the second month of the campaign, see Mundo Obrero, 23 Jan. 1937.  Back.

Note 121: AHN-SGC. PS Madrid-1187, leg. 3-101.  Back.

Note 122: The event and guest list was announced in an internal AUS memorandum from 28 Dec. 1936. AHN-SGC, PS Barcelona-1315.  Back.

Note 123: Valencia AUS to VOKS, 20 Oct. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1016, l. 10. The original appeared as follows: "Este Comite Provincial de los AUS quiere organizar una serie de expos en la ciudad de Valencia y en su provencia, sobre todo en los pueblos que aun no tienen ni nocion de las conquistas logradas por vuestra Construccion Socialista, dar conferencias ya de caracter tecnico ya cultural, todo ello acompañado de expos graficas sobre el trabajo en el campo, en las fabricas, la vida del niño de la mujer, de la juventud, en fin dar a concocer Rusia a todos los que aun no la conocen. Para ello necesitamos vuestra ayuda. Los camaradas de AERCU no tiene la clase de material que necesitamos nosotros. Deseariamos que por vuestro conducto o por el de quien vosotros nos indiqueis, recibir articulos de caracter tecnico y cultural para editarlos en folletos facilmente asequibles a todas las masas obreras, folletos para los campesinos, para los trabajadores de talleres y fabricas et etc. España no tiene ninguna editorial que edite libros sobre diversas profesiones y que esten al alcance de la escasa cultura de una gran masa de obreros y campesinos a quienes les es imposible comprender los textos oficiales. Por eso os pedimos vuestra ayuda, para publicar esos folletos de divulgacion de la vida en vuestro Pais, para que las masas se den cuenta de los que son capaces de hacer cuando se empeñan en conseguirlo.... Comprendereis la enorme importancia que en estos momentos tiene, el que el pueblo esp. sienta la necesidad de saber cosas de Rusia, eso facilita la educacion de nuestras masas y la confianza un sus propios esfuerzas."  Back.

Note 124: VOKS to Barcelona AUS, 17 Aug. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1016, l. 28.; VOKS to Barcelona AUS, 22 Oct. 1937. GARF, f. 5283, op. 7, del. 1016, ll. 23-24.  Back.

Note 125: Report to Voroshilov, 22 Oct. 1937. RGVA, f. 33987, op. 3, del. 1033, ll. 174-183. Reproduced in Mary Habeck and Ronald Radosh, Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 483. The deployment of Soviet political workers among Soviet personnel serving in Spain will be discussed in Chapter Thirteen below.  Back.

Note 126: On the gradual decline and collapse of the Spanish AUS, see San Roman Sevillano, "Los amigos de la Unión Soviética," 179-180.  Back.

Note 127: AHN-SGC, PS Barcelona, caja 102, exp. 1, Boletines 11-14.  Back.

Note 128: AHN-SGC, PS Madrid, caja 445, leg. 3594, doc. 106.  Back.

Note 129: Pravda, 1 Dec. 1938. San Roman Sevillano, in his otherwise excellent dissertation, mistakenly claims that the fifth delegation never left Spain ("Los amigos de la Unión Soviética," 180).  Back.

Note 130: As was the case with all foreign delegations to the USSR, their activities were closely supervised and monitored by the authorities. A detailed file covering all aspects of their trips may be read in RGASPI, f. 78, d. 689, ll. 4-130.  Back.

Note 131: The lone article on their voyage appeared in Mundo Obrero on 12 Nov. 1938. There were apparently no earlier reports of their arrival, reception or itinerary in the USSR.  Back.


Stalin and the Spanish Civil War