The Magical Chorus

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Josef Stalin, who was a dictator of The USSR, ruled his regime with an iron fist.&nbsp. Prone to erratic behavior, he had absolute power over his people.&nbsp. This proved to be tragic for artists such as Genrick Neilhaus, who was arrested in 1941 on charges of being anti-Soviet and a “defeatist.”&nbsp. He was held in solitary confinement for nine months.&nbsp. Other musicians, who were of German descent, were executed for questionable charges.This fits in well with Stalin’s attitude towards artists.&nbsp. He felt that they were tools to be used for propaganda purposes as he saw fit.&nbsp. Volkov comments on this:As Stalin saw it, classical composers in the interpretation of these talented musicians were mobilized to serve a Marxist ideology, and the performers were turned into ideal representatives of the socialist camp: they possessed formidable musical technique…were optimistic, and civic-minded (as they were depicted in the media), and were happy to travel at the beck and call of the Party…

Stalin tried to create a society that was immune to the influence of western media and art forms.&nbsp. But he failed.&nbsp. Such American musicians as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong were very popular among the Soviet people.&nbsp. Volkov describes this:Jazz, one of the most important manifestations of American culture, was used right away as a propaganda weapon.&nbsp. Charles Bohlen, the American ambassador to the Soviet Union, had noticed the popularity of the voice of America jazz programs in Moscow and at his suggestion in1955 the station began a special project, Music USA, devoted to jazz.
Classical music as well as used by Americans trying to pierce the Iron Curtain.The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed in Russia in 1956 and the Philadelphia equivalent did so in 1958. These events had a major effect on Russian social and cultural life.Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, sought both to cleanse the USSR of Stalin’s memory and to forge a new alliance with its artists.&nbsp. Several of the writers that Stalin favored were removed from their positions.