How Folk Rock Helped Crack the Iron Curtain
Fifty years ago, 160 young Americans defied State Department orders and partied on the streets of Moscow. The Cold War would never be the same.
Photo by Anatoliy Garanin / Sputnik via AP
In 1957, Peggy Seeger took the stage in Moscow to perform for a packed house of the cream of the Soviet intelligentsia.
“Don’t you want to hear all the children singing,” she sang, strumming her banjo, “big ol’ bells a-ringing, come and go with me to that land.”
The crowd responded with stony silence. Worried that the language barrier might be to blame, Seeger tried nursery songs, trying to teach the literati the rhyming choruses so they could sing along. Still nothing. Before the intelligentsia, Seeger was a dud, but she didn’t care. It was the youth of Moscow she had come to perform for, and in the streets of the city, they were going wild.
Seeger was one of 160 Americans invited to Russia for the 1957 World Festival of Youth and Students. It was the first time in the event’s history that the festival was held in Russia, which will host it again this October, sixty years later. In 1957, four years after Stalin’s death, the first cracks were app…