Moscow marks 50 years since youth festival

Moscow is marking the 50th anniversary of the first World Festival of Youth and Students held in Russia. In 1957, nearly 34,000 young people from more than 130 countries came to the capital.

It was a time when Soviet Russia was opening its doors for the first time to the rest of the world.

The workers from the History Museum in downtown Moscow say it would have taken you nearly 100 years to attend every event held in the Russian capital during the 1957 Youth Festival.


They were unable to detain every violator, so they were just catching Soviet girls and shaving off part of their hair, so that later Komsomol could take care of those infringers. However, less than a year later one could notice more babies being born

Aleksey Kozlov, jazzman

In the wake of Stalin's rule, the Khrushchev reforms resulted in many changes in Soviet Russia. One them was the festival, which heralded in a new way of thinking, new fashions and lifestyle aspirations. Scores of Muscovites greeted nearly 34,000 participants in the name of Peace and Friendship.  

“Young People from other countries that have just got over their colonial past, were a cause of excitement and curiosity among Russians. They were treated with considerable compassion,” Elena Akhrimenya from the State History Museum says.

Russian foreign languages students were doing their utmost working as interpreters. However, an improvised sign language formed the basis of communication, along with handshakes and dancing.

Stamp collectors, anglers and weavers from all over the world held their conventions at the festival. The participants were also jointly protesting against colonialism, contesting in swimming and even planting trees – the blossoming park in north Moscow bears testimony to their efforts.

Jazz was something Russians had never heard played live before. Avant-garde artists got a chance to display their works openly for the first time. And enjoying impressionists was no longer a crime against the communist state.

Moscow Youth Festival, 1957
Moscow Youth Festival, 1957
“Five petals on the festival’s emblem represent five continents of the world, where young people live work and dream,” Aleksy Kozlov, a jazz musician, explains.

United under the emblem, international relations brought greater rewards than anyone could have forecast. Now a famous jazz musician Aleksey Kozlov recollects how the security services tried in vain to stop love taking its course with the visitors from abroad.

“They were unable to detain every violator, so they were just catching Soviet girls and shaving off part of their hair, so that later Komsomol could take care of those infringers. However, less than a year later one could notice more babies being born,” he recalls.

The festival rocked the Soviet style of life and affected what young people were wearing at the time. Short blazers and skirts have been popular ever since. And that's when the Soviet people first heard the word 'jeans'.

“Everybody danced and had a great time. The songs were sung in different languages. Young beautiful people from different countries immensely enjoyed each other’s company,” Edita Pyekha, a singer, says.

One of the most popular songs from the time was inspired by the Festival, it went as follows: I’ll never forget a friend, as I met him in Moscow.