17. Editorial Note

In a June 1, 1964, memorandum to United States Information Agency Director Carl T. Rowan, Deputy Director Donald M. Wilson reported on his recent trip to the Soviet Union. Wilson observed:

“The Soviet Union is still a land of paradox and nowhere does it show up more clearly than in the information and cultural fields. Although I was able to engage in some remarkably frank and free exchanges with writers, artists, and even professional propagandists, the repressive hand of the bureaucracy (in my case, in the form of the Ministry of Culture) was never far away. On the same day, for example, I engaged in a free-swinging discussion of the Sino-Soviet rift with the leaders of Novosti, the ‘press service’ which serves as an overseas propaganda organ of the USSR, and then was prevented by the Ministry of Culture from spending an innocuous evening with the editors of a music magazine watching the Red Army Chorus perform.

“This paradox of today is still a vast improvement over the Stalinist orthodoxy of eight years ago. Since that time the U.S. Government has slowly expanded its information and cultural activities in the Soviet Union. The process has been, and still is, one of trial and error. The proper approach has been, and still is, one of pushing firmly but not belligerently on a number of doors marked ‘exchanges’, ‘cultural presentations’, ‘radio broadcasting’, ‘magazine distribution’, and the like. If the door doesn’t open, return in a while and push again. If it does open, keep your foot in it and establish a program, no matter how meager.

“Several years ago, our problem in the information and cultural field was the basic one of identifying the opinion leaders of the Soviet Union. Today, they have been identified and we are in contact with a number of them. The problem now has become one of maintaining and expanding those contacts.

[Page 47]

“If the present political climate prevails, the U.S. Government programs should be able to continue expanding at a gradual and unspectacular rate. Over optimism and an excess of eagerness should be avoided.” (National Archives, RG 306, Director’s Files: 1962–1965, Entry UD WW 191, Box 9, Director’s Office 1964.) Wilson’s memorandum is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XIV, Soviet Union, Document 34.