861.4061 Motion Pictures/40: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Standley) to the Secretary of State

225. I am forwarding by airmail a report19 on the exchange of information between the United States and the Soviet Union of which the following is a summary:

Upon my return to Moscow in January I called on the heads of the Soviet Film Industry, Voks,20 Tass (news agency) and the Soviet Broadcasting Center—explaining my desire and plans to further the development of friendly relations by an exchange of information which would make the peoples of our two countries better acquainted with each other and with their respective institutions. I asked them to cooperate with Commander Young21 whom I had brought to Moscow to explore the situation and assist in this work. I emphasized that this should be a two way affair and outlined the contributions which we were prepared to make. The Soviet authorities were particularly [Page 644]gratified at the arrangements I had been able to make with the cooperation of General George22 for the transportation of material by air to and from the United States.

During a meeting previous to the above held with Mr. Lozovsky, Vice Commissar of Foreign Affairs in Kuibyshev, he responded to my proposed program and stated that he was not only grateful but would challenge me in this exchange. He stated further that they would attempt to outdo any effort we would make. Even though they expressed their desire to cooperate the results have not been wholly satisfactory. The present situation with respect to the three major [media] dissemination of information is in brief as follows:

Motion Pictures.

Greatest success has been achieved in the exchange of motion pictures and this field offers the greatest promise for future development. We have delivered to the Soviets 35 issues of United Newsreel23 and excerpts from these have been incorporated into the regular Soviet newsreel. Sixteen Soviet newsreels have been forwarded by air to the United States. We have arranged screenings of American feature pictures for the Soviet Film Committee and are informed that contracts for the public display of eight such pictures are under negotiation. We have also forwarded to the United States Soviet films concerning the war and arrangements have been made between the United States military and naval authorities for the exchange of training films.24 Our greatest present difficulty in transportation is not from America to Tehran but between Tehran and Moscow which is the Soviet responsibility.

Press.

Space given to American news in the Soviet press is satisfactory compared to that given other countries but leaves much to be desired. Glossy prints are being supplied to Tass and some have been published. Copies are also supplied to Voks through which they receive limited distribution. Arrangements are being made to install for Tass a radio-photo trans-receiver. We understand that press telegrams are being exchanged by Office of War Information and the Soviet Information Bureau but we get no information of this from the Soviet [Page 645]authorities here. We are supplying Tass with microfilms of American newspapers.25

Radio.

We are arranging to supply the Soviet broadcasting authorities with recordings of American music. We are informed that they have declined to use radio recorded programs in Russian which were prepared in London by the British. The Soviet Government has not replied to our request for permission to send an Office of War Information representative to Moscow to conduct propaganda broadcasts directed to Germany in German. Some American news is broadcast on the Soviet radio—generally items taken from the press—and facilities are provided for representatives of NBC26 and Columbia systems to broadcast to the United States.

Although I consider our present program to be well worth while, the Soviet authorities are not satisfactorily carrying out their part of this exchange for better relations. From the survey made, however, I do not believe that we can make much further progress unless the matter is taken up with high authorities in an effort to reach an agreement to have this work handled by an agency especially equipped to do so. The dissemination of information in the Soviet Union is completely controlled and centralized and the slightest deviation from the prescribed course is a matter of high policy. Our present contacts, the heads of press films and radio, are obviously going as far as their official directives permit and I have not felt it desirable from a political point of view to take the matter up with higher authorities.

The present Soviet attitude is indicated by the fact that despite the efforts of the British Ambassador, the representatives of the British Ministry of Information have not been allowed to operate in Moscow but are obliged to carry on their work in Kuibyshev.

If the Department feels that it would be expedient to press the Russians in this matter and that such a course is desirable, I shall discuss the situation with Scherbakov, head of the “Soviet Information Buro” and with Molotov. If these high Soviet authorities are favorably inclined, I would suggest that the Office of War Information, as a preliminary to establishing an office here, be asked to send [Page 646]a high official of the calibre of Mr. Sherwood27 or Mr. Carroll28 of London to Moscow to consult with us and decide upon a definite program.

I should appreciate receiving an indication of the Department’s views.

Standley
  1. Despatch No. 78, April 7, not printed.
  2. All Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.
  3. Comdr. John C. Young, Assistant Naval Attaché for public relations at the American Embassy in the Soviet Union.
  4. Maj. Gen. Harold Lee George, Commanding General, Air Transport Command, U.S. Army Air Forces.
  5. Since January 1, 1943; prior thereto only three United Newsreels had been received in the Soviet Union.
  6. Ambassador Standley, in his despatch No. 78, April 7, concluded: “It will thus be seen that considerable progress has been made in the exchange of motion pictures and I believe that we can accomplish more in this field than in any other to increase the knowledge and understanding of the United States in the Soviet Union.” (861.4061 Motion Pictures/45)
  7. Ambassador Standley stated in his despatch No. 78, April 7: “Space given in the Soviet press to American news is satisfactory compared to that given to other countries but cannot be considered adequate and the disparity between the publicity which the Soviet Union receives in the United States and the meager publicity which we receive here is most striking.… While the tone of the Soviet press cannot be said to be unfriendly toward the United States and has greatly improved during the past year there is no noticeable effort to create or even admit of a friendly feeling toward the United States and most news items consist of communiqués or reports of speeches and statements by American officials.” (861.4061 Motion Pictures/45)
  8. National Broadcasting Company.
  9. Robert E. Sherwood, Director of Overseas Operations, Overseas Operations Branch, Office of War Information.
  10. Wallace Carroll, Deputy Director, Propaganda Warfare, European, Overseas Operations Branch, Office of War Information.