Friendship Societies and Cultural Diplomacy during the Cold War: The Romanian – Japanese Case

by Viviana Iacob

at the international conference Japan: Premodern, Modern, and ContemporaryBucharest, 4-6 September, 2017.

Abstract

Friendship societies with western countries had a seminal role in pre-Détente Cold War cultural diplomacy. In the absence of diplomatic relations, these associations initiated the first contact with the West and paved the way to blooming cultural exchanges during the Détente (from mid-sixties onward). Their activity was unidirectional in the early fifties, as it entailed the circulation of publications and the organization of events with a rather reduced impact such as exhibitions or conferences. Nevertheless, their main role was to gather contacts and enlarge the network of individuals that could better serve the dissemination of a socialist country’s culture beyond the Iron Curtain divide in the late fifties and early sixties. My paper will discuss the work carried out by the Japan –Romania Friendship Association (JRFA) founded in 1955 by a group of Japanese fellow travelers. By focusing on the cultural exports that were characteristic to this association in the larger context of East –West cultural relations between 1955 and 1965, I intend to underline what type of cultural heritage was favored by Romanian cultural officials in exchanges outside the socialist camp. My paper reveals a new genealogy to the internationalization of a Southeast European culture during the Cold War. It points to specific institutionalizations of encounters that constituted the basis for later transnational circulations of ideas and people from Southeast Europe to multiple corners of the globe. 

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