Kowalsky, D. (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Title: “Moscow-Madrid, 36-39: Notes for a Soundtrack”


If its internationalization was the most prominent feature of the Spanish Civil War, the improbable and out-sized role of the Soviet Union was, for decades, poorly understood and often misrepresented. As late as 1994, a British historian observed that on the Soviet Union and the Spanish Civil War, “no work cites official documentation”. A quarter-century century on, in the year 2020, the historiography of this topic is now greatly expanded. The published literature includes not only declassified document collections, but conference proceedings, journal articles, and monographs on myriad connected subjects. The richness of the field is evident in examining the incorporation of this burgeoning historiography in recent biographies of Stalin, in works on the Soviet military, on European interwar cultural history, the history of the visual arts, and diplomatic history. Historians working in the UK, in France, Germany, Spain, Russia and the United States have all contributed significant, sometimes towering, works of scholarship. A subject long mired in Cold War-era tendentious controversy has finally emerged as one of the most meticulously documented and well-researched in Modern European history.

Nonetheless, no work to date has surveyed the musical landscape of this singular bilateral relationship. This talk will suggest a soundtrack for Soviet participation in the Spanish Civil War, one that reflected the peculiarly potent coming together of the Russian avant-garde and a traditional Iberian vernacular. Among the topics addressed will be the dispatch from Moscow and distribution in the Republic of Soviet phonographs, and of Soviet musical scores for performance in the Republican zone during the war, the organisation of concerts that showcased Soviet and Spanish musical idioms, and the use of recorded music in Soviet-made newsreels about the civil war. Even the Soviet musical instruction of Basque war orphans, evacuated to the USSR in 1937, will not escape our notice. Research for this talk will be based on unpublished materials from declassified collections in the Russian Federation and Spain, film archives in both countries, published memoirs, press and the ever-growing secondary literature.
Period09 Oct 2020
Event typeConference
LocationBERLIN, Germany, Berlin
Degree of RecognitionInternational