In 2017, Russia will host an event of global scale — the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students. This decision was made on February 7, 2016 by the World Federation of Democratic Youth and international student organizations at the international consultative meeting on the holding of the 19th Festival. The National Youth Council of Russia has initiated the return of the WFYS to our country. An invaluable help and assistance in the application promoting was provided by the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs. By joining forces, youth organizations and the state structure have achieved this global goal. The National Preparatory Committee was headed by the Chairperson of the National Council Grigory Petushkov. The idea of holding the Festival in Russia was supported by the President Vladimir Putin.
The popular movement in support of the Festival speaks at various levels about the real consolidation of the society and the youth movement, in particular, on the basis of common values associated with the holding of the historic event. In addition, the process of preparation ensures a positive public dialogue of different generations of our citizens. The legendary Moscow Festivals of 1957 and 1985 really provide a connection between the contemporaries and bright pages of the history of the country, and contribute to the formation of the civil identity generally. Together, the Festival became a part of the original youth-student culture of Russia.
Each Festival solved its tasks. The Festival, which will pass in 2017 has its own purposes, related to the realities of modern life.
The Chairperson of the Committee of Youth Organizations (CYO) of the USSR, Vladimir Aksyonov tells about the history of the Festival movement in Russia.
The history of the past Festivals, which roots go back to 1947, is one of the brightest pages of the development not only of the international youth and student movement, but, perhaps, of the life of the whole planet.
The public concern about the huge destruction caused by the Second World War, the understanding of the acute need to fight for the lasting peace also became evident among the post-war young generation, the «expendable material» of any military conflict. The youth organizations of the communist sense, inspired by the spirit and ideals of the anti-fascist struggle, formed the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), and then the International Union of Students.
The decision to hold the first Festival was taken at the session of the WFDY Council (1946), after the W. Churchill’s speech at Fulton, which marked the beginning of the Cold War. Preparation for the Festival took two years, it was led by the Executive Committee of the WFDY, that united in its ranks more than 50 million young men and women then. 17 thousand representatives from 71 countries participated in the Festival passed in Prague in 1947.
Certainly, the Komsomol and the Antifascist Committee of the Soviet Youth as the youth organizations of the country, which made a huge and decisive contribution to the victory over Hitler’s fascism and Japanese militarism, became the most active participants in the struggle for peace, the construction of new forms of organizing a democratic youth and student movement and, in fact, the Festival movement.
The history of this movement was bound to feel the influence of the atmosphere and the main trends of the global international situation, such as the cold war, the disintegration of the colonial system, the arms race, detente, restructuring in the USSR, and then its demise. This was most clearly reflected both in the content of the Festival’s events program and in the changes in their slogans, which is the subject of a separate review. Enrichment of the content of the Festival movement manifested itself in various forms — in holding Festivals in capitals of capitalist countries and within other continents besides Europe, in expanding the political spectrum of Festival participants, their actions, and in working out more effective technology and organizational culture of the preparatory process. At the same time, it is worth emphasizing that the decisive role in the development of the Festival movement, especially in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s of the last century — right up to the collapse of the USSR, there was a growing understanding that there was no alternative to dialogue and the need for joint action by the broad forces of the youth movement to solve the global problems of the modern world and the burning problems of youth.
Important milestones in the development of the Festival movement were Festivals held in Moscow in 1957 and in 1985. It is noteworthy that, in connection with the dynamics of socio-political life and the expansion of the range of problems requiring active inclusion of young people in its resolution, a year before the start of the first Festival in Moscow, the Anti-Fascist Committee of Soviet Youth was transformed into the CYO (Committee of Youth Organizations) of the USSR. The Festival in 1957 became the most massive in the history of the Festival movement — 34 thousand of people from 131 countries of the world took part in it; the number of countries also became record for that time. In many respects, the reason for this was the increased interest in the world’s first socialist state, which opened, as they say, the «Iron Curtain» and made an important «permissive» step on the path of rapprochement.
The 12th Festival (1985) clearly demonstrated the level of political and organizational maturity of the Festival movement, striving for the degree of its renewal, which meets the new reality, preserving traditions. More and more broad political forces participated in the Festival and in the multi-month preparatory process. All decisions arose on the basis of an interested cultural dialogue and readiness for mutual compromises. In many respects, this was the result of systematic and consistent policy and practice of broad multilateral cooperation of the CYO of the USSR — regardless of the Festival movement with the national and international youth and student organizations, which represent the unique in its breadth political spectrum.
It is clear that after the disappearance of the USSR from the political map of the world, the abolition of the Komsomol and the CYO USSR, the potential of the Festival movement became weak. At the same time, the current young generation of Russia, due to the initiative of its organizations to hold the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students in Russia in 2017, has a chance to breathe new forces into the Festival movement, to test itself in a big and serious business.