A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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No. 36 - 9th December, 1942


At the request of the Soviet Relations Branch of Foreign Division (A), Intelligence Officers were asked to report on the impressions made upon the public by the recent tour of the Soviet Youth Delegation.

During the tour, which lasted from 17th to 27th November, visits were made to eight Regions. But so brief was the Delegates' stay in each place, and so congested the programmes arranged for them, that there was apparently not “much opportunity for the general public to receive an impression of them.” This, it seems, was the main criticism of the arrangements that had been made.

Where the Delegates attended meetings and visited factories, they appear to have been “warmly welcomed”, particularly by working-class people. An enthusiastic welcome was also given by students and members of youth organisations, and the Delegates, especially Lieut. Pavlichenka, were said to be greatly admired for “their undoubted bravery” and as representatives of a gallant Ally.

Although in four Regions it is reported that the “Delegates were not particularly noted by the general public”, some instances are given of friendly demonstrations towards them. In Birmingham a procession was formed in the streets to welcome them, and outside the Council House, where they were presented to the Mayor, the Square was “practically filled.” During their visit to Bermondsey news of their presence “got round very fast and an enthusiastic crowd gathered - even the Police were enthusiastic.” In the Midland Hotel at Manchester the staff, who are described as “extremely blasé”, are reported to have spared no efforts to oblige the Delegates, and to have gone “to unusual lengths ... to collect autographs.”

Their reception in factories

In the North Western and Midland Regions “considerable enthusiasm from the workers was noted at all the works visited.” In Manchester the “Delegation was mobbed in the factories”, and in the Midland Region the workers gave them a “rousing reception by banging on the benches.” The manager of an Aircraft factory in this Region said that “the workers have got so blasé over distinguished visitors that even the King wouldn't raise a cheer - but the Russians did.”

Their reception by miners

At a meeting of the Durham Miners' Association “there was noticeably a louder and more prolonged burst of cheering for Lieut.Pchelintsev than for Dr. Benes or any other speaker at Durham conferences.” During a visit to a Welsh colliery “questions were asked which indicated a keen interest in all that pertained to Russia and its industrial background, and a friendly conversation extracted the promise to speed up production.”

Their reception at student and youth meetings

The Delegates appear to have been “warmly received” at all such meetings. In Birmingham the gathering was reported to be unusually large and the applause “vociferous”; while the youth of Glasgow is said to have “taken the entire Delegation to their hearts and to have greatly admired them for their valour.” Certain criticisms have, however, been reported:-

  1. Manchester students were said to be dissatisfied because “they thought that the Russians were here to study conditions of youth in this country”, and wondered, somewhat illogically, “why they wasted time having a look at the war effort.”

  2. In Wales the students are reported to have felt that the Delegates were inclined to “harangue” them, though they were “not unfavourably received by the general body of students.” “Intimate talks” between the Delegates and students at Abedare Hall are described as having been “most successful.” “Here”, it is said, “all political differences were forgotten, and a very genuine attempt made to affect a common understanding. Some four or five students had a heart to heart discussion with Lieut. Pavlichenka on the position of the church in Russia.”

  3. At youth meetings in Glasgow and Birmingham it is reported that “Left wing elements captured the meeting.” In Birmingham some people took exception to the sale of “red literature” in the foyer of the hall; no criticisms of the Delegates were reported, however, though it was said that “there was a good deal of disappointment that the Russians did not say more about Russian youth.”

The personalities of the Delegates

Widespread admiration of the Delegates is reported from six Regions - “the direct, charming and straightforward attitude of the visitors appealed greatly to everyone who came into contact with them. Not unnaturally, interest centred in the personality of Lieut. Pavlichenka”, and the men, “though well received, were less easy and did not compete for interest.” “Special enthusiasm” for Lieut. Pavlichenka is reported from women and “younger intellectuals.” As is remarked in the report from Wales, “Here was a young woman who had proved herself capable of playing a man's part in the greatest struggle of all ages, and who through it all had preserved the natural charms of womanhood.”

On the other hand, a minority of people in four Regions are said to have been “horrified” by what is described as the “blood lust” of the Russians, and to have deplored “the savagery of applauding a monster whose only claim to fame is that she shot three hundred men.” Some older people in the Southern Region are also said to have considered Lieut. Pavlichenka's character to be “quite alien to our womanhood.” In Birmingham it was doubted if “any sniper could last long enough to kill three hundred men”, and it was rumoured that “she was a fraud, and did not know how to hold a gun.”

The Delegates' speeches

The Delegates' speeches are said to have been applauded everywhere. In Scotland they were voted “excellent”, and were listened to “with rapt attention, even though they were in Russian.” Their interpretation of the speeches was highly praised in Manchester, but was criticised in the Midland Region for being “rather flat.”

The purpose of the visit

So brief were the Delegates' visits, and so full their programmes, that some people found it difficult to believe that a serious attempt was being made “to study the war effort.” Indeed, apart from Manchester students, few people seem to have regarded this as the purpose of the Delegates' tour. In three Regions there appears to have been little “knowledge of why they came.” In others various suppositions were made, two reports suggesting they were here to “harangue” rather than to study conditions; other reports suggested that they came to promote Anglo-Soviet relations, and to help to increase production. In Scotland they were simply regarded as “distinguished visitors with a first-hand story to tell.”

The arrangementments for the tour

In the Midland, North Western and Scottish Regions, the chief criticism of the tour was “that the programme was far too heavy”; on their arrival in Glasgow the Delegates were reported to have been “tired out”, and “their weariness was unnecessarily increased” by attending at least five Press conferences” during their twenty-four hours' stay. There were also complaints of incomplete travelling arrangements, and about the organisation of the Youth Meeting at Glasgow.

The representatives of youth organisations were apparently not invited to this meeting until the afternoon of the day on which it took place; “many of them did not know what was expected of them until they arrived at the hall.” In Birmingham people “concerned with local government deplored the fact that the visit was not properly organised by one body, like the Ministry of Information.”

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