Tomoff argues that the spectacular Soviet successes in the system of international music competitions, taken together with the rapturous receptions accorded touring musicians, helped to persuade the Soviet leadership of the superiority of their system. This, combined with the historical triumphalism central to the Marxist-Leninist worldview, led to confidence that the USSR would be the inevitable winner in the global competition with the United States. Successes masked the fact that the very conditions that made them possible depended on a quiet process by which the USSR began to participate in an international legal and economic system dominated by the United States. Once the Soviet leadership transposed its talk of system superiority to the economic sphere, focusing in particular on consumer goods and popular culture, it had entered a competition that it could not win.
Kiril Tomoff is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of Virtuosi Abroad: Soviet Music and Imperial Competition during the Early Cold War, 1945–1958 and Creative Union: The Professional Organization of Soviet Composers, 1939–1953, both from Cornell.