I.R.C. Howling, ‘”Our Soviet Friends”: The Presentation of the Soviet Union in the British Media 1941-45’

Howling, I.R.C. ”Our Soviet Friends’: the presentation of the Soviet Union in the British Media 1941-45′
M.A. completed, 1988. Leeds University

Abstract: Presenting the Soviet Union to the British public – whether as an adversary during the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact or as an ally in the Anglo-Soviet Alliance – posed great problems to British wartime propagandists. This thesis is an examination of the methods employed by the British government, armed as it was (theoretically) with the wartime power to control every film, newspaper or radio broadcast, to influence the portrayal of the Soviet Union in the British media between 1941 and 1945. The official propaganda campaign launched in the wake of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 can best be understood in the light of the image of the Soviet Union to which the British had been exposed during the years of the Nazi-Soviet Pact and before. Chapter One therefore provides an analysis of propaganda about the Soviet Union during this period, together with a discussion of those problems encountered by the propagandists which were to persist in the period of the Anglo-Soviet Alliance. Chapter Two examines the propagandists’ response to their new Soviet Ally in the immediate aftermath of Operation Barbarossa. It provides a detailed analysis of policy-making at the Ministry of Information and Foreign Office during the summer of 1941 which led to the creation of the Soviet Relations Division at the Ministry of Information in October of that year. Once it became clear that the Soviet Union was not to be easily defeated, the greatest problem facing the propagandists was the fact that their new ally was a Communist state. Chapter Three therefore examines the measures taken throughout the war by the government to prevent the Soviet Union’s popularity being converted into votes for the Communist Party of Great Britain. Citing examples from broadcasts on the BBC Home Service, and from films and newsreels shown in British cinemas, the chapter analyses the effectiveness of the policies adopted to counter the Communist electoral `threat’. Chapter Four examines the presentation of the Soviet attitude to religion as a case study. This chapter aims to illustrate that, succumbing to the pressures of both domestic and foreign audiences, the British government abandoned its avowed intentions of maintaining an accurate and objective presentation of the Soviets. As War became Cold War, the way in which the Soviet Union was presented to the British people became even more important. Relations between the Allies were deteriorating; attitudes in government circles were changing. Yet, on paper at least, the Anglo-Soviet Pact remained and was scheduled to last until 1962. Chapter Five is an analysis of how far changing attitudes on the part of the government and its propagandists were reflected in the British media.