March 17, 2015

1943. No Fun in Moscow

Moscow at War
Source: Stalinist Russia: Women in Moscow on September 7, 1947, during the city's celebration of its 800th birthday. Photo by Robert Capa
The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 21, 1943

One of the first casualties of this war in Russia has been just plain honest-to-goodness fun. There have been no big military developments on the Russian front since the Red Army's winter offensive officially ended March 31.

But there have been no developments at all on the Russian entertainment front since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

Don't get the wrong idea. Moscow still has its theaters and operas and concerts—but there is none of the noisy, boisterous hell-raising that usually goes with a big city at war.

Russia still presents the best ballet in the world. It's the only place in the world where you can see a full performance of Tchaikovsky's famous "Swan Lake" ballet. Every other night or so there is an opera.

But there are no nightclubs or dance halls or anything like that in the capital of the Soviet Union. There is only one cocktail bar, and you have to stand in line to get into it. Occasionally some of the artist's clubs or other such organizations will throw a dance, but it's not very often.

It isn't that Moscow doesn't want to have fun. You can look at the crowds at the theaters and the concerts to see that. It's only that Moscow doesn't have time to have fun. People work hard here. When they have time to relax, they want to sleep.

All in all, the only persons whose entertainment really gets any attention in Russia are the men of the Red Army.

(For example, every big base of the Russian air force has its club room where the Red Army lady pilots can dance with the Red Army gentleman pilots. And there are no lack of girls at the air bases I have seen. There are plenty of women who fly and service the Red Army air force ships. I danced with one or two. They wouldn't win any prizes in Harlem, but their dancing is the good solid type of what was popular before the Big Apple.)

The government has an entertainment service for the Red Army. Since the war started, this group of Russian actors, musicians, magicians, and comedy stars have given 270,000 performances for the Russian fighting men. This includes many performances which were lit up by German flares and which had to compete with German shells for the attention of the audience.