mediums of preaching and persuading others of the existence of a Soviet utopia or, insome cases, Soviet terror. Even romantic literature and pulp fiction, such as ClaudeAnet’s
L’Amour en Russie
, allowed writers to address their countrymen, bearing witnessto their encounters in the Soviet Union. Some intellectuals also made a speciality of their travel writing in the USSR. French authors Henri Barbusse and Fernand Grenier, for instance, returned to Russia frequently, each visit becoming an occasion for a new publication. As the peak of Western pilgrimage to the USSR was reached in the mid-1930s, with as many as 200 French intellectuals making the journey in 1935, sympatheticaccounts and travelogues prevailed.
As the historians Ludmila Stern and Marc Ferro argue, throughout the early 1930s,the West was far more receptive to favourable accounts of the USSR. Ferro has suggestedthat a ‘wall of denial’ was even established towards damaging information: « Durant lesannées trente, au vu des menaces que le nazisme faisait peser sur la démocratie,démocrats et socialistes d’Occident voulurent ignorer jusqu’à l’existence de cette terreur stalinienne. »
As this comment suggests, prevailing fears of Nazism dominated manyreaders’ reactions to works on the Soviet Union. Wary of Hitler and certain of the needfor an anti-fascist alliance with the USSR, some reviewers chose to extract only the positive remarks from French travelogues, while others launched brutal attacks on anyremotely unflattering report of the Soviet Experiment. Indeed, until about 1936, theinternational climate was receptive to the endorsement of Soviet policies. The peak of this support came in 1935 with three major events: the signing of the Franco-SovietTreaty of Mutual Assistance, the occasion of the
International Writers' Congress for the Defence of Culture
in Paris, and the development of the Popular Front. As noted by thecontemporary French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir in her autobiographical oeuvre,
La Force de l’âge
, the Franco-Soviet Treaty ushered in a new era in relations: “the barrier that separated the
from the communist and socialist workers suddenlycollapsed. Newspapers of all persuasions began publishing a profusion of benevolentreports of Moscow and the strength of the Red Army.”
At this time, when Hitler had
L’Occident devant la Révolution Soviétique
(Brussels, 1980), p. 99.
Simone de Beauvoir,
La Force de L’Âge
(Paris, 1960), p. 223.