Diplomacy in the Woods: Nature, Hunting, Masculinity, and Soviet Diplomacy under N.S. Khrushchev

In: Diplomatica
Tatyana Bakhmetyeva Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA,

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Analyzing several documentary films and other sources through the lens of gender and feminist theory, this article explores the role of hunting and nature in Soviet diplomatic relationships. The article views diplomacy as a masculine space in which diplomatic negotiations relied on successful displays of toughness and the exhibition of prowess and agility. These skills were best demonstrated not in the official corridors of power but in settings imbued with symbolic meanings associated with masculinity, such as nature. The latter often served as a homosocial space where power was displayed and reconstituted through ritualistic performances of heroic masculinity. Such rituals as hunting sought to accomplish several goals. They promoted the male bonding that formed the basis of a preferred personal style of diplomacy and allowed Soviet apparatchiks to display marksmanship skills and a level of physical prowess that would present them to their foreign counterparts as potent leaders and desired allies. More importantly, as with other performative rituals of masculinity, Soviet diplomatic hunts produced and reproduced masculinity – and with it, power – and served strategically to assert or challenge international hierarchies, shape new and reaffirm faltering alliances, and demonstrate the agility and potency of the Soviet system to visiting state leaders.

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