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bobster1985

USSR Pavilion at the Fair

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The USSR pavilion was one of the most popular and spectacular buildings at the Fair, but it only lasted for the first season. Without explanation, Russia in December 1939 announced it would dismantle the pavilion and ship it back to the USSR to be reassembled. I wonder if that ever happened. The Russians probably figured the pavilion would attract too much negative attention in 1940 because of its invasions of Poland and Finland, and its non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1939. For the second season, the site of the USSR pavilion became an open-air space called American Commons. These clippings from the NY Times tell the story.

93911797.pdf

94801330.pdf

93967497.pdf

94793932.pdf

93911792.pdf

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One of the articles mentions that the Netherlands Pavilion would house a Chinese exhibit in 1940. Did that actually happen?

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I find it strange that by December of 1939 there would be any question as to why the Soviet pavilion was closed and removed. The USSR had been involved in the September invasion of Poland and Finland. The Soviets had become a pariah in editorials across the US and local pols in NY had urged the pavilion be closed or, at the very least, boycotted when the 1940 Fair opened. The Soviets simply beat their critics to the punch. They quit the Fair and took their pavilion home.

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I think the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-agression pact may have been kept a secret for several years, particularly the part about the baltic states... but the invasion was well known in late '39.

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The pact was well known by anyone who could read and comprehend. The NY Times ran a large headline announcing the pact on August 23, 1939 and Herb Block drew a political cartoon depicting a Nazi wolf and a Soviet bear in bead with an image of Poland dressed as Little Red Riding Hood discovering them.

Go to: Nazi-Soviet Pact--JohnDClare.net to see this cartoon.

The world knew what the Soviets had done (although Stalin attempted to rewrite history after the War) and less than ten days after the Pact was signed, the invasion of Poland, from both east and west, was under way. The world knew.

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There was a secret protocol to the pact which was only revealed after Germany's defeat in 1945. That protocol divvied up Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland between the Germans and the Russians.

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Japan had a pavilion at the Fair. It remained intact when the Fair closed but was torched by arsonists during the War.

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Actually, Japan had invaded Manchuria in 1931. They had occupied much of China throughout the 1930's. There had even been an incident in December of 1937 when the Japanese attacked a US gunboat, The Panay, on the Yangtze River claiming they did not see the American flag on display on the ship. Three Americans were killed and 43 were wounded. The Panay was sunk. There was outrage in the US but it did not last long.

By 1939, the relationship between the US and Japan was strained and increasingly difficult but that was something of a chronic condition between the two nations. It is interesting that a part of the display in the Japan pavilion was a pearl encrusted replica of the Liberty Bell and it was a popular attraction.

The situation with the USSR, I believe, was far more disturbing. The signing of the Non-Aggression Pact was a jolt to western nations mainly because the enmity between Stalin and Hitler was legendary and any agreement between the two dictators seemed impossible. So, the signing of that Pact felt like something of a betrayal in the west. Many historians have written that Stalin finally decided to sign the Pact (which basically said neither nation would make war on the other for ten years; it was not an alliance) following Chamberlain's total sellout to the Nazis in Munich in the fall of 1938. Stalin had come to the conclusion that France and Britain would never stand up to Hitler. Therefore, Stalin decided to protect his western borders with that Pact. And gobbling up a part of Poland and Finland would create a buffer should Hitler ever attack. That did not work out quite the way Stalin had planned.

I suppose, in 1939, Americans had a difficult time sensing that Japan was a pending threat to us. And the atrocities in China (even the Rape of Nanjing) were so far away and in a culture we did not well understand. But the Soviet actions starting with the shock of the Non-Aggression Pack and the brutal attack on Poland and Finland did make sense and were a very real threat to US security especially after September 3, when France and Britain finally declared war on Germany.

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Just strikes me odd that two regimes that had already produced millions of corpses were welcome at the Fair.
(I knew the USSR was there, but not Japan).

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One regime not welcome at Flushing Meadow was Nazi Germany. I suppose Stalin's crimes were not well known and he was a bulwark against the Third Reich so the Soviets were welcome. And Japan, despite its atrocities, was not an immediate threat.

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Mike, there is a Japan Pavilion in the 1939 Guidebook. Jim mentioned it above as having the pearl-encrusted Liberty Bell on display.

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Mike, when I think about it (I teach history so I am often thinking about it!), 1939 was a remarkable year. A year that was so full of optimism with two world's fairs and a royal visit as a difficult decade came to an end, it also saw Europe erupt in a second world war. It is often considered Hollywood's best year ever and saw the release of The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, Dark Victory, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gunga Din, The Women, Of Mice and Men, Drums Along the Mohawk. The Hunchback of Notre Dame and even The Middletons at the NYWF. I think if I could pick just one year to visit from the past--even for just an hour--I would pick 1939.

Jim

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Hi guys,

Does anyone still have the PDFs from the top of this topic? I've been trying to download but they seem to be removed or missing.

Will really appreciate if someone can share them again!

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