Walking the Walk
“It’s time to come together again. Our common ground far exceeds our differences, it’s our move…"
-- Tom Johnson, Magic Carpet Walk Beyond the Red Curtain
The American Soviet Walk
In the summer of 1987 about 230 Americans and 200 Soviets marched from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) to Moscow, USSR. The Walk, aimed at “ending an arms race nobody wants,” was unprecedented in the history of the American-Soviet relations. For the first time ever the citizens of the two opposing nuclear superpowers united in a large-scale, joint march for peace and nuclear disarmament.
A documentary about the Walk, “Soviet American Peace Walk” (“Поход за Мир”) was produced by the Central Studio of Documentary Films (CSDF) in the USSR. We worked with the Russian archival service Net-Film.ru to digitize the original footage, and obtained permission to re-publish the film in preview format. We also translated the Russian narrative text into English and added subtitles. You are welcome to view the 20-minute documentary below or on our YouTube channel which contains the largest online archive of video footage on American-Soviet citizen diplomacy.
It took three weeks for the participants of the American Soviet Peace Walk to cover roughly 400 miles on foot, traveling along highways and passing through villages, towns, and major cities. As a result, the Walk was directly experienced or witnessed by tens of thousands of Soviet citizens.
The informal, unmediated, everyday interaction between the Americans and the Soviets during the Walk helped to build mutual trust and understanding literally “one handshake at a time.” As a large-scale, grassroots social action, the Walk also underscored the average citizens’ discontent over the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which defined their countries’ foreign policy in the Cold War era.
On the 4th of July, 1987, marking the conclusion of the Walk and coinciding with the Independence Day celebrations in the U.S., the first joint rock concert was held in Moscow, with American and Soviet musicians performing together for a crowd of over 20,000. Several documentary films were produced about the Walk and the rock concert by both countries, and a book was published in the U.S. in 1988. The Walk was also covered in the U.S. by the Los Angeles Times, and in the U.S.S.R. by the major state newspaper Pravda (“The Truth”), where it was acknowledged in a letter from the General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Our Move provides free, open online access to a variety of resources about the American-Soviet citizen diplomacy movement. As one example, the (out-of-print) book about the Peace Walk of 1987 is now available on Google Books and Scribd repository of materials about the American-Soviet citizen diplomacy movement.
We also maintain (and invite contributions to) a Wikipedia page on the American-Soviet Peace Walks.
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