The 6th World Festival of Youth and Students was held in Moscow from 28 July to 11 August 1957, with the slogan For Peace and Friendship. It was one of the brightest events in the country’s international affairs during the first post-war decades.
Moscow's Main Archive Directorate (Glavarkhiv) contains documents showing how thoroughly Moscow prepared for the upcoming international youth event. A year before the festival, an International Preparatory Committee was formed to coordinate, prepare and manage the World Festival of Youth and Students and a permanent commission was set up at the Moscow City Executive Committee to resolve technical problems. New roads and hotels were constructed in Moscow, parks were landscaped, and a sports centre was built in Luzhniki – the Central Lenin Stadium – in the run-up to the event.
The emblem of the 1957 World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow was Pablo Picasso’s famous drawing Dove of Peace – a white dove carrying an olive branch in its beak. So the festival organisers entrusted Moscow residents with an unusual and very important mission – they asked Moscow residents to raise birds and train them to play a part in the festive events.
Pigeon breeders in Moscow and the Moscow Region as well as in nearby towns were instructed to breed tens of thousands of carrier pigeons, mostly white doves. The aviaries where the birds were kept were arranged with special care because keeping those birds needed specific conditions.
Special guidelines were published that said free-standing dovecotes were to be built according to standard designs. In the urban environment, the use of attic rooms, residential buildings, as well as indoor dovecotes was allowed. Birds were also raised on collectively run dovecotes at enterprises and institutions; some were kept in biology rooms at schools and at young naturalists’ clubs.
All that effort was put into organising the massive release of the white birds at the opening of the festival at the Central Lenin Stadium. Not all the birds provided were found suitable for this purpose; only the strongest ones that were “trained in flying in general and, in particular, in large flocks,” were accepted. Young healthy carrier pigeons “with good wings from dovecotes located up to 60-80 kilometres from the Central Stadium” were considered the best choice.
The Soviet people coped with their mission, and on 28 July 1957, during the opening ceremony of the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students, 40,000 snow-white doves soared into the sky above the Russian capital. They symbolised the Soviet Union’s commitment to the values of the festival movement and global peace.