Propaganda and Persuasion

The Cold War and the Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society


During the early Cold War, thousands of Canadians attended events organized by the Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society (CSFS) and subscribed to its publications. The CSFS aimed its message at progressive Canadians, hoping to convince them that the USSR was an egalitarian and enlightened state. Attempting to soften, define and redirect the antagonistic narratives of the day, the CSFS story is one of propaganda and persuasion in Cold War Canada.

The CSFS was linked to other groups on the Canadian political left and was consistently lead by Canadian communists. For many years, its leader and best known member was the enigmatic Dyson Carter. Raised in a religious family and educated as a scientist, Carter was a prolific author of both popular scientific and pro-Soviet books, and for many years was the editor of the CSFS’s magazine Northern Neighbours. Subtitled “Canada’s Authoritative Independent Magazine Reporting on the U.S.S.R.” the magazine featured glossy photo spreads of life in the Soviet Union and upbeat articles on science, medicine,cultural life, and visits to the USSR by Canadians. At the height of the Cold War, Carter claimed the magazine reached 10,000 subscribers across Canada.

Using previously unavailable archival sources and oral histories, Propaganda and Persuasion looks at the CSFS as a blend of social and political activism, where gender, class, and ethnicity linked communities, and ideology had significance.


“The Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society and its forebears were busy in Canada from the 1920s to the late 1980s, with most Canadians knowing very little about them. Jennifer Anderson has woven together a fascinating story of persistent Soviet propaganda activity in Canada and of Canadian fellow travellers who were sincere in their belief that the USSR provided the best answers to the world’s ills. Peace movements, ethnic societies, women’s organizations, and individuals are drawn into the narrative in fascinating detail."

J.L. Black, Professor Emeritus, Distinguished Research Professor, Department of History, Carleton University

“A product of considerable and thoughtful research into an understudied subject. Among its other contributions, the book helps us to perceive how foreign policy may be exercised at the grassroots level, even if sponsored and influenced by state actors.”

Andrew Burtch, Canadian Journal of History

About the Author

Jennifer Anderson is an archivist and historian living in Ottawa-Gatineau.

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Who’s Who of the Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society
Ch. 2 Setting the Stage: The Soviet Friendship Phenomenon, 1917–1949
Ch. 3 Institutionalizing Friendship: VOKS
Ch. 4 The Pro-Soviet Message in Words and Images: Dyson Carter and the CSFS
Ch. 5 Polishing the Soviet Image: the Canadian-Soviet Friendship Society and the “Progressive Ethnic Groups”
Ch. 6 The “Pink Tea Circuit” or “Dreams of Equality?” Women and the CSFS
Ch. 7 Culture as Political Persuasion: Performing Soviet Friendship

University of Manitoba Press is grateful for the support it receives for its publishing program from the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund; the Canada Council for the Arts; the Manitoba Department of Culture, Heritage, and Tourism; the Manitoba Arts Council; and the Aid to Scholarly Publishing Programme.