Within a single decade, Bolshoi Theater in Moscow produced distinct versions of Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus by Igor Moiseyev (1958), Leonid Yakobson (1962), and Yuri Grigorovich (1968). A close examination of the three productions, analyzed along with evidence from the transcripts of the theater’s artistic committee meetings, newspaper criticism of the ballets, and audience surveys from the theater’s archive reveals how the productions participated in Thaw-era debates about the place of nationality in Soviet society. The original two choreographers, like Khachaturian, used the ballet as a place to stage the “Friendship of Peoples,” a metaphorical representation of Soviet society as a meeting place for diverse nationalities, conceived of as essentialized folk cultures. In 1968, when Grigorovich staged the ballet, he radically rearranged the score, replacing Khachaturian’s multi-ethnic display with an exhibition of ethnic homogenization. Grigorovich’s revisions reflected Khrushchev’s and Brezhnev’s campaigns to shape a single, unified Soviet national identity.
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