The World Festival of Youth and Students! Do you know its (hi)story?

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SEETIES On my journey of exploring new directions of creativity and innovation, recently, I’ve attended the World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS). The 19th edition of this grand event – hosted by Russia in Sochi Olympic Park, last October 2017 – has brought together about 20.000 young international delegates from 185 countries.


The WFYS was initiated by the USSR and the Eastern Bloc after World War II, organised by the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), a United Nations-recognised international youth non-governmental organisation, jointly with the International Union of Students since 1947. The first year, it took place in Prague. Then in Budapest, East Berlin, Bucharest, Warsaw, Moscow, Vienna, Helsinki, Sofia, East Berlin again, Havana, Moscow again, Pyongyang, Havana again, Algiers, Caracas, Pretoria, Quito, and last year in Sochi. The Festival has been held regularly since 1947 as an event of global youth solidarity for democracy and against war and imperialism. 

The World Federation of Democratic Youth was founded to bring together young people of both the socialist and capitalist countries to promote peaceful cooperation and mutual rejection of war. However, with the onset of the Cold War soon after, the organisation and the festivals became a matter of contention within the rivalry. Because of the enormous expenditure and coordination required to support a youth festival, most of the early festivals were held in cities in the socialist countries of Europe. However, many festivals, both then and more so since, have been held in non-socialist countries, affirming the commitment to peaceful coexistence between the peoples living under the different systems.

Goals, today

As depicted, WFYS aims to consolidate international youth community, strengthen international ties, as well as promote international and intercultural cooperation. One of the main goals of this Festival is shaping a common vision of the future by young people from different countries, trying to articulate responses to the most pressing challenges of this generation. The main agenda of the discussion program is to encompass the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations.

19th Festival in Sochi, Russia (Oct 2017)

The 19th Festival slogan was “For peace, solidarity and social justice, we struggle against imperialism. Honouring our past, we build the future! Together with the whole planet!” 

Each day of the Festival program was dedicated to a particular region of the world, the last one to the welcoming country (so, this time, Russia). There were a lot of very different and very interesting events: after the opening ceremony, several exhibitions, concerts, cultural activities, sporting activities, scientific and educational areas, traditional celebrations, and at the end the closing party. 

You can see photos and videos exploring on social media with the official hashtag: #WFYS2017.

My experience

I’ve marked my presence in this Festival together with my brother Sakhi (computer engineer) and more than 50 Pakistani delegates representing Pakistan in 19th WYFS in their own fields, from engineering, medicine, journalism, art, etc. I took part into various art and cultural activities: painting, flower making workshop, dance, cultural day (I wore a traditional gharara paired with handcrafted embroidery shawl), robot walk, industry of future, library of the future, master art class of watercolour, classic music performance, etc… We also experienced a little of different cultures and traditions through special events; for example, we celebrated Diwali festival over there with some Indian delegates. I continued that enjoyment and excitement of seeing things that were totally new or different for me; especially computer modeling, four-dimension video and two-digital image manipulation have fuelled my current art exploration. I’m keen to taste exotic art through journey of discovery and expression. It is the process by which I choose to explore the possibilities of crossing over disciplines and redefine my relationship with art and its incorporation in everyday life. 

World Festival of Youth and Students - Sochi, Russia - 2017 - CCT

I took advantage of being in Sochi for travelling around Russia and visiting also Moscow and Saint Petersburg. For me, there were a few “I can’t believe I’m here!” moments during my travels…

  • In Sochi: Black Sea, Sochi Olympic park & Sochi Park.
  • In Moscow: The Kremlin, Central House of Artist, Red Square, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Gorky Park, Ivan the Great Bell Tower, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier & State Historical Museum.
  • In Saint Petersburg: Hermitage Museum, Winter Palace, Church of the Savior on Blood, Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral & Nevsky Prospect.

You can see some photos from the festival, my travels and art, on Instagram

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