Chapter 5 of the Soviet ABC
Enemies are dark forces that want to enslave or destroy the Soviet people.
Fighting the enemies was one of the primary tasks of a Soviet citizen.
The image of the enemy in the USSR was borrowed from Christianity.
The USSR was the first “state of workers and peasants,” and therefore, the Soviets saw themselves as the “chosen people,” perceiving the teachings of Carl Marx, Frederich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin.
Their adversaries were a devil named Capital and his henchmen, incomprehensible and mostly invisible. They preyed on human weaknesses, and only the righteous were able to beat them.
Soviet propaganda posters depicted Russia (and later the USSR) as the radiant center of the world while everything beyond its borders was dull or even black.
The theologians in medieval Europe did pretty much the same, drawing maps of the world with a center in Jerusalem.
The communist movement was a “crusade” for the liberation of the world proletariat suffering from evil imperialists. The idea that foreign workers would prefer to get rich rather than join their Soviet brothers and sisters in their holy war with the Capital hadn’t even occurred to the communists.
If Christian religion promised salvation after death, the early communists promised to improve people’s lives in five or ten years. The problem was their economic system did not work well: the quality of the products was very low, there were countless industrial accidents due to worn-out equipment, and stores were empty.
Naturally, the whole thing was the enemies’ fault, and in the late 1920s, the Soviet government began a great witch hunt, trying to expose spies, saboteurs, profiteers, and other “evil spirits” sent to the USSR by their foreign masters.
Fighting enemies was the easiest way to win praises from one’s superiors, and many used this method to make a career or to get rid of their competitors. In the 1930s, it was enough to write an anonymous report to invite the political police to your personal foe’s apartment.
When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, it just confirmed the old truth, “Those who lived outside our beloved motherland were some kind of beasts, not humans.” The hazy image of external enemies became grim reality as invaders committed massive atrocities in the country.
During WWII, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States were allies, but their friendship did not last long.
Conquering Eastern Europe and obtaining nuclear weapons made the USSR a superpower, and the initial idea of the global revolution and the crusade against the Capital resurrected. But the West immediately began to hinder the expansion of the socialist camp.
A direct clash of nuclear powers was impossible, so both sides began their “fight for peace” in the territories of Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and other countries.
On the personal level, we had no hard feeling towards Westerners. We were rather sympathetic to the common people who lived in the countries where the rich would grow steadily richer and the poor, poorer.
During the Cold War in the early 1980s, we the kids learned about the West from TV shows called International Panorama and Time. It was really scary to watch them: the adults constantly talked about the Western menace and the crazy American president who wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on us.
We felt really sorry for American children.
Teachers told us that the working class kids in America lived in dire poverty. They were not allowed to go to school and worked from dawn to dusk.
When I was in the second grade, I was shocked reading The Red Shoes by N. Kalma. It was about a black girl called Nancy who had no shoes and was afraid to get off of her bed since there were rats running around her little hut. Finally, Nancy’s mother saved enough money for the shoes and took her daughter to the store. Trembling with anticipation, Nancy tried the shoes on only to discover that they were too small for her.
The sales person said that Nancy’s mother still had to pay for the shoes. “I don’t want to lose business because of you,” he told her. “You should have known your daughter’s size beforehand. No decent American will buy these shoes after a black girl has tried them on.”
Then came a tall and strong man, a worker, who told poor Nancy and her mother not to cry, and bought the small shoes for his own little girl. Nancy’s mother paid for the bigger shoes, and they happily returned home.
I asked my mother if we could adopt a black boy from America, so that he wouldn’t suffer from such humiliation and could go to a good Soviet school.
But my mother said she had no idea how to do that.
So, I never got an American little brother.
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