Monday, April 25, 2016

U.S.S.R - #AtoZChallenge

The Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics.  The U.S.S.R.  The Soviet Union.

How many of you remember that country, which hasn't existed in nearly 26 years?

It was a large part of my childhood.  Fear of the U.S.S.R followed us every day of my young life.  Duck and cover drills, because the Soviets had "The Bomb", and they couldn't wait to use it on us. 

To this day, hearing the sirens calling out our neighborhood volunteer fire department make me cold and scared for a quick second before I reassure myself that the sirens aren't air raid sirens announcing the atomic end of the world as we know it.


In October, 1962, we nearly did face nuclear war.  I wonder how many children are taught about the Cuban Missile Crisis in school.

Or, if the Soviets didn't bomb us to a crisp, they would impose their evil Communist system on us.  The theme of my A to Z Challenge is Days of Our Lives and we came so close to all of our lives ending in October, 1962.  It's sobering.

Hatred of the Soviet Union got personal for my family, because my grandfather had immigrated from one of the countries the Soviet Union had swallowed over.  He was escaping pogroms in that country.  I'm told he was evading a forced draft into the army, which would have almost surely resulted in his death.  My parents hated the U.S.S.R and all it stood for.

Now years later, the U.S.S.R. is a historical footnote for my son, who is in his mid-20's.

One of my favorite pastimes is finding magazines from the World War II and Cold War era (especially World War II). This was a nice find at the Ithaca, NY library book sale in 2009, my first year of blogging.

The Ithaca, New York book sale, held twice a year, is one of the largest in the country.  They usually have some boxes of old Life, Look and other older magazines.  Sometimes they are musty, but they are always a treat for people like me to read.  The next sale is in May, and I hope I can make it up there.

The original post can be found here.  To quickly summarize:

At a library book sale several years ago, I found a little treasure - the March 29, 1943 "Special Issue USSR" with a picture of Joseph Stalin on the cover.

My inner historian reminded me that at this point in time the U.S.S.R was our ally (against Hitler).  I paged through the magazine and saw this article "Red Leaders. They are Tough, Loyal, Capable Administrators". Not exactly the, er, party line I would hear in my growing up. Other articles praised the accomplishments of the Soviet Union, and even the accomplishments of the Russia of the past 1,000. years.


To my Cold War amazement, there was even an article "The Soviets and the Post-War" subtitled "A Former Ambassador to Moscow Answers Some Perplexing Problems". The author is one Joseph E. Davies, who famously supported the Soviet government even back in the 1930's, before we became allies.

One question asked of Mr. Davies was "Is Russian determined to pursue the cause of world revolution?" His answer began "In my opinion, no."

Seven years later, in the Joseph McCarthy era, this article may have been unprintable. The story of Joseph Davies is quite interesting, if this article is accurate.

For anyone interested in history, this was a great find.

Do you remember the Soviet Union?  Duck and Cover?  The Cold War?  Do you like old magazines for their glimpses of a world now gone?

"U" Day in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

17 comments:

  1. Yes, I remember the Soviet Union. When the Berlin Wall fell, I watched that rather than study for an exam I had the next day. I was in college at the time.

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    1. I would always rather follow history in the making than learn it from a dull textbook.

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  2. I think I spent half of the 1950's under my desk in school. My grandfather left Russia in 1913. When war broke out, his family never forgave him for leaving. It was a very scary time during the Cold War and I am glad that my children never had to live with that threat. As for Stalin, our guide in Moscow seemed to be quite fond of him as we stood in front of his statue in Red Square. When my travel partner started in on his mass murders of Soviet citizens, I shushed her up. Not fond of spending my vacation in a Gulag.

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    1. I wouldn't have made any comments during a visit to Russia (which I've never visited), either.

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  3. Oh I remember the days of the USSR. I didn't know they inspired so much terror in American lives.....

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    1. Oh, the U.S.S.R did inspire terror - that communism would take over the world and we would live under a system that would have horrible effects in our lives.

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  4. Those must really be scary times. I have read about USSR only in history textbooks and used to wonder what it used to be like during cold war.

    A Whimsical Medley
    Twinkle Eyed Traveller

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    1. Be thankful you didn't live through it.

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  5. My senior year of college, 1980-1981, I lived in a dorm that also housed Russian exchange students. We didn't interact with them often, I think they were afraid of making a mistake and being sent home in disgrace. The huge difference between their life and ours became very evident one night in the lounge. The TV was on, and President Carter was addressing the nation. We were all chatting until the Russian students said "Shush, your President is talking".

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    1. Too many of us don't appreciate freedom, because we've never lived without it. I would have loved to know what those exchange students thought of our country. It may not have all been positive.

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  6. The Soviet Union was but one incarnation of a series of Russian Empires. One that Putin is hoping to bring to the fore, as we write and speak.

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  7. My maternal grandparents both came from Odessa. My grandpa was in the Tsar's army, and my grandma lost a sister to a pogrom (bayoneted after being gang raped). I was too little to remember the Cuba missile thing, but I knew some things with the USSR, esp the Commie Pinko tirades. Good time.

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    1. My paternal grandfather came from Pinsk. I wish I knew more about both sides of my family. I was old enough to somewhat understand what was going in in Cuba, but not old enough to understand the fear gripping all the adults in my life. I'm glad I wasn't old enough.

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  8. I read that as part of World History and now reading you feels, it must have been tough times. Those sirens, the news and fear looming over....

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  9. Visiting Russia and it's adjoining countries is in my to do list

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  10. I definitely remember the Soviet Union, but I went to school in the '70s and '80s after the Duck and Cover days. There was still a lot of fear then--lots of post-nuclear Apocalypse movies and books to fuel adolescent imaginations.

    I am fascinated by old magazines and books and love haunting library book sales for that reason. :)

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