The Cold War was bad. Or at least that’s what I’ve been lead to believe, as I wasn’t actually around back then. But all this talk of a possible nuclear war between America and Russia and something about Cubans and a crisis involving missiles sounds pretty hazardous to me, so it’s probably a good thing that the whole thing never really took off.
At the time, Americans were exposed to massive amounts of propaganda labelling the Russians as a totally inhuman species of evil robot-Satans known as Communists, and apparently every US citizen was both terrified of losing their precious country to the Red Menace and raging with the intensity of a thousand suns at their tenacity and audacity to even dare threaten the beautiful land of FREEDOM with a nuclear fist. President Reagan regarded the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”, elevating them to a status of evil only previously attained by Darth Vader’s legions in Star Wars. Needless to say, Soviet leader Yuri Andropov was probably regarded as wearing a black cloak while shooting lightning out of his hands and yelling about “ULTIMATE POWAAAH!”
But then along came Samantha Smith, a nine-year old American child. This youngster – apparently fearful of nothing or just didn’t think Star Wars was that scary – wrote a letter to Andropov in December 1982 asking if they were going to start a nuclear war. Naturally, people probably assumed this was just the antics of a child amounting to nothing more than contacting a make-believe boogey-man or Santa Claus. However, on this date in 1983 a letter was released from Andropov to young Smith in response to her letter. I think it’s safe to assume that the entirety of America gasped and shat simultaneously.
Andropov wrote that the Soviet Union wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” In response to Smith’s question about starting or preventing a nuclear war, he said, “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on earth.” He also compared Smith to the plucky character Beck Thatcher from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.
The Soviet leader also invited Smith to visit the Soviet Union, and the young girl did what no other person in America wished to do at the time – she accepted. She went on a trip with her parents, met Andropov and had a chat, met the people of Russia and came back to the States exclaiming that, “They’re just like us!” Suddenly, the enemy didn’t seem quite so scary, and Smith was considered an ambassador for peace between the nations and treated like a celebrity until her untimely death in a plane crash in 1985. One little girl managed to break a cycle of fear so large that it may have consumed the world in nuclear war. That’s a hell of a lot to live up to.
Thanks to history.com for the information. Also, I’ll be out watching The Avengers tomorrow evening so there will be no update – expect a review next week to make up for that!