The Soviet Union had a special resonance in the American psyche, which had for centuries been fertile ground for millenarian doomsayers warning about the Antichrist, the Book of Revelations and the end times. It seemed that not only had the Marxist-Leninists attempted to destroy both God and individual liberty, but they could also bring about the end of the world, if pushed, writes Travis Jones, a Moscow-based emerging markets analyst.
This December 30th marks the 100th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s establishment in 1922 following the end of the Russian civil war. Despite the dispossession of the wealthier classes that accompanied the revolution and the terror which we’ve come to associate with Stalinism, the Soviet Union is commonly credited with an array of accomplishments, from victory in WWII to the assistance it offered the countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa in gaining independence, as well as the industrialization of the former Russian Empire and pioneering work in nuclear engineering and space exploration. However, throughout the 20th century, American attitudes towards the Soviet Union were overwhelmingly negative.
Reagan wasn’t just speaking for himself when, in 1983, he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and “the focus of evil in the modern world.” A National Opinion Research Center poll conducted in March 1982 asked, “Thinking about the different kinds of governments in the world today, which of these statements comes closest to how you feel about Communism as a form of government?” A full 61% replied “It’s the worst kind of all,” up from 44.2% in March 1973. Only 12.2% percent replied that it’s alright for some countries and 1.5% replied that it was a good form of government. Perhaps more surprisingly, a Gallup poll conducted decades beforehand, in September 1954, found that a meagre 0.4% of Americans had a favourable opinion of Soviet Russia, with 91.1% having an unfavourable opinion.