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Yanks for Stalin
Interview Transcript

Vladimir Posner
Russian Journalist

The following interview was conducted as a part of the documentary program Yanks for Stalin concerning American aid in the industrial development of the Soviet Union during the 20's and 30's:


Q Again the subject is mostly 20's and 30's, Americans coming to Russia.  Given the Russian social strategy at the time, how were these capitalists coming to Russia perceived?

It seems almost like a  paradox, in a certain way.  How could they be coming to a Socialist state to be engaged in enterprise?  You might talk about that, if you can, tell me about it.

A I think one has to understand in the early 20's, after the revolution and the civil war in Soviet Russia, the people had a sense of a world mission.  You know, (inaudible) of the world unite. Of the world, not just of Russia and when people started coming to Soviet Russia from different countries, but specifically and especially from America, which was also a country that had a certain degree of fascination for Russia, it was a signal that indeed the proletariat  of the world was uniting. People were coming to Russia to help this new society, create the industries, modern farming.  These were people that shared the hardships.  They lived in the tents. They dug the trenches.  They were not seen as some kind of borche specialists and that term in Soviet Russia. Borche specialist meaning someone who certainly knows his business, but is still somehow a stranger, not one of us.  These were people.  They came to work.  They came also, many of them, motivated by the ideals because there were not a few Americans who were caught up by this vision of a world without poverty, of a country where everyone was indeed equal, in the sense of true equality of opportunity, not depending on money, but depending only on your own brains and talents.  This attracted a lot of people.  So, I think that for the Russian who was there, who was active, these were not people to be suspicious about, but, on the contrary, people to emulate and seek as friends.

Q Great.  Well, since you know the American mentality from the other side, I mean here we are, when I tell people what we are doing, this story, they seem really surprised that Americans would be going to the former Soviet Union to work, as if it was the New America at that time.  So, you might talk about that American attitude, if you can.

A If you were to take some of the magazines and newspapers that appeared in the United States in 1918, for instance, the year after the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia and look at the covers, you would find political cartoons and characters.  One of which I could describe for you.  There is this terrible fierce looking individual with a black beard, a knife clenched between his teeth, he is holding a smoking bomb, the fuse is smoking in one hand, and with the other he is lifting up the American flag, under which he is crawling into America.  He has a fur cap and on the cap it says Bolshevik. Now, from day one, that was the way the Bolsheviks, later the Communists were portrayed in the United States.  There is a reason for it.  These were people who threatened to expropriate, to take away the property of the rich and give it to everybody else.  So, for the wealthy, who in America ran and run the presses and a lot of things, this reaction of fear and hatred was a very normal one and also the desire to instill this attitude in the average American, which indeed they managed to do. I mean the red scares, if you look at the 1920's, the famous Paler raids, if you look at the (Name)trials, the only reason these guys were put in the chair was because they are red.  They never committed in crimes, as we now officially know, pretty much.  All of this was a reaction to the dangers that were emanating from Soviet Russia.  So, obviously, when anyone said ' I am going to go to Russia and help them build whatever', it must have, for a lot of people, first of all, this could have been a trader in the way, and second, are you crazy? Don't you know that they share wives, the Commies and they do all these weird things and all of that.  So, I think what you've got there was your own internal propaganda in the United States, you have very strong, very well done propaganda, aimed at instilling fear in people.  Incidentally, a fear that is still alive today. I mean, so many years  later when there is no more Soviet Union and seemingly no Communist threat, still the word 'Russian' has a connotation that is more negative than positive.  If you say 'French', you know French, okay. But, 'Russian' instills something that makes some peoples hair bristle. So, that was the atmosphere that more than one generation grew up in America and, obviously, anyone who had any kind of sympathy for what was going on in Russia, was seen as a 'commie' or a red, or as a trader, or just as a nut, who didn't know what the heck he was doing.

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