Russians and Americans miss Samantha Smith


MOSCOW, August 25. (RIA Novosti political analyst Pyotr Romanov.) Politics incredibly miss a normal person with a sincere and charming smile who could walk into the community of serious men and women who have long lost their political innocence, and ask them naive but correct questions that will clear up everything at once.

This happens very rarely. I remember just one episode when a small girl from the United States wrote a letter to Yury Andropov who had been elected General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee shortly before. She asked a question that many Americans had in mind: Are you going to drop an atomic bomb on America?

Her mother Jane Smith recalled that once The Times carried Andropov's portrait on the cover. The editorial described him as a very dangerous man who would apparently toughen relations between Russia and the U.S., and that it was unclear what to expect of him. Samantha approached her mother and asked: if everyone is so afraid of him, why doesn't somebody write him a letter and ask him pointblank whether he wants a war or not? Her mother suggested jokingly that she should write one herself.

Her mother was joking but nine year-old Samantha from a small city of Manchester from Maine decided to write a letter: "Dear Mr. Andropov, ... I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not?" It was in the fall of 1982, at the peak of the Cold War between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. Andropov was the incarnation of evil for the American elite because he had headed the KGB before.

Now we can only guess why Andropov replied to this naive question. Maybe it had an emotional impact on him, or it was merely a PR action, to use the current expression. If so, then it was one of the best in the history of the U.S.S.R. In the early 1980s, U.S.-Soviet relations were at their worst. Running for presidency in 1982, Reagan called Russians "the empire of evil" every now and then. To cut a long story short, Amantha wrote to the Kremlin and got a response. A girl of good manners, she wrote again, asking about life in the Soviet Union. Andropov invited her to come and see for herself.

What happened after seemed to be a marvel. A charming girl from Maine with an incredibly winning smile came to the U.S.S.R. and conquered Russians to the last man. She was carried by hand but she did not feel dizzy and having come home explained to her compatriots that there would be no war with the U.S.S.R. The only ones who might still wish to go to war in the "evil empire" were some senile generals.

Then came the woe, which is also natural because marvels do not last long. Samantha and her father died in an air crash twenty years ago, on August 25, 1985. I don't know where people wept more, in the U.S. or Russia.

Naive dreams. Boys and girls of America, write to the Kremlin. Come and see for yourselves how Russians live, and tell your compatriots at home. The whole truth without any exemptions.

There are still things we are ashamed of, but you have them, too.

You have things to be proud of, and we do to. Reading regularly American newspapers and magazines, I have come to the conclusion that your observations, maybe naive but definitely honest observations, will be much more true to life than what is written by American and other experts on Russia.

We will have subjects for discussion. Not the bombs, this is an old subject. Let's talk about life in today's Russia.

I don't know about others but having read all those stupidities written about my country, I'm dreaming of meeting in an airport a normal boy or girl from a backwater American state. I mean those who still look at the world with their eyes wide open, who won't call black white and the other way round, who will tell the truth from a lie with amazing ease as only kids can. As for politicians, diplomats, and political scientists, let them wait in a VIP hall. It has a very good snack bar.

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