The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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What is the Soviet Union really like? It is a mass of contradictions and it takes study and thought to understand it. There is one symbol—the dove of peace—that you meet practically everywhere. I saw it painted on the side of a truck as I was driving through the streets, I looked down on it from the tower of Moscow University outlined in stone below me. The circus ended with the release of a number of doves of peace. Everywhere this seems to be the symbol. You might think that it was an effort to keep the people reminded of their need for peace. Heaven knows, they don't need a reminder! They suffered enough in the war and you are soon aware of it. But that is not why it is done. It is done to remind the people that they must sacrifice and work for peace because their great enemy, the U.S., is trying to bring about a war. The dove of peace is a symbol that you carry away with you as being ever present, but don't forget for a minute that it is really intended to teach the people of the Soviet Union that while they love peace and want no war, the government of the U.S. is planning an aggressive war and the Soviet government is only trying to protect the people of the Soviet Union from U.S. aggression. If you forget this, you will be lulled into a kind of security which is very dangerous for all of us, but you are going to need much more understanding, much more willingness to learn before you can hope to avoid this war that these people are being indoctrinated into believing that we in the U.S. might start. Guns and atomic weapons are not going to win this war or prevent it. Much, much more has to be done and to try to show you why I say this, I am going to tell you as much as I was able to find out about what the Soviet Union is today. I will begin by giving you my interview with Mr. Khrushchev. You may not agree with my conclusions but I want to give you the basis for my thinking and so I will take you to see in these articles one thing after another that I saw and then I will try to evaluate the price that is paid by the people of the Soviet Union for these things, and what they mean not only to the Soviet people but to the people of Asia, Africa, and South America as well. On this understanding alone, I believe, can we form a policy which may save us from the war that the people of the Soviet Union dread as much as we do.

It is practically impossible for the people of the U.S. to believe that isolation such as exists in the Soviet Union can really exist anywhere in the world today. The only newspapers that can be bought in Russia are the Communist Soviet Papers, the Communist German papers, the Communist French papers, and the English Daily Worker. In the Soviet newspapers today you will get six pages of plans for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the revolution, you will get 2½ columns at most on world news and the only news about the U.S. that I have seen is that we have refused to allow our colored children to go to school in Arkansas and in Tennessee with our white children. When I pointed out to anyone that this particular difficulty involves only a small segment of the U.S., 7 or 8 states at most out of 48, and that this is not a fair presentation of news from the U.S., I am usually met with the remark that the individual I am speaking with knows nothing about politics. That is the refuge of all intelligent people in the Soviet Union who want a quiet life.

I have never felt as cut off from the world as I have in the weeks I have spent in the Soviet Union.

There is one thing that we must know. The Russians had a great scientist called Pavlov. His theory has been worked out so that now it is believed that through conditioned reflexes you can mould a human being into any pattern you desire. This has been worked out so that it begins with a child at the age of two months. I am not sure that these theories are not as important for us to understand as the fact that Lenin is the nearest thing to a saint that these people have to worship. The Revolution of 1917 unified the country, the people were fighting against wrongs and Lenin to them symbolizes the beginning of a better world for them. The war brought them terrible hardships which are still with them in memory and to some extent in actual fact. Mr. Khrushchev himself spoke of the loss of his son and 12,000,000 men in the war and the destruction of cities, towns and villages. In the last five years however enormous physical gains have been made in their daily lives. The proof of how they feel about Lenin is the long lines that for over 20 years wend their way to Lenin's tomb in the Kremlin every day it is open. People come from all over Russia and they form in lines that crawl for a mile and a half. I did not realize the length of the line till I followed it to its beginning and found that it wound back and forth three times in the garden along the Kremlin wall before it began to climb the last half mile of the hill up to the entrance of the tomb. To what do we give such devotion?

I am home and Oh so glad to be at home, but for the sake of our country and our people I hope that in these articles I can make you see the reasons why our misunderstandings are so great, and some of the things we must do if war and extermination are not to be the answer for both the people of the U.S. and the people of the Soviet Union, which really means the world as well for we can no longer isolate the results of war.


About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 30, 1957

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a draft version of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. New York City