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

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ST. LOUIS—As I look back on all my experiences in the weeks spent in the Soviet Union, I want to say first that I understand well the love of the Russian people for their own country.

It is a vast country, with many climates, many resources, many possibilities yet undeveloped in soil, in coal and oil and metals of all kinds. Above everything else, it has vast resources in human beings.

Like all people who have lived close to the soil, there is a devotion for the particular area in which they live. I can see this even in people who left Russia years ago. A taxi driver in New York asked me the other day about his old country and said wistfully: "The village I came from near Minsk was wiped out in the war but I would love to go back and just see that country again. I love it still."

This love of country accounts partly for the Russians' willingness to work and sacrifice when they are told it is necessary for the preservation of the their native land. A totalitarian regime which regulates all news makes it impossible for anyone in Russia to understand that there are different interpretations of events from those they have been given.

The fact that none but a Communist newspaper can be bought within the Soviet Union, even though there may be libraries with some magazines giving a fair opinion of the world scene, still means that the mass of people have very little concept of events or thinking in the world outside of their own.

The continuing political struggle at the top for power modifies only minor situations. The terror of secret police may be lessened, certain arbitrary rules may change somewhat. But all of the Soviet Union's leaders have believed in the Socialist doctrine, so the promotion of this idea goes on by different methods, perhaps, but the basic idea does not change. And I doubt if it will change.

This basic Socialistic idea may be modified as time goes on, but that will largely depend, I think, on what the free world is able to prove. The free world will have to believe as firmly that the wave of the future is democracy, freedom and justice and show how good this can be for human beings.

There is no real hope of modifying the beliefs of those dedicated to a Socialist and Communist idea, which still holds that communism is the final great hope for the happiness of human beings, unless we can prove by deeds that our accomplishments are greater.

In the life of the ordinary man and woman in Russia, all that is good has happened to them since the Revolution. I have told you a little of the advances in education and in medicine. We must recognize that there is an increase in urban living, but where the government is the employer, every man and woman in the Soviet Union has a job.

If a woman has many children, she may stay at home. Otherwise, the basis of all planning is to make it possible for men and women to work and, in spite of their working, to take good care of their children.

There is no comparison between life in the Soviet Union and in United States, for instance, because the whole objective is based on a different concept. This may modify as the need for a big labor force lessens, but at present it must be the policy of any government in the Soviet Union.

We must remember that the vast number of Soviet people have been peasants, have lived in huts in overcrowded conditions with no sanitation and other comforts, without medical care, without education and that religion was largely used to make these poor conditions of life accepted—a panacea to keep people quiet and make them think of a future life rather than of the miserable present.

So it is natural that the present government stresses for the mass of people the possibilities of education, the giving of medical care, the security of a job and an old-age pension, even though it asks for sacrifices and offers comparatively slow progress in the more modern comforts of living.

These things can give hope to the Russian people, and the signs in the factories which say "Be grateful" have in back of them some real improvements which we must recognize.

In addition, leaders of this regime not only believe in education but they have a real enthusiasm for research and a respect for the scientific mind and the processes which bring advances in the present-day world and which they feel bring them greater security in the struggle with the capitalist world.

It seems to me that this situation calls for understanding on our part, respect for these achievements, but a firmer belief in the possibilities of our own system.

E. R.

(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Saint Louis (Mo., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 18, 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 UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.