If you're still getting prompts, 40 rusame cold War era?
40: “Have I entered an alternate universe or did you really just crack a smile for me?”
Boy do I know just what to do for this! Prepare for an obscure little bit of historical fun facts!
Bless his immortal status. For were it not for the fact that his fate was tied to his land, Russia surely would have irreparable damage to his stomach now. The fierce anger he felt whenever America opened his mouth sent alarming pangs of pain throughout his insides. Sometimes it hurt to eat foods too acidic. And after the many years of war and starving and cold, Russia very much wanted to eat.
You’re interfering with my diet, too, he thought bitterly as he glared at the boisterous antics of the golden man gesticulating wildly and confidently. The stress of seeing America, the stress from his bosses comparing everything he and the western country did- none of it put Russia in a good mood when he saw America.
A mutual feeling.
No sooner did America turn, blue eyes landing on Russia, then that glowing smile turned into a sneer with alarming ease. Seeming to remember himself, America shook himself, donned a look that was supposed to be professional, and nodded curtly to Russia. Russia barely inclined his head a centimeter. But both knew that was as much as they could hope from each other when tensions were so up and down, unpredictable as a grenade, threatening to shatter them all.
It was with relief that Russia retired from the meetings and forced cordiality and returned home. He was tired, his muscles were sore, and his bones ached with weariness. After gratefully treating himself to a long bath, he was ready to simply throw himself into bed.
And then something caught his eye.
Sitting on his table was a magazine, its colors so vibrant he wondered how he hadn’t noticed it before. Snatching it up, he inspected the color.
Russia stared blankly at the magazine, turning it over, inspecting it from every angle. As he did so, a note fell out from one of his superiors.
The U.S. State Department has made these magazines of everyday life in America. In exchange, we are sending them magazines of everyday life in our glorious motherland. This will open avenues of cultural exchange and let us show the American people how well we live. I managed to get a copy put aside for you but from now on they shall just be printed and released, so you will need to get it yourself. Enjoy what you can of it.
Russia set the note aside and thumbed through the pages, curious in spite of himself. Much like Alfred, the magazine was ostentatious and proud to the point of gaudy. A sense of self-importance laced every line of text, and Russia frowned as he imagined the superior grin America must have boasted as this was compiled. It gave him some satisfaction knowing America’s people would soon be learning another way to live, that they would see how jaded America really was.
Polite propaganda, it would eventually be called.
Instead of his bed, Russia settled himself into his armchair, thumbing through casually, eyes only skimming the pages, intended on heading to sleep soon.
Skimming turned into reading through the whole thing, and only then did Russia retire to bed, vision filled with the tidbits he had learned, which followed him into the realm of dreams, expelling the usual uneasy sights that plagued his sleep. And so Russia dreamed of supermarkets and polio treatment research, new automobiles and the flashing of jazz instruments.
And so many Russians read about as well the following day. Russia looked around for where the magazines would be distributed, only to find them empty.
“Sold out, comrade. Flew off the shelves faster than anything I’ve seen,” he was told. Everywhere, everyone was enjoying the new reading material, whispering in hushed tones of the things they had learned, some boasting of knowing more, others gasping to be told more still. Without realizing it, Russia felt immensely glad he had secured a copy.
And he was determined to get every copy as they were released.
And more were released, each being swept up by inquisitive Soviet citizens faster than they could be made. Across the sea, Russia imagined, the U.S. was having to deal with a similar situation.
Such was his impression until he actually went there for a meeting ages later. In the U.S., they could barely get rid of the magazines sent by the Soviet Union. A few empty spaces among the shelves was proof of the blatant disinterest the citizens bore. Grimacing, wondering what the heavy weight in his stomach was- it was foreign from the biting stings he was accustomed to- Ivan trudged off to arrive at the latest meeting. Inside, he sat, waiting for the others to arrive. Alone with a dejectedness he did not understand, he pulled out his copy of the latest booklet on American life, stony faced as he read. Slowly, very slowly, the frown melted from his face as he grudgingly immersed himself in the new articles.
The prospect of televisions in millions of homes.
The rules of basketball.
Inexpensive fashion trends.
How to sew a dress easily and in one day.
Russia let out a soft peal of laughter at that, immediately imagining impatient, restless America, America with all his kinetic energy, pouring over a sewing machine, tracing exact lines of stitching, tongue poking out as he threaded the needle, forced himself to sit still and be precise.
A rustle sounded behind him.
“Have I entered an alternate universe or did you really just crack a smile for me?”
Russia’s head snapped up, face warming even as the blood drained from it. “America,” he said shortly. He began to lower the magazine but paused, leaving it visible.
America’s blue eyes fell on it. “Enjoying those?” he asked. His tone sounded casual, if not careful. It felt like they always had to be careful.
Silently, Russia nodded once.
America too nodded, looking away. “Cool…’s what they’re for. And teaching, and stuff.” He seemed suddenly very interested in his shoes.
“Do your children know that?” Russia asked, knowing it was important to keep things civil but wanting answers.
America grimaced, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “I…yeah, I mean…you saw that, huh?”
“There are many to see.” Russia carefully marked his page before folding his arms. “Not a copy sold, hmm? I will give you credit though for actually having them out to sell.”
“Copies have sold!” America protested, finally looking at Russia again. However warm Russia’s face felt before, America’s actually looked it. Wordlessly, America lifted his briefcase, snapping it open on the table. From a battered folder, he produced three copies of The USSR. “I…have more at home,” America said, sounding like he was dragging every word out kicking and screaming. But sincerity shone in his eyes and the remarkably humble way he stood, no longer trying to make himself as big as can be, but rather seeming withdrawn into himself. Glum, even. “Just didn’t want you to think no one was reading them.”
Russia regarded the man before him. It did not erase the indifference so many seemed to feel for life in the USSR. But somehow, for now, Russia felt he knew one of the most important readers out there was indeed very interested.
And so they each dreamt of each other’s lives and visions of the future, of togetherness and strength, of innovation and breaching celestial barriers. They dreamed of tomorrow.
Indeed, a magazine called Amerika was distributed in the Soviet Union and eventually the Soviet Union provided their own magazine for the United States titled The USSR. Both were to inform and inform the citizens of each land of life there. The topics listed were actually covered in Amerika. According to my Russian studies professor, they sold like crazy in the Soviet Union, while the magazines about the USSR given to America, unfortunately, were not as popular. I know each side saw it as an opportunity to spread propaganda, but I do think that disinterest is sad- shows how no one wanted to know about people elsewhere at the time. Hopefully this is a choice we all correct!