Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection
There are films and television shows, made in the late '50s
and early '60s
, that are very reluctant to name the Soviets as the enemy opposing our heroic American protagonists. The setting is clearly the then-contemporary Cold War
; the bad guys of the plot clearly are agents of a certain Marxist-Leninist, monolithic, totalitarian world power, but words like Kremlin, Russians, and KGB never seem to come up.
In these cases, the good guys always call them The Other Side, or The Enemy. And one can almost hear those capital letters being pronounced, when that other side is referred to.
This trope has been used in films made in other eras as well, showing other world conflicts with other opponents, but it seems more frequently used, and almost comically noticeable when the setting and the years in which the film was made is the Cold War. We imagine this comes about because the film makers hope to sell their work in those very nations they would rather not name. Perhaps it was hoped that not giving a specific enemy would keep the film from dating itself, which if true is remarkable foresight of an otherwise completely unanticipated series of events
. But in any case, be prepared for a lot of Mooks and The Dragon
who seem topical and familiar (and speak with Slavic accents).
The use of this trope diminished in the 70s and 80s, partly because during detente it became customary to occasionally show Americans and Soviets working together against a common enemy, often Neo
, Middle Eastern Terrorists
, Greedy Industrialists
, Organized Crime
or Alien Invaders
. It finally entered Forgotten Trope
territory with the dissolution of the Soviet Union
, with subsequent works openly invoking the hammer and sickle in Cold War period pieces. It still has some traction in certain former Soviet nations, such as Hungary and the Baltic states, which ban the display of "totalitarian symbols" of which the hammer & sickle is considered one (other symbols falling under the ban are usually the swastika and the arrow cross).
See also Anonymous Ringer
and Renegade Russian
. Compare No Swastikas
. Western Terrorists
and Terrorists Without a Cause
are a modern version, where one always deals with "a rogue faction", not any real organization.
Anime and Manga
- 009-1 is an anime produced in modern times but based on a manga from the Cold War era. It constantly refers to the East Bloc and West Bloc without ever naming the Russians (or any country). The manga being unavailable in the US, it's hard to tell if this was a carryover from it or if the series was deliberately being Retraux.
Eastern European Animation
- In Blake and Mortimer's adventure The Secret Of The Swordfish, the enemy is a conveniently fictional Asian country whose national symbol is a red star (this is averted in the original french version, where the country is clearly identified as... Tibet). In SOS Meteors, it's an unnamed superpower in Eastern Europe whose agents have Slavic-sounding names.
- In Tintin, the country of Borduria, with its mustachioed dictator Kūrvi-Tasch (Pleksy-Gladz in the original French), is a fictional Russian satellite state.
- In-universe, the trope is inverted by Bordurian agents in The Calculus Affair, when they demonstrate sound-weapon technology on a model of an unnamed "overseas" enemy city, which is clearly meant to be an Expy of New York.
- The Scrooge McDuck universe has the antagonistic nation of Brutopia: filled with Russian bears and anti-capitalism.
- Marvel Comics played with this trope. The USSR/Soviet Union were not always mentioned by name but terms like: Reds, Commies, Moscow and Kremlin were common. This let to odd situations. In the first issue of the Fantastic Four, they steal a space shuttle to beat the communists into space, given that no other nation had a space program at the time, it's a clear reference to the Soviet space program. However the Soviets are just mentioned as Communists. In some cases they averted it, Iron Man for example was injured in The Vietnam War and it's stated to be as such. However a lot of these references were removed as time went on.
- An early issue of Fantastic Four features a scam involving a Humongous Mecha that's being run by the "Red Star" mining company - which is only ever stated to be in turn in the employ of a "foreign power".
- Pat Mills intended Invasion to take place in a Britain occupied by the USSR; however, he was forbidden from doing this due to fears of antagonising the Soviet Embassy, and so the USSR became the Volgan Republic, a breakaway Soviet state that later managed to conquer the rest of the USSR and whose symbol is a stylised skull.
- Inverted in Judge Dredd; since it started in 1977 and featured Stalinist successor states to the USSR using the hammer and sickle in the early 22nd century, modern stories involving the Russian Mega Cities still show them using the hammer and sickle, and occasionally reference being Communist.
Films — Animated
- This Soviet cartoon is set in "Some Land". "Some Land" includes a place named "Fifth Avenue", Gratuitous English writing, and a legislative body called "the Senate". Gee, I wonder what country that's supposed to be. (It's also amusing to note that in 1963, the Soviet perception of American culture was apparently stuck in the 1920s.)
Films — Live-Action
- Not made during the Cold War, and set much earlier but mentionable: the Don Bluth animated film Anastasia ignores the politics of the Bolshevik Uprising (merging the February and October Revolutions into one event as well) and gives Rasputin a Historical Villain Upgrade to turn him into an evil sorcerer who sold his soul to the devil for magic so he could kill the Romanovs.
- Exactly one fleeting mention is given to "Reds" in an off-hand comment.
- The film Fantastic Voyage is an excellent example of this. Contemporary dress, cars, and attitudes set this firmly in the early 60s, but the opposing nation that has resources enough to have the same miniaturization technology and implied military might to make that possession dangerous as the US is never called anything but "The Other Side."
- The Villains in Top Gun are from an unnamed communist state, which is also referred to only as "The Other Side."
- In the 60s, the James Bond franchise replaced SMERSH from the novels (a real-life Soviet counterespionage agency) with SPECTRE (a made-up international criminal/terrorist organization) to avoid trouble.
- Swedish propaganda movies during WW2 are a special case. Since Sweden was neutral, all the countries involved in the actual war were potential enemies. It doesn't help warning people against the godless communists or beastly Huns if the spy or saboteur they actually have a chance of detecting works for the Western allies. Hence, spies, saboteurs etc. are just nefariously foreign, their allegiance is never spelled out, and they are given vaguely Mitteleuropean names (since people from any of the forces involved could be named such).
- The Hitchcock spy thriller North By Northwest, which is ostensibly about KGB agents trying to kill a non-existent CIA agent, never mentions the "enemy" side by name, and a new fictional government agency name is substituted for the CIA.
- A post Cold War example (in-universe as well as in Real Life): In Star Trek: First Contact it is revealed that one of the participants of World War III (from 2026 to 2053), and apparently as an enemy to the United States, was something called the Eastern Coalition (which in early scripts was "China"-they decided this would be a bad idea, however).
- In Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939), the enemy country was never identified, leading to a Cliff Hanger ending.
- Invasion U.S.A. (1952): Not the Chuck Norris vehicle, but an earlier film that featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000, was a particularly odd case. The film portrays an invasion of the United States by obviously Soviet armed forces, aided by communist subversion, and comes across as a direct plea for increased defense spending to combat the Red Scare. Nonetheless, the invading force is always "the enemy" and the Soviet Union is never identified by name.
- Why We Fight: The films overall, and The Battle of Russia egregiously so, don't mention Communism at all and only ever portray the Soviet Union as a strong and loyal ally.
- The "enemies of Freedom" in Project Moonbase, though we don't hear a single Slavic accent.
- In 1940, as Nazi troops marched across Europe and the U.S. remained (officially) neutral, MGM released The Mortal Storm. The movie had an explicitly anti-Nazi message, but MGM tried to mitigate the damage a bit by only once identifying Germany as the setting and referring to the presumably Jewish characters only as "non-Aryans". The Nazi regime was offended anyway and responded by banning all MGM films in Germany.
- Jules Verne originally intended Captain Nemo to be a deposed Polish prince, fighting a guerrilla war against the Imperial Russians in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but his publisher convinced him to change Nemo to an unnamed nationality and his enemy to one flying no flag on their ships. Verne's books sold very well in Russia and his publisher didn't want that to change.
- There are at least one Nancy Drew book and one The Hardy Boys book written in the 1970s that feature sabotage against the US space program where the culprits turn out to be people "in the employ of a foreign power". Which one, exactly, is never said.
- A non-Russian example: The vaguely-Asian invading power in The Tomorrow Series is never identified, and indeed no nation could possibly fit all the criteria for the invaders. This was an intentional decision by the author, who wanted to focus on the story and characters and didn't want nationalists to use the books for their own ends.
- A few Isaac Asimov short stories are set in a world where the Cold War has gone on for so long that most people don't even remember what the original names of the two power blocs are anymore, and simply referring to the two as "Them" and "Us" instead.
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea's first season featured spy thriller episodes. In several, obviously Russian officials and agents plot against the USS Seaview but they are never identified directly, despite tea samovars and faux Red Army uniforms seen in abundance.
- An original Twilight Zone episode, "Two", seems to follow this trope. Elizabeth Montgomery is very Soviet in uniform and appearance and her one line is "Precrassny", Russian for "pretty". Of course, it's clearly an After the End Adam and Eve Plot with an explicitly ambiguous Translation Convention, so perhaps not?
- Possible subversions: Two other original Twilight Zone episodes, "Probe 7, Over And Out" and "Third from the Sun", use this trope, but it turns out at the end that the characters are NOT from or on Earth, respectively. In this case, it's to setup a world we THINK we know, and then hit us with the Twist Ending.
- The Prisoner had a few episodes where Number Six or his former superiors at MI6 refer to 'The Other Side'. Of course, with how weird and vague The Prisoner could be, perhaps the other side ISN'T the Russians.
- And of course Number Six doesn't know which side actually runs the Village.
- The Avengers went this route, often referring to "the other side" instead of "Russians".
- The TV series Lost in Space had Dr. Smith, who was said to be an agent for The Other Side. During the first season, when he was an actual threat to the Robinsons, his cold, disaffected, menacing nature fit the cold war stereotype of a Soviet agent quite nicely.
- The first season of 24 featured a Serbian mafia/military family called the Drazens as the villains. Although they spoke Serbian on screen, they were often referred to being from the "Balkans" instead of Yugoslavia.
- Jack did at one point refer to Victor Drazen as having been Slobodan Milosevic's "shadow."
- The second season had diplomats and baddies from an unknown Arabic nation, which was only referred to as "a Middle Eastern state" by the characters.
- And the fifth season featured villains who, despite clearly being Russian separatists and having the assassination of the Russian President among their objectives, were referred to being from "Central Asia".
- The classic Doctor Who serial Warriors of the Deep was in a nightmare future where two "massive power blocs" were locked in... well, it was the cold war. But we only ever heard whoever the others were referred to as 'the opposing bloc'. Which was odd, considering two of the characters were undercover agents from their side and went on to refer to themselves as such after the reveal.
- Also happened in the tenth anniversary serial "The Three Doctors," where the Doctor is told that a set of mysterious photographs were shown to the Americans "and the other ones."
- Mission: Impossible occasionally referred to the Iron Curtain but the USSR was never specified as being the enemy: instead, the Bad Guys were merely described as "an unfriendly country" or with a fictitious Balkan-sounding name (regardless of what country was involved, though, they all seemed to use the same design of grey van with a distinctive rear-door arrangement...)
- In the first few seasons, the Voice on Tape often had to go to ridiculous lengths to avoid naming the country that Phelps (or Briggs) was being sent to (you'd think he'd kind of need to know that, wouldn't he?). In season 4, they started using various fictional country names, usually People's Republics of one sort or another. In season 5 they used a few real settings, including Japan, the only East Asian country ever visited in the original series. The last two seasons were mostly in the US.
- Episodes implicitly set in Germany referred to the "East Zone" and "West Zone."
- Averted in the 1980s revival, which even had a shot of the hammer and sickle in its opening sequence.
- In the Buck Rogers episode "The Trial of Buck Rogers", is was revealed that just before Buck left Earth, there was a conspiracy of high-ranking American officers to launch a first strike against The Other Side.
- Get Smart naturally had KAOS agents depicted as Commie Nazis-they evoked this trope and expanded on it when a Chinese KAOS agent gunned down her Slavic compatriots, scornfully telling them that their brand of KAOS was watered-down and decadent, adding "only in our country is there true KAOS!"
- Played straight in Data East's Secret Service pinball; although the antagonists are Soviet spies who use Gratuitous Russian, they are never named as such, and their flag is a solid red rectangle with a yellow star. A few references to "KGB agents" slipped through, however.
- The "Ruiner" table in Ruiner Pinball features a Cold War theme, but while the player is identified as the United States, the enemy is never explicitly identified.
- The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show had the villains Fearless Leader, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale come from the fictional country of Pottsylvania, a parody of a Cold War-era eastern European country (possibly based on East Germany).
- There was something like that in the former USSR-we had some generic imperialists instead of the US.
- To be more specific, the enemies are greedy imperialists who oppress <insert country> and deny its people free university education and healthcare. The later being illustrated by a dying old grandfather and his beautiful <insert a desperate relative> who is pleading for the authorities to help, but being turned down because she has no money. Oh, and she is probably black, because we all know that greedy imperialists are racists. All the fun times we had!
- The Americans were known for using a similar tactic, with a generic WP invasion coming from a country known as Krasnovia/Krasnova/Krasnoya
- The logo of the Finnish Communist Party◊, hammer and sickle avoided for historical (Winter War) and political reasons (most Finnish Communists have traditionally held considerable antipathy towards the post-Lenin Soviet Union).
- The flag of Angola, which replaces the hammer and sickle with a machete and a gear. (A machete being a more common agricultural tool in Africa than a sickle, and a cog more representative of modern industry.)
- Aeroflot-Russian Airlines averted this trope, retaining their winged hammer and sickle logo because it's the most recognizable symbol of Russia's airline.
- In North Korea, the flag of the ruling Korean Workers' Party is a modified version, with a paintbrush added to symbolize the artisans (the hammer and sickle, of course, represent the workers and the farmers respectively).
- North Korean propaganda itself averts this trope, as it explicitly identifies the United States as the enemy.
- The flag of East Germany was another variation, swapping the sickle for a compass.