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The Great Politics Mess-Up
The Presence was, uh, absent way too long.

Basil Exposition: A lot's happened since you were frozen. The Cold War is over!
Austin Powers: Finally those capitalist pigs will pay for their crimes, eh? Eh comrades? Eh?
Basil Exposition: Austin... we won.
(Pause)
Austin Powers: Oh, smashing, groovy, yay capitalism!
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Many events and changes in history catch almost everyone by surprise.

One of the most notable is the end of the Cold War.

Prior to World War II, it was common to hear people claiming that the Soviet Union was about to fall in a matter of years or even months. Not only did those predictions fail to come true, but the USSR even managed to survive a massive invasion by Nazi Germany, win the war against seemingly impossible odds, and extend its influence over a country or ten. The people who predicted its imminent demise felt rather silly, and the opposite mood began to set in, with everyone assuming that the Soviet Union would last forever (or at least long into the foreseeable future); heck, maybe even winning the Cold War. It was thus assumed that the end of the USSR could only come as part of the general End Of Everything-most likely as a result of nuclear war. The (relatively) peaceful collapse that actually took place at the dawn of The Nineties was very much unexpected and even mourned.

Ergo, it is rather funny to hear references to the Soviet Union, the Cold War, East/West Berlin and East/West Germany in Sci-Fi shows written before 1989 but set Twenty Minutes into the Future.

But as noted, that is not the only change to which this applies. Others include:
  • In an early example, the discovery of the New World caught everyone on both sides of the Atlantic by surprise, including Columbus who'd found the place. (Mind you, he was not the first European to arrive in the New World. The Vikings got there centuries before he did.)
    • By contrast, prior to the European discovery of Australia and Antarctica European geographers and sailors theorized a massive southern continent of equivalent size to all the northern continents combined ("Terra Australis", from which Australia would take its name). World maps from the 15th to 18th centuries often featured this entirely imaginary continent.
  • No one expected Napoleon to fail or to have succeeded in the first place.
  • No one expected additional World Wars after the horrors of the Great War to End all Wars.
  • No one expected the original Great War to End all Wars to be so horrible in the first place, or its messy aftermath.
  • No one expected the several European colonial empires to fall. note 
  • No one expected the communists to take power in Russia in the first place.
  • Unaware of the atom bomb, no one expected Japan to surrender three months after the Germans did so. While known to be beaten, everybody (even in Japan) expected them to fight to the very last man before surrendering.note 
  • No one in The Fifties expected the upheaval of The Sixties note  and nobody in either of said decades expected the malaise of The Seventies.
  • No one really expected apartheid to end peacefully.
  • No one barring some very clever early Science Fiction writers like E. M. Forster and Jules Verne and the very clever Nikola Tesla expected The Internet. Even when it came, few thought it would become so ubiquitous.note 
  • No one expected the upheavals in the Greater Middle East.note 
  • No one expected Osama bin Laden to be found and killed by American forces.
    • And if they did, nobody expected him to be hiding in a compound in a populated urban area less than a mile south from the Pakistani version of West Point. note 
  • No one expected Al-Qaeda, an until-then obscure terrorist group, to pull off something as big as 9/11.
  • No one expected the Pope to resign for the first time in over four hundred years.
  • No one expected China to become an economic power.note 
    • Actually, many in the 19th century thought if any Asian country could modernize and become a great power, it would be China, especially during the Self-Strengthening Period of the late 19th century-assuming Asians could pull off modernization at all. What wasn't expected was that Japan would become the first modern power to emerge from Asia.
    • No one expected China's two-thousand-year-old monarchy to be ended by a revolution. Circa 1900, some westerners imagined that it would eventually fall to European imperialism, but an internal revolution was not anticipated by anyone.
  • No one expected North Korea to outlast the rest of the Soviet bloc by so long. During the 1990s, many assumed that North Korea was on the verge of an East Germany-style collapse. Instead, in the face of no more Soviet backing, Kim Il-sung's death, and an infamous famine, the North Korean state proved surprisingly stable.
    • Conversely, after the Fall of Saigon, some thought that South Korea's days were numbered.
    • Same for Cuba, although it's much, much less isolated or extreme.

A lot of fiction written shortly before such unexpected events and set Twenty Minutes into the Future can seem ridiculous in hindsight-but usually it's not the author's fault, really.

Compare Science Marches On, Society Marches On and End of an Age. See also I Want My Jet Pack and Zeerust. See also Make the Bear Angry Again if the mess-up is somehow reversed.

Contrast Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell and History Marches On.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • British insurance company Norwich Union released an advert in 1989 which suggested the barriers between East and West might soon come down. When they did, they released a second advert, taking credit for their prescience.

    Anime and Manga 
  • An episode of the original Bubblegum Crisis revolved around a stolen super weapon that a minor villain had been going to sell to the East Germans.
    • On the other hand, supplemental materials references to the fall of the Soviet Union and other political changes are pretty much spot-on (though, BGC OVAs being in development in from 86 through 92, it might've just been a later addition).
  • Gundam 00 has a brief mention of the IRA declaring a ceasefire in the far future (after 2300). This already happened in real life, in 2005, 2 years before Gundam 00 was even announced, however, the organisation that declared a ceasefire was the "Real IRA", presumably some sort of spiritual successor, although there is a real "Real IRA".
    • Same with the Sri Lankan Civil War. In the series, Celestial Being did an intervention to stop the war... which basically just ended in 2009. But it's one of those wars that may or may not come back with new force after a few years, depending on whether the Sri Lankan government is magnanimous in victory and helps the Tamils get back on their feet and addresses the grievances that caused the conflict.
  • GunBuster, made in 1988 but set in 2023, had Jung Freud, one of the Soviet Union's ace pilots. Presumably she was from East Germany.
    • Well, formally, East Germany wasn't part of the Soviet Union, but in reality... It was a 100 % puppet state, they called them "satellite state" not without a reason.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell manga, the Soviet Union is still going in 2030, though revisions and reprints made after 1992 by Shirow Masamune himself changed this to reflect their downfall. The establishment of the Soviet Union still existing in the future was made in the Appleseed series during the 80's. Ghost in the Shell is a sister series that takes place almost a century before Appleseed, but was written in the early 90's.
    • There was some mess ups in-universe that were mostly corrected. There was a World War III during the mid 90's, and a World War IV in 2019-2020, and in addition to the United States of America there is also the American Empire, among other things. (Side note: Berlin, Germany ended up being almost completely wiped off the map during both wars.)
      • The United States was separated into three countries after a civil war that took part during World War IV. The American Empire AKA Imperial Americana makes up the largest part of the country, with all the states east New Mexico, south of South Dakota, and south of the New England area, including Washington D.C. The still democratic United States Of America was reduced to the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. The New England states, California, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii became the Ameri-Soviet Union (revised to the Russo-American Alliance after 1992).
  • The story of SPT Layzner features students from both sides of the Iron Curtain traveling to the moon together on the equivalent of a field trip. At least it actually predicts that the conflict between both sides will end, just much slower than it actually did. Also, the potential end of this Cold War is the stated reason that the aliens show up in the first place, to take over the world before the two sides work together well enough to take over their planet, which they have no idea exists in the first f-ing place.
  • Transformers Masterforce refers to Ginrai traveling in West Germany; Masterforce was made in 1989 but set some time after 2011.
  • Patlabor, created in the late '80s but taking place in the late '90s has this. The Brocken military mech that shows up to cause trouble for the Mobile Police in every continuity was said to have been commissioned by West Germany's border guards and the OAV episode featuring it has it "accidentally" falling into the hands of communist sympathizers as part of some kind of ill-conceived War for Fun and Profit scheme by the manufacturer. A memorable episode of the TV series involved a Soviet defector bringing an experimental mech to a Japanese seaside resort town where everybody was actually a spy of some sort. The second movie mentions the end of the Cold War, but it's uncertain if this is a Retcon or if it happened sometime between 1998 and 2002 in the movie-verse.
  • Angel Cop suffers from this as it takes place under the belief that the Japanese economy would continue to grow; instead, the economic bubble popped in the mid '90s.
  • Go Lion started with Earth being destroyed in World War III, when the east and west finally launched their missiles at each other in 1999.
  • 009-1 the anime takes place in an alternate world where the Cold War continues... because the original manga was made in the 1960s and used the Cold War.
  • In Otaku no Video, made in 1991, the Iron Curtain still exists and Gorbachev is still in power in 1997.
  • In AKIRA, set in 2019, a Soviet Navy helicopter transports scientists to an American aircraft carrier.

    Comic Books 
  • In the comic Camelot 3000 King Arthur and Merlin are resurrected and their knights reincarnated in the year 3000. Almost nothing has changed politically since the 1970s or early 80s, except that there are now four power blocs. The USA has a Ronald Reagan-esque president who dresses as a cowboy and carries authentic sixguns. The USSR is led by Comrade Yazof, a Brezhnev lookalike; China is led by Chairperson Feng (a lady Mao); and Africa by The Supreme Rakma, an Idi Amin type. Apartheid also still exists, and Gawain is reincarnated as a black South African.
    • And this is after a nuclear war that blasted man back to the medieval period.
  • The Marvel Comics group called the Soviet Super-Soldiers is an unusual example because stories set in the present were affected. This happened because Comic Book Time slowly pushes forward the date of any present-day stories. Several years after the breakup of the USSR the group not only wasn't Soviet, but none of its previous adventures were either. This resulted in an embarrassing time period when it was carefully left unnamed every time it was used, until Marvel finally settled on "Winter Guard" as the name it always had.
  • An early issue of Ultimate X-Men featured the X-Men foiling a plot by the Provisional IRA. At the time, the 1998 Peace Agreement was still young, and many suspected it might not hold. It did, and the Provisional IRA destroyed its last weapons and ceased to exist some time around 2005.
  • American Flagg dances on the verge, but still manages to fall into this pit, though it falls very gracefully. The sight of ultra-capitalist Soviets and "Stalinland" theme parks fifty years in the future (in a mid-to-late 80s comic which ended just as the Berlin Wall fell) seems almost like a foreshadowing.
  • In early Judge Dredd comics, the Soviet Union is depicted as surviving into the 22nd century, having been renamed as the 'Sov Blok', and is depicted as the main villain in the Apocalypse War storyline. In later comics, it enters a Glasnost period, before reverting back to its previous militaristic self, although it uses the Judge System instead of being communist.
  • In IDW's Transformers: Escalation, much of the plot during the second half or so consist of the Decepticons trying to stir up conflict between the Soviet Union and a breakaway republic called Brasnya. This was written in 2006. Explanations, please.
    • They started referring to Russia instead of the Soviet Union later on, mind you.
  • Nexus, set in the 25th century, really got hit by this, since the ongoing Cold War between the Sov and the Cohesive Web was a significant plot point of the story. The writers had the good sense, though, to just say that, well, at some point between now and then, the Soviet Union was reestablished and in turn established an interstellar colonial empire to rival America's. The funny part is that the story, including the ones written back in the seventies, repeatedly refers to the Sov as being in decline and on the brink of collapse.
  • While the present day period of Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja is never established, it's suggested to be on or near 1989, when the first issue was published. Reading it in hindsight can feel rather anachronistic, given how much of the story relies on Cold War tensions and the Red Scare (particularly an exchange of warheads between the US and the USSR).
  • In Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth, the map of the Uplifted Animal-controlled post-apocalyptic Earth shows that Siberia is now the "Communi-Bear Silo State". Human civilisation has collapsed entirely, but Russia is still communist.
  • Strikeforce: Morituri managed to get things wrong in both directions at once. The story is set in 2072, but the Soviet Union still exists under the "Paideia" One World Order. However, a memorial seen in one panel implies that South African apartheid collapsed in 1989, a few years too optimistic a prediction.
  • This is why Black Widow was Retconned into possessing slowed aging. Marvel wanted to keep her Cold War ties and her back story as a Soviet super spy without having to retroactively make her appear decades older.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The plot of 2010: The Year We Make Contact revolves around the Cold War. Although not the book's, which is why a few lines about peace are tacked on to the message at the end of the film.
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey also had the Soviet Union around, obviously. Plus a USA-USSR pact opposing China, which is the opposite of what happened in real life, but was plausible in the 1960s when written due to border clashes between China and the Soviet Union (Hunter S. Thompson was writing about the possibility as late as 1974, although that's partly because of his conviction that Richard Nixon was the Devil).
      • Fridge Brilliance: The Soviet Union is never mentioned by name in the film, and given the current status of Russia as a frenemy of the United States, the political aspects of it actually haven't dated all that much.
    • The book 2061 not only has the Soviet Union still around, it has South African apartheid continue until the 2030s, when it is destroyed by a violent revolution that scatters the Afrikaners across the Earth and Solar System. They more or less become the new Jews.
    • The 2001 series had a sort-of double mess-up. In the first book (and movie), though the USSR is still around, it and the US are cooperating and have friendly relations (as shown by Floyd chatting casually with Soviet citizens, who are also clearly friends, on the space station. They even inform each other that they're always welcome to come by to visit whenever they just happen to be in each other's countries). When Clarke wrote 2010 (in 1982) it was obvious the real-world US and USSR were not quite being so friendly, so he decided that there should be conflict between the Soviet and American astronauts because of their respective countries' rivalry (though not as blatant as in the film, where the two countries are at the brink of war). Of course, fast forward to the real year 2001, where Soviet Union is gone, the US is supreme, and where, in fact, Russia and the US are building a joint space station, though not one as big and fancy as the one in the book.
  • Spoofed in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. The title character, after being frozen in 1967 and unfrozen in 1997, is shocked at the presence of a Russian intelligence officer. When he is told that the Cold War ended, he initially assumes that the Communists won.
    • Which makes sense, why else would a Russian intelligence officer be there if the Cold War ended aside from to plumb him for information on former British intelligence operations.
  • Ditto in the surprisingly entertaining Brendan Fraser film Blast from the Past. After emerging from their fallout shelter after three or so decades, the father (Christopher Walken) refuses to believe that the Soviet Union collapsed without a fight.
  • In a similar way, the Serbian film Underground bases its entire premise on the characters being duped into thinking that the Second World War is still going on.
  • RoboCop (1987), set at some unclear future date after 1987, implies that the Cold War is still going on, with references to SDI and the MX missile. The latter, which became the Peacekeeper, has now been scrapped.
    • References are also made to the South African apartheid government which is not only still in power, but actively threatening to deploy a neutron bomb against insurgents, thus promoting them from racist assholes to cartoonish supervillains (although, in Real Life, they did have nukes).
  • In the film version of Pushkin's poem Onegin, there is a throwaway line about communism, which is pretty good going for a story published 16 years before the Communist Manifesto. A less egregious example of this as regards foresight about 1917 comes in the 1990s Sean Bean/Sophie Marceau version of Anna Karenina, where Vronsky is the one making throwaway remarks about the coming of communism in the 1880s, when such fears would have been more realistic, though still slightly misplaced. It seems from historical films about Russia set in the 19th century that the whole country had nothing better to do than to muse upon its ultimate 20th century fate.
    • Note that even during the 1880s, the word "communism" was still obscure. "Socialism", "social democracy" and "populism" were the political boogeymen of the day.
  • That's what Billy Wilder's otherwise pretty good One, Two, Three suffered from. Originally a light-hearted comedy with Dirty Commies, it became a massive case of Too Soon when The Berlin Wall was built (during filming!). Before August 1961, people could cross the border between West and East Berlin quite easily - which millions of East Germans used to move to the golden west. The movie was based on this premise and suffered when the wall was built.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, during a global loss of power, Leningrad's power grid is described to have collapsed. Leningrad reverted in 1991 to its pre-revolutionary name, St. Petersburg.
    • The name of the oblast, on the other hand, is still Leningrad. If the power grid includes the entire area, the statement is technically correct.
    • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was made as a commentary about this trope.
  • Notably lampshaded in the James Bond film GoldenEye. The film starts out during the late Cold War years, and TimeSkips to a visibly post-Soviet Russia.
  • An inversion of sorts. The DVD menu for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull includes a shot of a world map. It's a post-Cold War map, even though the movie is set in 1957 and the Soviets are the main villains.
  • Averted in the making of Zero Dark Thirty where the film was initially written as about the unsuccessful hunt for Osama bin Laden. However, when the terrorist was assassinated by US commandos, the film production was able to change the ending to fit this.

    Literature 
  • In a bit of a meta-entry, several techno-thrillers and what-if war novels from 1978's The Third World War though 1984's Red Storm Rising to 1990's Sword Point, all written prior to The Great Politics Mess-Up have World War III end up in a status quo ante peace treaty, where other than a few million dead, the Superpowers continue their struggle against each other as if nothing happened! It was almost as if no author could remember a time before the two super powers, or imagine a time after them.
  • John Wyndham appears to have been among the first people to believe the Soviet Union was going to collapse at some point, and not in a manner that took human civilization down with it, because any of his books that are set in what in the 1960s would have been Next Sunday A.D. usually include a bit of exposition about the Cold War.
  • The Gates Of Eden by Brian Stableford is set in 2441. The captain of a returned cold-sleep ship is surprised, not to say exasperated, that after 350 years and one ecological collapse there is still a "West" and a "Soviet bloc", "and they're still 'they' and we're 'us'." On the other hand, the deep space arms of both groups care less and less about what Earth thinks.
  • In the prototypical Cyber Punk novel Neuromancer, the Soviet Union is still alive and kicking; in fact, it's the United States that's fallen apart.
    Quoth Gibson: I wrote the book so that it`s impossible to prove from internal evidence that the United States exists as a nation state. It seems to exist as some sort of congerie of city states and, possibly as the result of some semi-abortive not too bad sort of nuclear war... But I left the Soviet Union looming and rusting away, a sort of slag heap. I never imagined that it could dry up and blow up away.
    • While in Robert A. Heinlein's Friday the USSR fell only after the dissolution of the USA.
    • Neuromancer and its sequels also feature a world dominated by Japanese corporations.
  • Jack Ryan:
    • The Sum of All Fears is a close one-written in early 1991, months before the breakup of the Soviet Union, and revolves around a "hoaxed" Soviet attack on the US in January 1992, by which time the USSR had been formally dissolved for a month.
    • His portrayal of the prominent Afghan viewpoint character, a mujahideen, in Cardinal of the Kremlin also uses the "tragic, noble victims of the invading Soviets" political Historical Hero Upgrade common in those times as he was stated to have been nothing but a peaceful teacher who only became a ruthless killer after the Soviets had ruined his life and killed his family and that he wouldn't have even picked up a gun if it were otherwise. Played with in that the other mujahideen viewpoint character is Axe Crazy, but it still didn't stop the novel ultimately laying the fault on the Soviet invasion and the American interference in it:
      Not a trick, Ortiz [a CIA agent] noted. He called it a tactic. He wants to go after transports now, he wants to kill a hundred Russians at a time. Jesus, what have I made this man?note 
  • In the novelization of the film Fantastic Voyage, there are two superpowers referred to simply as "Us" and "Them". The novelization was written by Isaac Asimov, who uses this same device in his own short story "Let's Get Together" and even mentions that the political maps have changed over the years. The maps used to show "Us" (and allies) as a pure pristine white and "Them" (and their allies) as a deep, brooding, bloody red, but now both sides are depicted in pastel shades. It's implied that the political ideologies have drifted closer together as well.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Eternity Weeps, published in 1997 but set in 2003, features Iran and Iraq soldiers competing to acquire an alien artifact. No-one could have foreseen that in 2003 Iraq would be occupied by the US-led coalition.
  • While not a Sci-Fi novel, the Dale Brown novel Sky Masters was published in 1991 and set in 1994. It makes references to the Soviet Union (which would cease to exist at the end of 1991) and features the Strategic Air Command in a prominent role. The SAC would be abolished in 1992.
  • A major plot point of Eon, the Greg Bear novel written in 1985 and set in the early 21st century, is that the USSR still exists and the Third World War breaks out between it and the USA. On the other hand the plot makes extensive use of the concept of parallel worlds and alternate histories, which handwaves the problem away: The story is not taking place in our timeline.
  • The Pliocene Saga by Julian May takes place both in the 21st century and in the Pliocene. The Soviet Union plays a prominent, but peaceful, role in psychic research. The author has had to dodge the Soviet issue in the sequels.
  • The Third Millenium, a book of future history by David Langford and Brian Stableford, written in 1985, has communism (and capitalism) collapsing in the mid 21st century, but the USSR existing as a political entity right up until 3000.
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium is a world government evolving out of cooperation between the US and USSR in the 1990s. When the real 1991 came around, Pournelle retconned the timeline so the CoDominium was founded in 2000. Not to mention also adding a Soviet coup to reestablish the USSR 20 minutes into the future, which had collapsed in reality.
  • The Eclipse trilogy by John Shirley happens in an early 21st century with a Third World War between NATO and the Warsaw Pact bloc. It was retconned later to a revived Soviet Union.
  • Ender’s Game, which was first published in 1985, was released in a new edition in 1991 so that references to Russia would reflect the decline of the Soviet Union.
    • The sequel Shadow trilogy did not anticipate South Sudan becoming independent.
  • The Third World War: August 1985, a 1978 mock-history book on a World War III, has the USSR collapse in 1985... In a highly violent manner after the nuclear destruction of Minsk, now Belarus, and Birmingham, UK.
  • Jack Chalker's original Well World novels from the 1970s featured Com Worlds, generally horrific dystopian planets descended from earth's Communist nations. At the end of that series the whole universe gets rebooted. The next series reveals that human history was altered slightly by the reboot, resulting in the world as we know it and the presumption that Com Worlds will not be a big part of the new future. (Rebooting the universe allows you to Retcon everything, it seems.)
  • In Stephen King's novel The Stand, written in 1979 and set in 1990, an American general instructs his subordinate to release a virus in each of the Soviet satellite states.
    • The Dead Zone has a relatively minor one: Johnny Smith's vision of a future nuclear apocalypse ushered in by President Greg Stillson. Smith predicts that the war will originate in South Africa which, at the time the book was written, was pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the direction of the apartheid government. However, South Africa dismantled its arsenal in 1989, three years before Smith predicted Stillson would be elected.
  • The Zone World War III novels by James Rouch (written in the 1980s, though an actual year is never mentioned) are now referred to as Alternate History for this reason.
  • James Blish's Cities in Flight series involves the Western democratic government model becoming ever more intolerant, eventually resembling the Soviet model very closely, and then the Soviets winning the war (and absorbing the West) because they were better at being Soviets.
  • Mack Maloney's Wingman series, first published in 1984, had World War III take place in the 80s, and in the 90s, some time after the real-life collapse, the Soviet Union (which somehow still exists despite being bombed into oblivion in the war) uses a traitorous Vice President to let them bomb and take over the United States.
  • A Woman of the Iron People by Eleanor Arnason (copyright 1991) not only has the Soviet Union survive, it has communism as the dominant political system of Earth at the time of the First Interstellar Expedition (on which the main characters traveled).
  • Joe Haldeman's book Worlds, written in 1981, is set in roughly 2085, with a significant population living on satellite semi-independent "worlds" in space, but makes note that on Earth, most of Asia is now part of the "Supreme Socialist Union."
  • John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar actually handles this pretty well, despite being written in 1968. The USSR isn't gone in 2010, but it's mostly defunct and implied to be Communist only in name, and the real threat is ... China. A lot of other predictions in the book are surprisingly accurate as well.
  • The short story "Fire Watch" by Connie Willis derives substantial drama from time traveller John Bartholomew's difficulty in resolving the cognitive dissonance caused by observing a 20th century British communist serving on the St. Paul's Cathedral fire watch during WWII while knowing that St. Paul's will be destroyed by the USSR during the 21st century. This point is retconned in later stories, leaving the plot of "Fire Watch" somewhat confusing.
  • In the 1990 short story "The Emperor's Return" by Harry Turtledove, the Soviet Union invades Turkey in 2003 - and not only that, Greece has gone communist as well and is allied with the USSR. Now, since Turtledove has made most of his career writing Alternate History, Fantasy or any possible combination of bothnote  it's very easy to handwave that.
  • In the novel The Presidents Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth, Cade, the eponymous vampire, assassinated Osama bin Laden on September 12, 2001. This could not be revealed to the public without breaking the Masquerade, especially after bin Laden revealed his true form as a Deep One.
  • Occurs in The Count of Monte Cristo when the Abbé Farrier (who has been locked up in prison since long before Napoleon's fall) remarks to Dante that he assumes all of Europe has now been united under Bonapartist rule. Dante replies, "The emperor is no longer in power." Then Farrier says, "Then who is? Napoleon II I assume." Dante: "Louis XVIII". A few years after the book was published, Napoleon's nephew Napoleon III was placed on the French throne, due in part to the popularity of the book which renewed interest in Bonapartism.
    • For the record, Louis XVIII did reign during 1814-1824.
  • In Voyage from Yesteryear by James P. Hogan, the Soviet Union is stated to have collapsed in 2021.
  • In Simon Hawke's The Wizard of Camelot, a resurrected Merlin is nearly assassinated by a Provisional IRA terrorist in 2182. Even if the Good Friday Accords fail in the future, those splinter groups which still agitate against peace in Northern Ireland now spurn the "Provo" name.
  • Norman Spinrad's 1991 novel Russian Spring was overtaken by events within months of its publication. The novel was an extrapolation of the events that actually led to the fall of the Soviet Union, but predicted a more gradual, on-going evolution and opening-up. As the old guard of Soviet leaders continued to age and die, a new generation of young Russians became adept at working around the restraints of what was left of Communism, and started a cultural and artistic renaissance that soon became the envy of the rest of Europe, while America became increasingly insular and stagnant.
  • The early books of the Venus Prime series, being based on old short stories written by Arthur C. Clarke and having been started in the eighties, imply that Russia is still Communist, despite taking place at least a century into the future. The last book, written more recently, clarifies that the Soviet Union is still around (or reformed itself), but the second "S" in USSR stands for something other than "Socialist", and apparently, there are still Russian who want to return their country to socialism.
  • Clive Cussler's Corsair is centered in Libya where Muammar Gaddafi announces an increased co-operation with NATO in anti-terrorism efforts. The book was written just two years before the Libyan Civil War.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A poster in Red Dwarf, on board on a ship that left the solar system in either the 21st, 22nd or 23rd century depending on the series, features a rather prominent Soviet flag. There was also an episode in which the characters become convinced they're in Bulgaria, and seem to think it's still part of the Communist bloc.
  • The second episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation featured the SS Tsiolkovsky whose dedication plaque reveals that it was built and launched in the USSR in 2363.
    • Chekov mentioned Leningrad in two separate episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series and, unlike the Trek example above in film, both are clearly references to the city. On the plus side, Chekov always referred to his homeland as "Russia", never uttering the words "Soviet Union" or "USSR". It's pretty clear that the writers imagined Russia would still be like the Soviet Union in the future (minus the Cold War, of course, since Earth is completely at peace in the twenty-third century), but the fact that they didn't actually call it that makes it easier to Hand Wave.
    • In The Next Generation episode "The High Ground", Data casually mentions that a series of terrorist attacks lead to the reunification of Ireland into a single state in 2024. At the point the episode was released (1990), a peace treaty was seen as utterly inconceivable, let alone that it would take effect by the end of that decade. Of course, reunification in full has still not happened, and probably won't for as long as the United Kingdom remains. Incidentally, the reference to Ireland being reunited from terrorism led to this episode being banned on British television for years afterward.
  • While not being explicit about it, the Doctor Who story Warriors of the Deep (set circa 2084) involves two superpowers armed with nuclear weapons that highly mistrust each other. The Doctor even comments that nothing has changed: "There are still two power blocs, fingers poised to annihilate each other." To make things vaguer, Ingrid Pitt's character has an Eastern European accent (she was born in Poland).
    • The Novelization doesn't even have the half-assed aversion; the blocs are named as East and West, and the sea base residents (the "good guys") are from the West Bloc, while the East Bloc has a policy of "uniformity, obedience and central control". It was not adapted by the original writer, and shoots any subtlety in the original setup stone dead.
    • Several UNIT stories produced in both the 70s and the 80s also mention the "end of the Cold War" but still have a USSR. This combines The Great Politics Mess-Up with the UNIT dating mess-up, since UNIT stories were notoriously vague and contradictory as to whether they were Twenty Minutes into the Future or The Present Day.
      • The "end of the Cold War but still USSR" is not too far-fetched considering the gap between the collapse of Eastern European Communist regimes in 1989 and the Soviet Union's formal dissolution on Christmas 1991.
  • The made-for-TV movie Amerika posits a U.S. that was taken over by the Soviet Union and was now Soviet-occupied territory. The reason given in the movie as to why this happens is "American apathy."
    • To contrast, there is also a novel entitled USSA: United Soviet States of America, which is a murder mystery set in American-occupied Russia.
  • Stephen Colbert insists the Cold War is still going on, and has periodic Cold War Updates whenever anything newsworthy happens in Russia.
  • The introduction to 'Kickpuncher' in Community episode Romantic Expressionism .
    Kickpuncher Narrator: "It is the year 2006 A.D. and nuclear war has ravaged the planet."
    Abed: "Must have missed that."
  • Star Cops includes a recurring character who is generally referred to as Russian, but clearly has the Soviet flag on his uniform. The premise seems such that the major Cold War tensions have eased and the two superpowers have learned to get along...more or less. Sort of like the way it is now between the US and Russia.
  • The first episode of Space: 1999 (set in, er, 1999) has a news report referring to Yugoslavia. Technically, Serbia and Montenegro still called itself Yugoslavia until 2003 (although they had a hard time getting the rest of the world to do the same), but Yugoslavia as it was known in the 70s ceased to exist in 1992.
  • Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which was produced in The Eighties, featured in the original run afterwords in each episode that mentioned the Soviet Union. Later the Special Edition of the The Nineties acknowledged this trope in more updated afterwords like the one on the final episode "Who Speaks for Earth?", where it mentions that the world has changed: "Walls have come down and Irreconcilable Ideologies have embraced" while showing footage of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa and the iconic handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin in front of Bill Clinton.
  • Josh Lyman gripes at one point after particularly bad political maneuvering, "God, how I miss the Cold War."

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The second edition of the Cyberpunk game (Cyberpunk 2020) was published in 1990. The fall of the Soviet Union is mentioned in the timeline (as is Germany's reunification), but it was eventually replaced by the Neo-Soviet Union by 2020. Apparently the game's writers didn't really know how to handle a collapsed USSR.
  • The first edition of Shadowrun had references to the Soviet Union in its future history, while the second swapped these out for the Russian Federation. Later editions said to hell with it and admitted the game's timeline is an Alternate History.
  • This hit the game Twilight2000 particularly hard, as the premise of the game was that it was set during or just after World War III, after the Soviets had rolled over the Fulda Gap... in the year 2000. They tried a Retcon that only ended up torking off the Germans (predicating the war on Germany's invading Poland...) before reverting to the original plot, throwing up their hands and declaring it an Alternate Timeline.
  • Most of the relevant parts of the BattleTech timeline are in the middle parts of the 31st century, so it's a petty detail — but the game's timeline includes a second "Soviet Civil War" in the early 21st century, just before the first manned flight to Mars. Newer materials haven't retconned this; presumably, it's just assumed to be an alternate reality.
    • Actually similar to Shadowrun (only logical since both were created by the same company), it was at one point mentioned that an attempted retcon to the Russian Federation was made, before the creators gave up and as much as declared (Particularly joked on on the Battletech forums) that Battletech is not our future but rather the future of the mid 1980s. Which actually explains quite a bit, including the bulk of much of the computer equipment in the game in comparison to modern computers and the like.
  • Steve Jackson Games' Illuminati card game (first published in 1982) assigned groups various alignments that (mostly) came in opposing pairs; one opposing pair was "Government" and "Communist". When they adapted the concept into the Illuminati: New World Order Collectible Card Game (in 1995), "Communist" was demoted from an alignment to a secondary "attribute", and the "Corporate" alignment was introduced as the new opposite to "Government".
  • Paranoia has some kind of world-ending catastrophe in its backstory, and though the details are vague and obscured by time, secrecy and misinformation, the main culprits that The Computer suspects are Communists, hinting at World War III. Not surprising, since the game first came out in The Eighties, but not the first people you'd blame these days. On the other hand, records of the past are so mangled and manipulated that it hasn't affected the setting.
  • GURPS Terradyne has a much-reduced (with only five republics left) USSR in the year 2120. Again, this was written in the period where it was expected that some states would peel off from the Union but not that it would break completely.
  • Rifts has a weird example. The Sourcebook Warlords of Russia was written well after the fall of the Soviet Union (the game itself came out in 1991), yet one of the power blocs mentioned in the setting is a group called the "Sovietski." The book explains that they are the remnants of a second Soviet Union that was formed in the 21st Century before the Coming of the Rifts.

    Theatre 
  • The musical Chess was originally released as a Concept Album in 1984, at the height of the Reagan-era Cold War tensions. Set in the "current day", the plot relied heavily on those tensions. By the time it reached Broadway in 1988, glasnost was in full swing and the impending fall of the Soviet Union was already visible on the horizon. As a result, vast swathes of the story — and several of the songs — had to be rewritten to accommodate the new political reality. (For instance: in one of the dropped songs, the civil servants of the Russian embassy complained that so many Russians defecting to the West "makes you wonder what they built the Berlin wall for"; in a newly written song, a CIA agent and a KGB agent agree to cooperate to the point where "the Berlin wall becomes a backyard fence.") Modern revivals of the show seem to be getting round this by more-or-less sticking to the plot of the album, and simply making the whole thing an early-80s period piece.

    Video Games 
  • This is a common trope in very old sports games (especially in sport simulations like Football Manager) since you can manage teams from pre-Cold War era and control them until beyond the 90s without any changes.
  • The original arcade edition of Street Fighter II was released less than a year before the fall of Soviet Union and had one of its fighters, namely Zangief, as a representative of the Soviet Union. His ending even features Mikhail Gorbachev, who is helicoptered in to congratulate him on his victory, espousing the greatness of the "Soviet spirit". Despite subsequent editions of the game being released after the fall of the Soviet Union, Zangief's nationality and ending remained unchanged, although the SNES and Genesis ports attempted to somewhat fix that by having Zangief address Gorbachev as "Mr. Ex-President". It wasn't until Street Fighter IV that Zangief's nationality was officially changed to Russian. To make it worse, Hyper Street Fighter II, released in 2004, changed the flag for Hong Kong from it's British colonial flag to to flag of China while keeping Zangief's Soviet nationality. And Hong Kong was under British control for the entire history of the Soviet Union!
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, first released for the MSX2 in 1990, not only predicts that the Soviet Union will still be around in 1999, it also features a character named Natasha Marcova (Gustava Heffner in later versions) who works for the StB (the Czechoslovakian Secret Police), a real-life organization that was dissolved during the very same year the game was released.
  • The original Strider assumes that the Soviet Union will still be around by the year 2048. In fact, the first stage is set in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, a former Soviet state now known as Kazakhstan.
    • In most of Strider's sequels, the political future of the world is not addressed, but in the 2014 remake the developers simply ran with the original idea and you're still chopping up Cossacks and proletariat dragons all while a a man over a PA system spews vaguely socialist-sounding idioms.
  • Harpoon was around before the Soviet Union collapsed. After it happened, there was a big scramble to create new scenarios that weren't obsolete. Of course, since it was a simulation the existing ones were still developed.
  • Aerobiz: The second entry in the series predicted supersonic airliners and 1000+ passenger super-jumbo jets in the 2000's, missing the large scale move from regular airliners to smaller, more fuel-efficient Regional Jets for most small and medium-sized routes. It also failed to portray a large number of very prominent cities that cropped up in the late 1990's & early 2000's, such as Dubai, and the terrible economic impact that the 2000's would have on airlines around the world.
    • On a lesser scale, it also predicted the next Airbus airliner would be the A350 (which is only now being conceptualized), and that McDonnell-Douglas would produce the early concept "MD-12" (a stretched MD-11) and still be an independent manufacturer.

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • Western Animation/Archer, being the Anachronism Stew that is, has the Soviet Union as a recurring villain, despite being ostensibly set in the present day.
  • The Soviet Union somehow exists in the third season of The Transformers, produced in 1986 and set in 2006.
  • The animated series Spiral Zone, produced in 1987 but set in 2007, assumes that the Soviet Union still exists in the early 21st century.
  • In The Simpsons episode where Homer joins the Naval reserve, during the UN conference, the Russian ambassador declares that the Soviet Union will give Homer safe haven, having absconded with a nuclear submarine. When questioned about mentioning the Soviet Union and told they had broken up, he laughs and states "That's what we wanted you to think!" Cue to a montage showing Soviet soldiers and tanks coming out of parade floats in Moscow, a new Berlin Wall popping out of the ground and Lenin breaking out of his glass tomb.
    Zombie!Lenin: Must crush capitalism! Graagh!
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers ran straight into this. The show began airing September 1990, at which time Linka (wind) was from the Soviet Union in the introductory opening. When they finally got around to updating the intro (it took a while), she was from Eastern Europe. note 

    Real Life 
  • Bonn was 'temporarily' the capital city of West Germany for 41 years. Not wanting to name somewhere bigger and admit that East Berlin was lost, West Germany became used to Bonn's "provisional" status. After German reunification, only a small majority of the Bundestag (parliament) voted to move the seat of government back to Berlin.
    • Such provisional capitals are still rather common. The "official" capital of Republic of China (Taiwan) is still technically Nanjing on mainland China. The "official" capital of North Korea is Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
    • Part of reticence to move the capital back to Berlin comes from Germans being utterly terrified of Unfortunate Implications - remember, this is the country which made it illegal for the colors red, white, and black to be shown next to one another in real life an on film. For obvious reasons, even if few outsiders seemed to mind.
  • Sergei Kirkalyov and Alexander Volkov earned the nickname of "the last Soviet citizens" because they served on the Mir space station while the Soviet Union collapsed, and returned three months later on 25 March 1992.
  • The Other Wiki gives us a list of predictions of the fall of the U.S.S.R. There were a decent amount of predictions in the Cold War era, however, it didn't seem to have much of an effect on pop culture at the time (otherwise, this trope wouldn't have been in effect). And remember that just because someone predicted the U.S.S.R. would fall, that doesn't mean they were right. Many predictions described the Soviet Union ending in ways that were completely different from what eventually happened. Some of the predictions were mutually exclusive (if one was right, the other must have been wrong).
  • When the Polish Defensive War of 1939 spun out of control into a much wider conflict it instantly tagged 20 years worth of media that referred to The Great War or, even worse, The (singular) World War as being dated and naive.
    • What is perhaps more remarkable is the minority of works that actually refer to the First World War as The First World War in the time period 1915 through 1939. How did they know!
    "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years" — French General Ferdinand Foch, 1919.
  • For some Japanese soldiers, WWII didn't end until the 1970s.
  • In the Balkan countries, several thousand people continue to list their ethnic group as 'Yugoslav' in census forms.
  • If you listen to enough political talk radio, you'll occasionally hear a caller talk about the dangers of the Soviet Union and Soviet communism in the present tense.
  • This can be a weird one for schools with little to no funding. Often you'll walk in and see world maps with the USSR still there in all its timezone-consuming glory, textbooks and encyclopedias long out of date, and so on.
    • This is especially weird in Eastern European countries, where according to textbooks and maps, the country you're in may not exist. However, some of the new Eastern European countries were very quick and eager to print school textbooks emphasizing their countries' glory and (sometimes fake) long and proud history.
  • Ironically, the first line of the Soviet national anthem translates as "an unbreakable union of free republics." Unbreakable, except for that one time.
  • Potentially Fridge Horror for Americans, because Emmanuel Todd has predicted the Divided States of America. Wait for it, he is the same person who successfully predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union and the current Middle Eastern upheavals known as the Arab Spring. Like with the fall of the Soviet Union, several others have predicted this as well, possibly being Cassandra Truth. The 2030s are the latest date predicted for the collapse.
    • It should be noted that Todd's prediction was based on some rather shaky suppositions, such as: 1.) The only threat to global stability today is America itself. 2.) Far from being a military superpower, America is pathetically weak. 3.) The true power in the world is Europe, which is led by France (the author is French by the way). 4.) Russia and Japan will continue to grow in power. 5.) Due to a "universalist ethic of cooperation, human rights, and mutual respect" shared among Eurasian countries, an ethic which the United States supposedly lacks, a new era of partnership among the nations of Eurasia will leave America in the dust (Islamic fundamentalism being just a phase which will die out in a generation or two). Needless to say, how realistic this all is is debatable.
  • The Soviet Union had its own Internet domain (".su"), established in the last year of its existence. Yes, the Soviet Union lived just long enough to see the very beginnings of the World Wide Web. After the Russian Federation was founded, ".ru" became its Internet domain. Plans to phase out ".su" have failed and it's now a haven for cybercriminals, due to the lack of regulation.
    • Ironically the cachet of the .su domain allows it to be sold at a premium compared to the .ru domain. Lenin would be spinning in his tomb if it wasn't a huge tourist attraction.
  • When apartheid ended in South Africa, the attitude of western governments towards the ANC flipped rather abruptly. Perhaps the best way to underscore this is the fact that the U.S. government didn't get around to taking Nelson Mandela's name off of a terrorist watch list until 2008. Prior to that, he had to be granted a special waiver to visit the United States.


Oh, and no one expected the Spanish Inquisition.

Glorious Mother RussiaCold WarHot Line
Wargame Red DragonPossible WarTom Clancy
Get Thee to a NunneryTime Marches OnHave a Gay Old Time
Future SpandexFailed Future ForecastI Want My Jetpack
Government ProceduralPolitics TropesThe Great Wall
Glorious Mother RussiaEurope IndexThe Gulag
Glorious Mother RussiaDirty CommunistsHammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection
QuasarImageSource/Comic BooksRailing Kill

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