Follow TV Tropes


Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection

Go To

...Where they just refer to the Russians as "the other one". Did they think that the KGB was like Candyman or something, where if you mention the Soviet Union five times they would appear?
SF Debris, discussing this trope's presence in both Star Trek: The Original Series and classic Doctor Who.

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, The Enemy, or A Foreign Power. 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-Nazis, 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 Warsaw Pact 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.

Examples in which the unnamed country is the Soviet Union or another presumably communist state:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & 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.
  • The Place Promised in Our Early Days is set in an Alternate History where Japan was divided after World War II, with Hokkaido going to "the Union". This context, combined with how nationals of the Union speak Russian, implies strongly that it's the USSR.

    Comic Books  

  • 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 Kûrvi-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.
  • Averted 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  
  • Not made during the Cold War, and set much earlier, but worth mentioning: 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. There is one joke about "everything being Red", and that's it. And there's no trace of the bloody Russian Civil War either.
    • The 2016 stage adaptation of the film averts this—in it, Rasputin is gone and the Soviet government have become the antagonists.

    Films — Live-Action  

  • The film Fantastic Voyage is an excellent example of this. Contemporary dress, cars, and attitudes set this firmly in the mid-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) because the producers considered Dirty Communists a Dead Horse Trope.
  • 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.
  • 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, avoiding mention of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact or the subsequent Soviet invasion and occupation of eastern Poland in concert with the Nazis in September 1939. Enforced, as telling the exact truth of the USSR's involvement in World War Two prior to June 1941 was a sure way to piss off a very necessary ally, as well as put the inconvenient question of why the US was allied with them to start into the troops.
  • The "enemies of Freedom" in Project Moonbase, though we don't hear a single Slavic accent.
  • Mission to Moscow, a 1943 American pro-Soviet film about Joseph Davies' tenure as American ambassador to the Soviet Union, hardly mentions Communism at all, instead portraying Joseph Stalin as a noble leader and emphasizing the similarities between the Soviet Union and the United States.
  • Averted in 13 Frightened Girls. The villains are explicitly working for Red China and the Soviet Union.


  • 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-Soviet variant: Adria Carmichael's Juche novels are set in a totalitarian country called Choson, led by a dictator called The Great General. Enough hints are dropped that you can figure out that Choson is clearly supposed to be North Korea ("Choson" is an old name for Korea as a whole), but it's never explicitly named.
  • The identity of "the enemy" who fought the United States in the backstory of Z for Zachariah is never mentioned. Given the time frame of the book, it's probably the Soviet Union, but a modern reader might assume it's China or modern-day Russia.
  • "The Children's Story", by James Clavell. "Our Leader" is the head of the new regime, in which students are told they will all have uniforms like the teacher's, praying to God is permitted but understood to be useless—a "secret" which the children are encouraged to keep from their parents, and one child's father has been sent to a reeducation camp because he had "wrong thoughts".
  • The Zack Files book This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us plays with this phrasing—- a medium says they are in the presence of a being from “the other side”, and Zack clarifies that “she didn’t mean Russia”, but rather the afterlife.

    Live Action TV  

  • 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • An 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 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 (1967) 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 (1960s) 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The classic 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. The idea seems to have been that we don't know they're the same blocs, or even which one the main characters belong to ("Vorshak" isn't a real name at all, but sounds kind of East European), but it doesn't come across like that at all. (And the novelisation just flat out calls the enemy the East Bloc, and gives it a Utopia Justifies the Means philosophy, but still doesn't actually use the words "communist" or "Russia".)
    • 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 "Testimony of a Traitor", is was revealed that just before Buck left Earth aboard Ranger 3, 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!" This reflects the real rivalry between the People's Republic of China and Soviet Union at the time, which had split following the reforms by Khrushchev.
  • One episode of The Time Tunnel had the time-traveling heroes show up in a city with a hostile vibe and a lot of Cyrillic signage. The decided they were in "Southeast Europe." The plot revolved around a scientist from a carefully unnamed foreign power, who was developing a rival Time Tunnel.


  • 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.


    Western Animation  
  • Comically invoked in Megas XLR, where one Monster of the Week is a Humongous Mecha called R.E.C.R.—implied to be a forgotten Cold War experiment by the U.S. military—that rambles about protecting people from "the enemy". It was most likely made to combat the U.S.S.R., but when asked who "the enemy" is, it admits that data was lost, so it goes with the default answer: "everyone".
    R.E.C.R.: I must destroy all enemies! Because all enemies are my enemies!
  • 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... Fearless Leader's accent was a pastiche of a German one, though Boris and Natasha themselves sounded more Slavic).
  • Thembrya from Talespin was never explicitly referred to as communist over a simple military dictatorship, but the similarities were definitely being shown off in an exaggerated manner. A perpetually snow covered and dismal country, ruled by a High Marshal, home to gulags where anyone who angers the rulership gets sent to (as well as one very disturbed professor), known for having a single, tasteless food as its main dietary staple.

    Real Life  
  • 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 party was illegal until 1944 because of this-the Finns had a civil war in the wake of their independence between Communists and non-Communists (the former naturally aligned with Bolshevik Russia).
  • 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.
  • The Communist Party USA technically does use a hammer and sickle for its logo, but it's a modified shape that's less likely to remind Americans of their old long-time rivals, and it has a cog added to the design.

Examples in which the unnamed country is not implied to be communist:

    Eastern European Animation  
  • 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  

  • 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).
  • 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 2022 Swedish war movie Black Crab is set Next Sunday A.D. during a civil war in an unnamed Nordic country. The 'enemy' is unnamed, with no insignia on their uniforms or helicopters, and there's no discussion of the war aims or motivations of either side.
  • In Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939), the enemy country was never identified; it ended with an Un Reveal.
  • The 1938 film Blockade is set in the then-ongoing Spanish Civil War. It carefully avoids naming either side so as to not specify which side it's taking. Even the uniforms are made to look ambiguous. Being a Communist Party member and later one of the Hollywood Ten, screenwriter John Howard Lawson obviously favored the Spanish Republicans, but the studio wouldn't let him make it explicit. Despite this, the film was banned in fascist countries and condemned by the Catholic Church.
  • A training film for the OSS, "Undercover" (directed by John Ford) has the characters (two undercover agents showing the "right" and "wrong" ways to perform said operations; and their handlers) using "Enemy Area" to describe the fictional country they have been assigned to (which quite blatantly seems to be Germany).
  • Top Gun: Maverick, set over thirty years after the first movie, has an unnamed country as its antagonist. Their experimental nuclear program, and the fact that they have F-14 Tomcats, suggests they're meant to be Iran. However, there are also some aspects suggesting they're supposed to be Russia, like the presence of Sukhoi Su-57s, which only Russia operates, not to mention their snowy climate. And the insignia their military uses doesn't match any real country.


  • Jules Verne originally intended Captain Nemo to be a deposed Polish prince, fighting a guerrilla war against the Imperial Russians in 20,000 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. Canonically, Nemo later became an Indian native with a hate-on for the English, ensuring the French audience's sympathy.
  • 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 (the closest match is Indonesia, which only lacks an aircraft carrier but could possibly build one). 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. It's specifically stated that, after a hundred years of developments, not all of Them are Communist or Eastern, making the old names inaccurate.

    Live-Action TV  

  • 24:
    • The first season 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", with no country from the region named.
    • Jack did at one point refer to Victor Drazen as having been Slobodan Milosevic's "shadow" though.
    • 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".

    Real Life  

  • There was something like this in the former USSR—it had some generic imperialists instead of the US. The enemies are greedy imperialists who oppress <insert country> and deny its people free university education and healthcare. The latter 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 they had! This dates back at least to the 1930s with films showcasing American racism (which were a little hypocritical, as the USSR treated some ethnic minorities very poorly). Even so, a number of African-Americans looked favorably on the USSR at the time, some becoming Communists or visiting them.
  • The Americans were known for using a similar tactic, with a generic Warsaw Pact invasion coming from a country known as Krasnovia/Krasnova/Krasnoya