Tuesday 25 November 1986

…Today at school we wrote about the firing of nuclear missiles at our country…

I know this sounds naive, but I’m quite proud of the fact we covered this at school.

Here was a class of young children being educated in what I’m sure was a very matter-of-fact way about mutually assured destruction. It certainly beat multiplication tables.

Unsurprisingly, the 10-year-old me was obsessed with the Cold War. I’ve written about some of these obsessions before. I’m pretty sure that map stayed on my bedroom wall until the day the Berlin Wall came down.

I miss certain aspects of the Cold War to this day.

I miss the romance, not so much the reality, of the paranoia. I miss the concept, not so much the consequences, of people “defecting” to “the other side”.

And I miss the iconography. Octopussy is the best official Bond film of the 1980s because the Russians are the baddies and they have giant maps which show big red arrows moving unstoppably across the continent.

Like everything else in the Soviet Union of the 80s, its public art and propaganda hadn’t evolved beyond that of the 1930s. But unlike everything else in the Soviet Union of the 80s, its public art and propaganda was actually good. More than that, it was gorgeous.

Now excuse me while I go and listen to Sting rhyme “biology” with “ideology”.

10 thoughts on “Tuesday 25 November 1986

  1. I must agree. I miss it like mad.

    When we went to Russia a few years ago, our guide asked us what we wanted to see, expecting us to say onion-domed churches, etc., however we asked to be taken to see anything from the Cold War years, statues of Lenin, Soviet architecture, and the like. They looked taken aback, but they did it, former KGB headquarters and everything. It was ace.

    Same happened in Lithuania and just-as-the-wall-came-down Prague.

    Berlin was the best though. They’re heaviy into Ostalgia, as I’m sure you are aware, and the place is awash with it. Great museums devoted to it, etc., and loads of old Eastern Bloc housewares to buy, which we did.

    It is romanticized, but then it should be.

  2. I’m the same; it’s an eternal regret of mine that I never got to visit Eastern Europe before the Wall came down. I was one of those kids who unashamedly played as the Russians in every game, rather than the gung-ho Yanks, and I was seduced by all the inscrutable glamour of Yuri Gagarin and the Red Army. When I’ve headed to Berlin or Prague I’ve been all about the Soviet era, rather than the well-trod World War II.

    And I think you’ll find The Living Daylights is the best 80s Bond, with its defectors, traitors, assassins and Soviet Generals getting all blustery and irate. Plus plenty of footage of people looking cold and wan on trams.

    • The Living Daylights does indeed boast all those things, plus one of the best soundtracks of any Bond film. However it also has Timothy Dalton gurning and not delivering a single funny line, plus one of the lousiest Bond girls ever. Hence it rates below the likes of Octopussy, which has Roger Moore trying to defuse a nuclear bomb while dressed as a clown.

      Oh, and I share your regrets at never having visited communist Europe. There again, who knows what will happen to the place once the eurozone collapses.

  3. One of my middle school teachers once took great delight in describing a map he’d seen showing where the Russian nukes would land and – “perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this” he said, “Brighton is going to be wiped out.” Obviously, we were in Brighton.

    A couple of years later he apparently went further, going round the classroom pointing at kids and saying “if there was a war tomorrow, YOUR dad would be killed; YOUR dad would be killed…”

  4. I’ve always associated the Cold War with Magazine’s album ‘Seconhand Daylight’, or possibly Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’. Not Sting. Grand blog by the way.

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