Published Date

January 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 46: Our Russian Ally (1945)

Why should it be said of the USSR, “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma?” The answer lies in part, as far as Americans are concerned, in lack of reliable information about the Soviet Union and its people. Many Americans are willing to express forthright opinions about this fighting ally, but few of their opinions are founded on more than superficial knowledge or incomplete facts. Some Americans have tried to inform themselves about our Russian ally by systematic reading or discussion. Only a handful have visited the Soviet Union. And yet it is important for all American citizens to have a sound basis upon which to build an intelligent understanding of the USSR.


How to use this pamphlet

This pamphlet is an attempt to supply a condensed, but accurate account of the Soviet peoples and their aspirations. It can best be used in a series of meetings that follow the informal discussion pattern. Under this scheme each meeting could be planned around one or two main questions like the following:

What are the Soviet peoples and country like? What was the Bolshevik Revolution?

How is the Soviet Union governed?

Is there personal freedom in the USSR?

What is Soviet Russia’s foreign policy?

Develop your own plans for your discussion of accordance with the interests of the men who attend your meeting. On this basis you will decide how many meetings to hold on this subject and whether other questions than those suggested above will lead to a fruitful meeting. The questions supplied at the end of this guide may contain helpful suggestions.

Reading by group members

Whatever plans you make for studying the USSR, be sure to place copies of this pamphlet where men in your group may read them in advance. If you have enough, you can loan them to individuals. If you have a limited number of copies, it is a good idea to put them in library, service club, and day rooms and to make a public announcement of their availability. General reading of Our Russian Ally will prepare your men to contribute more intelligently to the discussion would otherwise do.

Discussion techniques

The techniques of organizing and conducting discussions and forums are described in EM 1, GI Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders, which should be in every leader’s library. Leaders who are especially interested in conducting round-table discussion or forum programs over radio stations or sound systems of the Armed Forces Radio Service should also secure EM 90, GI Radio Roundtable. This manual contains a wealth of practical material on broadcasting methods. Pamphlets on a variety of subjects already published for use by Army discussion groups are listed at the end of this manual.

Questions for discussion

  1. What are the Soviet peoples and country like? Can you suggest reasons why Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a more appropriate name for this nation than Russia is? How many different national groups has the Soviet Union? Does the USSR endeavor to assimilate these groups, as the United States does? Is the USSR similar to the United States in natural resources? Can it be said to be “self-sufficient”? How has geography affected the history of Russia?
  2. What was the Bolshevik Revolution? Why did the Bolshevik leaders in 1917 use the slogan “Peace, Land, and Bread”? Why was there opposition to Soviet leaders on the part of the peasants? What were the reasons for the strenuous efforts to expand industry and collectivize the farms?
  3. How is the Soviet Union governed? What is meant by socialism? By communism? By kulaks? By bourgeoisie? By soviet? Does the 1936 constitution provide for a democratic method of voting? How does this method differ from our own? Can the Supreme Soviet be compared to the U. S. Congress? In what respects is it different? Howmuch political freedom is there in the USSR? Are there political parties in the Soviet Union? What is the All-Union Party Congress?  What is meant by the “party line”? How has Russia’s historical development affected its present political institutions?
  4. Is there personal freedom in the USSR? How much personal freedom was there under the czars? Is there more freedom under the Soviet government? Do citizens of the Soviet Union have economic freedom? What do the Russians mean by “self-criticism” in the economic sphere? On what basis are Soviet workers paid? Is the new middle class in the Soviet Union different from such classes in capitalist nations? Are the Stakhanovists a bourgeois group? How have marriage laws and customs changed in the USSR since 1917? What is the position of women in modern Russia? Are there privileged classes in the Soviet Union? Can Russians own private property? Can property be inherited? Do Soviet citizens have freedom of religion? What has been the government’s policy toward religion? Does the Russian attitude toward personal freedom differ from ours? Why?
  5. What is Soviet Russia’s foreign policy? Why do Russians seem to distrust the outside world? How can the Soviet Union’s fluctuating foreign policy be explained? Are Russians realistic in foreign affairs? Is their policy based on a desire for security? What is the Communist International? Will the USSR participate in postwar reconstruction? Do Russians understand the United States? Why do many United States citizens distrust the Soviet Union? How does the United States get along with Russia?


For Further Reading

These books are suggested for supplementary reading if you should have access to them. They are not approved nor officially supplied by the War Department. They have been selected because they give additional information and represent different points of view.

The Russian Enigma. By William Henry Chamberlin. Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, 597 Fifth Avenue, New York 23, N.Y. (1943)

Russia and Postwar Europe. By David J. Dallin. Published by Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn. (1943).

Mission to Moscow. By Joseph E. Davies. Published’ by Simon and Schuster, Rockefeller Center, 123o Sixth Avenue, New York 20, N. Y. (1941).

Russia. By Sir Bernard Pares. Published by Penguin Books, Inc., 245 Fifth Avenue, New York, N. Y. (1943).

A Short History of Russia. By B. H. Sumner. Published by Reynal and Hitchcock, 386 Fourth Avenue, New York, N. Y. (1943).

Russia’s Economic Front for War and Peace. By A. Yugov. Published by Harper and Brothers, 49 East 33rd Street, New York 16, N. Y. (1942).

American Russian Frontiers. No. 9 in Calling America, a series of special numbers of Survey Graphic, vol. 33, no. 2 (February 1944).