Evil Empire: 30 Years Later
Evil Empire vs The Lowlifes 1-30-21
Russian experts reflect on why the phrase of Ronald Reagan, who called the USSR so, remains relevant
30 years ago – March 8, 1983 – US President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” Despite the fact that neither the USSR nor Reagan has been gone for a long time, this expression has not disappeared from the Russian and international political lexicon. The search engine Yandex finds more than 2 million mentions of this phrase in the Russian-speaking Internet, and Google – more than 27 million mentions in the English-speaking sector of the World Wide Web.
On March 8, 1983, Reagan spoke to members of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida..
Ivan Tsvetkov, Associate Professor of the Department of American Studies at the Faculty of International Relations, St..
Reagan’s speech in Florida seems to Ivan Tsvetkov remarkable, first of all, for its sincerity: “It is known that Reagan independently inserted the phrase about the” evil empire “in his text – it was not the speechwriters who invented such a figurative expression for him.”.
In his speech, the US President paid much attention to the issues of morality and spirituality in politics. In particular, he recalled: “The glory of our country lies in the ability to defeat evil. This, for example, is the long struggle of minorities for their rights – once the cause of division and civil war – and now a reason for the pride of all Americans. We must not retreat! There should be no place for racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in our country “.
Describing the situation in the USSR, Reagan urged: “Let us offer prayers for the salvation of all those who live in this totalitarian darkness, so that they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do this, we will be sure that they preach the superiority and omnipotence of the state, triumphing over the individual, and intend to assert their superiority over all the peoples of the world. And that they are the focus of evil in the modern world. (…) I urge you to avoid the temptation (…) to consider both sides equally guilty (in the confrontation – GA), ignoring historical facts and aggressive actions of the evil empire “.
Ronald Reagan also said: “I have always believed that the struggles taking place in the world now will never be solved by bombs and missiles, by the army or military might. We are dealing with a spiritual crisis; it is a test of moral will and faith “and added:” I believe that communism is another sad and strange chapter in the history of mankind, the last page of which is being written now. “.
Maxim Bratersky, Head of the Department of World Politics at the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics at the Higher School of Economics, sums up: “This phrase really left its mark on history. It was both positive and negative, but this formula remains, and many people will turn to it. Probably, for the first time, someone so brightly put some idea, some idealism in the basis of the foreign policy of such a large state “.
One of the oldest Russian specialists in the United States, RAS Corresponding Member, Doctor of Historical Sciences Raphael Ganelin, considers Reagan’s phrase as a kind of response to the anti-American propaganda that prevailed in Soviet ideology since the 1920s: “The habit of explaining all the difficulties and failure by the intrigues of the enemy. And the enemy, of course, was the most powerful state in the modern world. With complete technical and economic dependence on America “.
Assessing the reasons for the appearance of this speech, Viktor Kremenyuk, Deputy Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says: “The Soviet Union really behaved as, in general, and should behave in the minds of the intelligentsia and wide circles of society, the“ evil empire ”. It was a system mixed with injustice, violence, which established its power over one country and wants to establish it everywhere. This is what Americans are used to seeing in “empires of evil,” as Lucas showed in Star Wars. An ordinary American, who has little interest in foreign policy, but still listens to the news, needs the concept of an “external enemy”. Let’s not forget the ideological component, because there was a rivalry with the Soviet Union. Black-and-white representations dominated: we are good, we are for the truth, and they are bad, against justice, goodness and all the best. “.
Assessing the effect of Reagan’s speech, Boris Kagarlitsky, director of the Institute for Globalization and Social Movements, also recalls George Lucas’s fantastic epic: “I think that Reagan’s phrase remains in the memory of people in the same way that people continue to watch, for example, Star Wars. By the way, the connection is clearly visible here – it is beautifully formulated, you can stick it to anything. By and large, it doesn’t mean anything, but it sounds bright and stylish ”.
“This is very typical of Reagan,” Kagarlitsky continues. “Reagan was extremely superficial, but incredibly charming, he was successful in his endeavors, even if these endeavors were fundamentally disastrous in their essence. In this case, we can say that Reagan succeeded in what he thought and said: the Soviet Union failed. Reagan, of course, had nothing to do with this collapse. But as a result, we got a euphemism that continues to work to this day. “.
Kagarlitsky’s assessment contradicts what Reagan himself wrote about his speech: “For too long, our leaders were unable to accurately describe the Soviet Union. People in our foreign policy – in other words, liberal experts, the State Department and various columnists – found this speech illiberal and provocative. However, I have always believed that it is important to show the difference, because in life and history you need to make choices and decisions. “.
Ivan Tsvetkov believes that a clear awareness of his righteousness helped Ronald Reagan a lot during his negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev: “We can assume that Reagan taught us a very important lesson, because the moral aspect very often comes to the surface in international affairs. And it is very difficult to defend the interests of your country with the help of lies and deceit, without distinguishing good from evil, or pretending that you cannot ”.
Voice of America interlocutors believe that Reagan’s old phrase has retained its relevance today..
“The West regards Russia as its enemy, regardless of the historical form in which it exists. Therefore, as long as Russia exists, the West will consider it an “evil empire,” says Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute for Globalization Problems.
Raphael Ganelin is convinced that the image of the “evil empire” is tenacious for other reasons: “In the Magnitsky case, it is clear that we were stealing. But in response to the adoption of the relevant law by the US Congress, the authorities said: “And the Americans are killing Russian children!” … That is, in Russia there are still stereotypes from the times of the Cold War and, thus, the validity of Reagan’s formulation is proved. “.
Ivan Tsvetkov says that once again there is a need to place clear accents in relations between Russia and the United States: “If we take the latest events, then very clear parallels can be drawn here. For example, to say that the “Magnitsky law” is a kind of version of the speech about the “evil empire.” Well, our response to this speech, as in 1983, when we shot down a South Korean Boeing, is the adoption of the “Dima Yakovlev law”. And no matter how it happens that a new Reagan will appear in the United States, who will again clearly indicate where is good and where is evil. And again it turns out that he is right, since there is no leader on the Russian side who can argue with him just as sincerely. “.
Grigory Prutskov, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University, recalls that Washington and Moscow no longer have an ideological confrontation.
“The Cold War is formally over, but in fact, in journalism, international relations, you can still find its echoes,” says Prutskov. – Although, of course, now this is an incomparable scale of threats. It’s one thing when Russia threatened America with nuclear weapons, and another thing when it threatens with some kind of laws “.
History with geography
At the end of December, Yury Melnichuk, an activist of the St. Petersburg branch of the RPR-Parnas party, took part in a picket outside the building of the US Consulate General. The picketers expressed their support for the Magnitsky law and criticized the Dima Yakovlev law. In the hands of Yuri Melnichuk was a poster with the inscription in English: “Mr. Reagan, come back. The evil empire has risen !!! “.
Three weeks later, Yuri Melnichuk asked for political asylum in Austria. In a telephone conversation with the Voice of America correspondent, he commented on the meaning of his participation in the picket: “I do not know very well about Reagan’s internal politics. But his foreign policy was, in my opinion, absolutely adequate to that situation. With the monster that the USSR was, it was possible to talk only from a position of strength “.
At the present time, according to the oppositionist, Russia continues to pursue a policy of the Soviet model. “And the reaction of some civilized Western countries to what is happening in Russia, in my opinion, does not quite correspond to the actual state of affairs. This reaction is too soft and insecure. Just as the Soviet Union was an “evil empire”, so Russia is a threat to democracy and civilization all over the world “, – Yuri Melnichuk is convinced.
In this regard, he invites Western leaders to recall such a form of pressure on the Soviet Union as boycotting the Olympic Games, and not to send their national teams to Sochi next February. “Because the“ evil empire ”is returning, and you need to take some measures to curb it,” concludes Yuri Melnichuk.
Alex Grigoriev specializes in covering international relations, defense and security, intelligence, terrorism, and nuclear issues.