Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A snapshot of late 1940s US-Soviet Relations: Adding Complexity to the popular historical depiction of dire Cold War geopolitics

While doing research for my senior research late last night, I came across an interesting snapshot that suggests the usually historically depicted early Cold War mutual hatred between the Soviet Union and the United States was not prevalent as is usually understood. In my Senior Research I'm exploring the extent of Eleanor Roosevelt's contribution and leadership of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and specifically the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Johannes Morsink, in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Drafting, Origin and Intent explains that Eleanor Roosevelt was able to cross ideological boundaries and work fairly well (to some extent) with the Soviets because the Soviet leadership had access to her daily "My Day" columns and appreciated her urging the American public to seek more understanding of the Soviet Union in the name of peace.* I think the fact that the former First Lady's daily column was able to permeate the Soviet Information monopoly, if only with the elites, and they did not entirely hate it says a lot about the not entirely antagonistic relationship between Post-War American liberalism and Soviet Socialist ideology. I do not mean to imply that this one instance made much of a difference or that there was not extreme animosity between the US and the Soviet Union at the time, just that the world was not so divided into white hats and black hats as history has traditionally depicted. Eleanor Roosevelt would prove able to cross the Iron Curtain again in 1956 when she toured the Soviet Union as an honorary Ambassador for the United Nations and sat down for a one-on-one discussion with Khrushchev. In fact, Khrushchev later briefly visited her Val-Kill Cottage home in Hyde Park, New York in 1959. I was able to visit her cottage in Hyde Park with a Sure Grant his past summer and do archival research for my Senior Research at the FDR Presidential Library.

*Johannes Morsink, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Drafting, Origins, and Intent, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), pp. 31

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