In Innocent Weapons: The Soviet and American Politics of Childhood in the Cold War
(University of North Carolina Press, 2014), Margaret Peacock
analyzes the various ways in which images of children were put to use in Soviet and American Cold War propaganda. From the Boy Scouts to the Pioneers, ubiquitous images of children portrayed the superiority of communism/capitalism.
Where children were used to showcase superiority, equally powerful were images of children as needing protection. In the United States, images of the child helped explain the need for nuclear testing and fallout shelters. From a Soviet point of view, children were likewise to be protected: from the evils of capitalist consumerism, from the rapacious nuclear warmongering of the West.
Even as children were used to promote the officially sanctioned view of the American/Soviet state, those same images, Dr. Peacock shows, could be used to subvert that view. Post-Stalin Soviet films criticized the status quo using images of the child to do so. Suspect American mothers hauled in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities managed to subvert the aims of that body by hauling their children right along with them.
Utilizing archival and published evidence from a wide variety of Russian and American sources, Dr. Peacock has written an engaging history of the uses to which images of children have been put, in service of a conflict that spanned at least half the last century and whose consequences remain with us.
Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.