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There are films and television shows, made in the late '50s and early '60s, that are very reluctant to name the Soviets as the enemy opposing our heroic American protagonists. The setting is clearly the then-contemporary Cold War; the bad guys of the plot clearly are agents of a certain Marxist-Leninist, monolithic, totalitarian world power, but words like Kremlin, Russians, and KGB never seem to come up.
In these cases, the good guys always call them The Other Side, or The Enemy. And one can almost hear those capital letters being pronounced, when that other side is referred to.
This trope has been used in films made in other eras as well, showing other world conflicts with other opponents, but it seems more frequently used, and almost comically noticeable when the setting and the years in which the film was made is the Cold War. We imagine this comes about because the film makers hope to sell their work in those very nations they would rather not name. Perhaps it was hoped that not giving a specific enemy would keep the film from dating itself, which if true is remarkable foresight of an otherwise completely unanticipated series of events. But in any case, be prepared for a lot of Mooks and The Dragon who seem topical and familiar (and speak with Slavic accents).
The use of this trope diminished in the 70s and 80s, partly because during detente it became customary to occasionally show Americans and Soviets working together against a common enemy, often Neo-Nazis, Middle Eastern Terrorists, Greedy Industrialists, Organized Crime or Alien Invaders.
See also Anonymous Ringer and Renegade Russian. Compare No Swastikas. Western Terrorists and Terrorists Without a Cause are a modern version, where one always deals with "a rogue faction", not any real organization.
Anime and Manga
- Zero Zero Nine One is an anime produced in modern times but based on a manga from the Cold War era. It constantly refers to the East Bloc and West Bloc without ever naming the Russians (or any country). The manga being unavailable in the US, it's hard to tell if this was a carryover from it or if the series was deliberately being Retraux.
- In Ranma ½, the Ranma in his female form and Shampoo are sometimes wearing uniforms that should resemble those of the Red Chinese Army, but the stars at the uniform cap are sometimes yellow, not red.
- In Blake and Mortimer's adventure The Secret Of The Swordfish, the enemy is a conveniently fictional Asian country whose national symbol is a red star. In SOS Meteors, it's an unnamed superpower in Eastern Europe whose agents have Slavic-sounding names.
- In Tintin, the country of Borduria, with it's mustachioed dictator Kûrvi-Tasch (Pleksy-Gladz in the original French), is a fictional counterpart of the USSR, or, more likely, one of its satellite states.
- The Scrooge McDuck universe has the antagonistic nation of Brutopia: filled with Russian bears and anti-capitalism.
- Marvel Comics played with this trope. The USSR/Soviet Union were not always mentioned by name but terms like: Reds, Commies, Moscow and Kremlin were common. This let to odd situations. In the first issue of the Fantastic Four, they steal a space shuttle to beat the communists into space, given that no other nation had a space program at the time, it's a clear reference to the Soviet Space program. However the Soviets are just mentioned as Communists. In some cases they averted it, Iron Man for example was injured in The Vietnam War and it's stated to be as such. However a lot of these references were removed as time went on.
- Pat Mills intended Invasion to take place in a Britain occupied by the USSR; however, he was forbidden from doing this due to fears of antagonising the Soviet Embassy, and so the USSR became the Volgan Republic, a breakaway Soviet state that later managed to conquer the rest of the USSR and whose symbol is a stylised skull.
- Inverted in Judge Dredd; since it started in 1977 and featured Stalinist successor states to the USSR using the hammer and sickle in the early 22nd century, modern stories involving the Russian Mega Cities still show them using the hammer and sickle, and occasionally reference being Communist.
- The film Fantastic Voyage is an excellent example of this. Contemporary dress, cars, and attitudes set this firmly in the early 60s, but the opposing nation that has resources enough to have the same miniaturization technology and implied military might to make that possession dangerous as the US is never called anything but 'The Other Side'.
- The Villains in Top Gun are from an unnamed Communist State.
- Not made during the Cold War, and set much earlier but mentionable: the Don Bluth animated film Anastasia ignores the politics of the Bolshevik Uprising (merging the February and October Revolutions into one event as well) and gives Rasputin a Historical Villain Upgrade to turn him into evil sorcerer who sold his soul to the devil for magic so he could kill the Romanov's.
- You can guess why most of The Nostalgia Chick's review of the movie is dedicated to mocking this concept as much as she possibly can.
- In the 60s, the James Bond franchise replaced SMERSH (a real-life Soviet counterespionage agency) with SPECTRE (a made-up international criminal/terrorist organization) to avoid trouble.
- Swedish propaganda movies during WW 2 is a special case. Since Sweden was neutral, all the countries involved in the actual war were potential enemies. It doesn't help warning people against the godless communists or beastly Huns if the spy or saboteur they actually have a chance of detecting works for the Western allies. Hence, spies, saboteurs etc are just nefariously foreign, their allegiance is never spelt out, and they are given vaguely Mitteleuropean names (since people from any of the forces involved could be named such).
- The Hitchcock spy thriller North by Northwest, which is ostensibly about KGB agents trying to kill a non-existent CIA agent, never mentions the "enemy" side by name, and a new fictional government agency name is substituted for the CIA.
- A post Cold War example (in-universe as well as in Real Life): In Star Trek: First Contact it is revealed that one of the participants of World War III (from 2026 to 2053), and apparently as an enemy to the United States, was something called the Eastern Coalition.
- In Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939), the enemy country was never identified leading to a Cliff Hanger ending.
- Invasion USA (1952) - not the Chuck Norris vehicle, but an earlier film that featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000 - was a particularly odd case. The film portrays an invasion of the United States by obviously Soviet armed forces, aided by communist subversion, and comes across as a direct plea for increased defence spending to combat the Red Scare. Nonetheless the invading force is always "the enemy", and the Soviet Union is never identified by name.
- Jules Verne originally intended Captain Nemo to be a deposed Polish prince, fighting a guerrilla war against the Imperial Russians in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea but his publisher convinced him to change Nemo to an unnamed nationality and his enemy to one flying no flag on their ships. Verne's books sold very well in Russia and his publisher didn't want that to change.
- Canonically, Nemo later became Indian with a hate-on for the English, ensuring the French audience's sympathy.
- There are at least one Nancy Drew book and one Hardy Boys book written in the 1970s that feature sabotage against the US space program where the culprits turn out to be people "in the employ of a foreign power". Which one, exactly, is never said.
- A non-Russian example: The vaguely-Asian invading power in The Tomorrow Series is never identified, and indeed no nation could possibly fit all the criteria for the invaders. This was an intentional decision by the author, who wanted to focus on the story and characters and didn't want nationalists to use the books for their own ends.
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea's first season featured spy thriller episodes. In several, obviously Russian officials and agents plot against the USS Seaview but they are never identified directly, despite tea samovars and faux Red Army uniforms seen in abundance.
- An original Twilight Zone episode, "Two", seems to follow this trope. Elizabeth Montgomery is very Soviet in uniform and appearance and her one line is "Precrassny", Russian for "pretty". Of course, it's clearly an After the End Adam and Eve Plot with an explicitly ambiguous Translation Convention, so perhaps not?
- Possible subversions: Two other original Twilight Zone episodes, "Probe 7, Over And Out" and "Third from the Sun", use this trope, but it turns out at the end that the characters are NOT from or on Earth, respectively. In this case, it's to setup a world we THINK we know, and then hit us with the Twist Ending.
- The Prisoner had a few episodes where Number Six or his former superiors at MI 6 refer to 'The Other Side'. Of course, with how weird and vague The Prisoner could be, perhaps the other side ISN'T the Russians.
- And of course Number Six doesn't know which side actually runs the Village.
- The Avengers went this route, often referring to "the other side" instead of "Russians".
- The TV series Lost in Space had Dr. Smith, who was said to be an agent for The Other Side. During the first season, when he was an actual threat to the Robinsons, his cold, disaffected, menacing nature fit the cold war stereotype of a Soviet agent quite nicely.
- Wow, it is really weird to think of Smith as some kind of Soviet agent.
- The first season of 24 featured a Serbian mafia/military family called the Drazens as the villains. Although they spoke Serbian on screen, they were often referred to being from the "Balkans" instead of Yugoslavia.
- Jack did at one point refer to Victor Drazen as having been Slobodan Milosevic's "shadow."
- The second season had diplomats and baddies from an unknown Arabic nation, which was only referred to as "a Middle Eastern state" by the characters.
- And the fifth season featured villains who, despite clearly being Russian separatists and having the assassination of the Russian President amongst their objectives, were referred to being from "Central Asia".
- The classic Doctor Who serial Warriors of the Deep was in a nightmare future where two 'massive power blocs' were locked in... well, it was the cold war. But we only ever heard whoever the others were referred to as 'the opposing bloc'. Which was odd, considering two of the characters were undercover agents from their side and went on to refer to themselves as such after the reveal.
- Mission Impossible occasionally referred to the Iron Curtain but the USSR was never specified as being the enemy: instead, the Bad Guys were merely described as "an unfriendly country" or with a fictitious Balkan-sounding name (regardless of what country was involved, though, they all seemed to use the same design of grey van with a distinctive rear-door arrangement...)
- In the Buck Rogers episode "The Trial of Buck Rogers", is was revealed that just before Buck left Earth, there was a conspiracy of high raking American officers to launch a first strike against The Other Side.
- Averted hard in Command and Conquer Red Alert. Hell, the game's launch icon is not only a hammer and sickle, it's also inside the Red Star. You can't get any less subtle than that.
- The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show had the villains Fearless Leader, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale come from the fictional country of Pottsylvania, a parody of a Cold War-era eastern European country (possibly based on East Germany).
- There was something like that in the former USSR - We had some generic imperialists instead of the US.
- To be more specific, the enemies are greedy imperialists who oppress <insert country> and deny its people free university education and healthcare. The later being illustrated by a dying old grandfather and his beautiful <insert a desperate relative> who is pleading the authorities to help, but being turned down because she has no money. Oh, and she is probably black, because we all know that greedy imperialists are racists. All the fun times we had!
- The Americans were known for using a similar tactic, with a generic WP invasion coming from a country known as Krasnovia/Krasnova/Krasnoya
- The logo of the Finnish Communist Party, hammer and sickle avoided for historical reasons.
- Would that include the Soviet Union invading Finland?
- That, and the fact that a major percentage of the Finnish Communists have traditionally held considerable antipathy towards the Soviet Union after Lenin's passing.
- The flag of Angola, which replaces the hammer and sickle with a machete and a gear. (A machete being a more common agricultural tool in Africa than a sickle, and a cog more representative of modern industry.)
- Aeroflot - Russian Airlines averted this trope, retaining their winged hammer and sickle logo because it's the most recognizable symbol of Russia's airline.