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The life and death of the famous American schoolgirl who wrote a letter to Andropov and visited the USSR

On July 7, 1983, ten-year-old American schoolgirl Samantha Smith flew to the USSR. A small ambassador of peace, a snowdrop of the Cold War, an instrument of propaganda - as soon as this girl was called, she changed the view of the citizens of two huge states at each other. Samantha lived only thirteen years old, but managed to become perhaps the most famous child in the world. Thanks to her initiative, openness and sincerity, American television for the first time showed not tanks and parades, but playing Soviet children, while Soviet people saw for the first time that Americans also have families.

"Dear Mr. Andropov ..."

In the spring of 1983, the Pravda newspaper published a letter addressed to Yuri Andropov, who was elected general secretary of the CPSU Central Committee a few months ago, says Air force:

“My name is Samantha Smith. I am 10 years old. I congratulate you on your new appointment, ”the letter said. - I am very worried about a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. Are you for the war or not? If you are against, please tell me, how are you going to prevent war? You, of course, do not have to answer this question, but I wanted to know why you want to conquer the whole world, or at least our country. The Lord created the earth so that we could all live in peace and not fight. "

The letter received a great response - it was published in the Pravda newspaper, and Soviet citizens started talking about it. Of course, this was not an accident - the message of the young American woman could not get into the central media of the Soviet Union without certain directives. As it turned out later, one of the employees of the apparatus of the Central Committee of the CPSU gave him to the newspaper. He understood how the appeal of an American child could be used to the advantage of the country. Therefore, along with the publication of Samantha's letter in the newspaper Pravda, there were comments about how American children are being frightened by the nuclear threat allegedly emanating from the USSR.

It is obvious that such a letter from an American would not have appeared on the pages of Soviet newspapers without orders from above.

Later it became known that the “top officials” considered the letter beneficial for the reputation of the country, which at that time was exhausted by the arms race and four years of war in Afghanistan. The publication of Samantha's letter in Pravda was preceded by US statements on the deployment of missile defense in Europe and on the "Star Wars" program. And Reagan's speech, in which he called the USSR an "evil empire." At the same time, protests against nuclear weapons were growing in the West, and demonstrators criticized not only the USSR, but also the policy of Reagan, who set the goal of catching up and overtaking the Soviet Union in the nuclear race. The girl's letter to the USSR was considered an opportunity to "lend an olive branch" to America, as former diplomat in the USSR Donald Jensen put it.

Jane Smith, Samantha's mother, still lives in the small town of Manchester, Maine, from where a letter left in November 1982 addressed to “Mr. Yuri Andropov, Kremlin, Moscow, USSR”. The woman says that her daughter has always loved to write letters. One day she saw on TV Elizabeth II, who was on a visit across the border, in Canada. The British queen so impressed Samantha's imagination that she wrote her a letter, to which a reply came after a while. The girl concluded that it was worth writing letters and that they would definitely be answered.

Invitation to the USSR

However, Andropov (or his assistant) did not respond to the letter. 10-year-old Samantha was giving interviews to journalists from all over the world who had tracked her down as soon as the letter was published in Pravda, and the question of whether Andropov wanted war remained open. Then Samantha wrote a second letter, this time to the Soviet ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, in which she asked if Andropov was going to answer her questions. And on April 25, 1983, Pravda publishes Andropov's answer to Samantha, immediately reprinted by American newspapers.

“It seems to me - I judge from the letter - that you are a brave and honest girl, like Becky, Tom Sawyer's girlfriend,” - this is how Andropov's letter begins, to whom the Western media often attributed his love of jazz and American literature. He also writes that the question asked by Samantha is the most important for a thinking person.

Further, the author of the letter recalls that the USSR and the USA fought together in World War II, and writes that the USSR wants to live in peace "with such a great country as the United States." In conclusion, he invites Samantha to visit the Soviet Union and to see with his own eyes his peacefulness.

On July 7, 1983, the girl with her parents flew to Moscow. Most experts reject the suggestion that the Smiths were immediately “recruited” by the Soviet secret services. Rather, they are leading a certain "trend". The Smiths were taken to the Lenin Mausoleum and to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but they did not try to tie Samantha's pioneer tie, and in general, judging by Jane's recollections, the authorities showed political correctness.

Samantha was introduced to the first woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova and other celebrities, but Andropov himself, who was seriously ill almost from the moment of his appointment as general secretary, sent gifts instead, citing his busyness. The Smiths were accommodated in the best hotel rooms for foreign tourists and were taken around Moscow in a representative "Seagull". And only in the Crimean pioneer camp "Artek", where the Smiths were sent for three days, Samantha, who announced that she would live with the rest of the children, tasted a bit of Soviet life: when she saw yellow Soviet sausages, she refused to eat them, "because they must be red." ...

Leaving the Soviet Union, Samantha told reporters in Russian: “Let's live!”.

Leonid Velikhov, deputy editor-in-chief of Top Secret, who was in his early 20s that year, says he was initially skeptical of Samantha Smith. “When we saw Samantha with our own eyes, this skepticism disappeared a little,” Velikhov told the BBC Russian Service. "She was very charming, undeniably very sincere."

American journalists, who accompanied the Smiths everywhere on the trip, also reacted with sympathy to Samantha, who surprisingly quickly learned not to be embarrassed in front of cameras aimed at her. The New York Times called her "the schoolgirl who disarmed the Russians."

After returning from the USSR, Samantha became very popular in her homeland. She was invited to become a special correspondent for the Disney channel, to appear in TV shows, the girl wrote the book "Travel to the Soviet Union", which she dedicated to children of the whole world.

Plane crash - accident or special operation

25 August 1985, Samantha and her father were returning home from London from the set of Lime Street. A small Beechcraft 99 aircraft flying from Boston to Maine unsuccessfully entered the runway and crashed. All six passengers and two pilots were killed.

The Soviet press "between the lines" hinted that Samantha could have been killed: the cause of the crash is unknown, the plane is safe, and the Smiths were allegedly threatened. It was too difficult for people on both sides of the ocean to believe that the life of a thirteen-year-old girl could end so quickly and tragically. The KGB and the CIA were blamed for her death, they called the incident a special operation designed to complete the “mediation” between the two countries, they said that the girl had become too independent in her judgments.

Samantha's mother Jane Smith says she has no reason to question the findings of the National Transportation Safety Committee's investigation. “Journalists from Russia often asked me if I believed that the plane crash was faked. I cannot know for sure, but I have no reason to believe that it was a conspiracy, ”she said in an interview with the BBC Russian Service.

When Samantha died, they tried to preserve her memory both in the Soviet Union and in the United States. In the United States, they created the Samantha Smith Foundation and established her memorial day in Maine, where the girl lived and her mother now lives. Schools in the states of New York and Washington are named after Samantha. In the pioneer camp "Morskoy" there is an alley named after Samantha Smith and a memorial stele in her honor. A mountain peak of the Caucasus, a sea ship, a rare Yakut diamond, an asteroid and several streets in Russian regional centers were named after the girl.

Tens of years later, most of those who remember the story of Samantha tend to think that her death was an accident, like the confluence of circumstances that made her a celebrity. Of course, it was not without propaganda, but it turned out that Samantha played into the hands of both superpowers: she charmed the Soviet people with her American immediacy and showed the human face of the USSR to the Americans.

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