Relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were generally confrontational through most of the second half of the last century. In the United States, Communist plots were everywhere, and the Soviet Union blamed American capitalists for most of the ills of the world. On December 11, 1969, a noted Russian author lashed out against western decadence in one of the more unusual cold war recriminations.
On December 11, 1969, Sergei Mikhailkov, secretary of the Moscow writer’s union, known for his books for children, weighed in against the production of “Oh! Calcutta!” that was currently an off-Broadway hit. Performers in their “birthday suits,” he fumed, were proof of the decadence and “bourgeois” thinking in Western culture. American nudity was an assault on Soviet innocence.
Oddly enough, those Americans throughout the Midwest who didn’t think the play was about India were convinced it was a Communist plot.
More disturbing, Mikhailkov raged on, was the fact that this American abomination was affecting Russian youth. These vulgar exhibitions were “a general striptease that is one of the slogans of modern bourgeois art.” Soviet teens were more familiar with “the theater of the absurd and the novel without a hero and all kinds of modern bourgeois reactionary tendencies in the literature and art of the West” than with “the past and present of the literature of their fatherland.”
Mikhailkov’s outburst came at the end of a conference of Russian intellectuals, who applauded his remarks without visible enthusiasm before returning to their clandestine copies of Fanny Hill.