During WW2, the Soviet propaganda inside the country almost never mentioned the aid delivered by the Western Allies. The general message was that the US, like the rest of anti-Fascist humankind was on our side. (The word natsísty, “Nazis” had at the time some Western flavor and was rarely used).
Aware of the Allies
Occasional reports told how American workers and “common people of good will” watched with fascination the struggle of the Soviet Union. These American people firmly required of the ruling classes in the West—the attribute “Capitalist” was usually omitted for the occasion—to support the USSR. Faced with such a firmness, the rulers could not help but heed. Posters showing the American support limited imagery to the Stars and Stripes, with no faces, weapons or lend-lease items.
For common Soviets, lend-lease as a program of war help was a non-subject. They knew it was some kind of assistance coming from abroad, but the scale and value of it had never been widely advertised.
My father told me they had perceived the American shoes, spam, tanks and trucks just like an act of nature—like the Sun that breaks through the clouds, for you to dry your soggy uniforms and boots a little bit. You don’t talk about it much, you pull off your things and hang them out in the sunshine.
Canned beans and especially spam were well known among fighting troops, as were American boots. But the food and equipment that was to be distributed among troops, were stripped from American signage right after offloading in Soviet ports as much as possible. Generally, talking about America was not a very safe topic. Someone could be listening. Before the war, a lot of people worked with Americans and Germans who built our industries and infrastructure. Those who appreciated their work and their machines publicly were arrested for anti-Soviet propaganda in the form of “groveling” before Capitalism and denigrating the Soviet equipment and management.
The perception was probably different among the troops who were using a lot of American battle equipment, e.g. in the air force and tank forces. (American Shermans played a major role in taking Berlin, for example).
America came up much more often when political commissars talked to soldiers and officers about the absence the Allied troops fighting Germans in the West. The fact of Britain fighting the Nazis from the beginning was ignored. “Where is that frigging Second Front already?” was the recurring complaint that met much understanding among soldiers and civilians. Commissars used to present the Allies as cynical players who waited for us to bleed ourselves dry fighting the Nazis, just to jump in at very end, and grab the spoils of victory.
Toward the end of 1944, posters started to consistently show anonymized figures of Western soldiers, like on the poster below.
From the spring ’45 until the capitulation of Japan, there were even some posters showing smiling faces of the Allies. Newspapers also printed photos with happy faces of Brits and Americans socializing with our troops.
At all times, the narrative consistently stressed the leading role of the USSR as a conqueror of Nazism. The US and Britain were marginal players, involved in auxiliary battles, offering some vague, undefined help. On the poster below from before the Stalingrad battle, only the Soviet soldier is facing Hitler to deal him a devastating blow. The American and the Brit seem to be too scared to look Hitler in the face and rather look to the Soviet man for guidance and leadership.
During the Cold War, the references to the Allied effort became fewer and more distanced. Read more about it here.
When I went to school, the lend-lease was usually mentioned in one sentence, or two as an example of the role of our Western allies in WW2. No statistics that could give an idea of the volume of help were given, apart from the number of shipments and sometimes the total value of help in US dollars. The bravery of British sailors dispatching the help was given more place. The demise of Convoy PQ17, along with the D-Day, became one of the most known episodes among our public.