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Samantha Smith
December 23, 2006 8:20 AM   Subscribe

In 1982, ten-year old Samantha Smith from Maine wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov asking whether there was going to be a nuclear war. Andropov responded, and Samantha accepted his invitation to stay at a Russian pioneer camp with Soviet children. Tragically, within the following two years both the young Samantha and Secretary Andropov passed away. (wmv)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (23 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
wikipedia
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:21 AM on December 23, 2006


Via nekton and hangashore in the magnificent thread on "Threads". Super duper thanks to schoolgirl report and everyone else in that thread for great links and discussion.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:22 AM on December 23, 2006


I don't think it's tragic that that KGB butcher Andropov croaked.
posted by davy at 8:50 AM on December 23, 2006


Per Wikipedia:

Samantha Reed Smith (June 29, 1972 – August 25, 1985)

Contents
* 1 Biography
o 1.1 Early years

/poignant
posted by hal9k at 8:51 AM on December 23, 2006


Does the Cyrillic in the title show up properly for you guys? It did for me on preview, but I'm starting to suspect Mefi eated it.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:17 AM on December 23, 2006


No, it just says ??????? ????.

Thanks for the reference to the other thread. Like I mentioned there, I was envious of Samantha Smith and her appointed position, which makes me feel like a horrible person...
posted by nekton at 9:23 AM on December 23, 2006


I just get question marks as well.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 AM on December 23, 2006


Ok, jessamyn changed it from Cyrillic to Latin script. Thanks jess!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:44 AM on December 23, 2006


I remember our class totally following this story, because she was just about our age.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:41 AM on December 23, 2006


davy: "I don't think it's tragic that that KGB butcher Andropov croaked."

Your favourite tyrant sucks!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:55 AM on December 23, 2006


Good job, goodnewsfortheinsane.

If you're looking for the full text of the Andropov response, your best bet is a little ways down the Wikpedia page.
posted by hangashore at 11:03 AM on December 23, 2006


There are often flowers placed around her statue in Augusta.
posted by JanetLand at 11:27 AM on December 23, 2006


poignant

More like a senseless waste of a promising life.

[Accident description:] "The captain's continuation of an unstabilized approach which resulted in a descent below glide slope. Contributing to the unstabilized approach was the radar controller's issuance and the captain's acceptance of a non-standard air traffic control radar vector resulting in an excessive intercept with the localizer."

A pilot friend of mine explains it like this: there are good pilots and there are dead pilots. Self-confidence in a little girl is a wonderful thing, in an inexperienced pilot not so much.
posted by three blind mice at 11:34 AM on December 23, 2006


Her death seems awfully suspicious to me. It seems like she could have gone on to be a very successful, liberal politician.
posted by nonmerci at 12:43 PM on December 23, 2006


Wow -- very hazy recollection of this. Very sad that she perished at such a young age. Glad that she is not forgotten. Good post.
posted by davidmsc at 12:46 PM on December 23, 2006


I remember a joke that went something like "Why don't you walk to the edge of a cliff, Yuri, Andropov?"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:32 PM on December 23, 2006


Reminds me a bit of Sarah York. Story of York and Manuel Noriega can be heard at thislife.org. The show is titled My Pen Pal, broadcast date 09/12/03.
posted by LoriFLA at 2:54 PM on December 23, 2006


She was, clearly, a Soviet mole who hated America. Let's hear it from a best-selling author:
Samantha Smith could have been the spokesman for the Democratic Party on the subject of the conflict between the superpowers. It, too, had a weakness for the "if we could only just be friends" style of analysis. It, too, believed that "nothing could be more important than not having a war." And it, too, failed to see why we couldn't all get along by seeking to know one another better. It was a trope of liberal analysis during this period (and similar arguments are now advanced vis-à-vis other adversaries like the Islamists) that conflicts arise among nations due to "misunderstandings." The cure for these misunderstandings could be found in summit meetings, cultural exchanges, sister city initiatives, pen pal programs, and "space bridges." Because the diagnosis was flawed, the cures were unsuccessful. As it turned out, those who understood the Soviets best were the very "hardliners" so scorned by liberals — a fact that was testified to by many former Soviets after 1991. It wasn't that both nations, essentially benevolent, mistrusted one another due to the accumulation of weapons on both sides in some sort of mad and inexplicable race to destruction. Rather, the Soviets were aggressive and predatory, and the United States (along with its allies) sought to thwart it. When the Moscow regime changed, the so-called "arms race" was over.

Doubtless Samantha Smith's letter to the leader of the USSR was motivated in part by the beliefs of her parents. Her mother, Jane Smith, told reporters that Samantha "thinks it would be better to spend more money on programs for the poor rather than on bombs."
Thankfully, there was no Internet -- the way we have it now -- to speak of at the time of her death, otherwise we'd have enjoyed some interesting reading (think Rachel Corrie on LGF) at the time of her death.
posted by matteo at 3:20 PM on December 23, 2006


This is a cute story. I miss the Soviets, they were such good enemies. The Canada/USSR hockey games were a magical battle for freedom. I can almost hear Don Cherry ranting now.

The Taliban probably sucks at hockey, has no space program, and doesn't park subs on our cost or fly bombers over our North. Lamers, lousy 21st century.
posted by Deep Dish at 8:15 PM on December 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


Andropov's resume notwithstanding (e.g. invasion of Hungary), it's hardly tragic when a man of a certain age dies, after becoming leader of his country. Nor was it a particularly missed opportunity -- Andropov and Chernenko were just stopgaps holding the Brezhnev era together a few more years until the Gorbachev reformers took over.

Anyway, what the Mona Charens and davys of the world can't stand is that Smith created the potential for a human image of "the enemy".

Self-confidence in a little girl is a wonderful thing, in an inexperienced pilot not so much.

It was a commuter flight. Are you confusing Samantha Smith with Jessica Dubroff?
posted by dhartung at 9:37 PM on December 23, 2006


Deep Dish: The Taliban probably sucks at hockey, has no space program, and doesn't park subs on our cost or fly bombers over our North. Lamers, lousy 21st century.

Not to worry. The Chinese have ping-pong, ICBMs, and beer in the fridge.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:33 AM on December 24, 2006


I miss the Soviets, they were such good enemies.

An enemy is a useful thing to have.

Nice thing about al-Qaeda: They're probably never going to go entirely out of business, though perhaps they'll mutate into something else.
posted by pax digita at 6:21 AM on December 24, 2006


From the editorial in the third link:

A quaint little story about a quaint little country where they check your cassette tape song list at the airport. Either that, or the failure of a peace activist to see oppression right in front of her beret.

So it's better than crossing into the US post 9/11/01? That's when I've had US customs query me on the music I was listening to, the clothes I was wearing and my religious beliefs.

Seriously, the USSR was a terrible place that was bereft of freedom, but man, some people have Cold War grudges so deep that their superficial critiques end up being hilarious.
posted by mobunited at 10:22 PM on December 24, 2006


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