One of the first “heavy” books we ever read was Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, which came out at the height of the whole “Evil Empire” period. Before cracking open Smith’s honest investigation of daily life in the U.S.S.R., we imagined that Moscow resembled a vast outdoor version of the Death Star, absolutely devoid of color or joy. The Russians drove home a point that now seems obvious, but was tough for a 12-year-old to grasp amidst the mid-1980s hysteria: a nation’s politics, no matter how odious, can never define its people.
Ever since, we’ve been fascinated with the pop culture of the late-period Soviet Union. So we couldn’t resist posting the clip above, of a popular exercise show that taught the comrades how to shape their buns and thighs. If you’ve got a spare minute or two, stick around for what follows—a propaganda film that tries to depict the United States as a vast wasteland of decadence and murder. We have no idea what the narrator is saying, but we’re pretty sure he doesn’t approve of Las Vegas.