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Evil Empire: The Game

In 1988, just three years prior to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and five years after Ronald Reagan first invoked the phrase “evil empire” to describe the USSR in 1983, Russian children were being readied for a career in the Soviet navy.

Recent histories teach us that, despite its nuclear arsenal, Soviet military resources were atrophied. So, given the state of its fleet, perhaps the most economical means to prepare young Soviet citizens for service was through this and similar board games.

Military and war games are not unusual (what is chess, after all?). And board games were a common pedagogical tool in the USSR (see vintage games here and here). This user friendly table top challenge, had an agenda – nurture the next generation of the evil empire’s sailors. For a touch of spice, there are missiles aimed at Western nations and submarines patrolling international waters. But mostly this game is a benign introduction to the navy life – from making knots to avoiding mines. When seen through the lens of this game, the evil empire doesn’t seem so evil, does it?

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