A sudden frost settles over the forest, the fresh crop of smurfberries is destroyed leaving the Smurfs with a low stock of food. Faced with starvation, Papa Smurf declares that all food will be rationed until the next crop of smurfberries is ready to be harvested. One night, while the peace loving villagers share their equally divided kernel of corn, it is discovered that Greedy Smurf, the baker, has an undeclared stock of food. Soon after, the village, led by Papa Smurf, storms Greedy’s house and empty all his supplies of food. Not only is he now an outcast, he is beaten with a floorboard pulled up from his own house.
The preceding scene is found in the 1980’s television show, The Smurfs. Produced by Hanna-Barberra, the television show ran for nine years on NBC, receiving the highest ratings for that network’s Saturday morning lineup in eleven years. Based on Belgian Pierre “Peyo” Calliford’s 1957 comic “Schtroumpfs”, The Smurfs have a distinct, subtle likeness to the now defunct Soviet Union.
To support my thesis, please note that all of the Smurfs’ dress exactly alike. The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx, calls for a classless society. A society where all means of production are controlled by the people, where no one select group, the bourgeois, can control the jobs and the money thereby controlling the workers, the proletarians. In the Soviet Union, dictator Joseph Stalin instigated a series of five year plans, these plans consolidated small peasant farms into large collective farms owned by the government. The Smurfs all wore the same uniform, white hats, white pants, white shoes. Some might scoff and state that the female Smurfs wore a dress to the males’ pants. While the women did have a separate uniform from that of the men, the women still had a uniform. Every Smurf alike in every way. Thus succeeding in one of the goals set forth in the preamble of the Soviet Union’s Constitution.
Take note of the principle characters in the television shows; Papa, Hefty, Handy, Brainy, Vanity, Poet. Papa Smurf, the leader, is the only one who stands out of the group. His red clothing and facial hair separate him from the clean shaven, white clad citizens of Smurf Village. It is quite unmistakably a caricature of Vladimir Lenin and Stalin combined. Papa Smurf’s red clothing can only mean to stand for the USSR To Russians, the color red signifies beauty, hence the red flag, Red Square, Red Army, et cetera.
Papa Smurf resembles Lenin in more than just hirsute appearance. Lenin, leader of the October Revolution, what brought down Tsar Nicholas Romanov II and placed the Communist party in charge of the government, led the Soviet Union from it’s first day until his death on January 21, 1924. He was responsible for seizing control of all private business and giving control to the government. Papa Smurf, founded Smurf Village and began the processes of industrialization, building dams, workshops, and having the only contact with the outside world. Where Papa Smurf was acquainted with the subtle art of magic, Lenin was acquainted with the subtle art of diplomacy. In his youth, Papa Smurf left his home to create another place for Smurfdom to thrive. In January 1920, Lenin had made plans for the Red Army to invade Poland, extending the grasp of Communism.
Hefty Smurf is the soldier, the enforcer, if one is so inclined, of Smurf Village. His job is to fight to protect the village and keep the other Smurfs from harm. Hefty is a stereotypical NKVD agent, more recently known as KGB. He is the secret police. Hefty is what keeps the independent thought at bay. He keeps the other Smurfs in terror of what will happen if they disobey Papa Smurf. Hefty’s strength is not only used to enforce Papa Smurf’s will. It is also used to build and construct, for manual labor. Hefty is the ideal soldier/worker, solid, loyal to the cause and will not ask questions.
This brings the dramatus personae to Handy Smurf. Handy is the worker, the embodiment of Marx’s proletarian. Handy is a farmer, a builder, an inventor, an engineer. He does all of these things, and is still only given the same amount as every other Smurf. Granted, under true communism, he would not have to do as much, but he is a good communist and will do everything in his power to advance the people and their lives.
Now, to the characters portrayed in less of a shining gold light, cast from above. The first Smurf to be criticized in every episode is Brainy Smurf. He is the only Smurf who openly undermines the Smurf state. His resemblance to Leon Trotsky. Trotsky, seemed to be the natural successor to Lenin. Just as Brainy seems the natural successor to Papa Smurf. Trotsky’s claim to Lenin’s position seemed to be based more on appearance than substance. Having joined the Bolshevik party on the eve of the October coup, and criticizing Lenin and his followers for years, he remained an outsider to the party’s innermost circle. While Trotsky was a member of the Politburo, the committee in charge of making policy for the party, he was never an executive. Brainy Smurf, while often put in a position of power, often had less say then Hefty or Handy. While Trotsky was head of the country’s armed forces he demanded unquestioned obedience to himself. Brainy Smurf shares these meglomaniacal tendencies. Trotsky soon fell out of favor with the party and was forced into exile. In 1925 he was forced to resign as Commissar of War, then he was expelled from the party. Trotsky first went to Central Asia, then abroad. Eventually he was assassinated in Mexico. Brainy Smurf, at the end of nearly every episode, is thrown out of Smurf Village. Not exiled, but thrown out, with intention for physical damage, ergo assassination.
Vanity Smurf is, simply put, the Soviet view of a stereotypical capitalist member of the bourgeoisie. Vanity is constantly doing everything in his power to improve his appearance, even at the cost of the rest of the village.
This leads to Poet Smurf. Poet, and closely related Painter Smurf, are not mentioned in every episode, merely brought up once in a great while. These characters are placed to show the Soviet’s view of such ideas as individualism. In the USSR, artists of all kinds were kept in camps, as to be watched for signs of dissent. It was not until Gorbachev’s regime in 1985, when Glasnost and Perestroika were introduced, that more expression was tolerated, especially through rock music. These programs were rightly perceived as a lift on the restraints of the cultural lives of artists. Glasnost or “openness” was an apt term, but it did not mean simply a lifting of the controls on rock music. Gorbachev had an agenda.
Concerts could not be staged as they used to, but were encouraged to support the program of Perestroika in four ways. To begin, the official Party line was trying to approach the youth through their tastes and culture – rock and roll music played a large part. Glasnost encouraged songs about the problems of drug and alcohol abuse. Rock and roll could help the cultural institutions to survive under the new profit conscious economic policy. The commercial potential of rock was obvious. Finally, the massive anti-alcohol campaign led to concerts and discos being proclaimed as “safe” alternatives (Walker).
Now, to end the character resemblances, I bring Smurfette to the consideration of the reader. Smurfette, the only female on the television show for the first few seasons, is the communal wife described by Marx in The Communist Manifesto. Marx states “The Communists have no need to introduce free love; it has existed almost from time immemorial”.
The Smurf’s principle enemies, Gargamel and Azrael, show the Soviet Union’s contempt for religion, especially Judaism. Azrael, in Islamic and Jewish faiths, is known as the angel of death. Azrael is often identified with Gabriel in Jewish writings and Raphael in Islamic tomes.
According to legend, Azrael keeps a scroll containing the name of every person born in the world. The facts such as time of death and whether the person is damned or not or unbeknownst to the angel.
When the time comes for a person to die, a note is dropped from the throne of Allah containing the person’s name. Azrael reads the note and must separate the soul from the body within forty days. If the person is a believer, they will be peacefully removed. If an unbeliever, Azrael violently tears the soul from the body and casts them into Hell. Mercatante’s Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend also states the descriptions found in Islamic works, generally give Azrael 70,000 feet, 4,000 wings, four faces, and as many eyes and tongues as there are people in the world.
Clearly, such a highly religious figure that is portrayed as dangerous to the state must represent the anti-religious statements found in The Communist Manifesto. Religion is based on the ideas of the ruling class. “Law, morality, religion, are to [the proletarian] so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests”.
In the Soviet Union, religion was banned. Jews were persecuted under the rule of Stalin. He referred to them as “cosmopolitan” and thus wasteful. The Jews, along with millions of others, were sent to work camps, imprisoned, or killed by Stalin in the reign of terror known as The Great Purge.
In conclusion, it may be asked, that there is not enough evidence supporting the Smurfs were Soviets. With this in mind, let me give an assortment of episode titles compiled from Lenburg’s Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. “The Smurf Who Couldn’t Say No”, “Greedy and the Porridge Pot”, “The Cursed Country”, and “Denisa’s Greedy Doll” all are episodes aimed at slandering capitalism and America. Episodes like “Sir Hefty”, “Good Neighbor Smurf”, and “Hefty Sees a Serpent” promote the glorification of the worker, comradeship, and loyalty to the state. The Cold War is described in the episodes “The Kaplowey Scroll” a Smurf weapon of mass destruction, otherwise known as nuclear missiles. And “The Man On the Moon” a blatant statement of supposed Soviet superior space technology. In the last years of the television show, In the full sway of Perestroika and Glasnost, the episodes “Poet the Know-It-All” and “The Smurf Who Could Do No Wrong” were released. The former episode is a statement that while artists were allowed more freedom they should not become arrogant and defile the state. While the latter is an admission to the horrors committed by Stalin during the Great Purge.
In 1989, the Smurfs began to travel the world and accept different cultures, just as Gorbachev had done in the final days of the USSR. In 1990 the last new episode of the Smurfs was produced. Nearly two years later, Communism fell in the Soviet Union bringing democracy and President Boris Yeltsin.
The similarities between this children’s television show and the once vast Red Empire are much too striking to be a mere coincidence. Could this program, aimed to infiltrate and corrupt children’s minds, be a plot set up by Soviet Intelligence? Perhaps we will never know.