They [the Russians] live under a system of tight state-controlled information. But probably the attitude to take toward this is not to get too excited about it. When we take account of what the U.S.S.R. has accomplished in the 20 years of its existence, we can make allowances for certain shortcomings, however deplorable. For that matter, even 15 years ago the Russian economy had scarcely yet changed from the days of the Czars, and the kulaks of the steppes were still treating modern industrial machines like new toys. In 1929 the Soviet Union did not have a single automobile or tractor plant and did not produce high-grade steel or ball bearings. Today the U.S.S.R. ranks among the top three or four nations in industrial power. She has improved her health, built libraries, raised her literacy to about 80%–and trained one of the most formidable armies on earth. It is safe to say that no nation in history has ever done so much so fast. If the Soviet leaders tell us that control of information was necessary to get this job done, we can afford to take their word for it for the time being. We who know the power of free speech, and the necessity for it, may assume that if those leaders are sincere in their work of emancipating the Russian people, they will swing around toward free speech–and we hope soon.

This is from an editorial in Life, March 29, 1943. The whole issue was devoted to the USSR. Indeed, the title on the front, along with the picture of Joseph Stalin, is Special Issue USSR. (The issue was being thrown out when a neighboring office was being emptied and I retrieved it.)

The picture above is the cover. The picture, by the way, was taken by the famous photographer Margaret Bourke-White in 1941.