It was August 4, 1945. World War II had just been won on the European fronts in what was one of the proudest moments the United States would share with the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. This friendship between the Kremlin and the United States is one that is rarely seen today, but yes—it did happen once upon a time.

Wanting to celebrate this victory as well as the friendship between the two countries, the Soviet Union had made a wooden, hand-carved, ceremonial seal of the United States of America to present to then US Ambassador to the Soviet Union William Averell Harriman to show a great gesture of camaraderie and friendship between the two world powers, or so we thought at that time.

Later known simply as “The Thing,” it would ultimately be placed in Harriman’s wall in the library of the Spaso House after it had been presented to him by Russian schoolchildren. While originally looking as if it was harmless, this so-called wooden seal would betray Harriman and other US ambassadors for 7 years. It was later discovered to be a Soviet bug that enabled the Kremlin to have covert ears within the US Embassy.

Did Russian Schoolchildren Really Make The Thing?

Peace advocate Samantha Smith with the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization in 1983 (Wikipedia). Source:
Peace advocate Samantha Smith with the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization in 1983 (RIA Novosti archive, image #793152 / Yuryi Abramochkin / CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

After the war, the cracks between the United States and the Soviet Union alliance were starting to show. As you may remember, the Soviets would install communist puppet governments after the war in Eastern Europe. Naturally, they would adopt the same ideologies and the same method of governance.