Was there a constant 'fear of the bomb' in the Soviet Union and America during the Cold War?
In the USSR there was none among the common people, maybe except the Cuban crisis period, I don't know. There was totally no fear of war, let alone, a nuclear one. The state propaganda emphasized peace and and international friendship.
Regarding the Cuban crisis some people I had talked to said that they realized how dangerous it was only years after, and that they had no fear of war at the time.
It seems in the West on the other hand the fear propaganda was put in full and they could really strike us under this psychosis.
Next follows my opinion. Peace was a part of the social contract in the USSR. The Communist government failed to provide high standards of living but at least they provided peace and were basing their legitimacy on that. There were many WWII veterans who knew how bad the war was so the TV constantly stressed that wars were over now thanks to our party and government who guard our peaceful skies and constantly struggles for peace in the world.
As an American born in the 1950s, I remember a "fear of the bomb" in the early stages of the Cold War. In addition to "fire drills" we (as schoolchildren) had "bomb drills" of hiding in a "basement," or absent such, under our desks.
This was perhaps less so immediately after World War II (1945-1950), and escalated during the 1950s after the McCarthy "anti Communism" hearings, and particularly after Sputnik in 1957, when the Soviet Union briefly moved head of the U.S. in space exploration. The level of concern seemed to peak in the early 1960s, after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the world moved closer to a nuclear exchange than ever before or since.
The purpose of the Nixon-Brezhnev detente of the 1970s was to diffuse this tension, but in the 1980s, President Reagan reversed this policy with "Strategic Defense Initiative "star wars," to try to "outbuild" the Soviet nuclear program into the ground. It was so successful that it brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union itself, not just its nuclear program.
I became aware of the Cold War and the risks of a nuclear war in the late seventies. Most people in the UK didn't worry about it often, but it was always there. I particularly remember the night of the KAL007 shoot-down, September 1st, 1983.
I got home late, turned on the radio to BBC World Service and heard the news. I stayed up for a while to see if the situation would escalate, but when that didn't seem to be happening, I went to bed, not sure if there would be a morning.