By cloaking themselves behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy (almost like a veil, or curtain, made of some kind of metal) Russia freed America's imagination to fill in the many blanks with details that were 10 times worse than reality. According to the movies, Russia was ahead of us on everything -- space, missiles, sexy women spies, you name it -- and at any moment they were poised to burst out and destroy us.
Or break us, as the situation may require.
When they tore down that wall, as Reagan had asked them nicely to do, it was a huge letdown to find out our invincible adversaries had been basically eating their shoes to keep from starving. Shoes they had to wait in line to buy in the first place.
Let's see you love shoe shopping now, ladies.
Now, the good news is that Russians are just as nostalgic for the old days as action movie lovers (because at least then they had shoes to eat), and have been moving further and further toward old repressive Soviet policies. Not coincidentally, Russian bad guys have started to pop up again in movies like Iron Man 2 and games like Modern Warfare 2. The actual country still isn't back in top villain form though (where they'd have a massive army of soldiers wearing instead of eating their army boots), which means movie and game makers usually have to go with rogue Russians or Russian mobs.