"Captive Nations" is a term sometimes used in the United States to describe nations under undemocratic regimes. During the Cold War, when the phraseology appeared and was more frequently used, it referred to nations under Communist administration, primarily Soviet rule.
As a part of the United States' Cold War strategy, an anti-Communist advocacy group, the National Captive Nations Committee, was established in 1959 according to Pub.L. 86-90 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The American economist and diplomat of Ukrainian heritage Lev Dobriansky played a key role in it.
The law also established Captive Nations Week, traditionally proclaimed for the third week in July since then. The move aimed at raising public awareness of the problems of nations under the control of Communist and other non-democratic governments.
The original Public Law 86-90 specifically referred to the following Captive Nations:
Russian emigres living in US, criticized P.L. 86-90, because speaking of "Russian communism" and "imperialistic policies of Communist Russia" this law by implication equated the terms "Russian", "Communist" and "Imperialist". Specifically, the Congress of Russian Americans argued that P.L. 86-90 was anti-Russian rather than anti-Communist since the list of "captive nations" did not include Russians, thus implying that the blame for the Communist crimes lies on the Russians as a nation, rather than just on Soviet system. According to the Russian writer Andrei Tsygankov, the suggested reason for this is that the law was designed by Lev Dobriansky viewed by the Russian Americans as a Ukrainian nationalist. Members of the Congress have campaigned for nullification of the Captive Nations law.
A group of prominent American historians issued a statement claiming that PL 86-90 was largely based on misinformation and committed the United States to aiding ephemeral "nations" such as Cossackia and Idel-Ural.
American leaders continue the tradition of celebrating Captive Nations Week and each year issue a new version of the Proclamation. Contemporary Proclamations do not refer to particular nations or states. The latest US President to specify a list of countries with oppressive regimes was George W. Bush, whose 2008 Proclamation mentioned Belarus and North Korea (in 1959 Belarus was denoted as White Ruthenia). George W. Bush characterized the leaders of the two countries as 'despots'.