Learn about the history of Russia, Ukraine

Russia, the Soviet Union, and Ukraine

  • We Recognize the Soviet Union by Walter A. Foote
    January 1934
    Now that normal relations have been established, historians for generations to come will search for details of Mr. Litvinoff’s visit to Washington and for all possible background regarding his historic conversations with President Roosevelt, Secretary Hull and others.
  • The Soviet Ukraine: Its Resources, Industries, and Potentialities by E.C. Ropes
    August 1941
    The Ukraine, the “bread basket” of the USSR, is chiefly notable for its production of foodstuffs, principally grains, grown mainly in the strip of black soil which stretches across the republic in the south.
  • Visit to a Russian Check Point by Avery F. Peterson
    September 1951
    Just then the Russian soldier clicked the door open with his key and pointedly held it open. I took the knob and pulled it closed—but obviously any plans of paper destruction or paper-hiding were foolhardy. There was only one course, namely, to play it easy and bluff it through as if my luggage consisted of one nylon shirt and a toothbrush.
  • Contacts with the Soviets by Frederick T. Merrill
    March 1959
    All these and many other proposals are being hatched in the chinook of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Exchange Agreement signed January 27, 1958, which provides on the U.S. side that its citizens be encouraged to engage in cultural, technical, and educational exchange, not only persons but also such media as books, scientific journals, films, radio and TV programs.
  • Scenes from the Soviet Countryside by Marvin L. Kalb
    March 1959
    The Baptist Church on a Sunday morning is an unforgettable scene. It is overwhelming, because it is so real, so true, so unaffected, so sincere.
  • The Voices of Moscow by Don Emmerson
    August 1960
    Others soon realized that their Russian “adventure” was not simply a paid vacation, but a personal responsibility, both to the Russians, to ensure that the picture they received of American life was accurate and complete, and to the American people, to ensure that they were portrayed frankly and fairly.
  • The Soviet Diplomatic Game by Gordon A. Craig
    April 1962
    What is clear, and disturbing, is that the Soviet approach to diplomacy has proved highly effective in promoting Soviet state interest, often to the disadvantage and even humiliation of the West. Because this is so, Soviet diplomatic methods deserve more serious study in our own country.
  • Russia and the West by J.W. Fulbright
    October 1963
    The task of Western policy is not directly to destroy communism as an ideology—an enterprise which the erosions of time and history rather than acts of statecraft will accomplish—but to demonstrate the futility and danger of its misconceptions, while our major energies are dedicated to the strengthening and improvement of our own society.
  • Mission to Moscow by Wallace Carroll
    October 1963
    Khrushchev, with his earthy ways, his peasant shrewdness, his political flair, knew what the Soviet people were feeling and thinking, and he knew that their wants and desires could not be eternally suppressed. And Khrushchev, as Thompson saw him, had the stature and the foresight to move—to ease the terror, to open the doors and windows at least a little.
  • Life as a Russian Worker by Richard H. Sanger
    June 1971
    The few tourists allowed in Russia in those days saw only what the Communists let them see. I decided that the only way to find a clear answer was to go to the USSR as a worker. I therefore “resigned” from the Foreign Service, checked with friends high up in the United States Government, and began contacting left-wing acquaintances.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert A. Hurwitch
    July 1971
    An FSO recounts high-level policy deliberations that transpired as nuclear missile-ferrying Soviet ships inched closer to Cuba.
  • Life as a Russian Worker, Pt. II by Richard H. Sanger
    July 1971
    For the next three months I rose in the pitch darkness at 5:30 a.m., ate a hurried breakfast of cereal, tea, and black bread, and joined a column of silent figures moving to the gate of the zinc plant, urged forward by repeated blasts of the factory whistle which boomed through the fog like the voice of a hungry animal waiting to be fed.
  • To Moscow—With Nostalgia by Peter Semler
    July 1971
    All the more rewarding were those evenings when we could be with the Muscovites at their most relaxed—when they were neither travelers, nor guests, nor out on the town but at home. One does not forget arriving for the first time at a Russian home on a bitter November evening, nostrils signaling their frozen state, to be greeted by a roaring fireplace and generous “riumkis” of medicinal vodka.
  • Eastern Europe: The Unstable Element in the Soviet Empire by Robert F. Byrnes
    July 1971
    Soviet control of most of Eastern Europe has given it forward military bases and possession of the traditional invasion routes into Europe. The Soviet position constitutes a kind of pistol at the head of the West.
  • Fouling Out at Moscow U.: An Athletic Misadventure in Russia by William Shinn Jr.
    September 1976
    I began to be apprehensive when I saw posters appearing around the University advertising the “Soviet-U.S. match.” Disaster seemed all but certain when, on the eve of the game, the Embassy let us down and failed to supply the fifth man we needed.
  • Our Man at Stalin’s Funeral by Jacob D. Beam
    May 1978
    In presenting my ‘personal and official condolences’ orally, I mentioned that Stalin would be remembered in our country as an ally and great wartime leader. With tears in his eyes Molotov rose from his chair to shake my hand, leaving little doubt that his affection for Stalin was genuine
  • Negotiating with the Soviets: Goals, Style, and Method by collected authors
    November 1985
    With the summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev approaching and the arms control talks in Geneva heating up, the topic of negotiating with the Soviets has been placed square on the table. Last year the Roosevelt Center for American Policy Studies conducted a series of seminars in which experienced negotiators shared their views on the special characteristics of superpower conversations.
  • Pre-war Moscow: Red Tape and Purges by H.W. Brands Jr.
    May 1987
    With the others of that promising class of 1934 — such as George Kennan and Charles “Chip” Bohlen — Henderson learned the diplomatic ropes in Stalin’s capital, and he acquired opinions and attitudes—especially regarding the untrustworthiness and hostile intentions of Soviet communism—that he would carry for the rest of his life.
  • Cold War Moscow: Diplomacy of Enmity by Walter L. Hixson
    May 1987
    Foreboding gave way to confidence once Kennan arrived in Moscow on May 6. He hoped that his mission would spark a fresh start in U.S.-Soviet relations. Kennan believed that Stalin, having abandoned hopes of world conquest as a result of American displays of resolve, might be ready to forge a settlement in Europe and Asia.
  • Moscow Today: A Conversation with Amb. Arthur Hartman
    May 1987
    The U.S.S.R. is a closed society, and our purpose in being in Moscow is to understand and report on it as fully as possible. So we have to balance the risk and the opportunities. We want our people to know how to handle themselves and to engage, to get out and talk to Soviets and to do what you can only do on the spot in Moscow.
  • The Perils of Perestroika by Daniel N. Nelson
    November 1987
    Gorbachev’s style of “openness,” his criticisms of many Soviet traditions and methods, and his proposed solutions, if implemented, will result in profound changes for Soviet society. Gorbachev has set for himself a surprisingly difficult agenda: reinvigorating economic performance, civic consciousness, and, most broadly, public morality. The outcome of this program, however, is very much in doubt.
  • Helping Russia Reform by Thompson R. Buchanan
    April 1993
    We should be content to watch the yeast of democracy and freedom work slowly, in its Russian way. The ultimate decision—whether Russia earns its place as a responsible power in the family of nations is one that only the Russian people can make.
  • Russian Fallout by Vladimir Shlapentokh
    February 1994
    The same cannons that pounded the Moscow White House into submission on October 4 cannot guarantee that Russia will not endure an authoritative regime in the near future. The election emphasized the pitfalls in trying to gain the support of the people and parliament in promoting economic reform.
  • Helping Russians to Help Themselves by Terry F. Buss
    February 1994
    What I admire most about Russian officials is that they have forgotten past animosities with the United States; they have asked for advice from outsiders; and they have exposed their society’s good and bad to foreigners.
  • New Era Beckons for Ukraine by Roman Popadiuk
    June 1994
    The end of the Soviet Union brought Ukraine its independence, but it also dislocated its economic relations with the former republics and, in particular, with Russia.
  • The Plummeting of Yeltsin’s Star by Vladimir Shlapentokh
    April 1995
    The escalating Chechen war, criticized by the general public as well as the Kremlin’s political enemies, is deflating President Boris Yeltsins popularity, decentralizing his power and seriously jeopardizing his 1996 reelection hid.
  • In Russia: The Kremlin vs. the People by Dmitry Sidorov
    October 2004
    Although definitely not willing to engage in a direct confrontation with the U.S., the Kremlin is trying hard to convince the Russian people that it can stand up to the imagined U.S. threat. In the Kremlin’s view, this “toughness” should serve as verification to the Russians that their nation’s strength, last experienced in the old Soviet Union, has been revived.
  • Understanding Vladimir Putin by Dale Herspring
    April 2007
    While he shares the Kremlin’s traditional preference for centralizing power, Putin’s approach differs from that of his predecessors.
  • Preparing for the Post-Putin Era by Lilia Shevtsova
    April 2007
    There is no reason to assume that Putin intends to remain in the Kremlin beyond the end of his second term, to do so would require a change in the Russian constitution. The leader who dismantles the constitution undermines the legitimacy of his presidency and thereby destabilizes the political system, based as it is on personal leadership.
  • An Impossible Trinity? Resources, Space and People by Clifford C. Gaddy
    April 2007
    Today Russia faces a shortage of one asset that it has in the past possessed in abundance — human beings. It is therefore worth examining Russia’s future in terms of how it deals with the challenge of managing its resources, its space and its people.
  • Russia Confronts Radical Islam by Dmitry Gorenburg
    April 2007
    The attack signaled that, in attempting to deal with Russia’s Muslim minority, the government in Moscow faces a challenge likely to become larger and more difficult in the future.
  • Cold War Lessons by George P. Shultz
    December 2011
    The disappearance of the Berlin Wall is a metaphor for the end of the Cold War, which occurred largely without bloodshed. And the lessons we should learn are potentially useful because security concerns once again threaten the freedom and prosperity of our world.
  • Embassy Moscow: On The Front Lines of History by Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
    December 2011
    The embassy carefully reported the stages of unraveling, based on extensive contacts with government officials and opposition leaders on the one hand and, on the other, the insights derived from deepening involvement with the broader public. Though it conflicted with prevailing opinion in Washington, the embassy’s July 1990 message was not a bolt out of the blue.
  • The View from the Trenches by Thomas Graham
    December 2011
    The unremitting surveillance and harsh physical environment alone would have made Moscow the hardship post it was. But the Soviet authorities tried to make it even harder, to stretch our resources and test our resolve.
  • In the Eye of the Storm: Team Sov by James Schumaker
    December 2011
    Standing at the eye of a growing storm, we could only grasp at the various bits of evidence that came our way to make some sense of what we saw and heard. Our conclusions, at first tentative, became stronger with the passage of time. But neither we, nor anyone else, saw exactly what was coming.
  • Cultural Diplomacy in the Cold War by Yale Richmond
    December 2011
    The end of the Cold War and collapse of communism came after more than 30 years of exchanges between the West and the Soviet Union. The Soviet elite who traveled to the West, as well as many who remained at home, came to realize how far behind their country lagged and how Marxism-Leninism had failed them, and they began to expect more than the communist system could provide.
  • Picking up the Pieces by Michael Lally
    December 2011
    With the crumbling of the Soviet Empire, the demand for economic reporting and commercial diplomacy in the newly independent states soared.
  • The Putin Doctrine and Preventive Diplomacy / The Need for Consensus on American Goals by James E. Goodby
    November 2014
    The USSR is not coming back, but the United States must take a realistic approach to Russia, correctly framing the issues and wielding the tools best suited to strategic priorities.
  • Understanding Russian Foreign Policy Today by Raymond Smith
    December 2016
    U.S.-Russia relations are in disarray, with talk of a new Cold War pervasive. Fortunately, framing the conflict in terms of national interests points to a way forward.
  • The Rise of the New Russia by Louis D. Sell
    December 2016
    This tour d’horizon from the fall of the Soviet Union to today puts U.S.-Russia relations into perspective.
  • Something Happened on the Way to the Market: The Economic State of the Former USSR by Michael A. Lally
    December 2016
    While Soviet successor states have achieved varying levels of economic independence in the past quarter-century, many have, more or less, repudiated the central planning of the past, and look instead to a free market model.
  • Four Centuries and Three Decades of Russian Thinking by Justin Lifflander
    December 2016
    Conversations with Russians of different social strata paint a vivid picture of a country grappling will the meaning of the past quarter-century’s upheavals.
  • Communications Behind the Iron Curtain by Timothy C. Lawson
    December 2016
    This firsthand account of a fire in the secure area of Embassy Moscow on March 28, 1991, conveys the importance and drama of Diplomatic Telecommunications Service work during the last days of the USSR.
  • Groundbreaking Diplomacy: An Interview with George Shultz
    December 2016
    George Shultz reflects on his tenure as Secretary of State in the Reagan administration and the process of making foreign policy and conducting diplomacy during the decade leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union.
  • Ukraine in 2016: There’s No Going Back by William Gleason
    December 2016
    Young Ukrainian leaders battle Russian pressure, endemic corruption and a moribund economy in pursuit of a new, independent identity.
  • Oral History in Real Time: The Maidan Revolution by Joseph Rozenshtein
    April 2017
    Embassy Kyiv’s oral history project will prove useful to historians and may be a model for other posts interested in instituting “exit interviews” of departing staff.
  • Remembering 1989: Berlin Wall Stories
    November 2019
    The FSJ reached out to AFSA members to ask, “Where were you when the Berlin Wall came down? What was the impact on your post, your work, the local environment and the U.S. relationship with the host country?” Close to 50 firsthand accounts came in from people who were then serving in East Berlin, in West Berlin, throughout the region and around the world.
  • Reflections on Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. in the Post-Soviet World by John F. Tefft
    March 2020
    The struggle between Russia and Ukraine, in which the U.S. has been involved for three decades, reflects the challenges of the continuing post-Soviet transformation.
  • The World Through Moscow’s Eyes: A Classic Russian Perspective by Dimitri Trenin
    March 2020
    Equipped with a basic understanding of Russia’s roots and its physical position, U.S. diplomats need to be able to look at the world, including the United States, from Moscow’s perspective.
  • When Lightning Struck Twice: Drawing Down Mission Russia by Michael A. Lally
    March 2020
    As we approach the anniversary of the March 29, 2018, expulsion of our diplomats, their story of grit, professionalism and patriotism reminds us of the Foreign Service ethos and our direct contributions to the nation.
  • U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Negotiations—A Short History by Rose Gottemoeller
    May 2020
    When the Russians violated the INF Treaty to the point that it was being hollowed out, it was time for the United States to leave. While New START provides us with predictability about Russian nuclear forces and prevents Moscow from building up its nuclear weapons, it is clearly in our interest to stay. We must be clear-eyed when nuclear arms control is serving us well, but not shy away from admitting when it fails us.
  • Russia’s Return to the Middle East by Angela Stent
    July-August 2020
    The COVID-19 pandemic has not constrained Russia’s activity in the Middle East, but it is unclear whether Moscow has a longer-term strategy for the region.
  • Practical Lessons for Today’s Foreign Service by George Krol
    December 2021
    U.S. diplomats in the former USSR had a unique opportunity to better comprehend the world and practice their craft.
  • The Odd Couple and the End of an Era by James E. Goodby
    December 2021
    Thirty years ago, an improbable U.S.-Soviet partnership took dramatic cooperative security steps to end the Cold War.
  • Before Havana Syndrome, There Was Moscow Signal by James Schumaker
    January-February 2022
    During the Cold War, the Soviets beamed microwaves at our embassy in Moscow for decades. It is uncertain exactly when it started.

Courtesy of the Foreign Service Journal