Current Readings on May 8 – Gessen on US Diplomacy

With the close of the spring semester upon us, I'd like to write about what I'm reading that's related to the topics of this site. Today, that topic is American policy toward Russia. This article in the NYT Magazine, "The Quiet Americans behind the US–Russia Imbroglio," by Kieth Gessen, gets at a number of issues that, … Continue reading Current Readings on May 8 – Gessen on US Diplomacy

600 Million

This evening, I listened to an interview with Daniel Ellsburg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971. He is currently promoting a book, The Doomsday Machine, about nuclear weapons, including his time as a planner of nuclear strategy in the 1950s and 1960s. Among other topics Ellsburg addresses in the interview, he recalls an incident from 1961. … Continue reading 600 Million

Farmers in Crisis (No, Not in the Soviet Union)

Among my morning scan of the depressing, depressing news of the world, I came across this piece in The Guardian: "Why Are America's Farmers Killing Themselves in Record Numbers?" In a way, this is not a new story. As the article notes, the farm crisis of the 1980s, which brought us Farm Aid and other … Continue reading Farmers in Crisis (No, Not in the Soviet Union)

Reform Impossible?

On Twitter, I've seen several replies to Keith Gessen's response to William Taubman's new biography of Mikhail Gorbachev. I'm writing this having not yet read the book, although I think now I'll have to add it to the to-do list. The passage I want to respond to—and about which I think Gessen does a good job … Continue reading Reform Impossible?

A Question: Narrating the Soviet Union

In conversations this week with fellow historians, I have returned often to the question of why public knowledge of the Soviet Union is so limited, and interpretations so traditional and conservative. For evidence of the fact, we need look no further than the Applebaum commentary I wrote about last week. I know that fantastic historians … Continue reading A Question: Narrating the Soviet Union

The Russian Revolution Was Not the Material for Your Modern Day Morality Play

Given that this is the centenary of Russia's October Revolution, I am not at all surprised that the internet, including mainstream outlets like the Washington Post, is full of reflections on those events. Many of them are thoughtful and offer considered evaluations of the revolution and its legacies. This one is not one of them. … Continue reading The Russian Revolution Was Not the Material for Your Modern Day Morality Play

Today from the Leftists at the New Yorker

This story, The Family That Built the Empire of Pain, which recently appeared in the New Yorker, was recommended by a friend the other day. The New Yorker does print good stuff, even if it's often interspersed with costal provincialism and cultural preconceptions. This is one case of the good, even if there is a little … Continue reading Today from the Leftists at the New Yorker

Resurrected: “Research of a Different Sort”

This and other posts titled “Resurrected” are reposts from an earlier blog I kept that now, thanks to no longer being affiliated with UNC–Chapel Hill, I cannot continue to use. I’m adding them to jumpstart the process, and to provide some examples of the kind of commentary I envision adding in the coming weeks and … Continue reading Resurrected: “Research of a Different Sort”