Spring 2018

Americans Writing Russia, 100 Years On

Listed in: History, as HIST-253  |  Political Science, as POSC-253  |  Russian, as RUSS-253


Masha Gessen (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 253, POSC 253 [SC], and RUSS 253) For decades Moscow was the quintessential posting for any American correspondent with ambition. The magazines, the papers, the radio, and then the television networks sent their best to live and work in what were usually trying conditions, to try to conjure for the American media consumer a likeness of a country as fascinating as it was feared. The correspondents succeeded and failed with some regularity. Take John Reed, whose Ten Days That Shook the World, a series of dispatches on the 1917 revolution, has landed on both “best” and “worst” book lists. We will begin with Reed and go on to Walter Duranty, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for a report that has since been proved false. We will proceed to look at the work of journalists who sought (or didn’t seek) ways to work around Soviet censorship and those who have been fortunate enough to work without a censor. We will focus more closely on American coverage of post-Communist Russia. How well (or poorly) have our correspondents done – and why? What are the practices that expand or limit our ability to learn what happens in Russia? All readings and discussion in English.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Visiting McCloy Professor Gessen.

If Overenrolled: Priority given to fourth-year students, then to a balance of first-through-third-year students, randomly determined, then to 5-college students


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018