Research Interests

I was trained in graduate school as a "Sovietologist." As a result, most of my research has focused on the former Soviet Union, its politics and foreign policy. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, many of my fellow Soviet specialists switched their focus to post-Soviet Russian affairs. Although I have taught courses that treat post-Soviet Russia, my research continues to focus on the Soviet period itself. My wife, Jane Taubman, who teaches Russian language, literature, and film at Amherst, jokes that when "my country" disappeared into the past, I became a historian. Truth to tell, however, I have always been drawn to a historical approach to political science, that is, to addressing large and enduring questions of politics (such as the nature of revolution, sources of tyranny, perils of reform, and the impact of leaders and their personalities) as they emerge and evolve over time in concrete historical settings. Having grown up in a family of journalists, I have tried to write for general readers as well as specialists.

As a result of this range of interests and inclinations, I have rarely tackled the same sort of research project twice. After a first book of recollections of my year (1965-1966) as an exchange student at Moscow State University, my second book treated Soviet urban governance, a later book covered US-Soviet relations in the Stalin era, and my most recent book was a biography of Nikita Khrushchev. Along the way, my wife and I wrote a memoir about our semester's stay in Moscow in the spring of 1988, and I edited books on American foreign policy, and on Khrushchev, and translated/edited Sergei Khrushchev's about his father. My current project is a biography of Mikhail Gorbachev.