Americans Experience Russia
Encountering the Enigma, 1917 to the Present
Edited by Choi Chatterjee, Beth Holmgren
Routledge – 2012 – 232 pages
Americans Experience Russia analyzes how American scholars, journalists, and artists envisioned, experienced, and interpreted Russia/the Soviet Union over the last century. While many histories of diplomatic, economic, and intellectual connections between the United States and the Soviet Union can be found, none has yet examined how Americans’ encounters with Russian/Soviet society shaped their representations of a Russian/Soviet ‘other’ and its relationship with an American ‘west.’
The essays in this volume critically engage with postcolonial theories which posit that a self-valorizing, unmediated west dictated the colonial encounter, repressing native voices that must be recovered. Unlike western imperialists and their colonial subjects, Americans and Russians long co-existed in a tense parity, regarding each other as other-than-European equals, sometime cultural role models, temporary allies, and political antagonists. In examining the fiction, film, journalism, treatises, and histories Americans produced out of their ‘Russian experience,’ the contributors to this volume closely analyze these texts, locate them in their sociopolitical context, and gauge how their producers’ profession, politics, gender, class, and interaction with native Russian interpreters conditioned their authored responses to Russian/Soviet reality. The volume also explores the blurred boundaries between national identities and representations of self/other after the Soviet Union’s fall.
"Thought-provoking… This book constitutes required reading for anyone interested in Soviet-American interactions during the twentieth century, and in the complex interactions between emotional response and intellectual interpretation."
- Gleb Tsipursky, Europe-Asia Studies
"This volume includes twelve essays and is a model example of how new approaches and methodologies can revitalize a subject as well covered as American fascination with Russia. Most of the contributors are historians, but the two editors—historian Choi Chatterjee and literary scholar Beth Holmgren—have chosen experts in both Russian and American history, and there is a clear focus on cutting-edge methodologies within cultural history and gender studies, such as an emphasis on personal experiences and emotions, which makes this volume a fascinating read."
- Rósa Magnúsdóttir, The Russian Review
"Seeking to explore the way Americans understood and experienced Russia from the late nineteenth century to the present day…The editors have done a fine job adding some answers and raising further questions about the often enigmatic and paradoxical relationship between the United States and Russia."
- Konstantin Avramov, Canadian Slavonic Papers
“This collection of articles and papers provides new insights into American experiences in Soviet Russia and beyond…it enlarges our perception of the variety of contacts and involvements that Americans have pursued in Russia since the 1917 Revolution.”
–Norman E. Saul, Slavic Review
Introduction. Choi Chatterjee, Beth Holmgren 1.Studying Our Nearest Oriental Neighbor: American Scholars and Late Imperial Russia David C. Engerman Part I: Inside Stories: Utopia, Bohemia, Crucible 2. Hallie Flanagan and the Soviet Union: New Heaven, New Earth, New Theater Lynn Mally 3. Kennan Encounters Russia, 1933-37 Frank Costigliola 4. Constructing a Cold War Epic: Harrison Salisbury and the Siege of Leningrad Lisa A. Kirschenbaum Part II: Our Popular Russian Romance 5. The Russian Romance in American Popular Culture, 1890-1939 Choi Chatterjee 6. Russia on Their Mind: How Hollywood Pictured the Soviet Front Beth Holmgren Part III: Conspicuous Consumers: Ambassadors and Donors 7. Another Mission to Moscow: Ida Rosenthal and Consumer Dreams Emily S. Rosenberg 8. The Moscow Correspondents, Soviet Human Rights Activists, and the Problem of the Western Gift Barbara Walker Part IV: Americans in the Russian Mirror 9. Interviewing Village Mothers--With Help from My Friends David L. Ransel 10. Fear, Affluence, and the Great Plutonium Extravaganza Kate Brown Part V: Living Across Cultures 11. An Interview with Marina Goldovskaya, a "Russian-American" Filmmaker Marina Goldovskaya with Choi Chatterjee and Beth Holmgren 12. The Search for What Might be True: Thoughts from Inside an Era of Change John Freedman Notes Notes on Contributors Index
Choi Chatterjee is Professor of History at California State University, Los Angeles. She is the author of Celebrating Women: Gender, Festival Culture and Bolshevik Ideology, 1910-1939 (2002), and co-author of the volume, The Twentieth Century: A Retrospective (2002). She is currently working on a history of American Communist women and their formative experiences in the Soviet Union.
Beth Holmgren is Professor and Chair of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University. She has recently published a cultural biography of the great nineteenth-century Polish/American actress, Starring Madame Modjeska: On Tour in Poland and America (2012). She is currently working on a history of the interwar literary cabaret in Poland.