Publication Date

February 1, 1989

Perspectives Section


AHA Topic

Teaching & Learning


  • Europe

Every year since 1974, a professor from an American university has taught for a semester in the department of American history at Moscow State University.

Over the course of four months, this professor gives a regular course to the students at Moscow. The professor’s duties include not only lecturing but also individual or small group consultations with students and examining and grading them. There are no restrictions on what the American professor says in lectures and consultations, and there are no restrictions, other than availability, on what reading material is assigned in the course.

The American professor usually meets with students alone in the consultations, and it is also possible to meet with each of them alone for the final examinations. Those examinations are, like nearly all examinations in Soviet schools from primary grades through university, oral examinations. The professor gives a grade to the student entirely on his or her own judgment, and that grade, if it is a passing grade, goes into the permanent grade book that each student is required to carry at all times.

This arrangement, which is funded and administered under the Fulbright program, is one of special intimacy and trust. To my knowledge no other scholarly or scientific connection with the Soviets enjoys this degree of intimacy and trust, nor do many arrangements even with institutions in nations outside the Communist bloc. This relationship also has great regularity and firm grounding. It has survived the vicissitudes of Soviet-American relations almost entirely unscathed. It is the only cultural or scientific relationship between the two countries which has never been interrupted.

Depending upon the method of counting the University of Wisconsin-Madison has supplied two or three of the fourteen professors who have filled this post at Moscow State University. If the number is counted as two, the UW-Madison is tied with the University of Missouri-Kansas City for the largest number. Either way, the contribution is impressive, because no other American university has had more than one professor at this post in Moscow.

I went to teach in Moscow, at a time when the Gorbachev era was taking shape and change was unmistakably afoot among the Soviets. What contribution I made to this program is for others to judge. I certainly do not claim to have been a George Kennan in this sphere. I hope that I was not a Joe Davies, either, but I would like to borrow something from him.

In 1942, Davies published his memoir, Mission to Moscow, which became a best-selling book and was later made into a popular motion picture. I would like to borrow his phrase to describe some aspects of my much more modest “mission to Moscow.” I always considered my going to Moscow a mission. I would not have gone if I had not regarded it that way.

Naturally, I had some decently selfish motives, and going to Moscow hold out some strong attractions for my family. Our hopes about what we might get for ourselves personally out of this sojourn among the Soviets were satisfied beyond our greatest expectations. Yet those benefits were not my main reasons for going to Moscow.

My initial inclination was to decline the invitation. Only after talking with people in Washington and with several program predecessors did I begin to think seriously about accepting. In part, I felt flattered to be told that I would be doing a service to my country and to international understanding. Contrary to many critic’s insinuations, few academics are immune to appeals to patriotism. As for being asked to lend one’s special talents to the cause of peace and international understanding—who can resist that kind of sales pitch?

The temptation toward service came in a particularly well-defined, alluring form. Not only is Moscow State the leading Soviet university, but its American history department has stood at or near the top among the institutions in the Soviet Union that study the United States. This department’s only real rivals are the Institute of the United States and Canada, headed by Georgy Arbatov, and the American section of the Institute of General History. Ties between the department at Moscow University and those institutes are close, particularly because all the members of those institutes are graduates of that department.

Clearly, this appeared to be an unparalleled opportunity to make an impact on the ways that Soviet scholars view the United States and perhaps, by extension, on the ways that their government formulates its American policy. I do not wish to make my motives sound purely or even mainly altruistic; I readily admit that I wanted to get something for myself. In going to Moscow to teach twentieth-century American history, I wanted to learn how first-rate scholars and students with radically different national and ideological approaches view my field of study. I presumed that I would be matching wits with sophisticated men and women whose national background was primarily Russian and whose ideological allegiance was not just deeply Marxist but self-consciously and commitedly Communist. I entertained high hopes for these encounters because some of my predecessors had glowingly written about the intellectual stimulation received from their time in Moscow. Also, I was personally acquainted with deeply impressed by the Soviet member of the department who was mainly responsible for establishing this program—Nikolai Sivachev. Tragically, Sivachev died in 1982, at the age of 48, but he had trained all of the younger members of the department, and, I was assured, his spirit and example lived on.

No one ever suggested to me what I could or could not say in either lectures or discussions with students. There were no “off limits” subjects.

In short, the signs seemed particularly auspicious that I would give and get much from this encounter with American history in Moscow. The giving and the getting that I did encounter fell into two parts—teaching and contact with students and contact and interchange with the faculty—both had its rewards and frustrations. The formal teaching consisted of weekly lectures and University of Wisconsin consultations and on the whole activities were virtually identical to my activities at Madison. No one ever suggested to me what I could or could not say in either lectures or discussions with students. There were no “off limits” subjects.

Still, despite those similarities, there were differences from the ways I teach at home. On a basic level, I was nearly always aware that I was speaking to people whose native language was not English. Repeated pleas from the Soviets for me to slow my delivery worked no better than earlier pleas worked from my American students. But to make the lectures easier to follow, I supplied a written outline. That required me to provide twenty-five copies, and my inquiries about photocopying at the university met with polite evasions. I later learned that, outside certain privileged laboratories, only two copy machines are available at this university with 25,000 students. Both machines are in high-level administrative offices, and to use them requires elaborate, special permission, which takes several weeks to be granted, if it is granted. In the meantime I had to resort to using the copy machine at the U.S. embassy. My weekly trek there and back was a reminder of how restriction of information is a fundamental characteristic of Soviet life and the Soviet system. After a few of these trips, I started muttering that the real test of glasnost will be the copy machine. When any student in a library can pop a five- or ten-kopek coin in a copy machine or when Kinko’s joins Pizza Hut and McDonald’s as a franchise operation in the Soviet Union—then I will be convinced that glasnost is for real.

Another difference in my teaching was a slight resort to self-censorship. I rarely discussed Soviet-American relations in my lectures. This omission also reflected a scholarly judgment, since I do not believe that relations with the Soviet mattered much to the United States before 1941, and my lectures stopped at 1940. But I was also ducking potential trouble. In my first week in Moscow, I attended a conference at the university on current Soviet-American relations at which another visiting American professor spoke. It was my first personal exposure to the rigid posturing that Soviets routinely assume in such discussions. I decided enough barriers already existed between the Soviet students and faculty, and myself so that I would only be making things tougher for myself by treading in that minefield. The one time that I did touch on Soviet-American relations in a lecture was when I discussed Allied intervention in Russia at the end of World War I. I argued that the Bolshevik regime was not a major concern of the Western leaders in 1919 and that the United States in particular did not try to take sides in their civil war, much less destroy the Bolsheviks. I thought I sensed disbelief as I said those things, but no one challenged me or asked me any questions about the subject.

The greatest difference in the lecturing was that I found myself emphasizing points and sometimes drawing observations that I do not ordinarily make. From the outset, I was aware that my stress on the role of individuals, particularly political leaders, was alien to the student’s and faculty’s beliefs that large forces shape the course of history. I cannot say that I tried to convert them to my way of thinking, but I did try to make it more meaningful to them. When I was talking about the major differences that I think Theodore Roosevelt made in American political history, I urged them to consider the roles played in their own history by Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. The notion of suggesting Lenin and Stalin as further examples did flicker across my mind, but either better judgment or cowardice prevailed to make me avoid excessive provocation.

At other times, however, I did engage in some deliberate provocation. I hope that my motives in these cases were to provoke thought, but I have to confess that especially as time wore on and Soviet life wore on me I was sometimes venting a little spleen. As an example, when I was discussing Louis Brandeis’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1916, I went on at greater length than usual about his being the first Jew to be named to the court and about how none of the opposition to his nomination was openly based on anti-Semitism and, in my view, little of that opposition was covertly anti-Semitic, either. The casual, unthinking anti-Semitism of the Soviets was one of their three attitudes that offended me most (the other two were their equally casual, unthinking male chauvinism, and their deliberate disrespect for religion). I wanted to make the point that Americans were different and better on this score.

…I did engage in some deliberate provocation. I hope that my motives in these cases were to provoke thought, but I have to confess that especially as time wore on and Soviet life wore on me I was sometimes venting a little spleen.

Perhaps my purest display of needling came when I discussed diplomatic friction between Britain and the United States, also in 1916. I dwelt at length on the British practice of intercepting and reading mail that was suspected of conveying information to their World War I enemies. “You know,” I commented, “there’s nothing that makes Americans angrier than having their mail stopped and opened.”

My most extended provocation came when I discussed the Great Depression. This event in American history exerts an understandable fascination for Soviets as the greatest failure of capitalism. The outstanding feature of interpretations of the causes of the depression is that there is little or no agreement among Americans or others in the West about those causes. After six decades of analysis and argument, economists and historians are still as divided as ever about what caused the depression. I dutifully pointed out this circumstance to the students in Moscow, as I always do to my classes in the United States. But then I said something else that I had never said before. “I suspect,” I told them, “that some of you may be smiling to yourselves and thinking that this lack of agreement exists only among Western capitalists. I also suspect that you may be thinking that because you are Marxists you know very well what caused the depression. Let me suggest to you that you think again. I believe that there are serious problems of interpretation even from a Marxist perspective.” I went on to suggest that according to a Marxian analysis the “objective conditions” that supposedly underlay the depression had existed long before 1929. It seemed to me, therefore, that they had a problem explaining why the depression occurred when it did, especially why it did not occur earlier. I also suggested that Marxists had problems explaining the depression in light of the remarkable recovery that Western capitalism has staged during the last forty years. “And please don’t try to talk about a ‘permanent war economy,'” I remember adding. “All you have to do is to compare the current state of the American economy with that of the West German and Japanese economies to see that that notion is fallacious.”

None of the students responded to my outburst with any questions at the end of the lecture. Over lunch afterward, however, one of the faculty members—the most speculative mind among them—began talking about the theories of the early Soviet economist Kondratieff concerning long cycles in industrial economies. This is one of the most interesting interpretations not only of the depression but also of modern economic history, and I began asking about Kondratieff and his standing in the Soviet Union today. Another, more orthodox faculty member observed that Kondratieff had been accused in the 1930’s of “objectivism”—a deviation from Marxist orthodoxy—and that ended our discussion.

The best interchanges that I had with students involved, not surprisingly, questions about the role of leftists in American history. Half the students whom I examined chose topics about socialists and radicals for their special projects in the course. I soon discovered that their interest was not just sympathetic but deeply partisan. It reminded me of Americans’ fascination with Soviet dissidents. In both cases, the interest far exceeds their numbers and significance. In part, the Soviet students were displaying an understandable desire to know more about the people who were on their side. But they also betrayed a distorting desire to believe that a majority of Americans were on that side or would have been if they had been given a free choice. They cannot understand why a majority of Americans have not long since become socialists or Communists, just as we cannot understand why a majority of Soviets do not rebel against restraints on their freedom.

One question at the end of a lecture illuminated the source of their interest especially clearly. In discussing the 1912 election, I had pointed out that that was when a socialist presidential candidate, in this case Eugene Debs, had received the largest percentage of votes, although it was only a little over six per cent. One student asked me, somewhat stiltedly, to explain what had been the bases of Debs’s support in 1912. Then he burst out, “What I really want to know is why he didn’t win.”

Trying to answer questions like that and being aware of the students’ intellectual and ideological agendas afforded me the greatest perspectives on American history that I found in Moscow. I found myself reflecting more than I usually do on why the left has not been stronger in the United States. Many scholars have preceded me in pondering that question, and I cannot claim much in the way of original answers. I laid less stress than others have done on such larger factors as the availability of land and lack of an aristocracy, and I emphasized the role of individuals and groups at particular times, such as Samuel Gompers and the American Federation of Labor in the early part of the twentieth century.

I wish I could say that I had many other, similar experiences of intellectual stretchings but I am afraid that I did not. What I did get came in other ways, but the lack of intellectual broadening through scholarly contact was disappointing. The students proved to be much more of a mixed lot than I had expected. The stories I had heard about Moscow university had led me to expect frightfully serious, awesomely hardworking, intellectually gifted, thoroughly versed young Marxists. That is not what I found. Two of the twelve students whom I examined and graded were as bright as any I have encountered anywhere. What is more, one of them demonstrably and the other probably possessed a heartening measure of intellectual curiosity and love of learning for its own sake. Two students like that out of twelve are not a bad haul, but that is not what one might expect to find in a huge nation’s equivalent to Oxford or Cambridge. Seven of the twelve students made up the middle. They varied from the diligent and technically competent down to three who barely scraped by. I did not have to prod most of these students to work, but I did not get the impression that they were overwhelmed with their studies.

The students proved to be much more of a mixed lot than I had expected. The stories I had heard about Moscow university had led me to expect frightfully serious, awesomely hardworking, intellectually gifted, thoroughly versed young Marxists. That is not what I found.

These students were what I should have expected from reading about Soviet education. They were already well-connected young people. All twelve were from Moscow, as opposed to less than 30 per cent of the entire university student body. Moreover, all students were sons and daughters of professors in institutes, journalists stationed abroad, army officers, theater producers, and other such echelons of the Soviet elite. The middling seven were, predictably perhaps, young careerists with a head start toward maintaining their economic and social status. They reminded me of pre-professional students in the United States. My biggest surprise of all from the twelve students came neither from the top two nor from the middling seven. It came from the bottom three. They were lazy. They did not work. They tried to get by with little reading and less thinking. Danger signals arose well before the end of the semester. One of these three students was doing his special project on the Supreme Court and the New Deal, and he started explaining to me why the court had declined to intervene against the Roosevelt administration’s programs in 1933. Somewhat incredulous, I asked him if he knew how a case reached the Supreme Court. Original suits, lower courts, and appellate jurisdiction were all news to him. Next, I asked him about certain important decisions, which he had never heard of. Another of these three was working on the New Deal. When I asked him what he had done, he told me that he had read the required text, which contained less than a chapter on his subject, and that he had looked at one general Soviet work. Naturally, I told them that they had both better do a lot more reading soon. Later, I marched these and some other students into the department library, pulled books off the shelves, and thrust them into their hands. My warnings and my bibliographic strong arm tactics were to no avail. At their examinations, these three showed that they had done little more reading and understood their subjects no better than before. Even before the examinations, I had asked various university officials how such students got admitted in the first place. The only answers I got were an indulgent, boys-will-be-boys line. I still do not know how they got into either Moscow university or this highly competitive program in American history. I suspect that party pull may have played a part in these students’ admissions.

Interestingly, the consequences of their flunking my course were negligible. The Soviets invented the original no-fault grading system, because only passing marks appear in a student’s grade book. A failing mark simply means a shortage of a credit, which can easily be made up somewhere else. My experience with these failing students was bad enough in itself, but it struck me as even worse as a symptom of other conditions.

Early in my stay in Moscow, a television crew from 60 Minutes filmed one of my lectures. At the end of the lecture, Diane Sawyer interviewed the students. I was relieved when that interview did not appear on the program. I vividly remember how one student answered her question about what difference it made to have an American teaching them American history. “It makes no difference,” the student answered, “our Soviet professors do an excellent job. We know what we need to know already.” At the time, I put that answer down to the kind of thing that any young Soviet would say when confronted by a Western reporter. Later, as I got to know the department better, I began to conclude that the student’s remark epitomized a sincerely held and prevalent viewpoint. At least two-thirds of the students I taught subscribed to that viewpoint. Worse, I began to conclude that many on the faculty, perhaps a majority, also subscribed to the “we-know-it-all-already” attitude. That was the most disturbing discovery that I made in Moscow.

But the fact remains that I do not know much more now about how Soviets approach American history than I did before I went there. What I have learned comes mainly from gleanings, asides, and second-hand observations, not from long, frank discussions and interchanges.

Relations with the American history faculty at the university furnished the greatest intellectual disappointment of my sojourn in the Soviet Union. Personally and socially, it was a wonderful experience. They are warm, considerate, kindly, fun-loving people. My family and I had a great time with them, and we have made some lifelong friends. I felt churlish then and I feel that way now when I complain about the paucity of scholarly and intellectual contact. But the fact remains that I do not know much more now about how Soviets approach American history than I did before I went there. What I have learned comes mainly from gleanings, asides, and second-hand observations, not from long, frank discussions and interchanges. The lack of such intellectual contact was as I noted, the most disappointing aspect of my mission to Moscow, and I am still puzzled about why it did not turn out better. I did complain about this lack of scholarly contact. I made my complaints, both diplomatically and sincerely, in the context of being of service to them. The responses that I got were threefold. One was to shift the onus to me for not knowing Russian so that I could read their books. That seemed a bit lame, and I once asked a Russian-speaking American friend to read part of one of their recent works. A second excuse was that teaching and administrative duties, particularly those required by a new program of educational reform, took up a lot of their time. This struck me as reasonable up to a point, but I kept remembering how American scholars make time for foreign visitors, not only out of politeness but also out of hunger for information and insight about fields with which the visitors have closer contact. Some of my Soviet colleagues did consult with me about sources and ask me to get materials for them, but there was not even as much of that kind of contact as I had expected. The third response to my complaints was the most interesting. One faculty member stated, “It is an uncertain time.” That rang much truer to our observations about current Soviet affairs.

Although we saw lots of obligatory obeisance to “perestroika”—the term that Soviets use much more frequently than “glasnost”—I sensed little real enthusiasm for it among students and faculty in American history. Rather, I sensed some skepticism and lots of unease. Another American whom we met in Moscow, an economist and old Soviet hand, told us that he was having a much harder time gaining access to people and information than he had had earlier, even during the most stagnant days of the Brezhnev era. “Any period of change,” he maintained, “even one of liberalizing change, makes Soviets draw into themselves and away from foreigners.” Other Americans in Moscow reported opposite experiences.

The point is that the current changes in the Soviet system do not produce a uniform response toward foreigners. Some Soviets, particularly those in artistic fields, have become demonstrably much more open; other have become more guarded. I think that we probably did encounter some tendencies toward withdrawal, and I think that those tendencies reflected the special character of American history as a field of study in the Soviet Union. The lack of intellectual contact bothered me a lot while I was in Moscow, particularly because my predecessors had evidently enjoyed such contacts. I kept asking myself whether I was doing something wrong, but if I was I never found out what. At the risk of seeming self-serving, I finally concluded that the fault, if fault there was, lay elsewhere.

First, I think that some previous reports about intellectual interchanges were exaggerated. My immediate predecessor answered by query by letter about his experience by telling me that his scholarly contacts with the Soviets had been superficial. When I later reread some reports of previous holders of the post, I began to think that they had sometimes mistaken good times over tea and vodka for intellectual interchange. Another difference between my experience and some of my predecessors’ was the void left by Nikolai Sivachev’s death. He was a remarkable man, a man of great courage and independence, and no one among the present faculty impressed me as having the same stature.

What most limited interchange with Soviets about American history, I think, was the nature of the field. One of the first things that I learned was that it is heavily weighted toward the recent past. Although the faculty includes people who study eras as far back as the American Revolution, most of them and the bulk of the students work in the last ten years of American history. These dissertations, and books already abound about the Carter and Reagan administrations, nearly always on political, not economic or social, topics. The ultimate expression of this concentration came when one faculty member, while I was in Moscow, wrote a short book on the Iran-Contra affair. His sources were the Soviet press, some western journals, and a copy of the Tower Commission report that a visiting American had just brought to him. Before I went to the Soviet Union, I did not know that political science is not pursued there as a separate discipline. Much of what is studied in the West as political science and foreign area studies falls under the rubric of history among the Soviets. Faculty and students alike refer to themselves as “Americanologists,” the same way as Americans are called “Sovietologists” or, less elegantly, “Kremlinologists.” Most of the students wanted to go on to the institutes or other government agencies that analyze current American affairs and advise on policy toward the United States.

The consequences of this skewing toward recent events are clear. One student from another field of history once confided to me, “You know, the students in the modern and contemporary history faculty [the United States and Western Europe] have a reputation for being superficial.” Not only is that reputation deserved, but I think the trouble goes deeper. Although I do not speak Russian, I could read enough to recognize names of people and titles of books. The bibliographies in all Soviet works in history and other fields outside the natural sciences always include as their first category “Works of Marx and Lenin.” Their titles also often betray a heavy ideological bias. One member of the department has written a book entitled, Truman’s Bankrupt Labor Policy. That book was originally his dissertation, done under Sivachev’s direction. Sivachev himself once co-authored a book in English on Russian-American relations which Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. has characterized, correctly, I am afraid, as a “propagandistic tract.”

I do not wish to sound overly censorious. A comparable kind of study of the Soviets exists in the West, especially at the opposite ends of the political spectrum. The people who indulge in such studies unfortunately sometimes do influence policies toward the Soviet Union. Yet I think there is a qualitative difference between the way we study them and the way they study us. In the West, especially in the United States, we normally draw sharp distinctions between propaganda and scholarship. We rarely, if ever, honor propagandists with academic appointments or take their work seriously as interpretations of the Soviet Union. Even the most notoriously anti-Communist American “Sovietologists” maintain an intellectual integrity that I found too often lacking in their Soviet opposite numbers. To put it plainly, we study them a lot better than they study us.

That is not a boast. It is a lament. As long as the Soviets base their policies toward the United States on superficial, biased, and self-serving views, an unnecessary element of danger exists in our relations with each other. I often said to my Soviet colleagues that I thought mutual understanding was more important than friendship between our two countries. I also told them that I thought such understanding was most important when we were adversaries.

It would be wrong to paint a picture of American history in the Soviet Union in tones of unrelieved gloom. I have mentioned that the two best students possessed more than fine intelligences. They had real intellectual curiosity, and one of them openly professed a belief in history as a branch of literature. That borders on intellectual heresy in a land where all studies are “sciences” and all scholars, including historians and literary critics, are “scientists.” Likewise, the member of the department with whom I started to discuss Kondratieff struck me as a real Russian intellectual of the sort immortalized by the great Russian writers—learned, curious, speculative, metaphysical, witty. He and I did have some great discussions on a variety of subjects, including Russian and Soviet history. I was impressed that he was moving back into the early nineteenth century in American history. Although he did not say so, I think he was following a time honored practice among Soviet intellectuals of loosening the bonds of party orthodoxy by retreating to a pre-Marxist era.

One of the best American historians whom I met at one of the institutes studies Russian-American relations before 1867. My first reaction to learning that was to think, “But 1867 is when it starts to get interesting.” My second reaction was to think, “What a fine way to elude the dead hand of ideology.” The work that my Russian-speaking American friend looked at for me was on mid-nineteenth century American history. She told me that the interpretations were judicious and not notably left-leaning and that references to Marx and class analysis were stuck in from time to time with no particular relevance to the subject. They were ritual obeisances that stuck out like raisins in raisin bread.

Those stratagems for preserving intellectual integrity are heartening, and they constitute the main hope that American history may some day improve in the Soviet Union. I wish I could be optimistic about the chances for speedy, substantial improvement. But it seems to me that formidable obstacles lie in the path. Most Soviet historians and, I suspect, most scholars in other fields that have policy applications, tend to be both conservative, in their ideological context, and wedded to ways of working and thinking that are as comfortable for them as they are confining. When Gorbachev recently admonished Soviet historians to examine their revolution and the Stalin era in new, critical ways, those historians reacted defensively rather than enthusiastically to his challenge. The head of the institute for the study of the revolution explained in a press conference that historians had been less daring than writers and artists in responding to glasnost because they were “scientists” and “scientists” are necessarily more conservative than creative people.

Despite the odds against critical interpretations in Soviet history, the chances of success seem to me better there than in American history. I may be wrong, but I think that a tradition of serious scholarship, albeit within tight confines of orthodoxy, is stronger among the historians of their own country. Even with the closure of official Soviet archives, source material still abounds for them as it does not for their American historians. Moreover, intellectual liberalization in one area frequently carries a price in the tightening of orthodoxy in another. Gorbachev has called for the rehabilitation of Bukharin and a fresh examination of Stalin’s errors and misdeeds, but he accompanied those calls with a refurbishing of the anathema pronounced against Trotsky.

My guess is that serious examination of Soviet history will probably go hand-in-hand with continued assertions of a shallow, propagandistic approach to American history. If they confess their own past errors, then they will almost certainly need to make us look worse. That does not strike me as a promising environment for the study of American history. What do these assessments of the present and future state of the field mean for those of us who have undertaken and will undertake these scholarly missions to Moscow? Are we a bunch of professors who have repeatedly gone on a fool’s errand? I confess that I had moments in Moscow when the intellectual side of my journey did not seem much better than that.

As I reflected on the chances of introducing more critical, sophisticated views of the United States, I often recalled a phrase that I had heard somewhere once—”nectar in a sieve.” I later looked it up and found that it comes from some lines of Coleridge’s: “Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve/And Hope without an object cannot live.” I did not feel as hopeless as that, but I did feel as if the chances of influencing Soviet’s study of American history was like trying to catch nectar in a sieve. Still, consider what precious and potent nectar it is. I do not exaggerate when I say that every significant Soviet who studies and interprets the United States passes through this program at Moscow University. Their views of America inform and to some extent influence Soviet policy toward this country. A little bit of influence on these students and faculty, a small seed of doubt or reconsideration, a slight willingness to think longer and harder and gather more information before rushing to judgment—these can go a long way toward affecting the most important international relationship in the world.

I have heard both from some of the Soviet faculty and from officials in Washington that all they really want is a pleasant, adaptable lecturer for this assignment.

Plainly, it is in the interest of world peace for it to continue. I have heard both from some of the Soviet faculty and from officials in Washington that all they really want is a pleasant, adaptable lecturer for this assignment. It would be a grave error to grant them their wishes. The best and brightest and most sophisticated and most thoughtful American historians should continue to supply the caliber of people who take this assignment. I am glad I did. Besides having gotten so much personally and as a family, I think I may have accomplished something in the way of service. For all its frustrations and disappointments, I think my mission to Moscow achieved some of its aims. To my predecessors, deepest thanks for having paved the way so well. To my successors, patience, fortitude, godspeed on future missions to Moscow.

John Milton Cooper Jr. is chair and William Francis Allen Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.