Noteworthy

Third Soviet-American Symposium: US-USSR Relations and the History of World War II

Warren F. Kimball, October 1989

This was the third of a projected six symposia on the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II sponsored in the USSR by the Soviet Academy of Sciences and in the U.S. by the ACLS/IREX. This meeting was held in Moscow, October 16–25, 1988. The subject was Soviet and American relations—diplomatic, military, and cultural—leading up to and during the conferences in Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran in late 1943. Following the format of previous conferences, papers were exchanged in advance to allow time for translation, brief (ten-to-fifteen minute) oral summaries were given at the symposium, and lengthy discussion then followed. Eleven American scholars participated, and nine Soviet scholars presented papers.

The American participants were Lloyd C. Gardner, Charles and Mary Beard Professor, Ruters University-New Brunswick; Charles C. Alexander, Professor, Ohio University; Theodore A. Wilson, Professor, Kansas University; Albert Resis, Associate Professor, Northern Illinois University; Mark A. Stoler, Associate Professor, University of Vermont; Gregory D. Black, Professor and Chair of Communication Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City; Clayton Koppes, Irving Houck Professor and Chair, Oberlin College; Arthur L. Funk, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida; Stephen M. Miner, Assistant Professor, Ohio University; and Alexander S. Cochran, Jr., Branch Chief of Military Studies, U.S. Army Center of Military History.

The meetings were held in Moscow at the Central House for Tourists, a very large hall where the facilities were excellent (if a bit cavernous). Soviet hospitality was warm and genuine, and included an invitation to dinner for the entire delegation at one or the other homes of two Soviet historians. The broad topics dealt with in the papers included Second Front arguments and decisions; postwar planning, including matters of international organization, postwar Germany, and economic reconstruction; media/cultural images in both the U.S. and the USSR; strategic issues in the Pacific War; and evaluations of Soviet historical sources.

Although none of the Soviet papers contained evidence demonstrating new archival material, the tone and quality of the papers and discussions indicated that glasnost is having a salutary effect. On a number of occasions Soviet historians publicly disagreed with each other when one or the other supported an American argument. More important, it was the consensus of the American delegation that, for the most part, the scholarly level of the Soviet papers was very good. In fact, in some cases members of the American delegation have encouraged the Soviet scholars to submit their work for publication in American scholarly journals. Moreover, we remain convinced that Soviet historians welcome our public pressure in order to strengthen their efforts to gain access to Soviet archives. We were told that a senior Soviet historian is leading a group of researchers "in the Foreign Ministry archives." Time will tell precisely what that means.

Equally constructive are the various initiatives for joint publication that have gotten underway as a direct result of this project. In addition to the continued publication of many of the American papers in the Soviet Union, two publication projects have proceeded past the talking stage. One, suggested by some American participants, calls for the translation and publication in English of those new documents contained in two recent Soviet (Russian language) collections of documents on U.S.-Soviet and Anglo-Soviet relations during World War II. Soviet historians understand American requirements that this include access for the American editors to the original documents, and negotiations on specifics as well as a possible broadening of the project are underway. The second projected publication, suggested by the Soviets, is a series of essays on Soviet, American, and British history during the war, written by historians from each country. That too is being discussed by a group of historians from the three countries.

The fourth Symposium will examine Soviet-American relations—diplomatic, cultural, and military—during 1944. It will be held in the United States at a place and time to be determined. A warning to those flying out of Leningrad. That city's drawbridges have been opening in the middle of the night long before commercial air flights arrived. That can (and did) turn a one-hour drive to the airport for a 6:00 a.m. flight into a 1:00 a.m. hotel departure and a three-hour nap in a cold bus outside a closed terminal.

Warren F. Kimball
U.S. Project Coordinator
Rutgers University