Reporting from the frontlines of the First Cold War: American diplomatic despatches about the internal conditions in the Soviet Union, 1917-1933

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2007-11-27

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Following the Bolshevik Revolution in November of 1917, the United States ended diplomatic relations with Russia, and refused to recognize the Soviet regime until 1933 when President Franklin Roosevelt reversed this policy. Given Russia's vast size and importance on the world stage, Washington closely monitored the internal developments in that country during the non-recognition period. This dissertation is study of the American diplomatic despatches about the political, economic and social conditions in the USSR in its formative years. In addition to examining the despatches as a valuable record of the Soviet past, the dissertation also explores the ways in which the despatches shaped the early American attitudes toward the first Communist state and influenced the official policy. The American diplomats, stationed in revolutionary Russia and later, in the territories of friendlier nations surrounding the Soviet state, prepared regular reports addressing various aspects of life in the USSR. Following the evacuation of the American diplomatic personnel from Russia toward the end of the Civil War, the Western visitors to Russia, migrants, and Soviet publications became primary sources of knowledge about the Soviet internal affairs. Under the guidance of the Eastern European Affairs Division at the U.S. State Department, the Americans managed to compile great volumes of information about the Soviet state and society. In observing the chronological order, this dissertation focuses on issues of particular significance and intensity such as diplomatic observers' treatment of political violence, repression and economic hardships that engulfed tumultuous periods of the Revolution, Civil War, New Economic Policy and Collectivization. The dissertation also examines the American recognition of the Soviet state in the context of the diplomatic despatches about the Soviet internal conditions.

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