- Suzanne Massie, is the connoisseur of Russian art, music and literature whose private tutelage of Ronald Reagan gets major credit for his historic walk through Red Square — and maybe for the cultural thaw that ended the Cold War. Her new book is the terrific memoir, Trust but Verify: Reagan, Russia, and Me.
- Mark Kramer, senior fellow at Harvard’s Davis Center and director of its Cold War Studies Program.
- Maxim D. Shrayer, professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies at Boston College, and author of Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story and other books.
- Svetlana Boym, Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literatures at Harvard University and the author of Another Freedom, a reflection on the cross-cultural conception of freedom.
This week, on Open Source: Russian troops are encircling naval bases, Crimea is locked down. We Americans are looking across an ocean, flummoxed in a familiar way by the mind and the mission of the Russian president and people.
Suzanne Massie, who persuaded Ronald Reagan that he could hate Communism and love the Russian people in the same career, puts it this way: Why do we keep getting Russia wrong? Putin is only the latest in a series of Russian leaders that have divided American thinkers and policymakers against themselves. Is he a realist, or is he ruled by his emotions? by Cold War nostalgia? by a vision of Eurasian Union? Is he a fascist or a plutocrat, or is he simply reacting to the West’s expansion of NATO? Is he winning — or has he overplayed his hand?
We turn to Massie and other close familiars of Russian culture and history to try and figure out how to read the Russians, now and forever. Thought experiment: given that many of our best insights into Russian character and temperament come to use from their literary geniuses, can we summon some collective judgment on Putin, Ukraine and the Crimea from the contentious, often dissident wisdom of Tolstoy, the humanist; Dostoevsky, the Slavic Nationalist; Chekhov, the gentle star of both Moscow and Yalta; Solzhenitsyn, who argued forcefully that Ukraine must be an eternal part of Russia; and Vladimir Nabokov, who sailed out of Russia for the last time from the Crimea?
- John Mearsheimer, “Getting Ukraine Wrong,” The New York Times;
- Susan Glasser (and many others) put Putin on the couch in Politico;
- Leon Neyfakh discusses the prospect of a new Eurasian Union in the Globe‘s Ideas section;
- Michael Idov, “The Novel That Predicted the Invasion of Crimea,” The New Yorker (blog);
- and Suzanne Massie’s 2001 speech, “Why Are We Always Wrong about Russia?,” relevant today as ever.