The Association of Researchers of the Russian Society (AIRO-XXI) is celebrating its 15th anniversary and we want to congratulate it on this occasion. We are not only good friends, but we also cooperate effectively. The Association presented some of its projects in Novaya Gazeta, and our employees took part in the conferences and seminars organized by it.
Tomorrow a presentation will be held of a book prepared by the Association. The book is dedicated to one of the members of the International Council of AIRO-XXI. He is our mutual friend, who contributes regularly to our newspaper. This is Stephen Cohen, a brilliant American philosopher and historian.
The book has been published on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Mr. Cohen, who is the Professor of Russian Research and History in New York university, Honorable Professor of Princeton University, and also a political observer, well-known in the US and Russia. The book’s title is “Stephen Koen and Soviet Union/Russia” (authored by G.N.Bordyugov and L.N.Dobrokhotov.
Novaya Gazeta publishes some fragments from this anniversary edition.
A well-educated Russian reader, keen on the home history, knows well the books by Stephen Cohen: Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888-1938; Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia, 2001; and others.
When I was told that Stephen Cohen is celebrating his 70th anniversary, I just couldn’t believe it. His image of a lively person with great sense of humor that surfaced in my mind, contradicted obviously to such a “grave” figure of 70. It happens sometimes that a persons’ image is defined not with the lifetime a person has behind oneself but with person’s attitude towards life, job and people.
I have known Stephen Cohen for long. We have often met and discussed different historical and political issues. Our frank talks made us friends. His books about Russia were always distinguished with topicality, and comprehensive and deep exploration of the chosen topic. Looking back to Perestroika times, I remember many acquaintances of mine being absorbed in reading his book about Nikolai Bukharin. The judgments by Steve about this outstanding and mixed figure in our history amazed us with accuracy of assessment and consistency of the conclusions. I remember that book, that was in tune with the times, becoming a bestseller in Soviet Union.
But even more significant came his book telling about why Soviet Union collapsed, where he, unlikely to “traditional Sovietologists” - who ignored the contradictory nature of the soviet history and “Stalinized” it mainly – gave an objective interpretation of its principal stages. When reflecting over the text of that book, I noticed to have much in common with the author in terms of appraisal of different periods and most important events in the soviet history.
Steve Cohen has proved to be a brave and impartial researcher of post-soviet political history. One of his latest works - Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia - is typical in that respect, where he, as an expert in Russian issues, deprecated direct interference by American authorities in the Russian reforming, in particular the approval by Americans of devastating Yeltsin’s policy of “shock therapy”.
To tell the truth, I’m glad about the fact that Steve Cohen, when studying Russian history, cooperates fruitfully with Gorbachev Fund. His recent work dealing with analysis of Soviet Union reforming was naturally included in a collective monograph “Breakthrough To Freedom” dedicated to 20th anniversary of Perestroika. So I look forward to further successful cooperation.
I believe that successful academic career by Steve wouldn’t have been so successful without his clever friend and beloved wife Katherine. Being an expert for Russia and the editor of the progressive magazine The Nation she has always been of great support without which his books would have been less correct and perfect. Every time Steve Cohen visited Russia I saw his charming daughter Nicky accompany him and ask him difficult questions which he tried to answer frankly. That was not easy but it’s exactly such candid communication that can help you bring up your children in the best way. It was noticed long ago that there is no need in “special” process of “educating” children as they just only need to be full actors in their parents’ lives. I’m sure that Katherine and Nicky are such sources of the inspiration for our hero of jubilee without which his life would be, of course, less joyful and less fruitful.
Concluding on my reflections, I want to stress one more time such features of his personality like impartial search for the scientific truth - without which it is impossible to comprehend the present and to forecast the future – also boldness and objectivity. There are few scholars, historians and publicists having such qualities today, and it’s exactly such qualities that have never been in greater demand by people experiencing global challenges of the modern age.
The world of today wants new democratic and humanitarian seeing of the future. I believe that Steve Cohen is promoting such a vision with his knowledge and bold and original research.
On the eve of his 70th anniversary I want to wish to him “Carry on!”