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Oral history interview with Stephen F. Cohen, 2017

Creator: Cohen, Stephen F.
Project: Harriman Institute oral history collection.
(see all project interviews)
Phys. Desc. :Transcript: 132 pages
Location: Columbia Center for Oral History
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Biographical Note

Stephen Cohen is an American scholar and professor emeritus of Russian studies. Cohen received his PhD in government and Russian studies at Columbia University before becoming a professor of politics and Russian studies at Princeton University in 1968, where he taught until 1998. He then taught at New York University until his retirement. His academic work concentrates on modern Russian history since the Bolshevik Revolution and the country's relationship with the United States. Cohen is a contributing editor at the The Nation, and the founding director of the reestablished American Committee for East-West Accord.

Scope and Contents

Stephen Cohen discusses his early history, drawing a number of parallels between rural Kentucky (where he grew up) and the Soviet Union including the moral complexity of life in the two places. He describes how an experience traveling in the USSR almost by accident led to his interest in Russian studies. He relates his time at Indiana University, his move to Columbia University and his time at the Harriman Institute (then called the Russian Institute) in the 1960s, including his interactions with Institute faculty of the time and relations between Institute figures and the government or Foreign Service. Cohen then discusses his experiences teaching at Princeton University and Columbia University and changes in academia during his career. He argues for the importance of interdisciplinarity for area training and of a comprehensive understanding of area history. Cohen refutes the notion of the 1980s as a "golden age" of Soviet studies and assess the Harriman Institutes prospects in the field into the future. Cohen discusses the ideological underpinnings of Soviet and Russian studies and changing attitudes in the field towards Marxism-Leninism. Cohen then speaks to the protests of 1968 and his interactions with various New York revolutionary movements. He details daily and family life as a graduate student both at Columbia and during a language exchange to Moscow in the mid-1960s. Cohen then describes how his overall impressions and attitudes towards Russia have changed over the course of his life and career.

Subjects

Access Conditions

Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2017.

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