“Better Red than dead?” This question was still being debated in Europe when the first batch of US grad students arrived in the USSR under terms of the cultural exchange signed by Willliam Lacy for the US State Department and Soviet Ambassador Georgii Zarubin on January 27, 1958. Most of the twenty American students arrived at Moscow State University (MGU) in September, but a few went to Leningrad State University. Their Soviet counterparts went to Harvard and Columbia—the only US universities the Soviets deemed on a par with MGU and Leningrad. As one of those at MGU, I proposed to the History Faculty that I research “Soviet Disarmament Policy, 1917-1934,” for my Ph.D. at Columbia. A sign of future trouble, when the department typed the title in Russian, it came out as “The Soviet Struggle for Disarmament.” On the positive side, the department assigned as my adviser a retired diplomat specializing in disarmament, Boris Efimovich Shtein, out of favor in the late Stalin years because he had been close to another Jew suspected of pro-Western leanings, Maksim Litvinov.
Keywords: Russia, Soviet Union, Amerikanist, Sovietologist, Cold War, Propaganda