Roundtable 2-11 on Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts71 min read

Know Your Enemy coverIn Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger, Bruce Kuklick focuses on the role of intellectuals in foreign policy making from the end of World War II through the end of the Vietnam War.  Kuklick concentrated on three overlapping circles of scholars and writers including experts associated with the RAND corporation, a second circle centered around Harvard University and the Kennedy School of Government, and a third group headed by George Kennan and Henry Kissinger that interacted with the first two and had the most influence on policymakers.  Kuklick critically concluded that these Cold War intellectuals and scholars too often ended up groping in the dark and having little impact on policy besides providing a theory or rationalization that policymakers used to explain their policies to the public.[1]


H-Diplo | ISSF Roundtable, Volume II, No. 11 (2011)
Diane Labrosse and Thomas Maddux, H-Diplo/ISSF Editors
George Fujii, H-Diplo/ISSF Web and Production Editor
Commissioned by Thomas Maddux
H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable Review of David C. Engerman.  Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2009.  480 pp.  ISBN:  978-0195324860 (hardcover, $34.95).
Published by H-Diplo/ISSF on 29 June 2011

Introduction by Thomas Maddux, California State University, Northridge

In Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger, Bruce Kuklick focuses on the role of intellectuals in foreign policy making from the end of World War II through the end of the Vietnam War.  Kuklick concentrated on three overlapping circles of scholars and writers including experts associated with the RAND corporation, a second circle centered around Harvard University and the Kennedy School of Government, and a third group headed by George Kennan and Henry Kissinger that interacted with the first two and had the most influence on policymakers.  Kuklick critically concluded that these Cold War intellectuals and scholars too often ended up groping in the dark and having little impact on policy besides providing a theory or rationalization that policymakers used to explain their policies to the public.[1]

In Know Your Enemy:  The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts, David Engerman also examines the role of academics in the aftermath of World War II who participated in the Cold War mobilization against the Soviet Union.  Engerman focuses less than Kuklick on the impact of their views on Washington’s policy and more on the development of Russian studies or Soviet studies with extensive government and foundation support and the challenges involved for participating academics in serving both “Mars and Minerva, both the national security state and academic life.”(1)  In the first part of the study, Engerman presents the rise of Soviet studies to the mid-1960s starting with the Columbia Russian Institute and Harvard’s Russian Research Center and the ensuing spread of centers across the country from Ann Arbor to Berkeley to Seattle.  In the second part, Engerman explores how the expansion of the programs contributed to divergence and “put an end to the field’s hopes of being a united enterprise.” (8)  By examining the different disciplines participating in the programs including economics, literary studies, history, sociology, and political science, Engerman emphasizes the unresolved tension between the program’s emphasis on the promise of interdisciplinary studies and discipline-oriented studies.  For example, Engerman’s discussion on economists notes how studies on the Soviet economy had far more interest to policy specialists than the discipline with its emphasis on theory and market economies.  In the third part, Engerman evaluates the decline of Soviet studies beginning in the mid-1960s with the reduction of external funding, the turmoil on campuses, and increased politicization as a fairly diverse range of perspectives shifted into “totalitarian” and “revisionist” schools with eventual significant casualties in personal relationships and academic discourse.  This “trench warfare” weakened the ability of Soviet specialists to enhance understanding of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform efforts in the mid-1980s and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

The reviewers are impressed with Engerman’s extensive research, his ability to provide comparative analysis of the different disciplines that participated in the various programs, and his judicious conclusions on the central issues such as how scholars handled working with the government and their impact on policy.  Choi Chatterjee points out that Engerman’s discussion of the Soviet specialists, “their politics, their intellectual proclivities, and their circle of friends and enemies” offers a “deeply gendered study of the workings of masculinity in academia; of intimate male networks, and of self-contained and exclusive circles of male patronage and reciprocity.”  Chatterjee also suggests that Engerman persuasively demonstrates diversity of perspectives among the academics even during the peak anti-communism of the early 1950s and their impact on policy formulation, both its nature and the way it was made.

On Engerman’s central issue of the difficulties and repercussions of specialists serving both the state and academic values, Stephen Bittner finds Engerman persuasive and sensitive to the challenges and evolving responses of specialists during the period, and of the “professor-consultant” who had to deal with the “impact of government sponsorship on scholarly life.” Bittner concludes that Engerman demonstrates that instead of an erosion of rigorous scholarship as a result of government funding the opposite seemed to be more typical in Soviet studies.  Bittner does raise the question of whether for political scientists it became “more difficult, as the field matured, for its scholars to serve Mars and Minerva.” By the 1970s Bittner notes that some academics, like Richard Pipes, ultimately moved into governmental positions and what Engerman refers to in his response as “para-academic institutions focused on policy relevance.”  In responding to Engerman’s analysis of the shift in the 1970s from area studies back to a discipline orientation, Bittner suggests that political scientists, unlike historians, found it less challenging to move to policy studies than to apply Western theories and models to Soviet politics and conduct research in the Soviet Union.

Jamie Cohen-Cole agrees with Bittner that Engerman makes a convincing argument that scholars pursued their own interests in Soviet studies with “little evidence that honest labor of the mind is compromised by work for the State.”  Yet Cohen-Cole raises further questions about the impact of the Cold War on scholarship using two models: first, the billiard ball in which Cold War imperatives push the scholar in a specific direction; and, second, the fertilizer model, in which the “Cold War determined the outcome of Soviet Studies not by pushing one sort of outcome, but by nourishing modes of study and institutions that otherwise might not have flourished.”  Noting several examples of “fertilizer funding” such as studies of Russian literature, Cohen-Cole also questions whether the “Cold War had a deterministic effect on scholarship by seeing if its fertilizer had the effect of nourishing quick-growing, ideologically-driven, invasive species of inquiry” such as the Team B exercise in the 1970s to challenge the CIA’s assessment on Soviet intentions in the National Intelligence Estimate.  In his response, Engerman appreciates the fertilizer model although he has some reservations about determining which scholarship would not have survived without the general diffusion of Cold War funding, and he considers Team B as a political activity from the start reflecting the rise of the “para-academic world … [that] employed many Ph.D.’s but was increasingly oriented to Washington and detached from scholars, scholarly institutions, and scholarly norms.”

Joel Isaac focuses on training and manpower, the “mass production of Sovietologists,” to which Engerman devotes considerable attention in Part II, “the marshaling of funds, institutions, textbooks, and armies of graduate assistants with the aim in view to fill the ranks of academic experts, research assistants, intelligence analysts, and policy advisors.”  Isacc considers this an important window into the impact of the Cold War on academics and a way to challenge a deterministic view on that impact. Isaac also questions whether “there was ever a stable production model for Soviet specialists.  By comparing Engerman’s Soviet studies with the Cold War impact on American physics, Isaac concludes that Soviet studies, unlike physics, never “operated at an industrial scale” with a “stable production model” and never reached the “deep politicization of science wrought by the Cold War.”  Soviet studies remained “more artisanal than industrial.”  In response, Engerman agrees on the differences, noting the different disciplines in Soviet studies versus physics, but also suggests that Soviet studies did successfully produce enough MA experts for government employment and political scientists in the para-academic enterprises as well as institutes to train PhDs to meet the demands of Washington.


David C. Engerman is professor of history at Brandeis University, where he has taught since receiving his PhD from the University of California-Berkeley in 1998.  Aside from Know Your Enemy, he also wrote Modernization from the Other Shore (Harvard University Press, 2003) and edited two collections on modernization and development.  His current project explores American and Soviet aid to India in the 1950s and 1960s.

Stephen V. Bittner is Associate Professor of History at Sonoma State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2000. He is the author of The Many Lives of Khrushchev’s Thaw (Cornell, 2008), and the editor of Dmitrii Shepilov’s memoir, The Kremlin’s Scholar (Yale, 2007). Bittner is presently at work on a history of viticulture and winemaking in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.

Choi Chatterjee is Professor of History at California State University, Los Angeles. She is the author of Celebrating Women. Gender, Festival Culture and Bolshevik Ideology, 1910-1939 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002). She is currently working on a history of Russian-American relations and is the co-editor along with Beth Holmgren of  the forthcoming volume, The Russian Experience: Americans Encountering the Enigma, 1890 to the Present (Routledge, 2012).

Jamie Cohen-Cole is Lecturer on the History of Science at Harvard University. He previously taught at Yale and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago and was a winner of the Forum for the History of Human Science dissertation prize. His publications include “The Creative American: Cold War Salons, Social Science, and the Cure for Modern Society.” Isis 100:2 (2009): 219-62 and  “The Reflexivity of Cognitive Science: The Scientist as Model of Human Nature,” History of the Human Sciences 18:4 (2005): 107-39. His book manuscript, The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature, is under contract with University of Chicago Press.

Joel Isaac is Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of London.  He also currently holds the Balzan-Skinner Lectureship in Modern Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge.  His work has been published in a variety of journals, including the Modern Intellectual History, the Journal of the History of Ideas, the Historical Journal, History of European IdeasHistory of Political Economy, and the European Journal of Social Theory.  He is the editor, with Duncan Bell, of The Cold War in Pieces: Exploring the Boundaries of Postwar American History (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).  He has recently completed a book manuscript on the intertwined histories of philosophy and the human sciences in the twentieth-century United States.

Review by Stephen V. Bittner, Sonoma State University

For many weeks in the fall of 1994, during my second year in graduate school, I planned to write a letter to David Remnick, then the new Russia expert at The New Yorker. I wanted to encourage Remnick to consider recent developments in the field of Soviet history as a topic for an article. The letter idea came to me about the same moment I realized that my graduate seminar on Soviet history was really not about Soviet history, despite its name, but about the history of Soviet history, which was equally fascinating. The field I aspired to join was compellingly acrimonious, even by the impolite standards of the academy. It was riven by politics and personal rivalries. It was littered with broken friendships and spurious allegations. Even three years after the subject of our scholarship disintegrated, raw tempers were evident in a number of recent works (which were invariably well-thumbed at the university library) that treated revisionist scholarship on 1917 and Stalinism as a symptom of Marxist infiltration, or worse, a moral failing.[2] To an impressionable graduate student, this added up to relevance. My field was self-conscious of its history because its stakes had always been high.

I never wrote that letter to Remnick, in part because I discovered that he covered similar territory in a review of Martin Malia’s survey of Soviet history, The Soviet Tragedy.[3] Yet much of what I imagined would be in his article—along with a great deal more—is the grist for David Engerman’s extraordinary and highly anticipated account of the rise and fall of American Sovietology, Know Your Enemy. Engerman traces the history of what might be called the area-studies idea: the belief that scholarly knowledge about the Soviet Union, which was deemed critical to American interests during the Second World War and then sustained by the Cold War, could be promoted through the formation of an explicitly cross-disciplinary field, Russian and Soviet studies, that would serve “both Mars and Minerva, both the national security state and academic life” (1). For nearly five decades, Russian and Soviet studies linked humanists, social scientists, foundation officers, and policy makers in a web of university centers, research projects, language schools, exchange programs, funding organizations, and government agencies that were devoted to better understanding America’s Cold War adversary. At Columbia’s Russian Institute and Harvard’s Russian Research Center, the area-studies approach was achieved by propinquity. There, scholars from different disciplines worked across the hallways from one another, sometimes collaborating on efforts like the Harvard Refugee Interview Project (now called the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System) and the Soviet Vulnerability Project.[4] For scholars at less lofty institutions, the area-studies approach was manifest in generous government and foundation support of scholarship whose policy implications were not always evident. As Engerman notes, while the agencies and institutions with money to spend wanted “to learn more about the Politburo, they also created experts on Pushkin. Though they sought insights into Brezhnev, they also boosted the study of Bulgakov, and, eventually, Bakhtin” (6).

Know Your Enemy is thus about the creation of a new academic type—the “professor-consultant” (2)—and about the impact of government sponsorship on scholarly life. It is easy to jump to conclusions about the malevolence of the latter. Yet Engerman confounds these assumptions by emphasizing the field’s heterogeneity. Russian and Soviet Studies included plenty of conservative anti-communists, to be sure, but also Menshevik émigrés, centrists who counseled moderation, apostates of all sorts, and leftists who cut their teeth in the campus battles of the 1960s. Nor was there any standard Cold War line in Russian and Soviet studies. Respected figures in the field espoused virtually every imaginable position vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. Some forecast the gradual sblizhenie (coming together) of the socialist and capitalist systems; others saw irreconcilable differences. Some supported détente; others advocated an aggressive military posture. Some fell in love with Russia (and Russians) on their exchange visits; others left for home more convinced than ever that the Soviet Union was a fundamentally evil society.

My Americanist counterparts on this roundtable are better suited than I to evaluate the significance of this heterogeneity in the context of postwar America. Suffice it to say that Engerman’s work casts doubt on long-standing criticisms that the Cold War in general, and government patronage in particular, warped scholarly understandings of the Soviet Union in a consistent direction. As the “quintessential Cold War intellectual endeavor” (5), the field of Russian and Soviet studies could not help but be impacted by its interface with government and politics. But the specific dimensions of this impact varied greatly by individual, discipline, and date. The central irony of Know Your Enemy is that rigorous scholarship on Russia and the Soviet Union existed not in spite of Cold War prejudice and government patronage, but because of them.

This is probably no solace to a field that is still struggling with its diminished role in American academic life. Yet Know Your Enemy does raise a number of questions upon which it would be useful for present-day scholars of Russia and the Soviet Union to reflect. Why, for instance, did Russian and Soviet studies, as an explicitly cross-disciplinary endeavor that served both state and scholarship, outlast the dearth of specialists it sought to remedy? The field’s roots stretch to the relatively sterile war years, when there were so few Russia experts in the American government—much less Russian speakers—that policy makers keen to assess the impact of Lend-Lease and Soviet resilience to the Wehrmacht could not afford to demand relevance from their academic counsels. For instance, Geroid Tanquary Robinson, a Columbia historian who had once conducted research in the Soviet Union, became the head of the Soviet desk at OSS, even though his primary area of expertise was tsarist-era agricultural relations. Government money quickly turned sterility to fertility. Russian and Soviet studies reached its apogee in the decades following the war, when it attracted prominent social scientists like Alex Inkeles and Talcott Parsons. The Harvard Refugee Project and the Smolensk Archive (a collection of party documents that fell into German and then American hands) spawned a host of admirable works that remain models of social-scientific and historical rigor.[5] And in what will surely induce fits of envy among some readers, the academic job market placed a premium on persons with Russian and Soviet expertise.

By the early 1970s, however, there were signs of crisis. While high-profile scholars like Zbigniew Brzezinski continued to move back and forth between the academic and policy worlds, at the lower levels of government, the need for expertise was sated by recipients of the very degrees the field helped create—masters in Russian and East European studies and international relations. Government and foundation funds also began to wither, as patrons demanded greater policy relevance from the scholars they supported. And the academic job market for Russianists stagnated. When the field’s raison d’être disappeared in 1991, its remaining scholars—already diminished in prestige and awash in recriminations about their failure to foresee the end—were absorbed by the academic disciplines whence they came.

In truth, the shift from area study to discipline began during the 1970s, when so-called revisionist scholars (typically historians) challenged core beliefs about the Soviet past, such as the notion that 1917 was a coup d’état orchestrated by a party that lacked social support. Engerman shows that revisionism was often a euphemism for renewed disciplinary rigor. For instance, Sheila Fitzpatrick, who would become the central figure among the revisionists, “wanted her first book [on the Commissariat of Enlightenment] to tell Soviet history as history” (296), rather than as a political morality tale.[6] Yet the value of “disciplinary thinking” (261) was not clear to all. At the same time that Fitzpatrick tried to create a distinctly historical approach to the Soviet past, the political scientists Alfred G. Meyer and Herbert Ellison expressed skepticism that their discipline had much to contribute to their understanding of the Soviet Union. According to Meyer, “I have tried for more than two decades of study, to learn methods, approaches, and other theoretical tools from my colleagues in the comparative study of politics. . . .The sum total of what has been useful to me, however, has been meager” (255). While Meyer’s view was not universally shared, by the 1980s even noted disciplinarians like Jerry Hough and Erik Hoffmann were moving away from political science to policy, where, according to Hough, “there was an honesty about it being political” (310).

What accounts for the diverging attention to discipline among historians and political scientists? Engerman suggests that some of it stemmed from the invariable criticism unleashed on scholars who applied Western theories and models to Soviet politics. My own view is that it also reflected the special challenges that political scientists faced in their research. While it was possible for American-based historians to conduct research in the Soviet Union (often by fudging their topics for librarians and archivists) and to interact with Soviet counterparts like Nikolai Bolkhovitinov, the foremost scholar of Russia’s Alaska colony and Russian-American relations, the same could not be said for political scientists. Not only was in-country research on contemporary politics near impossible, but there was no political science profession in the Soviet Union. In official eyes, politologiia, with its comparative and quantitative methods, was a bourgeois contraption; Marxist-Leninist theory, to the contrary, was the science of politics and society. It was likely for these reasons that Seweryn Bialer noted that the study of contemporary politics in the Soviet Union demanded the skills of a “journalist” (311) rather than a political scientist. All of the scholarly debates in Know Your Enemy occurred “from the other shore,” to borrow Aleksandr Herzen’s famous description of his writings from exile.[7] For political scientists, however, the intervening ocean was especially wide and deep.

The special challenges that political scientists faced raise a third question: Did it become more difficult, as the field matured, for its scholars to serve both Mars and Minerva? During the early years of Russian studies, no discipline better served its two gods than economics, where a straightforward national-security question (how big is the Soviet economy?) hinged on an important disciplinary question (how can economic value be measured in the absence of a free market?). Engerman shows that for more than two decades after 1945, the latter problem attracted some of the best minds of the field—Alexander Gerschenkron, Abram Bergson, Naum Jasny, and others. Yet the dual calling they exemplified appears to have been on the wane: scholars could choose Mars or Minerva, but not both. This development was evident on both sides of the political spectrum. On the right, Richard Pipes, the author of several ambitious works on Russian history early in his career, became embittered about campus life and the state of the historical field (with its new social and cultural approaches) in the 1970s, and devoted himself to conservative politics and polemics against détente.[8] On the left, Stephen Cohen, a historically-inclined political scientist who wrote a highly influential biography of Nikolai Bukharin, shifted to policy questions and a regular column in The Nation.[9] While Engerman is careful not to pass judgment on the value of their non-scholarly writings, the historical field was poorer for their absence.

Finally, it is important to ask whether Russian and Soviet studies served its initial intent. Did America know its enemy at least as well as it knew America? Without question, the Soviet Union enjoyed tremendous advantages in the mutual knowledge war. The United States, after all, was an open and transparent society. Many of the sorts of questions that captivated Sovietologists for decades—about social support, economic production, religious belief, crime, and nationalism—were matters of public record in the United States. If Soviet scholars wanted to gauge the size of the American wheat harvest, they needed only to read the Wall Street Journal. If they wanted to predict what party would control the next Congress, they turned to Gallup polls.

However, the same Soviet insularity, secrecy, and paranoia that confounded Western scholars, complicated Soviet analysis of the United States. The shadow of the Hungarian-born economist Eugen Varga loomed large over the Soviet academy in the postwar years. In 1947, the Central Committee denounced Varga for predicting, contrary to Marxist-Leninist theory, that Western capitalism was on the cusp of rapid growth.[10] The organization in Moscow that Varga directed, the Institute of the World Economy and Politics, was subsequently abolished. It was not until 1967 that party leaders authorized the creation of the USA-Canada Institute, in large part because Yuri Andropov convinced his colleagues that unvarnished analysis about the United States had value.[11] Nor were Soviet scholars and students ever full and free participants in the exchange programs. Engerman notes that Robert Byrnes, the father of Russian studies at Indiana University and the leader of the Inter-University Committee on Travel Grants in the 1960s, counseled (unsuccessfully, it seems) single American participants in the exchange programs to be sexually abstinent while in the Soviet Union. The vetting process for and restrictions placed upon Soviet participants in the exchanges were even more onerous.

Any full assessment of the role of American studies in the Soviet Union awaits its own historian. At present, the research hurdles are likely insurmountable because of national security concerns on the Russian side. (Igor Sutyagin, one of the prisoners exchanged for the ten alleged Russian sleeper agents arrested in the United States in 2010, was a researcher at the USA-Canada Institute before his arrest.) Nonetheless, that future historian of American studies will surely benefit from David Engerman’s skillful telling of the American side of the mutual knowledge war. Know Your Enemy is historical scholarship of a very high caliber.

Review by Choi Chatterjee, California State University, Los Angeles

Although David Engerman has titled his recent monograph, Know Your Enemy. The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts, the reader of this rich, provocative and intellectually ambitious book will find little information in it about the Soviet Union; instead it is an enthralling account of the rise and fall of Sovietology within the American academy from 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In a scholarly re-telling of the evolution of American academic knowledge about the Soviet Union, Engerman traces the ways in which the political imperatives of the Cold War era, the priorities of funding agencies, and the increasing professionalization of the American academy shaped the structure and intellectual content of the core disciplines that lay within the broad umbrella of Soviet Studies. Published on the heels of Engerman’s ground breaking study on early American expertise on Russia and the Soviet Union in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, the two volumes together raise important questions on the creation of intellectual fields under the disciplinary impetus of theories of modernization, military conflict and matters of state.[12] Engerman investigates the political and intellectual orientation of the major academics, policy makers, philanthropists and bureaucrats, and reprises the various roles that they played both in the development of Soviet studies and American foreign policy towards the Soviet Union.

To students of Russia the book offers fascinating portraits of eminent scholars who shaped our fields, and provides rich information about their politics, their intellectual proclivities, and their circles of friends and enemies. In many ways this is a deeply gendered study of the workings of masculinity in academia; of intimate male networks, and of self-contained and exclusive circles of male patronage and reciprocity. This book both delights and instructs and while it will provide much fodder for conversations at professional meetings, it will soon become one of the core texts on reading lists for comprehensive examinations at the graduate level. The scope of the work is immense, and it is based on wide ranging research that includes both archival sources and over one hundred personal interviews conducted by the author. Rather than detract from the wealth of the arguments by attempting a bald summary, I will instead devote the rest of the review to the consideration of some of the more interesting themes contained within.

At one level the book can be read as a cautionary tale of what happens when academics try to serve both their disciplinary field as well as to produce knowledge to meet the policy requirements of the state. Meta-analyses of the Soviet system in the post-World War II period led to tautological theories about communism, totalitarianism, the Soviet system, communist parties, the eternal character of oppressive Russian state, and homo sovieticus. The theories were elegant, persuasive and served the political masters well during the Cold War, but as Engerman shows these were not the products of mere cynicism or political subservience. Many accounts were written by émigré scholars who had fled either Nazi or Soviet persecution. American scholars who had served as diplomats, journalists and members of the armed forces in the Soviet Union, had either witnessed the violence of the Bolsheviks, or interviewed survivors of the regime in the famous Harvard Interview Project. First-hand knowledge of the repressive capacities of the Soviet state was going to cast a long shadow on their scholarship.

Their fears about an expanding Soviet Empire shaped the field, and at the same time their fear-laden analyses also brought Sovietologists fame and influence. During this period, historians, political scientists and sociologists enjoyed unprecedented access to the halls of power in Washington. Engerman wisely chooses to understand the motivations of his complex subjects rather than merely judge them for the roles they played in the academic version of the Cold War, and I commend him for his judicious detachment while analyzing the partisan politics that have wracked the field. And to be fair, while many of the revelations from the archives since 1991 have contributed to the further demise of Sovietology, it has also confirmed many of the worst suspicions of the totalitarian school about the bloodiness of the Soviet regime.

As the profession grew with large infusions of cash from the U.S. government and various philanthropic foundations in the 1950s and 1960s, not all academics proved to be either anti-Soviet or politically useful. Many of them drew disquieting conclusions from their own research, ones that failed to fit the recommendations demanded by politicians, foundations, and the armed forces. Engerman shows that Talcott Parsons, the progenitor of modernization theory and an inadvertent Soviet expert, advocated engagement with the Soviet Union in the 1960s because he believed that as a modernizing state the Soviet Union was bound to outgrow its’ unfortunate addiction to revolution. Similarly, Merle Fainsod, author of the magisterial work, Smolensk under Soviet Rule, instead of finding totalitarian efficiency and centralized Bolshevik rule discovered that the province of Smolensk was beset by chaos, nepotism, and complete lack of coordination between center and periphery. Stephen Cohen upset the academic consensus on an ahistorical Bolshevik dictatorship starting from Lenin and existing into the Brezhnev period and beyond by posing a political alternative to the inevitability of Stalin, in the guise of Bukharin. And my own graduate advisor, Alexander Rabinowitch, heretically argued that the October Revolution was a result of a popular uprising and not a coup planned by a conspiratorial and dictatorial party. These dissenting voices created fertile ground for the reception of the path breaking scholarship by Sheila Fitzpatrick, Hiroaki Kuromiya, Lynne Viola, Arch Getty, and other social historians of the 1980s who tried to excavate the experiences of real social classes and cohorts in the Stalinist era, rather than continue to narrate the persistence of pernicious ideologies and ahistorical systems of rule.[13]

Engerman has laid the foundation of a new field of research in the sociology of knowledge and has indeed revitalized the field of Russian-American relations with his timely publications. One of the strengths of the book is that rather than focus on historical profession alone, Engerman has looked at the evolution of Sovietology in the fields of literature, sociology and political science. And to his credit Engerman has unearthed the various ways that influential émigré scholars such as George Vernadsky, Michael Karpovich, Roman Jakobson among others shaped American scholarship. Reading the monograph, one realizes that the strength of the American academy is based partially on its receptivity to dissenting voices and disquieting perspectives that challenge the master narrative. One could also analyze the impact of other important literary émigrés and dissidents on the evolution of Sovietology such as Vladimir Nabokov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vasily Aksyonov, Liudmila Alekseeva, Tatiana Mamanova to name only a  few of the important personalities. Finally, one should remember that noteworthy journalists such as Harrison Salisbury, Hedrick Smith and Strobe Talbott also played influential roles in shaping Soviet studies.

Engerman wisely ends his book with the fall of the Soviet Union, refusing to appraise the intellectual contributions of his own peers. Soviet Studies as a Cold War discipline has not survived the fall of the Soviet Union and while the lack of funding has hurt the numerical strength of , it has had little effect on the quality of scholarship. Emigrés from the former Soviet Union continue to revitalize our research agendas and the current generation of scholars influenced by post-structuralism, post-colonialism, post-socialism and globalization are trying to understand the experiences of individual Soviet citizens with close attention to the ways in which considerations of race, gender, ethnicity and transnationalism affected the formation of subjectivity. Despite the ongoing War on Terror, academics in the fields of North African, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian Studies, with few noteworthy exceptions, have refused to assume the mantle of the Soviet experts in the heyday of the Cold War and demonize the Muslim other. We start the twenty first century with a consensus that perhaps empathy, scholarly appreciation of difference and a capacity to appreciate situations that engender defamiliarization offers a better way to know one’s enemy.

Review by Jamie Cohen-Cole, Harvard University

How and to what extent is the development of intellectual work related to cultural and political developments? This has long been a central question for scholars engaged in a number of fields from intellectual history to history of science. It owes its roots to a deep tradition in Western culture that equated the quality of thought to personal independence from financial or political concerns.[14] During the Cold War, independence of mind from political influence gained additional traction. For scholars such as Robert Merton, autonomy of the intellect marked a country’s level of democratic culture. This mode of analysis provided a means of separating the free-thinking United States from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. A wide range of anti-communist intellectuals from McGeorge Bundy to Sidney Hook and Irving Kristol crystallized this ideological framework by maintaining that political influence over the life of the mind was a criterion of the immoral nature of Communism. Their critics used the same analytic framework, pointing out that Bundy’s, Hook’s, and Kristol’s projects had depended on secret funds from the CIA.[15]  More generally and recently, analysis and criticism of the Cold War academy has focused on the influence of military and political concerns over intellectual life and itseffect in shaping scholarship or even diverting it from its natural path.[16]

There is thus a special energy to the central question that animates David Engerman’s exceptional study of Soviet Studies in Cold War America: to what extent could the field “serve both Mars and Minerva”? In Know your Enemy, Engerman offers a perfect case study to highlight and complicate the ideology, which solidified during the Cold War, that the intellect is separate from politics. Among Engerman’s signal accomplishments is the thoroughgoing demonstration that treating intellect and politics as separate spheres cripples analysis of both intellectual life and politics.

The book is structured in three parts. The opening section details the rise of Soviet Studies after WWII to the mid-1960s. The middle section explains the intellectual trajectories and fortunes of five of Soviet Studies’ constituent disciplines: economics, history, literary studies, political science, and sociology. The final section explains the decline of Soviet Studies from the 1970s to the end of the Soviet Union.

This structure plays more than a chronological function for Know Your Enemy; it also sets in the foreground Engerman’s view that intellectual and political work did not march hand-in-hand. Readers see quite clearly how the various disciplines discussed in the middle section of the work took different trajectories. The depth and thoroughness of his analysis make clear the disjunctions between the central concerns of scholars in each field. Economists’ concern with determining the size and growth rate of the Soviet economy after 1930 clearly had little to do with debates among historians on the causes of the Bolshevik revolution, of nineteenth-century Russian intellectual history, or whether Russia was a part of Europe or Eurasia. In addition to their divergence of interests, the various subdisciplines of Soviet Studies all had different fates as well. In Slavic literary studies, the part of the field most connected to other studies of literature, the work of Roman Jacobson, was atypical.(152) The same applied to the sociological analysis of the Soviet Union as a case of modernity.[17] Although generally influential in American intellectual life, Engerman emphasizes that these works were also “a minor part of” the interdisciplinary field of Soviet Studies.(204)

The impact of the Cold War, Engerman contends, did not push Soviet Studies in any one clear direction. Work conducted in Soviet Studies was in many cases remotely connected to the practical exigencies of the Cold War. It is unclear why some studies of Russian literary theory were a part of the war even if scholars who produced them were beneficiaries of government funding. By offering such careful account of the relationship between politics and the world of the intellect, Know Your Enemy is able to clarify not only more about that relation, but also about Cold War politics itself. Engerman’s work demonstrating the commitment of intellectuals to their own modes of analysis highlights fractures among the Cold War institutions that supported them.

At the beginning of the story, just after World War II, scholars were quite confident that they could serve both Mars and Minerva. Know Your Enemy shows how alumni of the Office of Strategic Services were convinced that the aims of research and government goals were not necessarily at odds. The core approach of area studies, Soviet or otherwise, was to frame topics of interest not by disciplinary concerns, but by the ability to solve problems.(30) From this perspective, the aims of academic fields and the practical needs of the nation could easily be congruent.

This commitment to serving both Mars and Minerva was best articulated by the early members of Columbia’s Russian Institute and Harvard’s Russian Research Center. Columbia devoted much of its energies to training future government officials. The Russian Research Center took on such projects as the Refugee Interview Project. Although the program was not only funded by the Air Force, significant portions of the questions it asked and its overall research program were shaped by concerns of Air Force officers. Nevertheless this project served to produce critically important monographs for the field and to advance the programmatic goal of the social sciences – namely the articulation of a unified field of social science integrated along lines envisioned by sociologist Talcott Parsons and his colleagues in Harvard’s Department of Social Relations.[18]

Know Your Enemy is at its best on the institutional and personnel issues that we all know are inseparable from the progress and trajectory of intellectual programs and fields. It emphasizes how, in the early years, much activity involved building the capacity for Soviet Studies. Such work included establishing Current Digest of the Soviet Press, which gave American scholars access to news reported in the Soviet Union.(38) We see, for instance, how Geroid Robinson’s caustic personality harmed the program at Columbia, the personal connections between the first generation of Sovietologists and government officials and how interpersonal connections on large scale projects such as the interview project and the OSS led to the coherence and interdisciplinarity that characterized the early years of the field. Engerman’s richly textured account of scholarly activity runs from the conduct of department meetings in Russian and the consequent marginalization of members not fluent in the spoken language (131) to espionage-like activities (140-141) that made works censored in the Soviet Union, such Doktor Zhivago, available to the wider world, to an explanation of how institutions such as the Inter-University Committee on Travel Grants exchange program was a significant player in the development of some fields, especially history, but at the same time had little effect on the development of other sub-branches of Soviet Studies, especially economics.

Engerman’s emphasis on institutions and infrastructure  supports his argument in the third section about the decline of the interdisciplinary field. When scholars, especially in political science, stopped contributing to the field’s common resources and relied on the work of others, the field became hollowed out and set the stage for its own decline. In one instance, dissertations in political science in the 1970s focused increasingly on Soviet foreign policy and those that looked at internal Soviet politics often did not use Russian language sources. As a consequence, this branch of Soviet Studies drew away from the other divisions of Soviet Studies and even the disciplinary concerns of political science.

Engerman’s account of the rise and fall of Soviet Studies and of the separate development of each of its disciplines raises a set of methodological questions. First, does the focus on institutions in Know Your Enemy necessarily lead to the observation that Mars and Minerva can be served at the same time and to the related conclusion that intellectual work was not “determined” by service to Cold War imperatives? Perhaps we reach this conclusion because Know Your Enemy has avoided the trap of comparing apples to oranges – the ivory tower intellect to the State. Instead, in this book, we have people who sought to advance their own interests. Some of their interests were political, some intellectual, some programmatic, some disciplinary or interdisciplinary. For these individuals, there is little evidence that honest labor of the mind was compromised by work for the State.

Know Your Enemy successfully dismisses the view that the Cold War pushed scholarship in a single direction. It has therefore dispensed with what seems to be a billiard ball conception of political impact and influence. This leads to my second question. Would it be correct to say that the Cold War did determine the outcome of Soviet Studies if we adopted a different model of influence? What if the Cold War influenced Soviet Studies in the way fertilizer affects plants? If so, then we might expect that that the Cold War determined the outcome of Soviet Studies not by pushing one sort of outcome, but by nourishing modes of study and institutions that otherwise might never have flourished. All species of inquiry might have benefited from Cold War fertilizer even if they were also in competition with one another. Thus we might find, as Know Your Enemy reports, that estimating the size of the Soviet economy was fraught with methodological difficulties, that estimates produced at Cold War institutions like the CIA and RAND were contested by other Cold War institutions (the Eisenhower administration) on political grounds, and that the Eisenhower administration went forum-shopping for competing analyses of the Soviet economy by recruiting scholars whose primary claim to expertise on the matter was fealty to Milton Friedman’s particular and idiosyncratic vision of the market.(118)

We also might find species of scholarly investigation that could have perished without Cold War fertilizer. Such species might include the studies of Russian literature that were disconnected from the modes of strict textual and formal analysis that characterized American New Criticism. As Know Your Enemy reports, a significant mode of Russian literary studies managed not to interpret the literary texts themselves but instead focused on book jackets, publication runs, and on using literary texts to understand Soviet politics and ideology.(132-134)

One might even find that the Cold War had a deterministic effect on scholarship by seeing if its fertilizer had the effect of nourishing quick-growing, ideologically-driven, invasive species of inquiry. Perhaps this is what happened when the scholars conducted the Team B exercise in the 1970s. Their goal was undermining the CIA’s contribution to the National Intelligence Estimate and they started from the non-empirical position of the inherent evil nature of the Soviet Union. As Know Your Enemy reports, for advocates of the Team B project such as Edward Teller, the “scientific method” did not involve accuracy or even making the best possible judgment of Soviet capabilities, but rather propaganda. In Teller’s words, the goal was “call[ing] high level attention to the subject” in order to alter U.S. weapons deployment and defense planning.(279) A similar mode of argument led to Team B’s evidence-free conclusion that the Soviet Union had likely already deployed non-acoustic submarine technologies.   Would this mode of reasoning have survived and flourished in the absence of the Cold War?

Review by Joel Isaac, Queen Mary, University of London

Near the beginning of Know Your Enemy, David Engerman observes that, in Soviet Studies, “knowing the Communist enemy meant learning other things as well” (p. 5).  If the list of those “other things” is dauntingly extensive — measuring and explaining economic growth, defining the sociological quantum of modern societies, describing the archetypical features of fictional narratives; the list goes on — then Professor Engerman’s achievement in this rich and important book is all the more impressive.  Engerman has had to learn what his Sovietologists knew, and what they forgot or failed to understand.  Precisely because Know Your Enemy is a study of a prolix and amorphous enterprise, it is also a contribution, inter alia, to the history of the social sciences, taken both singly and in totemic postwar agglomerations such as “area studies” and “behavioral science”; to the history of the university and the professionalization of academic life; to the analysis of policymaking and diplomatic relations; and, of course, to the history of the Cold War.  I would not want to have to decide whether the book is a work of intellectual history, diplomatic history, the history of education, Cold War studies, or the history of science.  It is a contribution to all and reducible to none.  That is a testament both to the eclecticism and productivity of postwar Sovietology, and to the skills of its historian.

One is, however, naturally drawn to some prisms more than others.  The one that I found especially suggestive, and about which I would like to hear more from the author, is that of training and manpower — let’s call it the mass production of Sovietologists.  At first blush, matters of pedagogy and human resources would seem tangential to the bigger questions of what the leading figures in Soviet Studies knew about the USSR. Needless to say, Engerman has plenty to say on this score, especially in Part II of the book, where disciplinary soundings are taken in economics, literary criticism, history, sociology, and political science.  But a big part of the story that Engerman wants to tell concerns the marshaling of funds, institutions, textbooks, and armies of graduate students with the aim in view to fill the ranks of academic experts, research assistants, intelligence analysts, and policy advisors.  This is not a matter of a mere preference on Engerman’s part for the raw materials of academe: as Know Your Enemy ably demonstrates, a good part of our understanding of how Soviet Studies was woven into America’s Cold War must rest on our grasp of the reciprocal relations between the succession of postwar geopolitical crises, foreign and domestic, and the expansion and retraction of exchange programs, research projects, and training centres nurtured in the universities.  The problems of manpower and personnel offer the historian a means of avoiding a narrow “Cold War determinism,” and of identifying instead the “specific impacts and mechanisms” of the influence of Cold War political culture on intellectual life (pp. 5, 9).

In this brief review, then, I want to join some thoughts about training and disciplinary demographics to Engerman’s salutary complication of the notion of Sovietology as an instance of “Cold War thinking.”  Engerman helps us to understand what we are saying when we use “Cold War” as a modifier.  But I’d like to know a bit more about whether he thinks there was ever a stable production model for Soviet specialists during the Cold War.  If, as I wish to conclude, there was not, then this makes Soviet Studies even less a “Cold War” phenomenon that we might suppose.  Yet I am unsure whether Professor Engerman would agree with me.

It may sharpen my point if I begin with the passages in Know Your Enemy that made me wonder whether Engerman was, after all, congenial to the idea of a stable national training system for Sovietologists.  In his discussion of the ultimately fatal tension between “discipline” and “area” orientations that beset Russian Studies in the early 1970s, Engerman notes that the field “had pioneered the area approach, and in the early days it had earned plaudits for integrated programs of undergraduate teaching, graduate training, and research” (p. 256).  To be sure, Engerman goes on to show that this praise was to some degree undeserved, because most Eastern European Studies programs during the 1960s were of necessity devoted to intensive language training (few graduates students in this field were able to gain familiarity with their chosen region owing to travel restrictions and the difficulty of mastering Russian) and a wide but superficial survey of the various disciplinary approaches available in the social sciences.  Nevertheless, Engerman seems fairly sure that something worked during the “bonanza years” of the 1950s and 1960s, when “financial support covered research, training, and infrastructure” (p. 260).  Indeed, it is undeniable that a combination of government funding under Title VI of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) and philanthropic support for graduate fellowships, area studies programs, and international exchange programs produced during the 1960s exponential growth in Russian Studies at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels (p. 82-84).  The question to be asked, in the light of all of this, is whether these changes meant that Soviet Studies in the early Cold War years had cracked the problem of mass production of scientific expertise.

But why is this a good question to ask?  I have in mind two related considerations.  First, the fortunes of Soviet Studies in regard to mass training can be tracked in revealing ways against the Cold War career of American physics, which was perhaps the only discipline that could claim to have been even more shaped by the imperatives of Cold War politics than Soviet Studies.  The second consideration is that, at least as I read Know Your Enemy, Engerman shows us that the corporatization of physics in the postwar decades was not replicated in Soviet Studies, even during the bonanza years.  If this reading is correct, then we can see that an important part of Sovietology’s divergence from Cold War determinism can be explained by the failure of a mass pedagogy in area studies and perhaps the social sciences more broadly.  Alternatively, should Engerman find Soviet Studies closer to the Cold War trajectory physics than I do, then these conclusions will not be compelling.  I shall take each of these points in turn.

In speaking of “manpower,” “human resources,” and “mass production,” I have meant to invoke the military language of requisitions and materiel.  For this was just how the demand for scientific expertise, and especially for Ph.D.-level physicists, was discussed in the wake of World War II.  The war had more or less halted the training of graduate students in physics (as in many other disciplines) at just the moment that radar, the digital computer, and the atomic bomb demonstrated how valuable advanced scientific research was to national security.  What followed, as the historian of science David Kaiser has shown in a string of important books and articles, was a quarter-century of unprecedented growth in physics, whose upward curve in terms of recruits and funding mapped neatly onto Cold War spasms of conflict and anxiety.[19]  The creation and preservation of a large pool of “scientific manpower,” ready to be deployed in weapons research or in maintaining the national atomic energy infrastructure, became a veritable obsession among American policymakers, military leaders, and the physicists themselves in the aftermath of World War II.  Between 1945 and 1951, physics grew more quickly than any other discipline, doubling the number of Ph.D.s awarded annually every 1.7 years; at time when increased funding saw the rapid expansion of disciplines across the spectrum of arts and sciences, physics was growing at 200% above the average rate in regard to the granting of doctorates.  In these years before the National Science Foundation established a consistent stream of grant money and fellowship awards, the physics bubble was inflated by a combination of the G. I. Bill, military research agencies such as the Office of Naval Research, and the Atomic Energy Commission.  Worries about potential shortfalls in scientific manpower were reignited by the war in Korea, which set off a decade-long debate about the “manpower gap” in the sciences from which the United States suffered when compared with the Soviet Union.[20]  Although Ph.D. awards flattened out through the 1950s, the unprecedentedly high steady state of doctoral production in this period was made possible by a national system of support for training and research that centred on the NSF, the AEC, the defense laboratories, and a network of graduate programs housed in universities from Princeton to Palo Alto.  The launch of Sputnik was reality interpreted as yet further evidence that America was failing to produce the ranks of experts needed to win the Cold War — even though the most thorough studies of Soviet education in science and technology presented a more complex picture of U.S.strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis the USSR.  Thus began the final and steepest production push in physics: the number of PhDs granted in 1970 was, roughly speaking, three times higher than the already significant number in 1960.  Only in the era of detente and stagflation did the physics profession begin to contract.[21]

It is with reference to these patterns of “ wartime requisitions and physicist-manpower” that Kaiser has suggested that matters of mass training and doctoral production reveal a “less overt, yet longer lasting form of politicization for the nation’s physicists than those usually considered by historians.”  As we have seen, “demands for physicist manpower were tied directly to the contours of the Cold War.”[22]  Moreover, the requisitions model in turn produced a very distinctive set of institutions and practices designed to facilitate the industrial production of scientific expertise.  How did one mass-produce physicists for the military-academic-industrial complex?  Partly by accident, and partly by design, a new training regime came together in the two decades after 1945.  To meet the demand for physics education in the wake of the G. I. Bill, the publication of physics textbooks became a growth industry, with New York publishers such as Prentice-Hall, Interscience, and Academic Press vying with one another to snap up course notes and market them to the lucrative academic market.  Here was one way in which the rank-and-file were drilled in the principles of their respective fields.  Another mechanism of mass production — if more select and certainly closer to the “cutting edge” of research — was the creation of a nation-wide system of postdoctoral fellowships, the purpose of which was to round out a budding scientist’s education, now that the PhD had become something of a bureaucratic exercise, and to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge and technical skills across the multiple research centres across the country.[23]  Within these national networks of training and research, new forms of life were nurtured.  These ranged from the esoteric — the use of Feynman diagrams as calculations tools flourished in numerous subfields in physics thanks to textbooks and what Kaiser calls the “postdoc cascade” — to the prosaic: the transformation of the scientist from the lone-wolf creative thinker into the flannel-suited suburbanite.[24]  This was the world in which Thomas Kuhn’s depiction of “normal science” in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) made good sense.  Puzzle-solving, dogmatic initiation, learning from practical exercises — these Kuhnian notions were well fitted to the lifeworld of the postwar physicist.

I mention all of this not because it will be news to Professor Engerman, or because the postwar trajectory of physics undercuts his analysis of Soviet Studies.  Rather, my thought is that Know Your Enemy offers, among other things, a portrayal of how the requisitions model failed in Sovietology — and in the social sciences more generally.  There can be no doubt that Soviet experts were deemed vital to national security in much the same way (if, obviously enough, for different reasons) as were physicists, mathematicians, and engineers.  Not for nothing were language and area centres targeted for support under Title VI of the Sputnik-induced National Defense Education Act.  Nevertheless, despite the long and complex relationship between the national security establishment and Russian Studies, I take it that one of the things Engerman’s analysis illustrates is that training and research in Sovietology repeatedly failed to operate at an industrial scale.  There were many seminal works in Soviet Studies, but no widely accepted textbook or manual that could be used to manufacture Russia experts; Soviet specialists were adept at fashioning theoretical models and empirical research projects, but none became a lingua franca or traveling tool across the various subfields of research into the USSR.

One way of thinking about the failure of Fordism in Soviet Studies is to focus on pedagogy.  What would be the training regime for Sovietologists?  World War II had given rise to two somewhat opposed pedagogical imperatives.  The intensive language training programs favoured by the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) addressed the need for Russian speakers, but the drill method of instruction was hardly designed to produce creative students of Soviet affairs.  On the other hand, the early leaders and sponsors of Soviet Studies emphasized interdisciplinary area expertise.  In the view of Philip Mosely, the figure who emerges from Know Your Enemy as the eminence grise of Sovietology, Soviet experts would need the rigour of training in an academic discipline, an orientation toward interdisciplinary analysis, and solid language skills of the sort acquired by ASTP-style intensive programs (p. 19).  But it was not at all clear how all of these requirements could mesh together — discipline and area expertise, language training and interdisciplinary research, scholarship and intelligence work — into a coherent training regimen.

If I have grasped Engerman’s argument, what followed was a series of half-way houses, hedges, and scholarly compromises, which, when the tide of NDEA and Ford Foundation money ebbed in the late 1960s, left a field that had been productive but always eclectic.  For obvious reasons, the intensive language training pioneered by the ASTP persisted, and indeed took more graduate student time in Slavic Studies than other area studies programs.  Undoubtedly, language skills would be central to any form of Soviet expertise, and so it was that among the tangible achievements of Sovietology in the bonanza years was the Current Digest of the Soviet Press.  But this was not the pedagogical route to scholarship or a sound understanding of modern Russia.  However, the disciplinary grounding demanded by Mosely proved to be a mixed blessing, at least when it came to establishing a stable production model for Soviet Studies.  Many of the most successful training regimes were more artisanal than industrial.  This would seem to be true, for instance, of Sovietological economics, or at any rate of those students trained by the “prince of Soviet economists” Alexander Gerschenkron.  Gerschenkron, as Engerman has written elsewhere, “ran a shop of craftsmen” in which he nurtured several important careers.  His insistence upon a panoply of “specialized skills” and careful empirical research carried out by the investigator alone was never likely to lead to physics-style mass training.[25]  The same might be said of the intimate pedagogy favoured by Russianist historians such as Michael Karpovich, Isaiah Berlin, and George Vernadsky.  In addition to the predominance of the workshop over the factory floor in Soviet Studies pedagogy, there was the enduring tension between “area” versus “discipline” expertise — a problem that arose most forcefully in political science, but which found expression in cognate disciplinary approaches in Sovietology, notably in economics, sociology, and literary studies.  In economics, leading scholars like Gerschenkron and Abram Bergson found themselves isolated from the universalist methodologies that captured the professional mainstream after 1945.  Sociologists who wrote defining accounts of Soviet society — Alex Inkeles and Barrington Moore chief among them — rejected the label of “area specialist” and defined their work as a contribution to general sociology, not Soviet Studies.  Even the political scientists who embraced the regnant paradigms of their home field, from “political development” to “political culture” met with indifference from their non-Russianist colleagues.  By the late 1960s graduate students in Eastern European Studies received broad but superficial training in the social sciences, and hence were “nowhere near as well steeped in the professional norms of their respective disciplines” as their peers in other area studies programs (p. 256).

At the very beginning of the 1950s, the most ambitious attempt to conduct large-scale social science, marrying area expertise with a general theory of human behaviour, had been undertaken at Harvard’s Russian Research Center.  The Refugee Interview Project (RIP), as Engerman relates, was conceived as an exercise in “big social science.”  Not only would the study of the structure and functioning of Soviet society furnish a critical testing ground for the “behavioral science” paradigm taking shape in the minds of the faculty of Harvard’s Department of Social Relations, and of influential foundation and military officers; the project also “functioned, as RRC reports happily noted, as a ‘training ground’ for young social scientists” (p. 59).  Like so many ventures associated with the Department of Social Relations, the RIP fell victim to overreach: the sample of Soviet refugees was far from representative; military demands for useful intelligence conflicted with lofty scientific goals; the data themselves swiftly became so numerous as to resist easy assimilation into a general theory of social relations.  The RIP data provided the launching pad for many seminal books and articles, but it did not produce a sustainable model of interdisciplinary research and collective training.  Yet again, Soviet Studies foundered when constructing pedagogy of scale.

Or did it?  I have been assuming, as I noted at the outset, that my conclusions are also Engerman’s.  What I want to say, with the postwar trajectory of physics in mind, is this: even though Soviet Studies received comparatively lavish funding (small beans compared to the physical and mathematical sciences, of course) at crucial moments during the pre-detente phase of the Cold War, and even though the field supported a growing network of PhDs, research centres, and graduate programs during the 1960s, none of this added up to the kind of manpower production witnessed in physics.  I am tempted to suggest that, unlike the physicists, the pioneers of Soviet Studies were charged not just with establishing a mass production model, with its textbooks, graduate programs, and postdoctoral fellowships; they also faced the task of defining the expertise — the corpus of data, explanatory models, and technical skills — that those very pedagogical resources were meant to communicate.  That would have been a tough ask for any discipline, but for a field that aimed to serve at once Mars and Minerva, and “discipline” as well as “area,” this was an insurmountable challenge.  This is not an indictment of Sovietology but a striking observation: despite being, in a sense, a quintessential product of Cold War conditions, the actual fruits of Soviet Studies can in no sense be read off from the ideological and political imperatives that made it possible.  The perspective of manpower and mass pedagogy in physics lets us see the deep politicization of science wrought by the Cold War; the same perspective on Soviet Studies does let us recount quite the same Cold War story.

Yet I have the nagging suspicion that Professor Engerman might not want to put the point as sharply as this.  As I indicated above, there do seem to be moments in Know Your Enemy when Engerman seems inclined to admit that, for example, the RIP really was an example — albeit singular — of big social science, insofar as scholars fed off its findings in monographs and articles for years afterward; or that the interlocking matrix of professional associations, exchange programs, and research centres really did create, if only for a brief moment in the 1950s and 1960s, an integrated regime of training and research.  On this reckoning, Soviet Studies may have shared the trajectory of physics, if only for a time.  I’d like to know if Professor Engerman favours one or other of these readings — or indeed whether he has in mind something else entirely.

Author’s Response by David C. Engerman, Brandeis University

It’s a great pleasure – and a little bit daunting – to read through such four thorough and substantive reviews of one’s own book.  But it’s an experience that leaves me grateful: first, to the reviewers for their insightful commentaries and challenging questions; and second, to H-Diplo (and especially to Review Roundtable editor Thomas Maddux) for providing a venue for more than the usual 600-word journal reviews that permit only the formulaic brief summary, narrow complaint, and kind conclusion (“a must for the specialist”).  The four reviewers have taken their charge seriously, and have understood my book and my motivations for writing it.

Rather than addressing the numerous worthwhile issues on a point-by-point basis, let me offer some general responses to two major themes.  The reviewers focused intently – as did Know Your Enemy – on the relationship between scholarship and politics – so that will be my first topic.  I’ll then turn to Sovietology’s purposes as a training program, most extensively analyzed in Joel Isaac’s incisive comparison of Sovietology and physics but discussed briefly in other reviews as well.

Let me start off my discussion of the relationship between “Mars and Minerva” – the god of war and the goddess of wisdom, respectively – by calling attention to one striking and perhaps salutary absence.  I was pleased and relieved that none of the reviewers repeated the usual claims about how McCarthyism or the post-World War II anti-communist challenges wracked the field.  I had begun my research on Know Your Enemy believing that McCarthyism had profoundly shaped the nature and direction of the field – a refrain that became ubiquitous in the late 1960s and 1970s and was still common when I first studied Russian history in the mid-1980s.  Yet the more I explored the archives, the more difficult I found it to consider McCarthyism a key factor in Sovietology’s institutional form or its intellectual content.  There were a number of specific moments at which anti-Communist crusades touched on Sovietology in one way or another, but even these had unpredictable results: Congressional attacks on Harvard’s Refugee Interview Project led to the demise of the sponsoring unit within the Air Force, but had no obvious effect on Harvard or its Russian Research Center (RRC).  The dismissal of H. Stuart Hughes as assistant director of the RRC – though he maintained his position on the Harvard faculty – was not the result of a Congressional hearing or an FBI investigation, but of a private organization (the Carnegie Corporation).  This episode thus substantiated Ellen Schrecker’s important point that McCarthyism was all the more effective for being decentralized.[26]  And the names of key institutions – the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, the Inter-University Committee for Travel Grants, and even the wartime OSS’s USSR Division – all ended up with the names they did as an effort to avoid causing political offense.

Yet these instances did not necessarily mean that an ill-defined shorthand like McCarthyism was sufficient to define this fascinating era of intellectual life.  To take one final example, regrettably also from Harvard: one of the first graduate students to join the RRC community, the medical sociologist Mark Field, loved to relate the story of how the RRC’s original home – a private house with a sign identifying the building as “Harvard University Russian Research Center” – frequently had bricks lobbed through the windows at night.  RRC administrators soon removed the sign, and the bricks stopped coming through windows.  But, Field wryly wondered, it was never clear whether the brick-throwers were animated by distaste for an institute studying Russia or by dislike of Harvard.

If not McCarthyism, what other models can help scholars understand the relationship between politics and scholarship, especially in 1950s America?  With typical insight and cleverness, Jamie Cohen-Cole provides two: First is a “billiard-ball” model, in which political and intellectual affairs are two completely autonomous realms that interact only by bouncing into one another.  Since the notion that scholarship would influence policy is rarely made, politics is usually the cue ball, hitting – or, to continue the metaphor, sinking – scholarship.[27]

Cohen-Cole elaborates more extensively on the “fertilizer” model, suggesting that the Cold War context, and not least the funding available to fulfill national-security imperatives, acted as a fertilizer enabling all kinds of new shoots to grow.  I am not much of a gardener (as anyone seeing my lawn understands right away), but was nevertheless both enthralled and challenged by the metaphor, also used in passing in Steven Bittner’s review.  In many ways, Cohen-Cole is exactly right.  I agree that the Cold War may have shaped Sovietology, but not along the lines of the McCarthyism synecdoche or the billiard-ball metaphor.  Yet I wonder if Cohen-Cole has carried through the fertilizer analogy properly.  Even without dwelling on what particular nitrogen-intensive substances are used as fertilizer (a metaphor rife with comedic possibilities for the scatologically inclined), fertilization undoubtedly allowed some weaker shoots to flourish that otherwise would not have made it.  Cohen-Cole’s examples from literary scholarship serve as well as any.  But to write, as Cohen-Cole does, of “invasive species” suggests a conception of “native species” that is harder to use in describing scholarship.  It may well be true that overfertilization allowed a range of weak scholarship to survive in Soviet Studies that could not have made it in other fields.  I shudder, though, at the thought of trying to substantiate that claim with evidence.  Every field, after all, has achievements of towering majesty as well as lowlier works, and I wouldn’t want to calculate the proportions.

For slightly different reasons, I worry that the Team B episode isn’t a perfect example of the problems of overfertilization that Cohen-Cole asserts.  Team B seems to me to have different origins and perhaps a different moral.  To the extent Know Your Enemy’s section on Team B – the “competitive intelligence” exercise in the mid-1970s that helped spark the rise of a new Committee on the Present Danger – treads new ground, it is to show how the whole exercise was, from the start, conceived of in political rather than scholarly grounds.  It used the language of scholarship and even-handedness explicitly to promote a more alarmist perspective on Soviet capabilities and intentions (comparisons to “fair and balanced” news broadcasts are welcome here).  The fact that those alarms rang false shouldn’t stop scholars from noting their effectiveness.  Team B was the result of a confluence of trends: the sharp leftward move of the Democratic Party in the early 1970s (leaving once-stalwart Democrats like Richard Pipes alienated from it), the rise of para-academic institutions focused on policy relevance, and the increasingly contentious tone within and beyond Washington about America’s defense posture vis-à-vis the USSR.  That para-academic world employed many Ph.D.’s but was increasingly oriented to Washington and detached from scholars, scholarly institutions, and scholarly norms.

It is this rise of the para-academic world of “policy-relevant scholarship” (a term riven with internal tensions) that bolsters Steven Bittner’s point that the best place to observe the challenges of Sovietology was  in the field of political science.  For many of the reasons that Bittner suggests – the difficulty of conducting direct research in the USSR, the lack of any possible dialogue with Soviet scholars, lack of access to any kinds of useful sources beyond Soviet publications – American students of Soviet politics had a rough time of it.

Experts in Soviet politics couldn’t control the situation they faced in the USSR, but they could choose how to respond to it.  And my sense is that many in the field walked into a paradox.  Impeded by numerous country-specific obstacles, they increasingly resorted to the universalizing generalizations of post-World War II social science, then in the thrall of Parsonian modernization theory.  That approach, as Nils Gilman showed convincingly, was deeply embedded in the “political development” approach spearheaded by the SSRC’s Committee on Comparative Politics.[28]  These students of Soviet politics hitched themselves to the disciplinary wagon: dragging along behind, they had little chance to influence the field (let alone lead it).  And the cost of choosing the disciplinary affiliation was that they had less and less in common with the interdisciplinary area studies milieu from whence they came.  They undertook increasingly narrow and specialized studies that (as one practitioner ultimately conceded), “did not require prior specification of the essence of the political order.”[29]  Far from being obsessed by the totalitarian vision – as some critics accused them – scholars of Soviet politics devoted too little attention to the nature of the Soviet system.[30]  While the empirical material presented in these works is impressive (and all the more admirable given the difficulties in obtaining it, as Bittner indicates) and their efforts at theorization ambitious, the lasting value of these works is harder to assess in positive terms.  The real change came with the demise of the USSR, when students of Russian politics had, finally, the chance to understand their subject using some of the theories and tools of the discipline as a whole.  It’s not a surprise, then, that the American Political Science Association has honored more Russia/Soviet specialists in the last decade than it did in the almost five decades of the Cold War.

As Choi Chatterjee rightly points out, it was the very openness of Sovietology, and the American academy more generally, that accounted for its successes.  Though she seems to mean primarily demographic openness – the important roles played by the émigrés from Russia whom she mentions and those from Europe (East and West) whom she does not – the intellectual and even political openness of the enterprise was one of the biggest surprises I had in researching Know Your Enemy, in large part because it runs so counter to the received wisdom of the field.  This openness, as Chatterjee properly notes in her opening paragraphs, rarely extended to gender equality, as there were very few women who were active publishing scholars in the field’s early years.  Even as women became more numerous and prominent in other disciplines and areas, Soviet Studies exhibited a certain otstalost’ (backwardness).  Ironically one of the reasons for this backwardness may have been the very demographic openness, as émigrés imported their homelands’ attitudes towards gender into American institutions that were not very equitable to begin with.  Another explanation for this backwardness relates to timing: the field grew most dramatically at a time when the vast majority of Ph.D. recipients in relevant disciplines were male.  The very moment when women were completing graduate school in larger numbers coincided with the funding/political crisis of Sovietology.

The question of doctorate production leads to a second major purpose for Soviet Studies, and the questions posed in Joel Isaac’s fascinating and detailed comparison of physics and Sovietology in the Cold War.  Like Isaac, I was persuaded and to a degree inspired by David Kaiser’s writings on the training imperative in Cold War physics.[31]  In addition to producing expertise, Kaiser compellingly argues, government and private funders of physics research sought to produce experts to “man” (an inadvertently apt phrase) laboratories.  Perhaps because Kaiser’s physicists, unlike Sovietologists, all worked within a single discipline, pedagogical programs are harder to compare.  There were only a handful of truly interdisciplinary courses in Soviet Studies – the sorts of courses with sufficiently large enrollments to grab the attention of textbook publishers.  Undergraduate and MA-level programs might better be called multidisciplinary: they did not teach material that meaningfully combined the insights or techniques of multiple disciplines, nor did they inhabit intellectual space between established disciplines.  Instead these programs worked in an additive mode: taking courses in Soviet politics, Russian/Soviet literature, Soviet economics, and Russian/Soviet history produced MA experts.  So one answer to Isaac’s stimulating queries rests in the different natures of the enterprises of physics and Sovietology.

Another response to Isaac might be to challenge his premise that the “industrial production” of Sovietologists was a failure.  Bittner does precisely this when he observes, rightly, that “the need for expertise was sated by recipients of the very degrees the field helped create.”[32]  One of the purposes of Sovietology, especially but not only in its earliest years, was to produce MA experts primarily for government employment (with the CIA and the State Department being the major employers).  This worked well enough that government agencies no longer needed the same kind of relationship with academic Sovietologists that they needed in the late 1940s and early 1950s; they already had in-house experts.  Indeed, the rise of a para-academic or policy-relevant enterprise, primarily within political science, might be seen as a natural outgrowth of this success.  In a classic case of credential inflation, these employers started preferring Ph.D. recipients over those with MA degrees.[33]  Since Ph.D. degrees were (with a few unimportant exceptions) all within disciplines, this turn undermined the whole effort to create an interdisciplinary program for government experts in the first place.  The rise of policy-relevant institutes in universities and policy-oriented degree programs like the RAND-UCLA Program in Soviet International Behavior fed the demand for Washington-oriented Ph.Ds.  So the escalating credentials for policy-relevant work are not necessarily a sign of a failure, but perhaps a kind of success.

I could go on to address or respond to more of the insights of the four reviews, but would instead like to end with a little of the self-reflection that is perhaps inevitable in a forum of this sort.   Especially in discussing a book about a long-running scholarly enterprise, it’s most appropriate to observe that each of these reviewers sees our forum in terms of a similarly long-running conversation – or, more precisely, multiple conversations.  They each place Know Your Enemy in a different scholarly discussion: the role of pedagogy in the social sciences (Isaac), the nature of interdisciplinary social science (Cohen-Cole), the transformation of American studies of Russian history (Chatterjee), and mutual scholarly perceptions of the Cold War antagonists (Bittner).  I learned a great deal from these reviews, just as I learned from reading in those scholarly literatures while writing Know Your Enemy.  I look forward to participating in these conversations – hopefully alongside these reviewers – in the future.


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[1] For an H-Diplo roundtable on Kuklick, see and look under roundtables for Vol. VII, No. 5 (2006).

[2] See, for example, Z [Martin Malia], “To the Stalin Mausoleum,” Daedalus 119:1  (Winter 1990): 295-344; and Walter Laqueur, The Dream that Failed: Reflections on the Soviet Union (Oxford, 1994).

[3] David Remnick, “Getting Russia Right,” The New York Review of Books 41:15 (September 22, 1994): 20-26.

[4] The Harvard Project transcripts are available at

[5] See, for instance, Merle Fainsod, Smolensk under Soviet Rule (Cambridge, Mass., 1958); and Alex Inkeles and Raymond A. Bauer, The Soviet Citizen: Daily Life in a Totalitarian Society (Cambridge, Mass., 1959).

[6] Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Commissariat of Enlightenment: Soviet Organization of Education and the Arts under Lunacharsky, October 1917-1921 (Cambridge, 1970).

[7] Aleksandr Herzen, From the Other Shore, trans. Moura Budberg and Richard Wollheim (Oxford, 1979).

[8] See, for instance, Richard Pipes, The Formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism, 1917-1923 (Cambridge, Mass., 1954);  idem., Social Democracy and the St. Petersburg Labor Movement, 1885-1897 (Cambridge, Mass., 1963); and idem., Struve, Liberal on the Left (Cambridge, Mass., 1970).

[9] Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, 1888-1938 (New York, 1973). Many of The Nation columns were republished in idem., Sovieticus: American Perceptions and Soviet Realities (New York, 1985).

[10] On Varga, see Ethan Pollock, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars (Princeton, 2006), 176-77, 191-92.

[11] For an insider’s account of the formation of the USA-Canada Institute, see Georgii Arbatov, Chelovek sistemy (Moscow, 2002).

[12] Modernization From the Other Shore. American Intellectuals and the Romance of Russian Development (Cambridge, Mass: 2004).

[13] Stephen Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography 1888-1938 (New York: 1973); Alex Rabinowitch, Alexander Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks Come to Power. The Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd (New York: 1976); Sheila Fitzpatrick, Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928-1931 (Bloomington, IN: 1984).

[14] Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England, Science and Its Conceptual Foundations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

[15] For instance, Christopher Lasch, “The Cultural Cold War: A Short History of the Congress for Cultural Freedom,” in Towards a New Past; Dissenting Essays in American History, ed. Barton J. Bernstein (New York,: Pantheon Books, 1968).

[16] Generally and more specifically in the sciences see Noam Chomsky et al, The Cold War and the University: Toward an Intellectual History (New York: New Press, 1998); Paul N. Edwards, The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996); Paul Forman, “Behind Quantum Electronics: National Security as a Basis for Physical Research in the United States, 1940-1960,” Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 18:1 (1987): 149-229; T.J. Jackson Lears, “A Matter of Taste: Corporate Cultural Hegemony in a Mass-Consumption Society,” in Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of Cold War, ed. Lary May (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); Jesse Lemisch, On Active Service in War and Peace: Politics and Ideology in the American Historical Profession (1975); Stuart W. Leslie, The Cold War and American Science: The Military-Industrial-Academic Complex at M.I.T. And Stanford (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993); Philip Mirowski, Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Philip Mirowski, “The Scientific Dimensions of Social Knowledge and Their Distant Echoes in 20th-Century American Philosophy of Science,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 35, no. 2 (2003): 283-326.

[17] Alex Inkeles and David Horton Smith, Becoming Modern: Individual Change in Six Developing Countries (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974); Talcott Parsons, The Social System (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1951).

[18] Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils, eds., Toward a General Theory of Action (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951).

[19] The works on which I shall draw in the following two paragraphs are David Kaiser, “Cold War Requisitions, Scientific Manpower, and the Production of American Physicists After World War II,” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 33:1 (2002): 131-159; Kaiser, “The Postwar Suburbanization of American Physics,” American Quarterly 56:4 (2004): 851-88; Kaiser, Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); Kaiser, “The Physics of Spin: Sputnik Politics and American Physicists in the 1950s,” Social Research 73:4 (2006): 1225-1252.

[20] See especially Kaiser, “Physics of Spin,” 1231-9.

[21] Data on Ph.D. awards is drawn from Kaiser, “Cold War Requisitions,” 135-6.

[22] Ibid., 133.

[23] On postdocs and textbooks in postwar physics, see Kaiser, Drawing Theories Apart.

[24] Kaiser, “Postwar Suburbanization.”

[25] David C. Engerman, “The Price of Success: Economic Sovietology, Development, and the Costs of Interdisciplinarity,” History of Political Economy 42, Supplement 1 (2010): 244-5.

[26] Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Boston: Little Brown, 1998).

[27] Claims about the pernicious effect of politics and scholarship on each other appear in Noam Chomsky, et al., The Cold War and the University: Toward an Intellectual History of the Postwar Years (New York: New Press, 1997); and Christopher Simpson, ed., Universities and Empire: Money and Politics in the Social Sciences during the Cold War (New York: New Press, 1998).  But Bruce Kuklick’s somewhat disappointed conclusion that scholars had little impact on policy seems better supported by available evidence – see Bruce Kuklick, Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).

[28] Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), chapter 4.

[29] George W. Breslauer, “In Defense of Sovietology,” Post-Soviet Affairs 8:3 (July-September 1992): 220.

[30] Stephen F. Cohen, Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics and History since 1917 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), chapter 1.

[31] My understanding of postwar physics comes from David Kaiser, “Cold War Requisitions, Scientific Manpower, and the Production of American Physicists After World War II,” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 33:1 (2002): 131-159; and Kaiser, “The Postwar Suburbanization of American Physics,” American Quarterly 56:4 (2004): 851-88

[32] Thomas F. Remington supports this point in “Between Mars and Minerva,” Russian Review 69:2 (April 2010): 316.

[33] Randall Collins, The Credential Society: A Historical Sociology of Education and Stratification (New York: Academic Press, 1979).