Media-Military Relations, NATO, Obama, Politics, Reading List, russia, United States

The Sources of Russian Conduct: Russian Reading List

by Amanda Rivkin

Note: In light of the election of 2016 and the unprecedented interference in the American electoral process, it became clear that a generation that fought the global war on terror is woefully unfamiliar with what a much earlier generation of American scholars, diplomats and spies would call “the sources of Soviet conduct,” after former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow George F. Kennan’s now infamous article published in Foreign Affairs in 1947. This reading list is an attempt to plug holes, it is by no means comprehensive nor does it claim to be. It is an attempt to provide a brief selection of readings following key themes of the last century of Russian/Soviet history as it is still relevant today given the Russian leader’s training as a KGB spy and deep background in the Russian state and rise in the wake of a period of profound national humiliation of the 1990s. Usual academic caveats, any errors or oversights are mine and mine alone.


Ideology + Revolution: Leninist-Marxism

The Russian Revolution, Sheila Fitzpatrick
Three Who Made a Revolution: A Biographical History of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, Bertram Wolffe
Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution, Richard Stites

Conduct of Soviet state/KGB

The Long Telegram/The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” George F. Kennan (“X”) in Foreign Affairs (1947)
“Venona Project” documents available through The Wilson Center and the NSA
– Covert counter-espionage project within the NSA to detect spies and moles intiated in 1943 lasting until 1980 that detected Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, Kim Philby but more effectively and critically, Harry Dexter White, who helped negotiate Bretton Woods accords establishing postwar International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum
The Russians, Hedrick Smith
Man Without A Face, Markus Wolf
– Former East German Stasi chief’s memoir

Dangers of Big Brother State

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Voices from Chernobyl, Svetlana Alexievich
Lenin’s Tomb, David Remnick

Voices of Defectors + Collapse of USSR

KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov’s warning to America,” (available on YouTube)
– on KGB’s “active measures”; outlines three broad phases from propaganda to occupation (from American television in the 1980s)
Yuri Bezmenov Psychological Warfare Subversion + Control of Western Society,” (available on YouTube)
– delves deeper into psychological warfare stage of “active measures” (approximately where we are in late 2016; Bezmenov is one of more entertaining + engaging of his generation of defectors)
“To the Stalin Mausoleum,” Martin Malia (“Z”)
– Signed “Z” in echoes of Kennan’s earlier “Sources of Soviet Conduct,” signed “X”
Six Questions: A Little KGB Training Goes A Long Way,” interview with Oleg Kalugin in Foreign Policy
– Kalugin was long-serving KGB in US, one time boss of Putin’s when both men were in Dresden, later aligned with Yeltsin


The 1990s: Chaos and Mafia Reentrenchment

The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia, David Hoffman
Godfather of the Kremlin, Paul Klebnikov
– former Russian-American editor of Forbes Russia murdered in mysterious circumstances

Humiliation at the Hands of American Advisors

How Harvard Lost Russia,” David McClintick in Institutional Investor
– Perhaps the finest long-form story ever published on the shenanigans of American “advisors” who helped push Russia to collapse then helped guide its re-entrenchment into an oligarchic mafia state
Could This Woman Be Vladimir Putin’s Real Mother,” Kate Weinberg in The Telegraph (December 5, 2008)
– Two other journalists trying to report this story previously were killed in mysterious circumstances.

Recreating the Past: The Security State, The Kremlin + the Oligarchy

KGB: State Within a State, Yevgenia Albats
Arms and the Man,” Peter Landesman in The New York Times Magazine (August 17, 2003)
– Profile of Victor Bout, perhaps Russia’s most prolific arms trader in immediate post-Cold War era + likely before; openly boastful in New York Times Magazine provides sense of arrogance + pride
Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror, Alexander Litvinenko + Yuri Felshtinsky
Winter is Coming, Garry Kasparov


Tools of the Kremlin: Hacking the Election

Non-Linear Warfare by Media,” Charlie Brooker’s Wipe, summary with Adam Curtis (2014).
Meet Fancy Bear, The Russian Group Hacking U.S. Elections,” Sheera Frenkel in BuzzFeed (October 15, 2016)
How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History,” Thomas Rid in Esquire (October 20, 2016)
FBI’s Comey Opposed Naming Russians, Citing Election Timing: Source,” Eamon Javers for CNBC (October 31, 2016).
Telephone Conversation with US President Elect Donald Trump,” Kremlin read out (November 14, 2016)
Kremlin’s Trojan Horses,” Alina Polyakova, Marlene Laruelle, Stefan Meister, and Neil Barnett for The Atlantic Council (November 15, 2016)
Call for a Congressional Investigation: An Open Letter from Concerned Scholars,” (November 21, 2016)

Crawling Ourselves Out of the Abyss

Farewell Addressaudio,” Dwight D. Eisenhower (January 17, 1961).
– Famously warns of “military-industrial complex”; in August, construction begins on the Berlin Wall.
Keep Your Politics Private, My Fellow Generals and Admirals,” General Martin Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in DefenseOne (August 1, 2016).
Seven Reasons Why a Trump Reset with Russia Will Fail,” Taras Kuzio in New Eastern Europe (November 21, 2016).
– Special attention deserved to #4 + regime survival dependency on existential, eternal threats to drive nationalist calls for patriotism and unity
Former NSA and CIA Chief on Trump,” WNYC interview with Michael Hayden (November 21, 2016).
– Important warning issued on politicization of national security apparatus; no deep delve however.


1. Education in True Patriotism + Dangers of Big Brother State

The Power of the Powerless, Václav Havel
The Captive Mind, Czeslaw Milosz
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt
From Dictatorship to Democracy, Gene Sharp
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder.

2. Deprive Russian Mafia-state of all aid

Putin’s Russia, Anna Politkovskaya
– Assassinated in Moscow in 2006, one outcome of her reporting on the war in Chechnya
McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, Misha Glenny