Moments Posted in Russia/Soviet Union

This is an archive of Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History posted in the Russia/Soviet Union category.

The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan — December 1979

It was to last nearly a decade and would plant the seeds for the rise of the Taliban and Islamic terrorism and the subsequent invasion by the U.S. more than 20 years later.  On December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union sent thousands of troops into Afghanistan and immediately assumed complete military and political control of […]

Moscow in the 1950s

The General Services Officer or GSO is responsible for carrying out such functions as contracting, clearing goods through customs, maintenance, and warehouse supervision. It is an important job (ask any FSO who has been to a post with a bad GSO) and often one of the more under-appreciated ones. However, in interesting places they can […]

The Birth of NATO

After the devastation of World War II and the ensuing Cold War with the Soviet Union, nations across the globe sought out alliances to protect themselves and to avoid a possible World War III. The United Nations was created, as were various regional alliances, such as the Rio Treaty for the Western Hemisphere. Europe’s growing […]

KAL 007: A Targeted Assassination?

On September 1, 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 en route on its second leg from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul, South Korea was shot down by a Soviet interceptor aircraft into the Sea of Japan when it deviated from its intended route into Soviet territory.  The total death toll of 269 passengers included the U.S. […]

Leaving with Their Heads Held High – The U.S. Expulsion from Eritrea, 1977

Throughout its history, there have been numerous occasions where the United States has been forced to shut down its embassies quickly, usually because of war or because the U.S. had fallen into disfavor with the host government.  Eritrea in 1977 was one of those instances. However, with the fall of Saigon and the panicked evacuation from […]

Yeltsin Under Siege — The October 1993 Constitutional Crisis

For Russians, it was yet another dramatic confrontation which played out in the streets of Moscow, one which marked the growing frustration many people had with their elected President. The constitutional crisis of 1993 was a political stand-off between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament that was resolved by military force. The relations […]

“The State Department has always been a whipping boy”

Charles “Chip” Bohlen (August 30, 1904 – January 1, 1974) served in the Foreign Service from 1929 to 1969 and succeeded George Kennan as Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1953–1957). He later served as Ambassador to the Philippines (1957–1959), and to France (1962–1968) and was one of the nonpartisan foreign policy advisors known as “The […]

The Embassy Moscow Fire of 1977

Diplomats working in the USSR had to contend with a wide range of difficulties – poor bilateral relations, KGB surveillance, tough living conditions, Russian winters. For those serving in 1977, you could add one more thing to that list – a massive fire. On the evening of August 26th, U.S. Embassy Moscow erupted in flames. […]

End of an Era: The August Coup and the Final Days of the Soviet Union

In August 1991, Soviet hardliners attempted to overthrow the progressive Mikhail Gorbachev, Secretary General of the Communist Party, in a desperate attempt to save the collapsing Soviet Union. Declaring a state of emergency, eight government officials named themselves the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) and forcibly detained Gorbachev in the Crimea, where […]

The Berlin Wall Is Built — August 13, 1961

On August 13, 1961, Berlin woke up to a shock:  the East German Army had begun construction on the infamous Berlin Wall.  The Wall was initially constructed in the middle of Berlin, and expanded over the following months. It entirely cut off West Berlin from the surrounding East Germany, prohibiting East Germans to pass into […]