Moments Posted in Russia/Soviet Union

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

Trouble in the Mountains: The Sino-Indian War, 1962

When two powerful countries cannot agree on the location of their shared borders, there is trouble. Such was the case with China and India in October 1962. China and India had long disputed ownership of the Aksai Chin, a mountain pass that connects Tibet to China’s Xinjiang province on the western side.  On the eastern […]



Lost in Translation while Posted Abroad

Working as a U.S. diplomat overseas requires patience, composure, and the ability to communicate cross-culturally. Oftentimes, diplomats can speak multiple languages, or use interpreters to make their opinions known to another party. However, as is the case with any linguistic encounter, misunderstandings and miscommunication can often occur. In interviews with Charles Stewart Kennedy, Hans N. […]



Opening an Embassy in the Land of Genghis Khan

Getting a new embassy up and running is a tremendous task, especially when the host city has an annual average temperature of thirty degrees Fahrenheit. Joseph Edward Lake was the second U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, and the first to reside permanently in the country. He was charged with establishing a functional embassy in Ulaanbaatar and […]



Frenemies: Warm Encounters with Cold War Soviets

Just because the war between the two superpowers was cold didn’t mean that relations between U.S. and Soviet diplomats had to be frosty. While there were certainly some testy times, U.S. diplomats report that their relationships with Soviets were sometimes warm, funny, and congenial — especially if the Soviet officer was trying to convince them […]



Foundering Phoenix: Solidarity’s Turbulent Rise to Power

The path of Solidarity from dissident group to governance in the 1980s was far from smooth. Founded on September 17, 1980 at the Gdansk Shipyard, Solidarity (Solidarność) was the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union. Solidarity’s ascent was of great symbolic importance, marking the end of five decades of Communist rule in Poland. Its leader, Lech […]



Nixon vs. Khrushchev — The 1959 Kitchen Debate

It was undoubtedly one of the most unorthodox – and therefore memorable – settings for a major political debate. On July 24th, 1959, the United States opened the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. The Soviets and Americans had agreed to hold exhibits in each other’s countries as a cultural exchange to promote […]



Smashed Cars and Tall Blondes

For many diplomats, the time spent under constant surveillance while in Soviet bloc countries during the Cold War could lead to serious frustration and close brushes with angered KGB agents. David Evans’ story of being stonewalled by the Soviet police and then targeted by a potential honeytrap is one such example of the absurdity of […]



The Berlin Blockade and Airlift of 1948

Beginning in April 1948, the USSR blocked Western Allies’ access to Berlin as a means of protesting the introduction of the Deutschmark in West Berlin. Following WWII, Berlin had been divided amongst the Allied nations, with France, Great Britain, and the United States taking claim of the West, and the Soviets controlling the East. However, […]



Loy Henderson, Mr. Foreign Service

Loy Henderson (1892-1986) is one of the most storied figures in American diplomatic history. Beginning his career in 1922, he would spend the first two decades of his nearly 40-year career in various posts across Eastern Europe. This includes an assignment to Moscow in 1933, where Henderson worked alongside such diplomatic notables as George Kennan […]



Sound and the Fury — The 1954 Geneva Conference on Vietnam and Korea

In April 1954, amidst growing tensions regarding the situation in the Korean Peninsula and Indochina, the international community convened a conference in Geneva in the hopes of reaching some sort of accord. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Soviet Union, and People’s Republic of China were the primary negotiators, each jockeying to achieve their objectives […]