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

Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum

The Russians, Hedrick Smith

Man Without A Face, Markus Wolf

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)

Yuri Bezmenov Psychological Warfare Subversion + Control of Western Society,” (available on YouTube)

“To the Stalin Mausoleum,” Martin Malia (“Z”)

Six Questions: A Little KGB Training Goes A Long Way,” interview with Oleg Kalugin in Foreign Policy


The 1990s: Chaos and Mafia Reentrenchment

The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia,  David Hoffman

Godfather of the Kremlin, Paul Klebnikov

Humiliation at the Hands of American Advisors

How Harvard Lost Russia,” David McClintick in Institutional Investor

Could This Woman Be Vladimir Putin’s Real Mother,” Kate Weinberg in The Telegraph (December 5, 2008)

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)

Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror, Alexander Litvinenko + Yuri Felshtinsky


Tools of the Kremlin: Hacking the Election

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)

Clawing Ourselves Out of the Abyss

Farewell Address - audio,” Dwight D. Eisenhower (January 17, 1961).

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).

Former NSA and CIA Chief on Trump,” WNYC interview with Michael Hayden (November 21, 2016).


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

2. Deprive Russian Mafia-state of all aid

Putin’s Russia, Anna Politkovskaya

McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld, Misha Glenny

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 10.10.23 PM.png