A Man of Conscience: A Tribute to Professor Stephen F. Cohen
I was deeply saddened—and still in shock and grief—to learn of the death of Professor Stephen F. Cohen, not only because his was a voice of sanity and reason, a voice for peace in an increasingly fractured world, but also because personally I was always excited and delighted to read his books and see his appearances, on television with Tucker Carlson and on alternative news platforms, including The Grayzone, RT, and even an interview with Lew Rockwell. Another example is that with Professor Cohen’s permission, Ron Unz created an extensive database of his writings on his site. Despite differences in political views, Professor Cohen never hesitated to speak to those who were willing to listen, to those interested in peace, to those willing to learn the truth and not be swayed by propaganda and lies.
What made, to me, Professor Cohen unique and special was not limited to his great knowledge, his warmth, his kindness, his scholarship; no, to me it was his conscience, that is he looked at the “enemy,” specifically the Russian people, and saw in them human beings who had suffered greatly and saw a missed opportunity in America not respecting and working with Russia to the mutual benefit of both nations. Not only in his interviews but in his books this perspective is made very clear, and his written work is an important legacy that those who love peace and do not fall prey of the dictates of those in power in America who want to make enemies out of entire nations—not just Russia—will find words of great power in his published writings. Among his books, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives, Professor Cohen discussed roads not taken, that many of the worst aspects of the Soviet Union might not have come into being and, how perhaps most relevant to us now, that the break up of the Soviet Union that caused a catastrophic loss of life comparable to war, was clearly avoidable and that the policies of the Obama administration set into motion this “new cold war” (centered in Ukraine) or since it is more dangerous, to use a British expression, a “war of nerves” that is resulting in casualties.
In his earlier book, Failed Crusade, Professor Cohen writes a work that “shows that what US officials and other experts call ‘reform’ has for most Russians been a catastrophic development―namely the unprecedented de-modernization of a twentieth-century country―and for the United States the worst foreign policy disaster since Vietnam” and “an indictment of American journalists and policy makers who failed to see or report the truth about the complicity of U.S. policy in a great human tragedy.” That Russia has now turned around so completely is certainly remarkable and a testament to those officials in its government—including President Putin—who wanted to reverse the devastation and help their suffering people live normal lives.
In The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag After Stalin Professor Cohen writes of the human cost of Stalin’s Gulags, for “During the Stalin years, it is thought that more innocent men, women and children perished than in Hitler’s destruction of the European Jews. Many millions died in Stalin’s Gulag of torture prisons and forced-labour camps, yet others survived and were freed after his death in 1953. This book is the story of the survivors. Long kept secret by Soviet repression and censorship, it is now told by renowned author and historian Stephen F. Cohen, who came to know many former Gulag inmates during his frequent trips to Moscow over a period of thirty years. Based on first-hand interviews with the victims themselves and on newly available materials, Cohen provides a powerful narrative of the survivors’ post-Gulag saga, from their liberation and return to Soviet society, to their long struggle to salvage what remained of their shattered lives and to obtain justice.”
But more than writing history, giving a voice to the victims, Professor Cohen showed his compassion towards the victims personally, in his kindness towards the widow of Bukharin, which was revealed in the obituary published by The New York Times, “Stephen F. Cohen, Influential Historian of Russia, Dies at 81.”
A prolific writer who mined Soviet archives, Professor Cohen first came to international attention in 1973 with “Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution,” a biography of Lenin’s protégé Nikolai Bukharin, who envisioned Communism as a blend of state-run industries and free-market agriculture. Critics generally applauded the work, which was a finalist for a National Book Award.
“Stephen Cohen’s full-scale study of Bukharin is the first major study of this remarkable associate of Lenin,” Harrison Salisbury’s wrote in a review in The Times. “As such it constitutes a milestone in Soviet studies, the byproduct both of increased academic sophistication in the use of Soviet materials and also of the very substantial increase in basic information which has become available in the 20 years since Stalin’s death.”
Article from LewRockwell