Stephen F. Cohen

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Stephen F. Cohen
Born Stephen Frand Cohen
(1938-11-25) November 25, 1938 (age 79)
Owensboro, Kentucky, U.S.
Occupation Author, historian
Language English
Nationality American
Alma mater Indiana University (B.S., M.A.), Columbia University (Ph.D.)
Spouse Lynn Blair (divorced)
Katrina vanden Heuvel (m. 1988)
Children 1 son, 2 daughters

Stephen Frand Cohen (born November 25, 1938) is an American scholar and professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University.[1][2][3] His academic work concentrates on modern Russian history since the Bolshevik Revolution and the country's relationship with the United States. Cohen is married to Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the progressive magazine The Nation, where he is also a contributing editor. Cohen is also the founding director of the reestablished American Committee for East–West Accord.

Education and career

Cohen attended Indiana University Bloomington, where he earned a B.S. degree and an M.A. degree in Russian Studies. While studying in England, he went on a four-week trip to the Soviet Union, where he became interested in its history and politics. Cohen, who received his Ph.D. in government and Russian studies at Columbia University, became a professor of politics and Russian studies at Princeton University in 1968, where he taught until 1998. He then taught at New York University until his retirement.

He has written several books and is a CBS News consultant.


During the Cold War, Cohen was critical of western hawks, but also of the Soviet government, which banned him from visiting the Soviet Union from 1982 to 1985.[4] He supported the perestroika reform program of Mikhail Gorbachev.[4]

Cohen has said that Putin's handling of the crisis in Ukraine—his annexation of Crimea and his support for rebel fighters in the east—was a reaction to the aggressive behavior of the United States and its allies, when they supported the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych. In an article in the left-liberal publication The Nation, Cohen criticized the US political-media establishment for being silent about "Kiev's atrocities" in the Donbass region.[5] Cathy Young described the article as "error-riddled" and an "embarrassing" repetition of Kremlin propaganda.[4][6] Cohen has also said that even if Putin's reaction was also aggressive, the US should now negotiate with Russia to avoid escalation of the conflict.[6] Cohen is known to be a "Putin apologist" and anti-Ukrainian, denying the existence of Ukraine as a country. His views on Ukraine have been criticized by James Kirchick,[7] Jonathan Chait[8] and Isaac Chotiner[9] as being pro-Putin and the Russian government[7] which Cohen, in turn, has rejected.[10] Timothy Snayder noting Cohen's claim that the Ukrainian Prime Minister had described the government's adversaries as subhuman (where as in fact the Prime Minister in a message of condolence to the families of killed Ukrainian soldiers had described the attackers as inhuman) and suggested that the origin of Cohen's claim was Russian media which had mistranslated neliudy as nedocheloveki(subhuman) and thus Cohen had been a link in a chain that brought this falsehood into American media.[11]

Cohen has said that the United States continued the Cold War after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, citing Clinton's backtracking on the promise of his predecessor to not extend NATO eastward and the flawed interpretation of an "American victory" and a "Russian defeat" since the ex-President's tenure which led American administrations to believe that Russia would submit completely to American foreign policy.[12] Moreover, Cohen cites the cancellation of the ABM Treaty in 2002 and the refusal of admission to the WTO at the G8 summit in Saint Petersburg 2006. Cohen also criticises the "pointless demonization" of Vladimir Putin as an "autocrat".[12] His views on US-Russian relations have been criticized by Julia Ioffe.[13]

In May 2017, Cohen criticized treason accusations against Trump from the media, saying that the "assault On President Trump from 'Fourth Branch Of Government' is designed to undermine the U.S.–Russia alliance against terrorism".[14]


Cohen participated in a Munk Debate in Toronto, Ontario, Canada over the proposal "Be it resolved the West should engage not isolate Russia…" He and Vladimir Posner argued in favor of engagement, while Anne Applebaum and Garry Kasparov argued against. Cohen's side lost the debate, with 52 percent of the audience voting against the motion.[15]

In 2015, a proposed deal with the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) for a fellowship that would bear Cohen's name caused controversy and was initially revoked after some ASEEES members objected to it.[16] Following a special meeting in May 2015, the board of ASEEES explained that it voted in favor of accepting "the Cohen–Tucker Fellowship as named, should the gift be re-offered" and the establishment of the Cohen–Tucker fellowship programme was announced shortly afterwards.[17][18]

Also in 2015, Cohen and other intellectual colleagues reestablished the American Committee for East–West Accord, a pro détente advocacy group.[19]

Personal life

Cohen's grandfather emigrated to the United States from Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire).[20] Cohen was born in 1938 in Owensboro, Kentucky where his father owned a golf course.[21] He has a son and a daughter from his first marriage to opera singer Lynn Blair from whom he later divorced and second daughter with Katrina vanden Heuvel who Cohen married in 1988.

He is a long-standing friend of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev,[6] advised former U.S. President George H. W. Bush in the late 1980s, and helped Nikolai Bukharin's widow, Anna Larina, rehabilitate her name during the Soviet era.[22]


Cohen is viewed by some as a Russian apologist. Calling him a "dupe", Jonathan Chait wrote that Cohen is "...a septuagenarian, old-school leftist who has carried on the mental habits of decades of anti-anti-communism seamlessly into a new career of anti-anti-Putinism."[23] Slate Magazine, described Cohen as someone, "...repeating Russian misinformation...and recycling [Russian] propaganda..."[24][25]



  • Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War ISBN 978-0-231-14897-9 Pub. 2011 by Columbia University Press [with a new epilogue]
  • Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War ISBN 978-0-231-14896-2 Pub. 2009 by Columbia University Press
  • The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag After Stalin ISBN 978-1-933002-40-8 Pub. 2011 by I.B. Tauris
  • Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia ISBN 978-1-933002-40-8 Updated edition Pub. 2000 by W. W. Norton & Company
  • Voices of Glasnost: Interviews With Gorbachev's Reformers ISBN 978-0-393-02625-2 Pub. 1989 by W W Norton & Co Inc
  • Sovieticus: American Perceptions and Soviet Realities ISBN 978-0-393-30338-4 Pub. 1986 by W W Norton & Co.
  • Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics and History since 1917 ISBN 978-0-19-504016-6 Pub.1985 by Oxford University Press
  • An End to Silence: Uncensored Opinion in the Soviet Union, from Roy Medvedev's Underground Magazine "Political Diary" ISBN 978-0-393-30127-4 Pub.1982 Norton
  • Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888–1938 ISBN 978-0-19-502697-9 Pub.1980 by Oxford University Press

Essays and articles

  • The Friends and Foes of Change. Reformism and Conservatism in the Soviet Union in: Alexander Dallin/Gail W. Lapidus (eds.): The Soviet System. From Crisis to Collapse, Westview Press, Boulder/San Francisco/Oxford 2005 ISBN 0-8133-1876-9
  • Stalinism and Bolshevism in: Robert C. Tucker (ed.): Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1977. ISBN 0-7658-0483-2

See also


  1. ^ University, Princeton. "Display Person – Department of Politics at Princeton University". Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  2. ^ "NYU > Russian Slavic > Cohen, Stephen F." Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  3. ^ "Stephen F. Cohen". The Nation. 2010-04-02. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  4. ^ a b c Young, Cathy (July 24, 2014). "Putin's Pal". Slate. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  5. ^ Cohen, Stephen F. (June 30, 2014). "The Silence of American Hawks About Kiev's Atrocities". The Nation. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Kovalik, Dan (July 8, 2015). "Rethinking Russia: A Conversation With Russia Scholar Stephen F. Cohen". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Kirchick, James (June 17, 2014). "Meet the Anti-Semites, Truthers, and Alaska Pol at D.C.'s Pro-Putin Soiree". The Daily Beast. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  8. ^ Chait, Jonathan (March 14, 2014). "The Pathetic Lives of Putin's American Dupes". New York. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  9. ^ Chotiner, Isaac (March 2, 2014). "Meet Vladimir Putin's American Apologist". New Republic. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  10. ^ Cohen, Stephen. "Stephen F. Cohen speech at June 16 2014: current situation in Ukraine and the anti Russia Lobby" (Video). YouTube. Russia Good channel. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  11. ^ The road to unfreedom : Russia, Europe, America, Timothy Snyder, 2018 pp210-211
  12. ^ a b Cohen, Stephen F (July 10, 2006). "The New American Cold War". The Nation.
  13. ^ Ioffe, Julia (May 1, 2014). "Putin's American Toady at 'The Nation' Gets Even Toadier". The New Republic.
  14. ^ Hains, Tim (May 17, 2017). "Princeton Russia Expert Stephen Cohen: Assault On President Trump From "Fourth Branch Of Government" Designed To Undermine U.S.-Russia Alliance Against Terrorism". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  15. ^ "The West vs. Russia". Munk Debates. April 10, 2015. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  16. ^ "Stephen Cohen, Preeminent Scholar, Now Seen As Putin Apologist", RFE/RL, 6 May 2015
  17. ^ "ASEEES Board Statement Regarding the May 11 2015 Special Meeting Decisions". ASEEES. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  18. ^ "ASEEES Announces Cohen–Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship Program". ASEEES. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Mission Statement of The American Committee for East–West Accord". East–West Accord. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Amerikietis istorikas bando Vakarams įrodyti, kad gulagų era buvo "kitas holokaustas"" [Interview with Cohen – American historian is trying prove to the West that the gulag era was "another Holocaust"] (in Lithuanian). March 12, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  21. ^ "Ms. vanden Heuvel Is Wed". The New York Times. December 5, 1988. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  22. ^ Hayes, Nick (November 15, 2010). "Understanding U.S.–Russian relations: A conversation with Stephen F. Cohen". MinnPost. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  23. ^ Chait, Jonathan. "The Pathetic Lives of Putin's American Dupes". New York Magazine. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  24. ^ Young, Cathy. "Putin's Pal". Slate. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  25. ^ Smith, Jordan Michael. "Is This Professor 'Putin's American Apologist'?". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 31 July 2018.

External links

  • Stephen F. Cohen at The Nation
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