It is the early hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. No one knows what will happen next, but we hope the following stories from our archives will help readers understand the military, economic, and geographic history that has preceded this moment, and provide the resources and context for teachers and students in the days ahead. As always, JSTOR Daily links to JSTOR sources offer free access to all readers.
How American Slavery Echoed Russian Serfdom
February 27, 2018
Russian serfdom and American slavery ended within two years of each other; the defenders of these systems of bondage surprisingly shared many of the same arguments.
The February Revolution: Why Didn’t They Shoot?
February 4, 2017
The Russian Revolution of 1917 had two parts. The Bolshevik's October Revolution usually gets all of the attention. But what happened in February?
Revisiting Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech
March 4, 2016
The famous "Iron Curtain" speech that propelled us into the Cold War highlights Churchill's near roguish fight to challenge the U.S.S.R.
The Nazis’ Nightmarish Plan to Starve the Soviet Union
February 21, 2017
Before the infamous Wannsee conference, Nazis had another meeting during which they planned the mass starvation of millions of Eastern Europeans.
Potsdam and the Origins of the Cold War
August 6, 2015
An exploration of Potsdam and its effects on the Cold War.
The Unlikely Hippies of the USSR
October 11, 2016
On the little-known hippie youth culture of the USSR.
Chernobyl’s Control Room Is Open for Tourists
October 31, 2019
Who's up for a radioactive selfie?
Peter the Great’s Beard Tax
July 22, 2021
Why did the Russian tsar seek to ban beards?
The Memoirs of Catherine The Great
March 16, 2019
Catherine II ruled Russia for many years. She also wrote her own memoirs, in a time when such writing was considered inappropriate for a monarch.
What Do We Really Know about Joseph Stalin?
March 21, 2018
It took three more decades of Soviet rule before the archives dealing with Stalin and his times could be explored. And then the doors were shut again.
Was Russia Destined to Be an Autocracy?
May 4, 2020
The most important factors that steered Russia away from democracy, says one scholar, weren't inevitable.
Censorship and Human Rights
The Weed Scientist Who Brought Down the Wrath of Stalin
June 12, 2020
Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov's hypothesis on the evolution of rye is now accepted. But in the 1930s, his research got him arrested.
Why Boris Pasternak Rejected His Nobel Prize
February 18, 2015
How a Forbidden Russian Epic Finally Got Published
May 15, 2021
Soviet dissident Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate was "arrested" by the KGB in 1961. Here's how it finally saw the light of day.
Memorializing Life Under Soviet Terror
January 26, 2022
A Russian court has ruled the country's oldest human rights organization must be dissolved. The work they do required trust from those who had lived under Stalin.
Ukraine, Russia, and the West: A Background Reading List
February 23, 2023
Research reports and scholarly articles on the history of the Ukraine-Russia conflicts of the past and possible paths for peace.
NATO Survives its Identity Crisis
March 13, 2017
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began on April 4, 1949, creating an alliance promising mutual defense against potential Soviet aggression.
The Real Meaning Behind Russia’s Eurovision Controversy
May 26, 2016
The annual Eurovision contest often serves as a stage on which political tensions play out.
The Other Orientalism: Colonialism in the Caucasus
March 28, 2016
For centuries, the Caucasus was to the Russian Empire what the Middle East was to the British and French: a savage land to be dominated and a romanticized Other against which Russia could define its own “European” identity.
How the Soviet Union Turned a Plague into Propaganda
August 9, 2020
The fight against locust swarms allowed the Soviet Union to consolidate power over neighboring regions.
Kaliningrad for Beginners
March 17, 2015
An introduction to the Kaliningrad Oblast, surrounded by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.
How Singing Started a Revolution in Estonia
August 21, 2015
The vibrant and revolutionary culture of singing in Estonia.
Space Is The Place: The US, USSR, and Space Exploration
September 25, 2014
Even during the Cold War, US and Russian cooperation succeeded in space exploration.
When Russia Conquered the World with White Oil
January 9, 2017
Russia was the first source of white oil, a Vaseline-like mix of hydrocarbons used in pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and plastics.
The New Siberians
July 18, 2020
As heat waves induced by climate change roil the Arctic Circle, Siberians are articulating a distinct identity.