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.

Russian History

Serfdom in Russia

How American Slavery Echoed Russian Serfdom

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.
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The February Revolution: Why Didn’t They Shoot?

The Russian Revolution of 1917 had two parts. The Bolshevik's October Revolution usually gets all of the attention. But what happened in February?
Iron Curtain

Revisiting Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech

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.
Siege of Leningrad

The Nazis’ Nightmarish Plan to Starve the Soviet Union

Before the infamous Wannsee conference, Nazis had another meeting during which they planned the mass starvation of millions of Eastern Europeans.
Black and white photograph of the Postdam Conference group from 1945

Potsdam and the Origins of the Cold War

An exploration of Potsdam and its effects on the Cold War.
Soviet Hippie

The Unlikely Hippies of the USSR

On the little-known hippie youth culture of the USSR.
Workers sit in the control room of reactor number two inside the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant

Chernobyl’s Control Room Is Open for Tourists

Who's up for a radioactive selfie?

Russian/USSR Leadership

Peter the Great cutting a Boyar's beard

Peter the Great’s Beard Tax

Why did the Russian tsar seek to ban beards?
Profile portrait of Catherine II by Fedor Rokotov (1763)

The Memoirs of Catherine The Great

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.
Stalin poster

What Do We Really Know about Joseph Stalin?

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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin attend an inauguration ceremony for Putin May 7, 2000 in the Kremlin in Moscow.

Was Russia Destined to Be an Autocracy?

The most important factors that steered Russia away from democracy, says one scholar, weren't inevitable.

Censorship and Human Rights

Nikolai Vavilov in prison

The Weed Scientist Who Brought Down the Wrath of Stalin

Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov's hypothesis on the evolution of rye is now accepted. But in the 1930s, his research got him arrested.
A book opened to the title page of Dr. Zhivago

Why Boris Pasternak Rejected His Nobel Prize

Boris Pasternak
Photograph: A Russian soldier waves a flag while standing on a balcony overlooking a square, where military trucks gather, during the Battle of Stalingrad, World War II, and the cover of Life and Fate

Source: Getty/Wikimedia Commons

How a Forbidden Russian Epic Finally Got Published

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.
Photograph: A Russian orphan in Kiev during the famine. Her parents died from starvation and she survives on charity from a neighbour. 1934

Memorializing Life Under Soviet Terror

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.

International Relations

People wait for trains on the platform at Kyiv train station on February 28, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Ukraine, Russia, and the West: A Background Reading List

Research reports and scholarly articles on the history of the Ukraine-Russia conflicts of the past, and possible paths for peace.
NATO headquarters meeting

NATO Survives its Identity Crisis

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began on April 4, 1949, creating an alliance promising mutual defense against potential Soviet aggression.
Andrei Maximov via Flickr

The Real Meaning Behind Russia’s Eurovision Controversy

The annual Eurovision contest often serves as a stage on which political tensions play out.
Harem Pool Jean-Léon Gérôme [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Other Orientalism: Colonialism in the Caucasus

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.
A swarm of locusts by Emil Schmidt

How the Soviet Union Turned a Plague into Propaganda

The fight against locust swarms allowed the Soviet Union to consolidate power over neighboring regions.
A pinned map indicating Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad for Beginners

An introduction to the Kaliningrad Oblast, surrounded by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.
Estonian flag pinned into a globe showing the location of Estonia

How Singing Started a Revolution in Estonia

The vibrant and revolutionary culture of singing in Estonia.
Illustrated imagining of American and Soviet spacecrafts docking from 1973.

Space Is The Place: The US, USSR, and Space Exploration

Even during the Cold War, US and Russian cooperation succeeded in space exploration.
Russian oil

When Russia Conquered the World with White Oil

Russia was the first source of white oil, a Vaseline-like mix of hydrocarbons used in pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and plastics.
Teenagers in a Siberian village near Lake Baikal

The New Siberians

As heat waves induced by climate change roil the Arctic Circle, Siberians are articulating a distinct identity.
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