After decades of the Cold War and renewed tensions, in the wake of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, cooperation between the United States and Russia seems impossible to imagine―and yet, as Douglas Smith reveals in his new book, it has a forgotten but astonishing historical precedent.
In 1921, facing one of the worst famines in history, the new Soviet government under Vladimir Lenin invited the American Relief Administration, the brainchild of Herbert Hoover, to save communist Russia from ruin. For two years, a small, daring band of Americans fed more than ten million men, women, and children across a million square miles of territory. It was the largest humanitarian operation in history―preventing the loss of countless lives, social unrest on a massive scale, and, quite possibly, the collapse of the communist state.
Now, almost a hundred years later, few in either the United States or Russia have heard of the ARA. Douglas Smith resurrects the American relief mission from obscurity, taking us on an unforgettable journey from the heights of human altruism to the depths of human depravity. The story of the ARA is filled with political intrigue, the clash of ideologies, violence, adventure, and romance, and features some of the great historical figures of the twentieth century. In a time of cynicism and despair about the world’s ability to confront international crises, The Russian Job is a riveting account of a cooperative effort unmatched before or since.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Douglas Smith is an award-winning historian and translator and the author of Rasputin and Former People, which was a bestseller in the U.K. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he has written for The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and has appeared in documentaries with the BBC, National Geographic, and Netflix. Before becoming a historian, he worked for the U.S. State Department in the Soviet Union and as a Russian affairs analyst for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He lives with his family in Seattle.