Title The Year I Was Peter the Great
Subtitle 1956—Khrushchev, Stalin’s Ghost, and a Young American in Russia
Author Marvin Kalb
ISBN 9780815731610
List price USD 24.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Hardbound
No of pages 304
Book size 165 x 241 mm
Publishing year 2017
Original publisher Brookings Institution Press
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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“What’s that saying—those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it? As the West confronts a newly aggressive Russia, it’s important to understand the context of the Cold War from one of the most crucial years. Marvin Kalb’s chronicle of the Soviet Union in 1956 doesn’t just provide that context, but because it’s part memoir, it adds a personal touch that allows readers to feel like they are reliving the author’s experiences alongside him. And because this is a Kalb book, you know it’s not only well researched and accurate, but smart and insightful.”

Chuck Todd, Moderator, “Meet the Press,” and NBC News Political Director


“Here is a detailed, first-person account by a young American who spent all of 1956 in Moscow and traveled around the Soviet Union as well. The result of these adventures has now become a lively book, the greatest virtue of which is Kalb’s own presence in its pages. This is a unique document of its time by a witness to history who went on to become a major figure in American broadcast journalism.”

William Taubman, Professor of Political Science, Amherst College, and author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era


“A remarkable, reported memoir, full of life and fascinating historical context, true to the principled journalistic leadership of Marvin Kalb. Elegantly economical in prose, rich in insight—a great read.”

Jake Tapper, CNN anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent


“Marvin Kalb’s account of the bumpy transition from Stalin’s dictatorship to a normal Russian society is extremely important. America and Russia are different civilizations, and we must learn to meet, and sniff, each other. On each page that is what Kalb does so well. The year 1956 was the first step in a historic transition that continues to this day—from Khrushchev to Putin.”

Sergei Khrushchev, author of Khrushchev on Khrushchev—An Inside Account of the Man and His Era, by His Son, Sergei Khrushchev


“A fascinating memoir of a young American exploring Soviet society just after Stalin died. Based on notes Marvin Kalb made at the time, The Year I Was Peter the Great conveys a feel for Russian life with all the contradictory features that have puzzled and entranced foreign visitors to Russia through the ages.”

Jack Matlock, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1987–91, and author of Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended


A chronicle of the year that changed Soviet Russia—and molded the future path of one of America’s pre-eminent diplomatic correspondents

1956 was an extraordinary year in modern Russian history. It was called “the year of the thaw”—a time when Stalin’s dark legacy of dictatorship died in February only to be reborn later that December. This historic arc from rising hope to crushing despair opened with a speech by Nikita Khrushchev, then the unpredictable leader of the Soviet Union. He astounded everyone by denouncing the one figure who, up to that time, had been hailed as a “genius,” a wizard of communism—Josef Stalin himself. Now, suddenly, this once unassailable god was being portrayed as a “madman” whose idiosyncratic rule had seriously undermined communism and endangered the Soviet state.

This amazing switch from hero to villain lifted a heavy overcoat of fear from the backs of ordinary Russians. It also quickly led to anti-communist uprisings in Eastern Europe, none more bloody and challenging than the one in Hungary, which Soviet troops crushed at year’s end.

Marvin Kalb, then a young diplomatic attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, observed this tumultuous year that foretold the end of Soviet communism three decades later. Fluent in Russian, a doctoral candidate at Harvard, he went where few other foreigners would dare go, listening to Russian students secretly attack communism and threaten rebellion against the Soviet system, traveling from one end of a changing country to the other and, thanks to his diplomatic position, meeting and talking with Khrushchev, who playfully nicknamed him Peter the Great.

In this, his fifteenth book, Kalb writes a fascinating eyewitness account of a superpower in upheaval and of a people yearning for an end to dictatorship.



Chapter 1. Roots

Chapter 2. War, College, and Basketball

Chapter 3. Teddy, Joyce, and Journalism

Chapter 4. From Cambridge to Moscow

Chapter 5. Govorit Moskva— “Moscow Calling”

Chapter 6. De-Stalinization = Destabilization

Chapter 7. The Thaw

Chapter 8. From Zhukov to Poznan

Chapter 9. Into the Heartland

Chapter 10. A Summertime Break in Central Asia

Chapter 11. Where Stalin Is Still Worshipped

Chapter 12. Back to a Familiar Chill

Chapter 13. “Dark, Frightening, and Tragic Days”

Chapter 14. Uvarov, Sasha, and Stalin’s Ghost

Chapter 15. At the End of the Arc

Postscript: Five Months Later . . .



About the Author:

Marvin Kalb is a nonresident senior fellow with the Foreign Policy program at Brookings, and senior advisor at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. He focuses on the impact of media on public policy and politics. He is also an expert in national security, with a focus on U.S. relations with Russia, Europe, and the Middle East. His books includes, “Enemy of the People”, “The Year I Was Peter the Great: 1956—Khruschev, Stalin’s Ghost, and a Young American in Russia” (Brookings Institution Press, 2017), “Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine and the New Cold War” (Brookings Institution Press, 2015), “The Road to War: Presidential Commitments Honored and Betrayed” (Brookings Institution Press, 2013), wherein he looks at how presidential commitments can lead to the use of American military force, and “Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama” (Brookings Institution Press, 2011), co-written with Deborah Kalb, which examines the Vietnam War’s extraordinary impact on presidential decision making over the past four decades.

Kalb’s distinguished journalism career spans more than 30 years and includes award-winning reporting for both CBS and NBC News as chief diplomatic correspondent, Moscow bureau chief, and anchor of NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Kalb went on to become founding director of Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Kalb is the Murrow professor emeritus at Harvard and hosts The Kalb Report at the National Press Club.

Target Audience:

This book is useful for students and academicians of  history and political science. This book conveys a feel for Russian life with all the contradictory features that have puzzled and entranced foreign visitors to Russia through the ages.


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