Stephen F. Cohen, 1938–2020

Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Nation:

I first “met” Steve through his 1977 essay “Bolshevism and Stalinism.” His cogent, persuasive, revisionist argument that there are always alternatives in history and politics deeply influenced me. And his seminal biography, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, challenging prevailing interpretations of Soviet history, was to me, and many, a model of how biography should be written: engaged and sympathetically critical.

At the time, I was too accepting of conventional wisdom. Steve’s work—and soon, Steve himself—challenged me to be critical-minded, to seek alternatives to the status quo, to stay true to my beliefs (even if they weren’t popular), and to ask unpopular questions of even the most powerful. These are values I carry with me to this day as editorial director of The Nation, which Steve introduced me to (and its editor, Victor Navasky) and for which he wrote a column (“Sovieticus”) from 1982 to 1987, and many articles and essays beginning in 1979. His last book, War with Russia? was a collection of dispatches (almost all posted at distilled from Steve’s weekly radio broadcasts—beginning in 2014–on The John Batchelor Show.

The experiences we shared in Moscow beginning in 1980 are in many ways my life’s most meaningful. Steve introduced me to realms of politics, history, and life I might never have experienced: to Bukharin’s widow, the extraordinary Anna Mikhailovna Larina, matriarch of his second family, and to his eclectic and fascinating circle of friends—survivors of the Gulag, (whom he later wrote about in The Victims Return) dissidents, and freethinkers—both outside and inside officialdom.

More here.