Stephen Kotkin is the John P. Birkelund Professor in History and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is also a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He directs Princeton's Institute for International and Regional Studies and co-directs its Program in the History and Practice of Diplomacy. Kotkin was a Pultizer Prize finalist for Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928.


History Blog: Craft & Cunning

History: the Role of Accident (Personal)

Carl Scorske 100

A century!  Carl Schorske, emeritus professor of history at Princeton University, celebrated his 100th birthday.  He had a notable impact on countless people.  A large number of them gathered today in central New Jersey to pay tribute with a concert (music by Arnold Schoenberg), poems written for the occasion, and the awarding of the Grand Decoration of Honor in Gold by the Austrian government.  Carl changed the international image of Austria, forever.  “You helped restore Vienna to its rightful place on the map of culture,” said the Austrian culture minister, who flew in for the occasion.  “We owe you a lot.” Read More ›

Operation Successor: the Cunning of History



On March 3 in Moscow, the wake and burial took place of Boris Nemtsov, the slain former first deputy prime minister of Russia.  The viewing occurred at the Andrei Sakharov Center, itself a poignant statement.  The media group RBK assembled an astonishing photo album of the solemn tribute (text and captions in Russian).  For me, as I suspect for many Russia watchers, clicking through felt like time transporting. Read More ›

Weimar: the Analogy in History

Historical analogies come all too easily and invariably mislead.  In the 1990s, the Weimar analogy, in relation to Russia, was ubiquitous.  Post-Soviet Russia suffered an economic collapse worse than what most countries had suffered in the 1930s Great Depression.  Commentators observing Russia’s agony, as well as its nationalist clowns (like Vladimir Zhirinovsky), perceived a replay of Germany’s democratic republic giving way to Nazism.  This was wrong, as I argued at the time – but now? Read More ›

Hedge Funds: the Craft of History

Perhaps the most succinct definition of the scientific method is, To actively seek information that contradicts what one thinks.  But let’s be honest: if someone has a hunch, chances are he or she is going to look for confirmation – and find it.  Information that contradicts one’s hypothesis, even if discovered by accident, will sometimes not even be seen.  It’s natural, and it’s got a name: confirmation bias Read More ›

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