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Forging Soviet racial enlightenment: Soviet writers condemn American racial mores, 1926, 1936, 1946.

DURING THE FIRST three decades of Soviet rule, four prominent literary writers visited the United States and wrote about their experiences--the revolutionary poet Vladimir Maiakovskii; the popular humorists Il'ia Il'f and Evgenii Petrov; and the novelist Il'ia Ehrenburg. (1) American race relations were central to their published accounts of US society which appeared at ten year intervals: in 1926, 1936, and 1946. Their writings attest to the importance of American racism in Soviet critiques of the United States prior to the Cold War and the modern US Civil-Rights movement in the late 1940s and 1950s. (2) Certainly, none of these men were experts on American racial oppression, but they wrote as though

they possessed a keen racial enlightenment relative to white Americans. Indeed, their discussions of American racial mores were intended, as this essay argues, to forge and exhibit simultaneously as fact the superior racial consciousness which the New Soviet Person was supposed to possess.3 At the same time, Maiakovskii, Il'f, Petrov, and Ehrenburg raised attention to the violation of human rights that African Americans routinely suffered in the first half of the twentieth century. (4)

Several scholars have addressed the important ways that race informed Soviet and Western perceptions and interactions. (5) Michael David-Fox argues that many Western fellow travelers to the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s racialized their Western superiority by condemning manifestations of "Asiatic" backwardness in Soviet society, among whom Theodore Dreiser, the American journalist and novelist, was most egregious. He compared Russians' "Asiatic primitiveness" to the "less developed state" and "primitive childishness" of blacks. (6) As this essay demonstrates, Maiakovskii, Il'f and Petrov, and Ehrenburg racialized Soviet superiority in an alternative way. They denigrated white Americans as backward and primitive in their "mental development" and thinking on race (and more specifically about African Americans) to insist on Soviet (moral) superiority. In other words, they claimed an enlightened, modern perspective on race that they derived from the October Revolution and from Russians' own multi-century relegation to the "primitive childishness" of blacks (and their exclusion from the bounds of civilized European whiteness). (7)

Maiakovskii, Il'f, Petrov, and Ehrenburg were of course not the first Russian literary writers to indict US racism. Yet while writers like Vladimir Korolenko and Maksim Gor'kii visited and wrote about the United States prior to 1917, their discussions of African Americans were brief by comparison (if they mentioned them at all) and lacked the function that such commentaries assumed by the late 1920s. (8) Even in the early 1920s and consistent with the permissive spirit of the New Economic Policy (1921-1927), "speaking anti-racism" or exhibiting a superior "Soviet" racial consciousness--relative to white Americans--was not yet a requirement for Russian writers. (9) The brief remarks about African Americans that Sergei Esenin, the popular Russian poet, wrote in the account of his American journey in 1922 make this most evident. Esenin acknowledged African Americans' "enormous influence" on US "music hall" culture, which he attributed to their inherent or "instinctive" musical ability in "song and dance," characterizing African Americans as "completely primitive" ("dovol'no primitivnyi") and possessing extremely "ungovernable" ("neobuzdannyi") manners. (10)

The same year Esenin recorded his negative assessment of African Americans, Comintern leaders designated Claude McKay, the Jamaican-born US poet, the face or "poster child" of the organization's alliance with black workers at the Fourth World Congress, and commissioned him to write two books about the plight of African Americans. (11) The Comintern's line on African Americans as valuable, revolutionary allies became a hard-line policy of Soviet propagandists by the end of the decade when the country embarked on an intensive campaign to build socialism. (12) Henceforth, such dismissive treatment of African Americans as "completely primitive" with "ungovernable" manners was impermissible; it contradicted the superior racial enlightenment that was supposed to distinguish Soviet citizens (and the intellectuals who represented them) from their American capitalist counterparts. (13) To be sure, exposing American racial mores was meant to instill pride in Soviet citizens, confirming that their mission of building an anti-capitalist society was a noble one. (14) Condemning US racial apartheid also served as an obvious distraction from the persistence of popular anti-Semitism and national animosity in a country that was supposed to have eliminated such vestiges of capitalism. (15) Though Maiakovskii and particularly Il'f, Petrov, and Ehrenburg needed to "speak anti-racism" or indict African-American oppression,

I suggest that their commentaries were not motivated by obligation alone. Genuine curiosity and concern with American racial injustice also informed their accounts of US society.

Vladimir Maiakovskii's sojourn in the United States was one of nine trips that he took in the 1920s. Due to problems acquiring a visa, the revolutionary poet traveled through Cuba and Mexico to reach the United States, first setting foot on US soil on 27 July 1925 in Laredo, Texas. (16) Maiakovskii delivered several lectures and poetry readings to Russian communities in several major northern cities including New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, remaining in the United States until October 28. (17) Committed to a revolutionary agenda, Maiakovskii may have hoped his visit would encourage revolution in the United States. (18) Some biographers contend that the futurist poet's American experiences contributed to his ultimate disillusionment with the Soviet Union. Others claim that his discovery of US industry's dehumanizing effects only affirmed his emphasis on the need for industrialization to be controlled and accompanied by "a revolution of the spirit." (19) Maiakovskii was also allegedly driven by the desire to become the authoritative Soviet voice on America. Sergei Esenin, his contemporary poetic rival, had questioned Maiakovskii's ability to write about America when he had not visited the country. Maiakovskii's quest to act as an authoritative voice was at least partially indulged by the lectures he delivered around the country in the wake of his American journey. (20)

In addition to these lectures, Maiakovskii published a cycle of twenty-two Poems about America (Stikhi oh Amerike) and a travelogue in 1926 titled My Discovery of America (Moe otkrytie Ameriki). (21) Since I focus on Soviet representations of African Americans and US racial mores, Maiakovskii's travelogue is of greatest significance; his American poems are largely silent on African Americans. (22) Scholars (like contemporaries before them) disagree widely about the literary merits of My Discovery of America, but they all agree on its obvious propagandistic function and attribute some of its failings to the haste with which Maiakovskii (who was strapped for money) wrote it in the two months following his return to the Soviet Union. (23) Yet the travelogue's propagandistic purpose is an asset rather than a detriment here; it allows us to determine which specific aspects of American race relations Maiakovskii identified as most effective to fashioning Soviet racial enlightenment. Indeed, Maiakovskii's remarks established the general parameters for how subsequent writers should speak anti-racism.

At the same time, despite its clear polemical purpose, My Discovery of America reveals that the poet's previous lack of physical contact with African Americans made them somewhat of a curiosity to him. For instance, in recounting his experiences aboard the Pullman Sleeping Cars, Maiakovskii remarks--for no obvious reason other than the novelty of the encounter--that if you want to move around during "bed-making time," then you will have to "maneuver repeatedly past the backsides of two Negro attendants, whose heads have vanished into the beds they are making." He further mentions the need to pull in one's feet when undressing in the small confined space to prevent a "cursed great hefty Negro (from) trampl(ing) on your corns." (24) This intimate contact between "Black" porters and "white" passengers appeared absurd to Maiakovskii in light of the segregated train stations he observed when traveling from Texas to New York.

Reflective of America's racialized space, Maiakovskii placed racism at the heart of (white) American character. He considered a true American to be the white man who identified Jews as blacks and refused to shake hands with African Americans. An "American," he clarified, is the white man who rapes African-American women without penalty and lynches any black man who even dares to go near a white woman. That is to say, the white man "will tear off a Negro's arms and legs and roast him alive over a bonfire." (25) Strategically, Maiakovskii invoked a brutal example from Russian history to insist on the far greater barbarity of the contemporary American practice of "lynching," writing that "lynch law" was a more extreme practice than the "burning of gypsy horse-thieves in Listviany village." (26) Unlike other Russian writers, Maiakovskii astutely connected lynching (mainly suffered by black men) with routine rape, the main form of racial terrorism that African-American women suffered at the hands of white men. White Americans' racial violence thus functions as an important and relatively easy device for Maiakovskii to claim Soviet racial enlightenment. (27)

As Maiakovskii's discussion of such acts of racial barbarism suggests, he left no doubt that African Americans constituted the most exploited segment of the US populace, since their poverty, injustice, and violence are more extreme than that faced by Italians, Jews, Native Americans, or other groups in capitalist America. Maiakovskii does not portray African Americans as hopelessly exploited, impoverished victims, however. Instead, consistent with his revolutionary vision, he portends that the physical violence and especially lynching of African Americans will encourage their decision to pursue revolution. As he writes, "the Negroes who are heated up over the bonfires of Texas may yet prove to be a sufficiently dry powder for explosions of revolution." He insists that the twelve million black citizens of the United States will playa pivotal role in the course of history in stating that "when the so-called scales of history begin to tilt, much will depend with regard to which pan the twelve million Negroes decide to pile their twenty-four million weighty hands onto." (28)

Maiakovskii insisted that blacks should be considered Americans, consistent with his claim that African Americans will help determine America's political future. Maiakovskii bolstered this contention by citing African Americans' creation of the "foxtrot, shimmy and American jazz," but, unlike other Russian literary writers, he portrays African Americans as producers of culture beyond the music hall. He mentions the "fine" (prekrasnyi) magazines African Americans publish and uses Opportunity, the official organ of the National Urban League, as an example. (29) Based on his perusal of the October 1925 issue of Opportunity (which also contained a translation of an Izvestiia article about blacks in Russia), Maiakovskii emphasized US blacks' efforts to forge their connections with "world culture." (30) Among creative geniuses of African descent of global fame, he noted the hallowed Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin, the French literary writer Alexandre Dumas (pere), and the African-American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner; Tanner's work Maiakovskii's daughter conjectures he encountered in Paris and Harlem. (31) Maiakovskii added that the "Negro publisher Caspar Holstein announced a prize of a hundred dollars in the name of the greatest Negro poet, A.S. Pushkin, for the best Negro poem." He reiterates that African Americans should embrace Pushkin as a black poet since his "curly hair" and "a Negroid blueness under his nails" would have prohibited him from entering most "respectable" hotels in New York. (32) Maiakovskii's invocation of Pushkin (whom Russians celebrated as their national poet despite his African ancestry) allowed him to expose the hypocrisy of white New Yorkers' "progressive" racial consciousness and claim superior racial enlightenment as the preserve of Soviet citizens. Mentioning Pushkin also enhanced Maiakovskii's representation of African Americans as more culturally aware and worldly than their white counterparts. (33)

Maiakovskii's commentary about Pushkin is not the only instance in which he associated African Americans with a blue or "purplish" hue. Describing a typical morning in New York City, Maiakovskii claimed that prior to dawn one witnesses a "black-purplish mass of Negroes" hustle off to engage in "the most arduous and dismal tasks" only to be followed at seven in the morning by "an uninterrupted flow of whites." (34) As this passage indicates, Maiakovskii racializes African Americans but refrained from remarking on whites' skin color. This difference in the treatment of white and black Americans further betrays that he viewed African Americans asa curiosity of sorts whose physical appearance intrigued him. (35)

Aside from the language Maiakovskii used to racialize his black subjects, he presented a relatively non-essentialist, dynamic depiction of African Americans. Maiakovskii acknowledged African Americans' cultural contributions but refrained from attributing them to any essentialist natural or inherent musicality. Maiakovskii discussed African Americans as internationally renowned poets, painters, publishers, philosophers, and historical agents. This relatively balanced portrait may reflect the interactions that Maiakovskii had with various African-American professionals and cultural figures in Harlem and Greenwich Village. (36) His depiction of African Americans in a non-essentialist manner in My Discovery of America becomes especially apparent when considering the dominant representation of African Americans that Il'f and Petrov produced a decade later.

In October 1935, ten years after Maiakovskii completed his American journey, Il'ia Il'f and Evgenii Petrov arrived in New York, and then traveled by car through twenty-five American states before returning to Europe in late January 1936. On assignment for the All-Union Soviet newspaper Pravda, Il'f and Petrov recorded their impressions of US society in the extremely popular novel One-Storied America (Odnoetazhnaia Amerika), and in a series of eleven photographic essays that Ogonek printed in 1936. (37) The two humorists made the trans-Atlantic voyage in a vastly different international and domestic context than the futurist poet. Diplomatic relations had been established with the United States in November 1933, while Stalin was firmly in power, rapid industrialization of the country as outlined in a series of Five-Year Plans was in full pursuit, and the USSR was threatened by the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe and Japanese aggression in Manchuria. War seemed imminent on the continent. Aleksandr Etkind argues that Il'f and Petrov's "completely sympathetic" account of the United States simultaneously reflected and contributed to the cordial American-Soviet relations of the mid-1930s. (38)

Given the relatively good Soviet-American relations during the Popular-Front era (1935-1939), Il'f and Petrov's writings about America provide insight into what was still deemed acceptable to discuss about US racism in order to claim Soviet racial enlightenment. (39) Rather than detail the specific injustices that African Americans suffer, Il'f and Petrov ridiculed the rationale white Americans used to justify the existence of US racial apartheid. Il'f and Petrov's conversation with a young white male hitchhiker from South Carolina exemplifies their approach. (40) They questioned this sixteen-year-old who was working at a federal unemployment camp about the reasons for the severe impoverishment of African-American communities in the Carolinas. The hitchhiker conceded that African Americans were generally good people, who were neither dirty nor lazy. When asked if it was possible for him to fall in love with an African-American woman, the Carolinian admitted to finding some African-American women attractive. Despite such sentiments, he had no interest in finding out why African Americans lived in poverty, nor why his family and other white families never socialized with African Americans, nor why he would never marry an African-American woman if he fell in love with her, nor why an African-American man would be hanged if he tried to marry a white woman. When the Soviet writers refused to accept the Carolinian's fatalistic resignation to this state of affairs, the incurious hitchhiker dismissed them as hailing from New York, which, as they noted, white Southerners mistake as a bastion of progressive thought. The white American teenager emerges from this conversation as a tragic figure, willfully unconcerned with how he is complicit in his own oppression.

Il'f and Petrov generally succeeded in claiming superior racial enlightenment when describing their interactions with white Americans like this young hitchhiker, but were less successful in discussing African Americans than Maiakovskii. (41) For instance, the first African American to appear in One-Storied America is a woman who worked in the New York City apartment of "Mr. and Mrs. Adams," the couple who served as Il'f and Petrov's tour guides. (42) In recounting their brief encounter with this woman, Il'f and Petrov neither commented on her status as a domestic laborer nor conjectured how US racism shaped her life. Rather, they emphasized how her "African teeth" lighted up the vestibule when she opened the door and smiled. Though they made this comment in passing, and arguably without malicious intent, they nonetheless racialized the woman and invoked the stereotypical image of the grinning, "good-natured" black servant or "smiling darkey," which they acknowledged was common in the Hollywood films that routinely showcased white Americans' racism. (43)

Il'f and Petrov presented a young African-American male janitor in a similar manner. They described how a lanky young man, "whose legs seem to start at his armpits," danced for visitors of the Grand Canyon with "great pleasure," and then retreated to a corner, grabbed a broom, and flashed a large smile. (44) The description of a dancing, smiling African-American male worker helps illustrate how the advent of the Popular-Front era affected Soviet representations of African Americans. (45) Sucia an image would have been inconceivable five years earlier, and it would have undermined representations of the United States as the most racist country in the world. Indeed, this image sharply differs from Maiakovskii's twelve million African-American citizens poised to play a decisive role in the "explosions of revolution."

Il'f and Petrov's discussion of an African-American girl dancing down a street in Charleston, South Carolina, contributes further to their depiction of US blacks as an apolitical musical people who smiled and danced in spite of their oppression. Instead of simply walking home with an empty basket, they describe how the African American girl danced "an unusually talented improvisation, a clear, rhythmic, almost completely polished dance, 'The Little Girl from a Southern State.'" (46) As a result of her rhythmic movements they claimed to have heard music coming from a saxophone and banjo, even though the streets were quiet. In One-Storied America, Il'f and Petrov precede their description of this girl by positing that "the soul of the southern states is the people ... [n]ot white people but Blacks." (47) The Soviet writers arguably intended their impressions of the girl to be complimentary in the light of Russians' historic pride in the putative "Russian soul." (48) Yet while the representation of African Americans as soulful dancers is not ostensibly negative, it reinforced the stereotype of blacks as innately rhythmic performers whose intelligence is inferior to whites.

Indeed, Il'f and Petrov identify dance, curiosity, religion, an appreciation for nature, and dogged endurance as sustaining African Americans rather than protests, labor organizations, and the hope of revolution. (49) Thus, unlike Maiakovskii, Il'f and Petrov do not give any indication that African Americans' extreme oppression would inspire their politicization. In fact, Il'f and Petrov claim that African Americans refrained from even exercising their legal right to enter white establishments (outside of their servile roles) to avoid the violence such political "experiments" would evoke. (50) Il'f and Petrov portray African Americans as an apolitical, musical, and soulful people and juxtaposed their "natural" characteristics with the materialism and greed of many white Americans. Il'f and Petrov's portrait of African Americans was consistent with the primitivism popular in Western Europe in the interwar decades. (51) Thus, in some ways their commentary on African Americans was not particularly Soviet or progressive, in spite of the keen insight they claimed.

Although Il'f and Petrov depicted African Americans in a manner consistent with European primitivism, Il'f and Petrov nevertheless indicted US racial mores at a time when biological racism was at its apex throughout the world. There can be little doubt that it would have been impossible for the satirists, who were on assignment for Pravda, to have visited the United States and not condemned US racism. The fact that they were "unusually (for Soviet writers) candid in their appreciation" of various aspects of US society, as historian Maxim Matusevich posits, seemingly made a discussion of African-American oppression imperative. (52) Letters to the publisher of One-Storied America underline the necessity for the Soviet humorists to have commented on US race relations. (53) But to acknowledge that anti-racism remained part of the field of discourse during the Popular Front era is not to say that Il'f and Petrov were apathetic about the plight of US blacks, and addressed it out of ideological necessity alone. Their personal letters suggest that they may have been taken aback, if not slightly shocked at witnessing first-hand the oppression of African Americans that they had only heard or read about in the Soviet Union. (54) Therefore, to attribute their commentary about US racism to politics alone would be problematic. (55)

Still, Popular-Front politics pervade Il'f and Petrov's narrative of American racism. By omitting discussion of the physical violence against African Americans that was a reality of 1930s American society (particularly in the Southern states they visited), white Americans did not appear to engage in more barbaric practices than "the burning of gypsy horse-thieves." (56) Even the white male hitchhiker is not a despicable character; he does not subscribe to the racial stereotypes that justify African-American oppression but tragically does not possess the desire (much like African Americans themselves) to transgress them. Mr. and Mrs. Adams constituted the strongest evidence of America's promise, since they shared the Soviet writers' disdain for American apartheid. Therefore, Il'f and Petrov used white Americans' racial mores to insist on Soviet citizens' moral superiority, but did not portray them as beyond redemption. Sparing a potential ally in a future war against Nazi Germany, the duo's condemnation of US racism was subdued compared to Maiakovskii's; Soviet propaganda of the mid-1930s depicted Germany rather than the US as the most racist country in the world. (57) Significantly, the popular 1936 film Circus (Tsirk) similarly indicted US racial mores to glorify Soviet enlightenment, but affirmed the possibility of a Soviet-American alliance (in the characters of Ivan Martynov and Marion Dixon) against German fascism (Franz von Kneishits). (58)

In April 1946, a decade after Il'f and Petrov's American road trip, Il'ia Ehrenburg arrived in New York City and explored the country with which the Soviet Union had allied to defeat Nazi Germany. Ehrenburg's journey to the United States received considerable publicity in the mainstream American press. The American Society of Newspaper Editors sponsored Ehrenburg's travel along with two other Soviet writers, Konstantin Simonov and General Mikhail Galaktionov, who accompanied him. (59) While his companions requested travel to Chicago and California, Ehrenburg, representing the second largest Soviet newspaper, Izvestiia, wanted to visit the Deep South. Ehrenburg's insistence on speaking with a diverse array of white and black southerners throughout his travels suggests that he may have been genuinely interested in US race relations. (60) He would not have needed to work so hard had he wanted merely to confirm his "prejudices" about US racism, which was what some (white) American critics accused him of doing by touring the South. (61)

In truth, Ehrenburg's assessment of American society was not entirely negative; he visited the United States during the brief period after the Second World War when favorable information about the former ally was still permitted in the Soviet Union. (62) Though Ehrenburg identified racism as America's "fiercest and most shameful illness," he predicted that "the American nation will soon be healed of its most bitter and shameful ailment" and enjoy a "great future," adding that "everywhere there are societies to protect the rights of Negroes," and while "[e]very year innocent Negroes are condemned and put to death in the electric chair, ... every year the best people in America protest against racial barbarism." (63) He further suggested that Americans "will create a high human culture" and "help humanity to force its way to happiness." (64) In light of such positive prognostications about America's future, the editors of Harper's Magazine who published translations of Ehrenburg's six Izvestiia articles (with "the exception of seventeen words which seemed ... possibly libelous") expressed hope that Ehrenburg would not suffer retribution at the hands of Soviet authorities. (65)

Yet Ehrenburg's optimism that America would ultimately overcome its "most shameful illness" did not mean that he depicted white Americans (even the "best (white) people in America," as he noted) as sharing the racial enlightenment which he, like his literary predecessors, was claiming as the preserve of Soviet citizens. (66) To the contrary, in his estimate white Americans had a long way to go before achieving a superior racial consciousness as prevalent in the Soviet Union. He identified the history of racial slavery and the highly developed system of apartheid which replaced it as major impediments to advancing white Americans' racial consciousness. His discussion of the fallacy of the enlightened New Yorker or Northerner, a myth to which Maiakovskii and Il'f and Petrov had likewise alluded, makes this particularly evident. New Yorkers, Ehrenburg explained, revel in their "progressive" thinking, emphasizing how "Our grandfathers fought against slavery," but Ehrenburg challenged their historical memory, claiming that the real victors in the US Civil War were southerners "since the South not only preserved the principles of slavery but was able, in some degree, to inject them into the North." (67) African Americans in the North, Ehrenburg observed, enjoyed only nominal equality with whites, so that restaurants, hotels, and neighborhoods remained racially segregated. (68) Despite the absence of Jim Crow signs, if an African American entered a white restaurant, then the white host insists that all the tables, even if empty, are reserved. Due to the restrictions on the access of African Americans (including individuals who had one ancestor of African descent) to public accommodations, Ehrenburg imagined, much like Maiakovskii had twenty years earlier, how Aleksandr Pushkin would be received in the United States. (69) Thus, Ehrenburg lamented that America's immense technological advances had failed to advance the "mental development" of not only American "slaveowners" (rabovladel'tsy), but also the "best (white) people in America," who opposed "racial barbarism," but nevertheless disbelieved that African Americans were full human beings. (70)

Several white American journalists accused Ehrenburg of drawing a caricature of American race relations for propagandistic purposes, but there was, of course, historical precedent for white Americans championing African-American rights without believing in black equality; the history of American abolitionism contains numerous examples. Moreover, the Soviet writer based his observations on the aforementioned personal interactions he had with everyday white Americans, some of whom likely assumed that their shared non-blackness would "naturally" dispose him to understand their perspective. One of Ehrenburg's interlocutors confided that, although he actively fought for African-American rights, he believed that an African-American child was similar to a puppy. (71) Further suggesting that Ehrenburg's concern with the US racial regime extended beyond the realm of mere propaganda, he articulated dismay that it had even poisoned the thinking of its main victims, encouraging some African Americans to express anti-Semitic sentiments, and Jews to espouse beliefs in blacks' inferiority.

As Ehrenburg's commentary on the pernicious influence of American racism indicates, it would not be difficult for the United States to replace recently defeated Nazi Germany in Soviet propaganda as the most racist country in the world, a status the US had enjoyed in the USSR prior to 1933. Ehrenburg questioned why US soldiers fought and perished in the Second World War against the Nazis when many Americans boasted of their racial superiority and espoused anti-Semitic and anti-black sentiments similar to those that were common in Nazi Germany. (72) Ehrenburg recounted how a lawyer he met in Nashville, whom he called a "racist" (a line omitted in the Harper's Magazine translations), openly subscribed to theories of racial inequality that crackpot Third-Reich theorists like Alfred Rosenberg had articulated, while simultaneously expressing pride in his late brother who had "perished in the struggle against racialists" in the Second World War. (73)

Ehrenburg's derision of white Americans' racial mores was more effective in upholding Soviet racial enlightenment than his representations of African Americans. Ehrenburg fell into the trap that Il'f and Petrov had traversed by reinforcing the stereotype of African Americans as naturally gifted dancers, musicians, and performers. In describing the living conditions among African Americans in Harlem, he claimed that amidst the squalor and poverty was gaiety. Rather than addressing why African Americans were concentrated in entertainment occupations, he simply attributes this reality to their inherent "gift of rhythm." (74) Ehrenburg further revealed his limited understanding of anti-black racism when commenting on white Americans' apathy regarding the disenfranchisement of African Americans. Specifically, Ehrenburg remarked how several white American journalists expressed outrage that the Yugoslav government barred roughly 200,000 wartime Nazi collaborators from participating in national elections but saw no injustice in the fact that "hall of the population were deprived of their right to vote" in Mississippi simply because of the color of their skin. (75) Reproducing rather than combating the equation of blackness with the absence of morality, Ehrenburg wrote, "What is better: To deprive of the right to vote a man who has a black conscience or one who has a black complexion?" (76)

Despite the imperfections of the superior racial consciousness that Ehrenburg displayed, he nonetheless presented a more dynamic depiction of African Americans than Il'f and Petrov. Ehrenburg balanced the portrayal of blacks as naturally musical by discussing the numerous African-American physicians, architects, chemists, teachers, professors, and lawyers he met in the South. (77) He claimed that African Americans are among the best educated in spite of Southerners' efforts to keep them uneducated. After visiting Fisk University, Ehrenburg stressed that tragically American racial apartheid will only allow the university's future Black professionals to work with other African Americans and routine indignities will mark their encounters with whites. (78)

Whereas Il'f and Petrov wrote little about the issue of racial violence, Ehrenburg expounded on the remarks Maiakovskii made two decades earlier. Justice, as it pertains to African Americans, still resembled lynch law but, Ehrenburg explained, the electric chair had become the preferred method of execution. (79) He elucidated that, if an African-American man had consensual sex with a white woman, he was charged with rape and sentenced to death by electrocution. In contrast, white rapists of African-American women were seen as having committed no crime. To further underscore white men's license to inflict injury on African Americans, Ehrenburg reported that the "pogroms" whites perpetrate against African-American communities were deliberately termed "racial disorders" to implicate the victims. (80) Ehrenburg used the term "pogroms" here to facilitate Soviet readers' comprehension, and to underscore the severity, barbarity, and scale of the sanctioned violence that was still committed against African Americans in the United States. (81)

Similar to Maiakovskii, Ehrenburg predicted that African Americans would soon revolt against this extreme violence if change was not forthcoming, a reality which he claimed even some white Americans sensed as imminent. In contrast to Maiakovskii, Ehrenburg placed the future liberation struggle in the US South ("which is on the eve of a decisive event"); and insinuated that it would not be a workers' revolution but a struggle for (legal) equality in which African-American professionals would comprise its ranks and African-American soldiers ("yesterday's men on the frontline," who were not treated as inferiors in Western Europe) would "open the struggle for equality." (82) Ehrenburg's knowledge of Russian history was not the only reason he identified veterans of the Second World War as the African Americans who would "open the struggle for equality." He must have been aware of the brutal violence perpetrated in 1946 against African-American veterans in the US South who challenged Jim Crow restrictions on public transportation. (83) This violence resulted in the lynching of the African-American veteran John Jones in August 1946, which Izvestiia and other central Soviet newspapers condemned. (84) Ehrenburg thus forecasted the emergence of the modern US Civil Rights movement in the American South, connecting African Americans' politicization to the routine violence, injustice, and indignities they suffered.

Walter Lippmann, the highly influential journalist of the New York Herald Tribune, was among the contemporaries in the American press who dismissed Ehrenburg as a propagandist, as the Soviet writer noted. (85) The Soviet press reported how Lippmann declared that until Ehrenburg and other Russians criticized the Soviet Union's shortcomings, he would not consider them "real people." (86) Lippmann's conditional recognition of Russians' full humanity points to Ehrenburg's experience as a "Red" in white America, and to the authority that Ehrenburg derived from the historical racialization of Russians as not "real people," that is, outside the boundaries of "civilized" (that is, white) humanity; a racialization which the October Revolution only compounded. Ehrenburg responded to Lippmann's criticism by affirming the authoritative racial enlightenment with which he spoke as a "Red." Specifically, he emphasized that "it is not a question of whether Lippmann recognizes us as a people, but whether we recognize racialists and slaveowners as people." (87) Ehrenburg condemned the bureaucracy, rudeness, and technological backwardness of Soviet society, but proudly declared "we have no slaveowners." (88) Even in his memoirs, which he recorded nearly two decades after his American journey, Ehrenburg still expressed pride in his superior "Red" or Soviet racial enlightenment. He recalled how upon arriving in the United States in April 1946, he confounded the airport official who reviewed his paperwork and that of his travel companions, because "[t]he Reds won't state whether they're white or coloured." (89)

The commentaries of Ehrenburg, Il'f, Petrov, and Maiakovskii about American racial mores were inseparable from Soviet efforts to glorify the USSR as a morally superior "non-capitalist society." (90) Yet their commentaries should also be viewed within the context of a longer Russian intellectual tradition of insistence on the inferiority of the morally bankrupt values and culture of Western societies. (91) Although Maiakovskii and Ehrenburg were two very different writers who recorded their impressions of US race relations twenty years apart, their efforts to claim a monopoly on racial enlightenment for Soviet citizens bear striking similarities. But while Maiakovskii established a model for Soviet writers, Il'f and Petrov's writings demonstrate that American-Soviet relations also had a substantial impact on what it meant to speak anti-racism.

A major impetus of politicization and imminent unrest among African Americans in the accounts of Maiakovskii and Ehrenburg, that of whites' physical violence, was absent from Il'f and Petrov's writings on the US racial regime. In light of the threat of impending war and Soviet interest in forging an anti-Nazi alliance with the United States, the Soviet writers gave no indication of any future domestic instability in the land of the potential American ally. They constructed white Americans as moral inferiors, but did not depict them as beyond redemption as possible wartime allies. While a few scholars have emphasized that Il'f and Petrov were least polemical in their travelogue when compared to other Soviet writers (especially Maiakovskii), they have not acknowledged how they also produced one of the more essentialized portraits of African Americans. (92)

Il'f and Petrov's commentary on American race relations is also distinct in that unlike Maiakovskii and Ehrenburg they did not invoke Pushkin to claim the superior racial enlightenment of Soviet citizens. This silence could perhaps reflect the ambivalence among central officials in Moscow regarding Pushkin's African roots exhibited in the centennial commemorations of his death in 1937. (93) This ambivalence did not, however, deter African Americans in the Soviet Union and United States in 1936 and 1937 from invoking Pushkin to indict American racial mores. (94)

Indeed, the notion that Soviet citizens were more enlightened in their attitudes on race compared to white Americans was not an entirely Soviet invention. Many African Americans perceived the "whiteness" of Russians as more benign and enlightened than the "whiteness" of their fellow Americans (this was a reality already alluded to in the 1925 issue of Opportunity that contained the translation of an Izvestiia article). (95) Claude McKay commented on the different whiteness of Russians and Americans most famously in his 1937 autobiography, A Long Way from Home, which he composed after becoming disillusioned with the Soviet experiment. Recalling his visit to Moscow for the Fourth Comintern Congress in 1922, McKay explained "I had no fear of even the 'whitest' Russians in Russia... [, while t]he only persons that made me afraid in Russia were the American Communists." (96) As McKay's comment suggests, the superior--Soviet--racial enlightenment that intellectuals like Maiakovskii, Il'f, Petrov, and Ehrenburg forged through their writings on US society helped to reify African Americans' notions of Soviet citizens as allies. That is to say, the superior racial consciousness that these four Soviet writers sought to exhibit should not be dismissed simply as propaganda; it challenged white Americans to relinquish the backward racial mores that deprived African Americans of their basic human rights, while also giving African Americans hope that such change (in their white counterparts) was possible.

(1.) Boris Pil'niak (1894-1938), a Soviet novelist, also traveled to the United States in 1931, and condemned the injustices of capitalist America in his travelogue titled Okay--An American Novel (Boris Pil'niak, O'kei. Amerikanskii roman, Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1933). However, since authorities did not favorably receive the work it was not reprinted (Pil'niak was shot in Stalin's Great Terror in 1938). Its influence in forging Soviet racial enlightenment was thus negligible. See Alayne P. Reilly, America in Contemporary Soviet Literature, New York: New York UP, 1971, 23-9.

(2.) On the primacy of race to Cold War politics, see especially Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2000; Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena, Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2002; Richard Lentz and Karla K. Gower, The Opinions of Mankind: Racial Issues, Press, and Propaganda in the Cold War, Columbia, MO: U. of Missouri P., 2010; and see notes 69 and 82 below.

(3.) On the "New Soviet Person," see, for example, Daniel Peris, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless, Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1998, 78-83; Karen Petrone, Life Has Become More Joyous, Comrades: Celebrations in the Time of Stalin, Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 2000, 1-5, 11-13, 66-9; and David L. Hoffmann, Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917-1941, Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2003, 45-56.

(4.) See, for example, Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II, New York: Doubleday, 2008.

(5.) Soviet authorities believed themselves superior to their Western counterparts because they used nationality and class rather than race to classify the population (see Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939, Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2001, 125-126, 450-460; Francine Hirsch, "Race without the Practice of Racial Politics," Slavic Review 1, 2002, 30-43; Amir Weiner, "Nothing But Certainty," Slavic Review 1, 2002, 44-53; and note 7 below).

(6.) Michael David-Fox, "The Fellow Travelers Revisited: The 'Cultured West' through Soviet Eyes," The Journal of Modern History 2, 2003, 300-35: 316-17; and Michael David-Fox, Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921-1941, New York: Oxford UP, 2012.

(7.) Kate Baldwin contends that Russians' "illegitimate" whiteness necessarily informed Soviet perceptions of African Americans and vice versa (see Kate A. Baldwin, Beyond the Color Line and the Iron Curtain: Reading Encounters Between Black and Red, 1922-1963, Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2002, 80-4). On Russians' contested whiteness, and its impact on Russian policies toward non-European peoples, see Daniel R. Brower and Edward J. Lazzerini, eds., Russia's Orient: Imperial Borderlands and Peoples, 1750-1917, Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1997; Ilya Gerasimov, Jan Kusber, and Alexander Semyonov, Empire Speaks Out: Languages of Rationalization and Self-description in the Russian Empire, Leiden: Brill, 2009; and Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1994.

(8.) On the travels of these earlier Russian writers, see especially Aleksandr Etkind, Tolkovanie puteshestvii: Rossiia i Amerika v travelogakh i intertekstakh, Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2001. See also Charles A. Moser, "Korolenko and America," Russian Review 3, 1969, 303-14; and Charles Rougle, Three Russians Consider America: America in the Works of Maksim Gor'kij, Aleksandr Blok, and Vladimir Majakovskij, Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1976.

(9.) The phraseology "speaking anti-racism" is a variation of Stephen Kotkin's "speaking Bolshevik" (see Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization, Berkeley, CA: U. of California P., 1995, 198-237).

(10.) Sergei Esenin, Sobranie sochinenii v piati tomakh, vol. 4, Moscow: Gosizdat, 1962, 266. Aleksandr Etkind claims that, in making this statement, "Esenin was comparing the role of Blacks in Arnerican culture to the role played by peasants in Russian culture" (see Etkind, Tolkovanie puteshestvii, 149). Even if this was the case, using such derogatory language to describe African Americans would soon become unacceptable.

(11.) Claude McKay, Long Way from Home, New York: Lee Furman, 1937, 172-4. Comintern leaders designated McKay as the face of this alliance largely because of his dark skin color (see Baldwin, Color Line, 50; and Joy Gleason Carew, Blacks, Reds, and Russians: Sojourners in Search of the Soviet Promise, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2008, 23). For McKay's Comintern-commissioned writings, see Claude McKay, Negroes in America, trans. Robert J. Winter, Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1979, and Claude McKay, Trial by Lynching: Stories about Negro Li[e in North America, trans. Robert J. Winter, Mysore: Centre for Commonwealth Literature and Research, 1977. For an analysis of these works, see Baldwin, Color Line, 59-80; and William J. Maxwell, New Negro, Old Left. African-American Writing and Communism between the Wars, New York: Columbia UP, 1999, 71-93.

(12.) The campaign to build socialism as outlined in the First Five Year Plan also coincided with the advent of the Comintern's militant Third Period (1928-1935) and its 1928 declaration of African Americans as a distinct nation with the right to self-determination. On the Comintern decree of nationhood, see especially Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism. The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, Chapel Hill, NC: U. of North Carolina P., 2000 [1983], 224-8; Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem during the Depression, New York: Grove Press, 1983; and Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936, Jackson, MS: UP of Mississippi, 1998, 68-91. For the concept of a "hard-line" policy, see Martin, Affirmative Action, 83, 122-3.

(13.) David Brandenberger examines Soviet leaders' failure to foster the adoption of a distinct Soviet identity in the interwar era despite a tremendous amount of investment in such an endeavor (see David Brandenberger, Propaganda State in Crisis: Soviet Ideology, Indoctrination, and Terror under Stalin, 1927-1941, New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2011).

(14.) On the Soviet press's role in the 1920s in convincing readers of the superiority of Soviet society in relation to capitalist countries, see Jeffrey Brooks, "Official Xenophobia and Popular Cosmopolitanism in Early Soviet Russia," American Historical Review 5, 1992, 1431-48.

(15.) Karel C. Berkhoff, "'Total Annihilation of the Jewish Population': The Holocaust in the Soviet Media," Kritika 1, 2009, 61-105; Sarah Davies, Popular Opinion in Stalin's Russia: Terror, Propaganda and Dissent, 1934-1941, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997, 82-90, 135-7; Terry Martin, "The Origins of Soviet Ethnic Cleansing," Journal of Modern History 4, 1998, 813-61; and Lewis H. Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov, Stalinism as a Way of Life: A Narrative in Documents, New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2000, 42-3, 71-2, 259-67, 364, 369-70. Anti-Semitism became an even bigger problem once the Soviet state began to promote it after Israel was established in 1948 (see, for example, David Brandenberger, "Stalin's Last Crime? Recent Scholarship on Postwar Soviet Antisemitism and the Doctor's Plot," Kritika 1, 2005, 187-204).

(16.) Isaiah Khurgin, the head of Amtorg, supposedly played a key role in securing Maiakovskii's entry to the United States (see Aleksandr Mikhailov, Tochka puli v kontse: zhizn' Maiakovskogo, Moscow: "Planeta," 1993, 366). Some scholars conjecture that Maiakovskii's foreign travel served as an outlet to deal with the increasingly restrictive conditions and pressures under which he worked in the Soviet Union by the mid-1920s (see Christopher Edgar, "Mayakovsky on the Road: Travels to North America," in Michael Almereyda, Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008, 212-26: 215; and Rougle, Three Russians, 112).

(17.) On the "powerful impact" that Maiakovskii had on audiences in these cities, see Mayakovsky and the Book: Eight Decades, New York: MJS Books & Graphics, 1989, esp. 56-7.

(18.) Charles A. Moser, "Mayakovsky and America," Russian Review 3, 1966, 242-56: 252.

(19.) Charles A. Moser, "Mayakovsky's Unsentimental Journeys," American Slavii and East European Review 1, 1960, 85-100; Rougle, Three Russians, 142, 149; Moser, "Mayakovsky and America," 254-5.

(20.) On this rivalry and Maiakovskii's lectures, see Oiga Peters Hasty and Susarme Fusso, eds, America through Russian Eyes, 1874-1926, New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1988, 146-7, 161-3; V.O. Pertsov, "Maiakovskii i Esenin," in Maiakovskii i sovetskaia literatura: Stat'i, publikatsii, materialy i soobshcheniia, Moscow: Nauka, 1964, 49-77; and Rougle, Three Russians, 116-23.

(21.) On the height of Maiakovskii's "literary fame" at this time, see Edgar, "Mayakovsky on the Road," 212. Although the originals of these texts are hard to find, they can be found in V. Maiakovskii, Maiakovskii ob Amerike. Stikhi, ocherki, interv'iu, Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1949.

(22.) On the writing of poems like his famous "Black and White," see Bengt Jangfeldt, ed., Love is the Heart of Everything: Correspondence between Vladimir Maiakovskii and Lili Brik, 1915-1930, Edinburgh: Polygon, 1986, 251.

(23.) Edgar argues that "the resulting book is, like its author, a vivid, volatile mix of diverging aims and motives--one mostly sympathetic but at times difficult to swallow" (see Edgar, "Mayakovsky," 216, 224).

(24.) Maiakovskii, Maiakovskii ob Amerike, 110. For the translation, see Vladimir Maiakovskii, My Discovery of America, trans. Neil Cornwell, London: Hesperus Press, 2005, 75.

(25.) Maiakovskii, Maiakovsku ob Amerike, 120. According to Peters Hasty and Fusso, horse theft was considered a particularly grave offense which carried harsh, brutal punishment in Russia, and thus inspired the emergence of this saying; Peters Hasty and Fusso, America, 216-17n43.

(26.) Maiakovskii, Maiakovskii ob Amerike, 120.

(27.) See especially Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, "'The Mind That Burns in Each Body': Women, Rape, and Racial Violence," in Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell, and Sharon Thompson, eds, Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983, 328-49.

(28.) Maiakovskii, Maiakovskii ob Amerike, 121. For the translation, see Maiakovskii, Discovery, 84. His argument would receive greater elaboration a few years later when as part of the Comintern's militant Third Period and concomitant declaration of African Americans as a distinct nation, lynching was portrayed as increasing in response to Blacks' growing militancy.

(29.) Ibid.

(30.) Maiakovskii, Maiakovskii ob Amerike, 120.

(31.) Maiakovskii, Maiakovskii ob Amerike, 120; Patricia J. Thompson, Mayakovsky in Manhattan: A Love Story with Excerpts from the Memoir of Elly Jones, New York: West End Productions, 1993, 107n2.

(32.) Maiakovskii, Maiakovskii ob Amerike, 120-1; Maiakovskii, Discovery, 83.

(33.) Maiakovskii supposedly admired Pushkin in spite of his general disdain for the poets of Russia's past (see Edgar, "Mayakovsky on the Road," 212).

(34.) Maiakovskii, Maiakovskii ob Amerike, 45-6; Maiakovskii, Discovery, 47.

(35.) Maiakovskii also racialized the skin color of the Afro-Cuban protagonists of his American poems (see, for example, "Sifilis," in Vladimir Maiakovskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 7, Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1958, 24-30: 26).

(36.) Thompson, Mayakovsky in Manhattan, 63-4. Although in 1923 Claude McKay had expressed a wish to meet Maiakovskii during his US visit, Kemrad claims that the two never met; Kermad, Maiakovskii v Amerike, 196-7.

(37.) The Soviet satirists dedicated one article in Ogonek and book chapter to "Negroes," and referenced African Americans in a few others (see Il'ia Il'f and Evgenii Petrov, "Amerikanskie fotografii," Ogonek 11-17 and 19-23 [1936]). Though the novel was published in 1937, portions of it appeared in the journal Znamia in 1936 (see Il'ia Il'f and Evgenii Petrov, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika: Pis'ma iz Ameriki, Moscow: Tekst, 2003, 499). On Soviet interest in America, see Jeffrey Brooks, "Official Xenophobia," 1447; S. Frederick Starr, Red and Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union, 1917-1980, New York: Oxford UP, 1983; Hans Rogger, "Amerikanizm and the Economic Development of Russia," Comparative Studies in Society and History 3, 1981, 382-420; and Richard Stites, Russian Popular Culture: Entertainment and Society since 1900, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992, 62, 74.

(38.) Etkind, Tolkovanie puteshestvii, 162.

(39.) Many Soviet citizens read Il'f and Petrov's account of their American travels. According to Hans Rogger, One-Storied America was the "most widely read Soviet book about the United States" (see Hans Rogger, "How the Soviets See Us," in Mark Garrison and Abbott Gleason, eds, Shared Destiny: Fifty Years of Soviet-American Relations, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1985, 125). See also Erika Wolf, Il'f and Petrov's American Road Trip: The 1935 Travelogue of Two Soviet Writers, Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006, x; and Krystyna Pomorska, "A Vision of America in Early Soviet Literature," Slavic and East European Journal 4, 1967, 396-7.

(40.) Il'ia Il'f and Evgenii Petrov, "Negry," Ogonek, 10 August 1936, 14-17; Il'f and Petrov, Odnoetazbnaia Amerika, 392-4.

(41.) Il'f and Petrov, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika, 379.

(42.) "Mr. Adams" was a retired engineer from Latvia named Solmon Trone who had traveled to the Soviet Union as a representative for General Electric; Florence, his wife, though American-born, spoke Russian fluently, and did most of the driving (see Wolf, American Road, ix-xv; and Etkind, Tolkovanie puteshestvii, 163-4).

(43.) Il'f and Petrov, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika, 412.

(44.) Ibid., 228-9.

(45.) For a photograph of this smiling young man, see Il'f and Petrov, "Negry," 14-15. As Geoff Eley argues, less militant Popular Front tactics even informed Soviet propaganda prior to the Comintern's official adoption of the Popular Front line in 1935 (see Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000, New York: Oxford UP, 2002, 266).

(46.) See Il'f and Petrov, "Negry," 14-17. The translation is Erika Wolf's in her reproduction of the essays in Ogonek (see Wolf, American Road, 122).

(47.) Il'f and Petrov, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika, 389.

(48.) On the concept of the Russian soul, see especially Dale Pesmen, Russia and Soul: An Exploration, Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2000. For notions of the Russian and African-American "soul," see Dale E. Peterson, Up from Bondage: the Literatures of Russian and African American Soul, Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2000.

(49.) Il'f and Petrov, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika, 390.

(50.) Il'f and Petrov, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika, 394-5; Wolf, American Road, 121. In an Ogonek article, African Americans are even shown following religious leaders like Father Divine in Harlem. See Il'f and Petrov, "Negry," 14-15.

(51.) On Europeans' obsession with "primitivism," see, for example, Carole Sweeney, From Fetish to Subject: Race, Modernism, and Primitivism, 1919-1935, Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004; Neil Macmaster, Racism in Europe, 1870-2000, New York: Palgrave, 2001; Brett A. Berliner, Ambivalent Desire: The Exotic Other in Jazz Age France, Amherst, MA: U. of Massachusetts P., 2002; and Tyler Stovall, Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

(52.) See Maxim Matusevich, "An Exotic Subversive: Africa, Africans and the Soviet Everyday," Race & Class 4, 2008, 57-81: 64. See also Reilly, America, 38. Il'f and Petrov's praise of American industry, roads, efficiency, and work ethic as a model of development, and rejection of American values and mores was consistent with the Bolsheviks' stance and Russian attitudes toward the West throughout history (see, for example, Alan Ball, Imagining America: Influence and Images in Twentieth-Century Russia, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003, 139).

(53.) Il'f and Petrov, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika, 500-1,508-9.

(54.) See ibid., 487-9.

(55.) Their use of US racism in a 1935 play titled Under the Big Top also suggests some interest (see Il'f and Petrov, "Pod kupolom tsirka," Sobranie sochinenii v piati tomakh: Rasskazy, vol. 3, Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1996, 438-70).

(56.) On this violence, see, for example, Amy Wood, Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, Chapel Hill, NC: U. of North Carolina P., 2009.

(57.) For evidence of this in Pravda, see Kevin McKenna, All the Views Fit to Print: Changing Images of the US in Pravda Political Cartoons, 1917-1991, New York: Peter Lang, 2001.

(58.) The director Grigorii Aleksandrov's Circus (Moscow: Mosfil'm, 1936) was based on Il'f and Petrov's play "Under the Big Top." After viewing a production of the play in 1935, Aleksandrov recruited Il'f, Petrov, and Valentin Kataev, Petrov's brother, to write the film's screenplay (see especially Beth Holmgren, "The Blue Angel and Blackface: Redeeming Entertainment in Aleksandrov's Circus," The Russian Review 1, 2007, 5-22; and Richard Taylor, "The Illusion of Happiness and the Happiness of Illusion: Grigorii Alexandrov's Circus," Slavonic and East European Review 4, 1996, 601-20). The partnership did not, however, last. The three writers removed their names from the film after Aleksandrov--without their approval-made changes which politicized the script.

(59.) Simonov and Galaktionov were affiliated with Krasnaia zvezda and Pravda, respectively. According to his biographer Joshua Rubenstein, Ehrenburg was annoyed that members of the American press followed him everywhere (see J. Rubenstein, Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg, New York: Basic Books, 1996, 233).

(60.) Ehrenburg continued to insist in his memoirs written decades later that he was very interested in understanding how racism could flourish in the melting pot that was American society (see Il'ia Ehrenburg, Post-War Years, 1945-1954, trans. Tatiana Shebunina, Cleveland, OH: World Publishing Company, 1967, 63-4).

(61.) Some journalists called Ehrenburg rude for preferring to speak with people rather than visit dams and tourist sites. See Anatol Goldberg, Ilya Ehrenburg: Revolutionary, Novelist, Poet, War Correspondent, Propagandist: The Extraordinary Epic of a Russian Survivor, New York: Viking, 1984, 222. Daniel Gilmore, a left-leaning publisher from New York, served as Ehrenburg's driver. William Nelson, who worked for the State Department, did most of the translating. Samuel Grafton of the New York Post joined them when they were in Alabama (see Ehrenburg, Post-War Years, 66; and Rubenstein, Tangled Loyalties, 235-6).

(62.) This included positive reviews of Il'f and Petrov's One-Storied America (see Anne Gorsuch, "'There's No Place like Home': Soviet Tourism in Late Stalinism," Slavic Review 4, 2003, 760-785: 760).

(63.) Il'ia Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," Izvestiia, 16 July 1946, 4.

(64.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4. See also "Ehrenburg Finds Russia Can Learn from US," New York Times, 26 July 1946, 6.

(65.) "Ilya Ehrenburg's America," Harper's Magazine, December 1946, 562-76: 562. Ehrenburg even noted that the editors of Harper's Magazine acknowledged his positive assessment of American society and expressed concern for his safety despite helping to spearhead the anti-Soviet campaign (see Ehrenburg, Post-War Years, 60-1). The New York Times also published excerpts of Ehrenburg's Izvestiia articles (see, for example, "Ehrenburg Finds US is Surprising," New York Times, 17 July 1946, 6; and note 64 above and 76 below). Rubenstein acknowledges Harper's favorable verdict (see Rubenstein, Tangled Loyalties, 238).

(66.) Il'ia Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4; "Ehrenburg's America," 568.

(67.) "Ehrenburg's America," 568.

(68.) Ibid.

(69.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4. To be sure, leaders and diplomats of the newly independent African countries would confront this dilemma when visiting the United States, creating a publicity nightmare for American leaders (see, especially, Mary L. Dudziak, "Birmingham, Addis Ababa, and the Image of America: International Influence on US Civil Rights Politics in the Kennedy Administration," in Brenda Gayle Plummer, ed., Window on Freedom: Race, Civil Rights, and Foreign Affairs, 1945-1988, Chapel Hill, NC: U. of North Carolina P., 2003, 181-99).

(70.) "Ehrenburg Finds," 6. Ehrenburg claims that prior to the rise of Nazi Germany he originally believed that modernization and industrialization would eliminate racial prejudice. See Ehrenburg, Post-War Years, 63-4.

(71.) Il'ia Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4.

(72.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4. On anti-Semitism and the USSR, see note 15 above.

(73.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4; "Ehrenburg's America," 568.

(74.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4; "Ehrenburg's America," 568.

(75.) "Ehrenburg's America," 569.

(76.) Ilya Ehrenburg, "Visiting Russian Sums Up His Trip," New York Times, 26 June 1946, 10; "Ehrenburg's America," 569.

(77.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4.

(78.) "Ehrenburg's America," 571.

(79.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4.

(80.) Ibid.

(81.) On the meaning of the term "pogrom," see, for example, John D. Klier, Russians, Jews, and the Pogroms of 1881-1882, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011, esp. 58-89.

(82.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," Izvestiia, 4. As Carol Anderson argues, the anti-Communist hysteria in the United States of the late 1940s and early 1950s dissuaded civil rights leaders from pursuing an agenda of social and economic equality (see Carol Anderson, Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 19441955, Cambridge. Cambridge UP, 2003).

(83.) See, for example, Anderson, Eyes, 58-64; and Philip Dray, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, New York: The Modern Library, 2002, 338-64, 387-406. Due in part to the connection between tsarist Russia's involvement in the Napoleonic Wars and the 1825 Decembrist movement, Soviet authorities feared that returning soldiers would ultimately serve as the catalysts for change in the Soviet Union (see Elena Zubkova, Russia After the War" Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998).

(84.) "Antinegritianskii terror v SShA:" Izvestiia, 7 August 1946, 4; "Linchevanie veterana voiny v SShA," Pravda, 22 August 1946, 4; "Kak byl linchevan v SShA negr Dzhons," Trud, 22 August 1946, 4; "Usilenie antinegritianskogo terrora v SShA," Izvestiia, 23 August 1946, 4.

(85.) "Ehrenburg's America," 572.

(86.) Ibid. The Russian word used here in the original was nastoiashchii (see Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4).

(87.) "Ehrenburg's America," 572.

(88.) Ehrenburg, "V Amerike," 4. On these negative aspects of Soviet life, see "Ehrenburg Finds Russia," 6.

(89.) Il'ia Ehrenburg, Post-War Years, 50.

(90.) On these efforts see, Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain, 2, 152-3.

(91.) Although Russian intellectuals had largely focused on the countries of Europe rather than the fledging United States, some nineteenth century writers had articulated disdain for American racism and emphasized the negative impact that racial slavery and the extermination of Native Americans had on US civilization (see, for example, Hans Rogger, "America in the Russian Mind: Or Russian Discoveries of America," Pacific Historical Review 1, 1978, 27-51: 30). Carol Avins argues that America was included in Russians' conception of the West after the October Revolution (see Carol Avins, Border Crossings. The West and Russian Identity in Soviet Literature, 1917-1934, Berkeley, CA: U. of California P., 1983, and especially, ibid. 3-4). As Odd Arne Westad argues, Marxist-Leninist ideology as well as Russian exceptionalism shaped Soviet leaders' understanding of the role of the USSR in the world (see O.A. Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007, and, especially, ibid., 72).

(92.) See, for example, Reilly, America, 38.

(93.) See Petrone, Life, 126-9.

(94.) Pushkin had a frequent presence in the (non-Communist) African American press in the interwar decades (see, for example, Arma Heifetz, "Pushkin in Self-Portrayal," The Crisis, May 1937, 144, 157; Jones, "Pushkin's Books Best Sellers in Russia," Afro-American, 21 September 1935, 5; Chatwood Hall, "Was Pushkin's Duel A Frame-Up?" The Crisis, December 1936, 365, 370; "Russia's Greatest Poet," The Crisis, February 1937, 58; and Guichard Parris, "Pushkin's Negro Blood," The Crisis, June 1937, 175). See also Anne Lounsbery, "Soul Man: Alexander Pushkin, the Black Russian," Transition 84, 2000, 42-61. Ehrenburg's emphasis on the similarities between Nazi and American racial attitudes and indictment of American officials' hypocrisy regarding voting rights in Eastern Europe and the US South were arguments that African American leaders like Walter White and W.E.B. Du Bois also made (see, for example, Anderson, Eyes, 69-72).

(95.) On the complicated relationship between African Americans and the Soviet experiment, see, for example, Gleason Carew, Blacks; Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950, New York: Norton, 2008; note 7 above; and Maxim Matusevich, "Journeys of Hope: African Diaspora and the Soviet Society," African Diaspora 1, 2008: 53-85. For the foundational study on this topic, see Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought, Washington, DC: Howard UP, 1986.

(96.) As an unofficial member of the US delegation to the congress, the American Communists told McKay that he could not join them because they already had their "token Negro" delegate, the light-skinned Otto Huiswood (see McKay, Long Way, 165-9, 172-4; the quotation can be found in ibid., 169; and Robinson, Black Marxism, 221-2).

Meredith L. Roman is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at The State University of New York, The College at Brockport. She is the author of Opposing Jim Crow: African Americans and the Soviet Indictment of U.S. Racism, 1928-1937. She would like to thank Lewis H. Siegelbaum and the anonymous reader of The Historian for their helpful comments and suggestions.
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Author:Roman, Meredith L.
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Sep 22, 2012
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