“Russian Fate” — a primer for us Americans

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Looking through the rain-splattered window at St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024. Cold yesterday in New York. Sunny but temps in the low 40s and enough of a small breeze to send shivers when you first walk into it.

My friend Paige Peterson loves to give cocktail parties at her apartment on Central Park West overlooking the Park. It’s not that she does it all the time but she does when there is a purpose with peoples and governments and life style.

Last week she held a cocktail party and reception for Katrina vanden Heuvel, who is a part owner of The Nation, as well as publisher and former editor of the magazine.

Paige Peterson and Katrina vanden Heuvel at a reception hosted by Paige to honor her friend of 40 years and to celebrate a book — from the archives of Katrina’s late husband, American historian, Sovietologist and Russianist Stephen F. Cohen — called Russian Fate / PTCCKAR CYABBA.

Katrina is a New York girl. Her father William (Bill) vanden Heuvel was a prominent attorney, author, andmost prominently to the public — an active advisor and assistant of Robert F. Kennedy when he was Attorney General under his brother, and for years active in the Democratic Party. He was also Ambassador to the UN during the Carter Administration as well as the founder of the Roosevelt Institute among his many other activities in public life.

Katrina’s mother was writer Jean Stein, the eldest daughter of Doris and Jules Stein who created MCA, the Music Corporation of America, a talent agency, plus (a film studio) Universal Pictures. Her father’s reputation (major film mogul and talent agent) brought Jean great access to entertainers. Her best known works were her oral history of Edie Sedgwick, the American actress and Andy Warhol muse, called Edie: An American Biography, (1982); and the oral history West of Eden: An American Place, which focused on five families and individuals Stein considered essential to the history of Los Angeles. She was right; it is a fascinating book about Hollywood families.

Alexander von Perfall, William vanden Heuvel, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Stephen Cohen, Melinda vanden Heuvel, Isabelle von Perfall, John vanden Heuvel, Felix von Perfall, Nicholas von Perfall, Ashley von Perfall in 2018 when Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park honored Ambassador William J. Vanden Heuvel. Photo: Patrick McMullan

I mention details of Katrina’s background because like them she made a very important place for herself in public life as a journalist – mainly political — and also through her late husband Stephen Cohen who was a historian/professor and author/editor of ten influential books about Russia. Stephen died here in New York in his 82nd year.

Paige Peterson’s reception was to honor her friend Katrina, but really for Cohen’s work and especially for a book published in Russia from the archives of Mr. Cohen called Russian Fate / PTCCKAR CYABBA, which contains correspondence over the decades of What It Was Like for the author’s experience in his work. Each “correspondence” is matched by the Russian version after the English.

Other important books of his include Rethinking the Soviet Experience: Politics and History Since 1917 (Oxford University Press, 1985); Sovieticus: American Perceptions and Soviet Realities (Norton, 1985); Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev’s Reformers, written together with vanden Heuvel (Norton, 1989); and Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (Norton, 2000). His most recent book, War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate, was published last year.

Stephen F. Cohen

It was the first time that I’ve read about Russia, its history and its political activity with an American’s fully informed/detailed atmosphere of the country which we Americans still have little knowledge of. It also provides an excellent understanding of how we Americans look to the countries of the world where People are People no matter where they are or what language they speak, including the power of their politics.

I opened it to get a sense of what Mr. Cohen’s view was like and I’m already halfway through the book. It’s a primer for us Americans; and a pleasure to absorb.  It also gave me a brief opportunity to meet and learn more about Katrina and her activities acquired in upbringing from her mother and her father.

A manuscript of Stephen F. Cohen’s memoirs is available to read in English and Russian here.

And here’s Paige’s reception for Katrina …

Paige Peterson, with Stephen and Katrina’s daughter, Nika Cohen, and Katrina vanden Heuvel.
National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Chairman of the Board John Pratt, Board Member Paige Peterson and EVP Patrick Mancino speaking with Katrina vanden Heuvel.
Eric Alterman and Peter Meyer.
Kevin Burke.
Katy Dobbs, Dr. Owen Lewis, and Fred Newman.
Richard Aborn and Fred Newman.
Vincent McGhee and Richard Aborn.
Lev Golinkin and Nika Cohen.
Helen Epstein.
Eric Alterman and Katrina vanden Heuvel.
Pam Kiser and Richard Conway.
DPC and Sharon King Hoge.
Patrick Mancino, His Excellency Faisal Al-Enezi, Richard Al Khazen, and Zahi Abi Younes.
Marwa Ghumrawi and Patrick Mancino.
Paige Peterson and Ann Dexter-Jones.
Stan Shuman and Lynn Sherr.
Dr. Marco Di Capua, Marwa Ghumrawi, and John Pratt.
John Kiser and John Pratt.
Peter Meyer, Mark Hertsgaard, Eric Alterman, and Katrina vanden Huevel.
Michael Massing and Louis Nelson.
John Kiser, Zahi Abi Younes, and John Pratt.
Eric Alterman and Peter Meyer.
Kevin Burke, Zoe Adler, and Nanci Adler.
Michael McCarty, Steve Millington, and Stan Shuman.
Richard Aborn with Ann Dexter-Jones.

Photographs by Jonathan Delano

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