“Red Decade”: Stalinism in the American Media


Holodomor Research & Education Consortium (HREC) Symposium

9 June 2023 | 3:00 PM MDT / 5:00 PM EDT | Online via Zoom



Writing in 1940, the American fellow travelling journalist turned strident anti-Communist Eugene Lyons declared that the last ten years had been a “Red Decade” during which “Stalin’s special brand of totalitarianism” had haunted domestic political discourse. It was, he warned, “a gun pointed at the heart and mind of America.” But this threatening new ideology nonetheless held ready appeal for many of his contemporaries in the press, willing and enthusiastic participants in a Communist-driven “cultural front” that the more sympathetic scholar Michael Denning would term a “Second American Renaissance.” Indeed, the American intelligentsia’s relationship with the Stalinist regime during the Great Depression remains as controversial and contested today as it was when Lyons contemporaneously decried the “indefensible taboo against criticizing the Great Experiment in Stalin’s Russia.” Yet in order to understand why such a taboo may have existed, and why reporters like Lyons felt the need to break it in the face of horrors like the Holodomor, one must engage with the promises and perils of this “Great Experiment” through the lens of American media. And, furthermore, it might be fruitful to expand that rather narrow definition of “American” to the broader Americas and their varied media landscapes – to a Mexico hosting the renegade Trotsky, and to a Canada permeated with Ukrainian and Russian migrants of every ideological variety. In doing so, we may draw lessons for our own time about the promises and perils of political propaganda.




Symposium Participants:

Dr. Ray Gamache (interwar American media – King’s College)

Dr. Ray Gamache is a retired professor of journalism, having taught for more than thirty-five years. He earned his doctorate from the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism where he studied with renowned journalism historian, Dr. Maureen Beasley. His most recent book, Gareth Jones: On Assignment in Nazi Germany 1933-1934, was published by the Welsh Academic Press in March 2021. Other publications include Gareth Jones: Eyewitness to the Holodomor (2013, Welsh Academic Press), Tell Them We Are Starving: The 1933 Soviet Diaries of Gareth Jones (2015, Kashtan Press), and A History of Sports Highlights: Replayed Plays from Edison to ESPN (2010, McFarland). Dr. Gamache has published journal articles in the Harvard Ukrainian Studies Journal, Journalism History, American Journalism, Sociology of Sport Journal, the Journal of Sports Media, Studies in Symbolic Interaction and West Virginia Philological Papers among others. He resides in Maine with his wife, Jane Margaret Benesch.

Dr. Olga Andriewsky (interwar Canadian/Ukrainian media – Trent University)

Olga Andriewsky is an Associate Professor in the Department of History, at Trent University. Her research focuses on late Imperial Russia and early Soviet history, with a special interest in discourses relating to Ukraine. She will discuss her research on the Ukrainian language press, both Communist and non-Communist in the U.S. and Canada in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and its value as a source on the Holodomor. Specifically, she will talk about how this research challenges the idea of a “hidden famine” and what it reveals about the political mobilization of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada and the United States.

Dr. Serge Cipko (interwar Canadian/Latin American media – University of Alberta)

Serge Cipko is Assistant Director, Research, at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, and author of the book Starving Ukraine: The Holodomor and Canada's Response. Dr. Cipko will be sharing insights from research conducted on Canada and Argentina's response to the Holodomor. He is engaged in a long-term project about the parallel US response to the Holodomor, focusing on the Ukrainian-American community during 1932-34, and will also refer to findings made thus far in this study.

Dr. Harvey Klehr (interwar American Communism – Emory University)

Harvey Klehr is Andrew Mellon Emeritus Professor of Politics and history at Emory University. He is the author or co-author of fifteen books, including Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America and almost ninety articles in professional and popular outlets, including Commentary, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. His talk will discuss the extraordinary confrontations between a delegation of Canadian Communist Party officials, including its General Secretary, Tim Buck, with two of the highest leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Mikhail Suslov and Nikita Khruschev, during a visit to Moscow in late August 1956.

Moderated by Dr. Henry Prown (interwar American Communist media – University of Alberta); Temerty Postdoctoral Fellow in Holodomor Studies at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies