The Historical Present: Uses and Abuses of the Past

By Edwin M. Yoder | Go to book overview

George F. Kennan and the Follies of History

THE HISTORY OF the early cold war years--say, 1946 to 1950-- must now seem to Americans under the age of forty almost as distant in time as the Sphinx and the pyramids of ancient Egypt. But the career of George F. Kennan narrows the years. People of my generation know him as the distinguished American diplomat who, as deputy chief of mission at the U. S. embassy in Moscow, sent the so-called "long telegram" to Washington one day in 1946. That famous dispatch quickly assumed the status of a state paper, brilliantly analyzing the "sources of Soviet conduct," and was ultimately published under that title in the journal Foreign Affairs. Kennan, as a serving diplomat, thought it unseemly to associate his name with it. He signed it "Mr. X," and thereafter it was known to all as the "Mr. X article."

Kennan brought a great fund of observation, study and firsthand experience to Russian affairs. He had been with the first U. S. delegation to enter Moscow after Franklin D. Roosevelt restored diplomatic relations with Bolshevik Russia in 1933. Russian language,

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