6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Moscow 1956: The Silenced Spring

The year 1956 in Russia started with Nikita Khrushchev’s bombshell “Secret Speech” denouncing Stalin’s purges and ended with Soviet intervention to quash the Hungarian uprising.  Kathleen Smith pinpoints the beginning of the unraveling of the Soviet system in the traumatic events of the year. Through the life stories of former GULAG prisoners-turned policy makers, persecuted geneticists, idealistic students, wary writers, and reeling propagandists, Smith captures the painful dynamic of reform and retreat that shaped the political views of the generation that would mastermind perestroika.

Kathleen E. Smith is a teaching professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  She is also the author of Mythmaking in the New Russia: Memory and Politics in the Yeltsin Era (Cornell, 2002) and Remembering Stalin’s Victims: Popular Memory and the End of the USSR (Cornell, 1996). Smith is currently beginning a study of cultural politics in Russia through the lens of Peredelkino, the elite writers’ community created under Stalin.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.



  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center
  • Eric Arnesen

    Professor of History, The George Washington University


  • Kathleen Smith

    Professor of Teaching, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University