Ambassador W. Averell Harriman and the Shift in US Policy toward Moscow after Roosevelt’s Death



Thanks to the fierce winter of 1944–45 in Moscow, historians have a written account revealing how dangerous emotions and divisive discourses developed among US and British officials. Spaso House, the huge, drafty American embassy building, was tough to heat. In December 1944, a kerosene stove was rigged up in the top floor room of Robert Meiklejohn, ambassador W. Averell Harriman’s secretary. Meiklejohn jotted in his detailed diary, ‘My room is very comfortable now,’ and it has become ‘the usual gathering place in the evening.’1 Evenings the ambassador, his daughter Kathleen, the Pentagon’s liaison to the Red Army General John R. Deane, embassy officials including George F. Kennan, British ambassador Archibald Clark Kerr and Kennan’s friend Frank K. Roberts, and liberated American POWs, clustered around the stove to review the day, gossip, and grumble. The Soviets dished out lots to grumble about. An embassy official ‘was going nuts here,’ Meiklejohn recorded, ‘as not a few people appear to do when they stay too long.’2 Many diplomats and journalists were frustrated with their personal lives. They suffered anger, sadness, and even depression from being deprived of ‘normal’ contact with Soviet citizens. The moods and cultural assumptions of these diplomats and journalists shaped how they interpreted Soviet policy and intentions.


National Archive Critical Juncture Secret Police Soviet Citizen Discursive Shift 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    For an account that minimizes the shift between presidents, see Wilson D. Miscamble, From Roosevelt to Truman (New York, 2007).Google Scholar
  2. Vladimir Pechatnov, Stalin, Ruzvel’t, Trumen (Moscow, 2006) is based on both Russian and US archival sources. See recent assessments inGoogle Scholar
  3. David B. Woolner, Warren F. Kimball and David Reynolds, eds., FDR’s World: War, Peace, and Legacies (New York, 2008).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    See Frank Costigliola, ‘The “Invisible Wall”: Personal and Cultural Origins of the Cold War,’ The New England Journal of History, 64 (Fall 2007), 190–213.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Kemp Tolley, Caviar and Commissars (Annapolis, MD, 1983), 64.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    See Frank Costigliola, ‘“Unceasing Pressure for Penetration”: Gender, Pathology, and Emotion in George Kennan’s Formation of the Cold War,’ Journal of American History, 83 (March 1997), 1309–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 19.
    For an introduction to the theory, see Gabriele Taylor, Pride, Shame, and Guilt: Emotions of Self-assessment (Oxford, 1985);Google Scholar
  8. William Ian Miller, Humiliation (Ithaca, 1993);Google Scholar
  9. Robert A. Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France (New York, 1993).Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    Geoffrey C. Ward, ed., Closest Companion (Boston, 1995), 253 (emphasis in original).Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    Lord Moran, Churchill at War 1940–45 (New York, 2002), 162.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    John R. Deane, The Strange Alliance (New York, 1947), 160.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    A.H. Birse, Memoirs of an Interpreter (New York, 1967), 209.Google Scholar
  14. 29.
    Geoffrey Roberts, Stalin’s Wars (New Haven, 2006), 331, 333.Google Scholar
  15. 30.
    Albert Resis, ed., Molotov Remembers (Chicago, 1993), 11, 19, 23, 44, 53, 55, 69, 77.Google Scholar
  16. 39.
    Irina Mukhina, ‘New Revelations from the Former Soviet Archives: The Kremlin, the Warsaw Uprising, and the Coming of the Cold War,’ Cold War History, 6 (August 2006), 405–6, 410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 40.
    Jonathan Walker, Poland Alone: Britain, SOE and the Collapse of the Polish Resistance, 1944 (Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2008), 204–61.Google Scholar
  18. 41.
    George F. Kennan, Memoirs 1925–1950 (Boston, 1967), 210–11;Google Scholar
  19. William Larsh, ‘W. Averell Harriman and the Polish Question, December 1943–August 1944,’ East European Politics and Societies, 7 (Fall 1993), 544, 552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 42.
    Mark J. Conversino, Fighting with the Soviets (Lawrence, KS, 1997), 67.Google Scholar
  21. 43.
    Frank Costigliola, ‘I Had Come as a Friend’: Emotion, Culture, and Ambiguity in the Formation of the Cold War, 1943–45,’ Cold War History, 1 (August 2000), 116–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 55.
    Pentagon generals, however, examined a list of similar complaints from Deane and judged them ‘irritating’ but ‘of relatively minor moment.’ Diane Shaver Clemens, ‘From War to Cold War: The Role of Harriman, Deane, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Reversal of Cooperation with the Soviet Union, April, 1945,’ The International History Review, 14 (May 1992), 280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 60.
    For Truman’s concerns about assuming the presidency and about the connection between height and presidential greatness, see Robert H. Ferrell, ed., Off the Record: The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman (New York, 1980), 16;Google Scholar
  24. Margaret Truman, ed., Where the Buck Stops (New York, 1989), 77–9. On the activities of Harriman and Deane in Washington, see Clemens, ‘Reversal of Cooperation,’ 293–303.Google Scholar
  25. 64.
    Warren F. Kimball, ed., Churchill & Roosevelt (Princeton, 1984), 3, 593–7.Google Scholar
  26. 74.
    Charles E. Bohlen, Witness to History 1929–1969 (New York, 1973), 213.Google Scholar
  27. 80.
    John Morton Blum, ed., The Price of Vision (Boston, 1973), 447.Google Scholar
  28. 83.
    Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger, eds., Journals 1952–2000 Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (New York, 2007), 335–6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Frank Costigliola 2011

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations