Frederick C. Barghoorn in Russia

A couple of years ago, one of my members came in to donate a set of his books to our Books by Members collection. Professor Thomas F. Remington, an emeritus professor of Political Science at Emory University, brought us not only his own work on post communist political institutions, but also a collection of essays in honor of his late teacher, Professor Frederick C. Barghoorn.  The teacher and the student must have felt a similar inclination to share their knowledge with their fellow members.  In 1964, Barghoorn donated a copy of his most recent book: SOVIET FOREIGN PROPAGANDA.  The book, a standard in the field, is still in our collection today.  I came across the book while shelving last week – its fine, red dust jacket still intact, having long outlasted the jackets of the books around it. I knew Professor Barghoorn’s name only from Professor Remington’s recollections, and I pulled the book out of curiosity.barghoorncover

Barghoorn, who attended Amherst and Harvard as a student, was a long-time member of the Yale Faculty (from 1947 until his retirement in 1980), and a member of the Yale Club.  The professor presented a copy of his latest book to the Library on May 16, 1964. A little over six months earlier, Barghoorn had been released from a Soviet prison.

Sometime in late October 1963, Professor Barghoorn was arrested for espionage.  He stepped outside the Hotel Metropole (perhaps today most famous to readers of American novels as the setting for Amor Towles’ Gentleman in Moscow).  A man approached him, muttered incoherently, and thrust a sheaf of papers at him.  Two minutes later, Professor Barghoorn was apprehended and imprisoned.  When it reached the American press on November 11, the arrest caused a sensation — well-documented and accessible through the Yale Daily News Historical Archive and New York Times.  Barghoorn was in Russia on sabbatical, gathering information for the book that would become SOVIET FOREIGN BarghoorninscriptionPROPAGANDA.  He was, by all accounts (at least in Western media) scrupulous about avoiding any impression of impropriety while traveling in the Soviet Union.  His brother reported that he didn’t even travel with a camera. An article in the Yale Daily News suggested  that Barghoorn might have arrested in retaliation for arrests of Russians in Englewood, NJ that October.

Students and colleagues at Yale, notably the Yale Russian Chorus, mobilized immediately, contacting friends and acquaintances in government and decrying Barghoorn’s arrest as an attack on all scholars.  On November 14, President Kennedy gave what would be his last press conference, calling for Barghoorn’s release.  Kennedy insisted that Barghoorn was not on an intelligence mission.  Two days later, Barghoorn was released from custody and his return to the US on November 18 hailed as a Kennedy triumph.  Four days later, President Kennedy was dead.

Barghoorn dedicated SOVIET FOREIGN PROPAGANDA “To the Memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”

Soviet foreign propaganda – those words still have power, as does Barghoorn’s book.  While writing part of this entry, I had Dr. Barghoorn’s book sitting next to me at the reference desk.  In the hour I was there, two members spotted it and exclaimed in awe: I can’t believe you have this book.  I let one take a picture of the cover to send to a family member.

Members can visit us at the Library to look at it themselves.

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