With U.S.-Russian relations at their lowest point in decades, and a Russian ambassador to Washington recently branded as the Kremlin’s spymaster, it is hard to imagine a Russian envoy as a confidant of top officials, politicians, and businesspeople in his host capital. The more so, when it happens to be the capital of a global empire locked in an irreconcilable ideological contest with Russia. But Ivan Maisky was such a diplomat, serving in London throughout the 1930’s and early-40’s as Stalin’s ambassador to the Court of St. James. Churchill, Chamberlain, Eden—these are just a few of his regular interlocutors at the highest levels of British society. 

Maisky kept extensive diaries—remarkable for a senior Soviet official at the height of Stalin’s purges—which provide a unique window into pre-World War II European diplomacy and Soviet policy making. The Maisky diaries have been edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky, a leading scholar of Soviet and Russian foreign policy, in three volumes and a compendium single volume, and published by Yale University Press. 

Carnegie hosted “Meddling—How to Win Friends and Influence People: Ivan Maisky, Soviet Ambassador in London, 1932-43,” a presentation by Gabriel Gorodetsky and a conversation with Strobe Talbott, distinguished fellow and former president of the Brookings Institution, with an introduction by Carnegie Endowment president Ambassador William Burns. 

William J. Burns

William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He previously served as U.S. deputy secretary of state. 

Gabriel Gorodetsky

Gabriel Gorodetsky is a Quondam fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and professor of history, emeritus, at Tel Aviv University. He was the founder and director of the Cummings Center for Russian Studies at Tel Aviv University, director of the Academic studies of the Staff College of the Israeli Defence Forces, and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. His widely acclaimed Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia (Yale University Press) and earlier books focus on Soviet and Russian foreign policy.

Strobe Talbott

Strobe Talbott is a distinguished fellow at and former president of the Brookings Institution. He previously served as U.S. deputy secretary of state, following a distinguished journalistic career with Time magazine. He also translated Khrushchev Remembers, the late Soviet leader’s memoir published at the height of the Cold War.