When an idealistic American named Edmund Stevens arrived in Moscow in 1934, his only goal was to do his part for the advancement of international Communism. His job writing propaganda led to a reporting career and an eventual Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for his uncensored descriptions of Stalin’s purges. This book tells how Stevens became an accidental journalist—and the dean of the Moscow press corps.
The longest-serving American-born correspondent working from within the Soviet Union, Stevens was passionate about influencing the way his stateside readers thought about Russia’s citizens, government, and social policy. Cheryl Heckler now traces a career that spanned half a century and four continents, focusing on Stevens’s professional work and life from 1934 to 1945 to tell how he set the standards for reporting on Soviet affairs for the Christian Science Monitor.
Stevens was a keen observer and thoughtful commentator, and his analytical mind was just what the Monitor was looking for in a foreign correspondent. He began his journalism career reporting on the Russo-Finnish War in 1939 and was the Monitor’s first man in the field to cover fighting in World War II. He reported on the Italian invasion of Greece, participated in Churchill’s Moscow meeting with Stalin as a staff translator, and distinguished himself as a correspondent with the British army in North Africa.
Drawing on Stevens’s memoirs—to which she had exclusive access—as well as his articles and correspondence and the unpublished memoirs of his wife, Nina, Heckler traces his growth as a frontline correspondent and interpreter of Russian culture. She paints a picture of a man hardened by experience, who witnessed the brutal crushing of the Iron Guard in 1941 Bucharest and the Kharkov hangings yet who was a failure on his own home front and who left his wife during a difficult pregnancy in order to return to the war zone. Heckler places his memoirs and dispatches within the larger context of events to shed new light on both the public and the private Stevens, portraying a reporter adapting to new roles and circumstances with a skill that journalists today could well emulate.
By exposing the many facets of Stevens’s life and experience, Heckler gives readers a clear understanding of how this accidental journalist was destined to distinguish himself as a war reporter, analyst, and cultural interpreter. An Accidental Journalist is an important contribution to the history of war reporting and international journalism, introducing readers to a man whose inside knowledge of Stalinist Russia was beyond compare as it provides new insight into the Soviet era.