Russia propelled my career as a writer, journalist and lecturer. It all began when my parents took me to see the film Doctor Zhivago when I was a teenager.


This was in the mid-1960s, at the height of the Cold War, when anyone interested in Russia was suspected (like I often was) of being either a Communist or a spy. The exotic drama and turmoil of Russian history enthralled me, the monolithic power of the Soviet Union and its impossibly idealistic system of Communism. Soon I was reading Dostoyevsky’s novels, singing in a Russian chorus, studying in Leningrad for a college summer and becoming fluent in this expressive and challenging language.

I took the Trans-Siberian railroad from Moscow to the Pacific one golden September and marveled at the incredible expanse and variety of the Soviet empire.

Harlow in St. Petersburg
Harlow at the Baltic Sea
Over a period of nearly 50 years I made more than 25 trips to the USSR, traveling all around the country, witnessing the collapse of Communism and its chaotic aftermath. My fascination—obsession, even—with Russia became a fertile source of inspiration for my books, articles and teaching. I spent many evenings at the Bolshoi Theatre for lavish performances of opera and ballet and wrote about them. In Moscow I made deep friendships, especially in the lively and embattled underground gay community, that gave me a rare insider’s view. My friends helped me negotiate and understand the Byzantine complexity of the Russian way of thinking, that strange combination of inferiority and arrogance.

How Russians and Soviet citizens have been viewed in the USA intrigued me, leading to my several books on that subject. I came to know Russian emigres living in America, and saw the enormous contribution many had made to the arts and culture in their adopted country.

I have written on many other subjects, of course, but Russia in all its stunning contradictions and cultural richness continues to beckon, to fascinate, to perplex—and inspire.

Travels in Russia and beyond

Tallinn, Estonia
Prokofiev's grave, Novodevichy Monastery Cemetery, Moscow
In the Moscow Kremlin
In Israel
With husband, Robert Holley, in Granada, Spain
Soviet War Memorial
At Cosmonaut Museum in Moscow

Professor Harlow Robinson

In his office at Northeastern University
With his graduate students at Northeastern University Commencement

TV Promo for Soviet Television Tonight

TV Promo for Soviet Television Tonight