was a Russian language magazine published by the United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...
during the Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...
for distribution in the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....
. It was intended to inform Soviet citizens about American life. Amerika
was distinguished among other Soviet publications by its high-grade paper, bright printing and numerous photos. The magazine has been described as "polite propaganda" and featured high quality photography and articles about everyday life in the United States, as well as profiles of famous American people and institutions. Later it briefly existed as America Illustrated
. 454 issues in total were published.
In 1944 the State Department began circulating 10,000 copies in the Soviet Union. The magazine was instantly popular and sold out all of its copies virtually overnight. In June 1947, the Soviet Union authorized an increase to 50,000 copies.
By the late 1940s, the State Department began to feel that radio and the Voice of America
Voice of America is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government. It is one of five civilian U.S. international broadcasters working under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors . VOA provides a wide range of programming for broadcast on radio...
would be more effective propaganda tools and, in 1952, publication of Amerika
was suspended. However, in 1956, the American and Soviet governments agreed to exchange magazines and Amerika
was reborn and published in return for distribution of The USSR
Russian Life, previously known as The USSR and Soviet Life, is a 64-page color bimonthly magazine of Russian culture. It celebrated its 50th birthday in October 2006. The magazine is written and edited by American and Russian staffers and freelancers...
in the United States. The magazine was again an immediate success, selling out quickly. The goal, as explained in the first issue, was that "the Soviet reader could see the many-sided American life, reflected in it."
In his study of the propaganda of the era, University of Akron history professor Walter L. Hixson writes that Amerika
was wildly popular among Soviet readers and notes that long lines would form when the magazine went on sale. Because the magazine sparked discussion among the Soviet intelligentsia and because each issue was widely shared, Amerika
had impact and influence beyond its circulation of 50,000. The U.S. government felt that the magazine made a valuable contribution to better understanding of America by the Soviet people and was an effective counterpart to Soviet propaganda.
Sample articles published in Amerika
- A Skyscraper’s Walls Built in One Day, a photo-story showing how the walls of a tower block on Park Avenue, New York were completed in a period of just 10 hours
- A Young Farmer Harvests 1,165 Poods (1 pood
Pood , is a unit of mass equal to 40 funt . It is approximately 16.38 kilograms . It was used in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Pood was first mentioned in a number of documents of the 12th century....
= approx 36 lbs) of Corn from One Hectare of Land
- Examples of Cheap Furniture, showing home furnishings all of which were cheaper than $25
- Supermarkets – A New Era in Shopping
- The Automobile – Inside and Outside
- The War on Polio
- A Prosthetic Surgeon
- A School Where Children Learn the Science of Life
- A School in the Open Air
- How to Make a Dress Simply in One Day
- How to Score Points in Basketball
- America's 1956 Automobiles
- Fashions Under Twenty Dollars
- Best Dressed College Girls
- Television for the Millions
- Facts About the U.S.: The Negro Today
- Numerous articles about African-American jazz musicians
- Numerous articles about American artists
The magazine ceased publication in 1994.
Hixson reports that all issues of Amerika
are archived in the Office of Historical Collections, United States Information Agency, Washington D.C. but a review of the National Archives' webpage concerning the records of the USIA suggests that this may no longer be true.
From 1946 until 1952, Amerika
was edited by Marion K. Sanders
Marion Klein Sanders was an American journalist, editor, and author.-Education:...
. The staff also included linguists Horace Lunt
Horace Gray Lunt was a linguist working in the field of Slavic Studies, Professor Emeritus at the Slavic Language and Literature Department and the Ukrainian Institute at Harvard University....
, David Simon (son of Solomon Simon
Solomon Simon was a Jewish author and educator. He published over thirty books, in Yiddish and English, notably his children's books The Wandering Beggar, The Wise Men of Helm, and More Wise Men of Helm. He was also a leading figure of the Sholem Aleichem Folks Institute, a Jewish cultural...
) and Dick Burge.
Jane Jacobs, was an American-Canadian writer and activist with primary interest in communities and urban planning and decay. She is best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities , a powerful critique of the urban renewal policies of the 1950s in the United States...
worked for the magazine for many years, writing articles on American architecture, school planning, housing, slum clearance, and U.S. places and cities, presaging some of her work in The Death and Life of Great American Cities
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs, is a greatly influential book on the subject of urban planning in the 20th century...