1987 edition, dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution
Amerika (Russian: "Америка") was a Russian-language magazine published by the United States Department of State during the Cold War for distribution in the Soviet Union. 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 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 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 include:
The magazine ceased publication in October 1994.
"Amerika" is housed at many major research libraries in the U.S. Full runs of the Russian- and Polish-language editions, as well as translations of the articles and records related to their distribution, are available at the National Archives and Records Administration's Archives II facility in College Park, MD.
Jane Jacobs 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.