Moscow’s Metropol Hotel served as a ‘gilded cage’ for Western journalists

When the German army invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the USSR and Britain became instant, if unlikely, allies. Relations between the two nations had been frosty: After World War I, Britain sent combat troops to Russia to fight the Soviets during the Russian Civil War. 

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had publicly denounced the Soviet Union for a long time, but he needed Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s armies to take some of the pressure off British forces. Churchill had to build public support for his decision to send war materiel to Russia when British troops still faced shortages. He believed that assigning British and American reporters to cover the conflict would help toward that goal. 

Stalin had a visceral dislike of democracies and a free press in general and of Churchill in particular. But Stalin’s survival depended on receiving military aid quickly, so he had no option but to agree. So it was that Western journalists found themselves on the first supply convoy to the USSR in August 1941.

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