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Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 3.4 (2002) 759

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To the Editors

To the Editors:

For researchers of the Soviet period, there is something eerily familiar in Martin Malia's letter to the editors ("To the Editors," Kritika 3: 3 [Summer 2002], 569-71). They see, as in quite a few of their sources, fairly different people lumped together in a vague category and denounced not for what they have done but for what they are supposed to think. Since in our case the people in question are scholars, it is at the very least embarrassing that their work as such, the methods they have used, and the conclusions to which they have come are hardly touched upon in the letter. Malia's diatribe concerns only convictions that he believes all the colleagues he blames uniformly share.

Even assumptions that prove mistaken may lead to meaningful contributions to our knowledge. The work of Kepler and Newton was motivated by ideas not further removed from metaphysics and the magico-mystical than was Marxist scientism. But one may wonder if this should suffice to reject all of their discoveries.

When all is said and done, our colleagues are as entitled to cherish any illusion, even on account of the Soviet experiment's potentialities, as Malia is to his delusion with a ghost that should be exorcised from academe. His wish to institute a ritual of self-criticism suggests that he has missed a fundamental lesson of Soviet history: it is pointless and dangerous to impose views. Does he remember what this led to in the USSR?

One wonders if Malia knows the mass of Soviet sources his invectives resemble. Maybe he does and quite simply does not notice their perplexing similarity to his tirades.

Has he forgotten Marx's musing about tragedies of the past that become pitiful farces if repeated? Or is he ending up as Nietzsche's dragon-fighter who became a dragon himself?


Gábor T. Rittersporn
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Centre Marc Bloch
Schiffbauerdamm 19
10117 Berlin, Germany




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