In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Perils of Pankratova: Some Stories from the Annals of Soviet Historiography
  • Steve Smith
Reginald E. Zelnik , Perils of Pankratova: Some Stories from the Annals of Soviet Historiography. Contributions by Laura Engelstein, David A. Hollinger, Benjamin Nathans, Yuri Slezkine, and Glennys Young . xiv + 137 pp. Published by the Herbert J. Ellison Center for Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies, University of Washington. Distribution Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005. ISBN 0295985208 (paper). $12.95.

For decades the four-volume documentary collection Rabochee dvizhenie v Rossii v XIX veke (The Worker's Movement in 19th-Century Russia [Moscow, 1950–55]) sat on Reginald Zelnik's desk in Berkeley. It is typical of the man that his curiosity about its editor, Anna Mikhailovna Pankratova (1897–1957), should have been piqued. Many scholars would barely have registered the name of the editor of such a collection, still less have felt interest in his or her life and personality. It is to the credit of Reggie, who is so sorely missed by colleagues around the world since his untimely death in 2004, that this, his posthumous and incomplete work, was inspired by a desire to learn more about the "troubled yet in its own way creative life" of the woman whose name leapt daily across his desk or out of his footnotes. Pankratova was far more than the general editor of major Soviet collections of documentary material, although she did much work of that nature: she was also the foremost historian of Russian labor in the Stalin era. She grew up in a poor working-class family in Odessa, losing her father when she was 9 years old and starting work at the age of 14. During the Civil War, she threw herself into defending the revolution, working in the underground in Odessa, initially as a member of the Socialist Revolutionary (SR) Party. From the first, scholarship and political commitment were inseparable for her. With Soviet power secure, she embarked on professional training as a historian at the Institute of Red Professors, from which she graduated in 1925. Thanks to the patronage of M. N. Pokrovskii, who headed the institute's history faculty, she rapidly established herself as a scholar and an academic bureaucrat. Few careers proceeded smoothly under Stalin, and Pankratova's was no exception. Despite several close scrapes in which her ideological rectitude was challenged, she remained a touchstone of loyalty to the Stalinist regime. It was only after the death of Stalin, however, that her career took off. Having become a member of the Central Committee in 1952, under Khrushchev she was granted the Order of Lenin and full membership in the Academy of Sciences. The years [End Page 885] of the "Thaw" were her most creative period: as editor-in-chief of Voprosy istorii from May 1953, she piloted that journal in an anti-Stalinist direction, meeting resistance that eventually in 1957 forced her to retire because of ill health. She died that year, barely 60 years of age.

As Yuri Slezkine notes in his brilliant overview of Reggie's scholarly work, Pankratova worked on "many of the themes and subjects that preoccupied him throughout his life" (3). The radical difference between them, of course, lay in the utterly different historical conditions in which they worked: she in a climate of severe political repression and ideological dogmatism; he in the free-wheeling academy of the West Coast. It is this difference in circumstances that apparently spurred Reggie's historical curiosity. Many—I include myself—might dismiss Pankratova as basically a Stalinist hack. But to rush to judgment in this way was contrary to Reggie's temperament, allergic as he was to knee-jerk reaction, simplistic analysis, or conventional wisdom. It is a tribute to his enormous gifts as a historian, as well as to his profound humanity, that in this little book he shows not only how unfair but also how unhistorical such instant dismissal is. Certainly, as he concedes, evidence for her "opportunism, her partiinost´, her sacrifice of scholarly for organizational achievement, her naïveté about breakthroughs in the old ways of the Party" can easily be found. Yet with insight and empathy, he seeks to show...