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  • To the Editors
  • Catriona Kelly

I was grateful for Steven A. Grant's thoughtful and detailed review of my book Children's World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890–1991 but would like to correct an important inaccuracy.1 Dr. Grant asserts: "Kelly in fact employed a small army of assistants to help her. This is scholarship as enterprise, along the lines of other British academics like Orlando Figes. … It seems unlikely that any source escaped examination by one or other of the persons engaged in this formidable enterprise" (731–32). I am not sure where Dr. Grant got the idea that I employed an "army" of research assistants, small or otherwise, and didn't bother to look at the sources myself. The Leverhulme grant that sponsored research on the book paid for one postdoctoral fellow, not several or even one "assistants." The two postdoctoral fellows attached to the project at different times, Polly Jones and Andy Byford, did collect some materials (Polly did some work in GARF and in Ekaterinburg, and searched through Pravda from the 1950s and 1960s, while Andy xeroxed items from certain journals, e.g. Nedelia, Ogonek, and Teatr). However, they were mainly engaged in researching their own topics and in helping with the conferences organized as part of the project. The main assistance that I received other than this was from a number of young Russian scholars, who carried out interviews in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Perm′, and two village sites. In addition, two researchers at the European University, St. Petersburg, Alexandra Piir and Elena Liarskaya, collected a number of documents at the Central State Archive (TsGA) in St. Petersburg. All the other work—in around a dozen archives in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Ekaterinburg, as well as in libraries in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Oxford, Helsinki, and London and in some 40 interviews—was carried out by me. All of this is made clear in the acknowledgments of the book, and I would emphasize how grateful I am to those who helped me. But if, as Dr. Grant remarks, "the result is not, however, a typical production by committee. The sure hand of the author is everywhere visible" (732), then that's because the book wasn't produced by [End Page 212] committee in the first place. Quite a lot of the documentation has now appeared in the anthology Gorodok v tabakerke: Vzroslye o detiakh i deti o sebe. Detstvo v Rossii ot Nikolaia II do Borisa El′tsina, which contains material mostly collected by the two editors, Vitaly Bezrogov and myself.2

In a recent issue, Kritika raised serious doubts about the "potential pitfalls" of research involving large "teams."3 The editorial also listed other anxieties—"employment of native researchers, an apparent inability to speak or conduct high-level research with original documents in the relevant foreign languages, and a confusing if not untraceable system for citing sources." Such practices were associated with the production of historical potboilers (cf. the title, "Marketing Russian History"), suggesting that collaboration with Russian colleagues on a paid basis invariably amounts to commercial exploitation. The primary examples of how not to carry out scholarship were, to use Dr. Grant's words, "British academics"—as though U.S., Russian, German, French, and other scholars in Russian Studies never used research assistants. If this represents the start of a campaign (Kritika as samokritika?), then it is very odd for a journal whose policies and practices have hitherto been admirably internationalist. The questions of how much work can be done by assistants or collaborators before a book can no longer properly be described as a single-author monograph, and of adequate acknowledgment to those who have done the lion's share of actual research, are extremely important. But serious discussion of them is not helped by contributions that misrepresent how a study has actually been put together or suggest that these issues apply only to certain national academic traditions. [End Page 213]

Catriona Kelly
University of Oxford
New College
Oxford OX1 3BN
United Kingdom
catriona.kelly@new.ox.ac.uk

Footnotes

1. Catriona Kelly, Children's World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890–1991 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), reviewed by Steven A...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-5000
Print ISSN
1531-023x
Pages
pp. 212-213
Launched on MUSE
2010-01-30
Open Access
No
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