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  • To the Editors
  • Benjamin Nathans

My thanks to Jonathan Daly for an intriguing glimpse into the lives, works, and mutual relations of Leopold Haimson, Martin Malia, Richard Pipes, Marc Raeff, and Nicholas Riasanovsky.1 Daly notes (797) that, after spending the academic year 1962–63 in the Soviet Union, Malia was denounced in the Soviet press for showing excessive interest in "the locations of corrective labor camps" and the "attitude of the creative intelligentsia." What the Soviet press did not say was that Malia had also served as a conduit between the émigré Gleb Struve, son of Petr Struve and at the time Malia's colleague at Berkeley, and Iulian Oksman—like Struve a literary scholar, and unlike him a survivor of the Gulag. According to a 1965 KGB memorandum, Malia had brought Oksman tamizdat works by Abram Terts and Nikolai Arzhak, who would soon be famously revealed—and sent to the Gulag—as the Soviet writers Andrei Siniavskii and Iulii Daniel´.2

Daly writes that another of Malia's Berkeley colleagues, the labor historian Reginald Zelnik, "tried to keep his graduate students away from Malia's 'corrupting' influences" (797). I was one of Zelnik's graduate students, and I took courses with both him and Malia (and Riasanovsky) in the late 1980s. It was no secret that Malia and Zelnik were far apart politically, but it is simply untrue that Zelnik tried to keep his graduate students away from Malia (a charge Daly repeats on 816)—on the contrary. I have contacted half a dozen former Berkeley history graduate students from the 1970s and 1980s, and none of them corroborated Daly's claim. In fact, when I took Zelnik's seminar on Soviet history, he assigned Malia's book Comprendre la Révolution russe.3 [End Page 682] Those of us who knew Reggie Zelnik know that he didn't simply preach the values of tolerance and pluralism—he practiced them.

Dept. of History
University of Pennsylvania
208 College Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6379 USA

Jonathan Daly responds:

I am grateful to Benjamin Nathans for making public Martin Malia's hitherto-secret role as an intrepid and active ally of Soviet dissidents. This is not surprising, because the highlights of his research year in the USSR were meetings with intellectuals and cultural elites, like Boris Pasternak, Kornei Chukovskii, and Anna Akhmatova.

As for Nathans's second point, graduate students are not always privy to their mentors' inmost thoughts and intentions. Moreover, the work of Malia that Zelnik objected to most was surely not Comprendre la Révolution russe, which interprets the Russian Revolution as a "grande revolution" in the European tradition, but rather The Soviet Tragedy, which condemns the regime that emerged from the revolution as an unmitigated disaster for Russia and the world, a disaster caused above all by the Bolsheviks' strict adherence to Marxist principles.4 It is hard to believe now, decades after the collapse of the USSR, the extent to which many Russian historians in the English-speaking world execrated Malia for this intellectual position, yet we do a disservice to our profession and to historical memory to forget. [End Page 683]

Benjamin Nathans
Dept. of History
University of Illinois at Chicago
601 S. Morgan St., M/C 198
913 University Hall
Chicago, IL 60607 USA


1. Jonathan Daly, "The Pleiade: Five Scholars Who Founded Russian Historical Studies in the United States," Kritika 18, 4 (2017): 785–826.

2. Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv noveishei istorii (RGANI) f. 5, op. 33, d. 218, rolik 4821,l. 152.

3. Martin Malia, Comprendre la Révolution russe (Paris: Seuil, 1980).

4. Malia, Comprendre la Révolution russe; Martin Malia, The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia (New York: Free Press, 1994).



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