Sheila Fitzpatrick

Nobody would have expected an ordinary life for Stalin's only daughter, but Svetlana's life was extraordinary beyond any expectations. Her mother killed herself in 1932 ...

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I first encountered Sheila Fitzpatrick's work in the mid-1990s. The 1986–87 controversy in The Russian Review about how to write a social history of Stalinism was taught as a milestone in the historiography of my field. Instinctively, I took sides against my professors and with Fitzpatrick's call to remove the state from the centre of analysis, a methodol ...

I vaguely knew about Fred Rose as somebody ASIO was after in the 1950s, a communist blackened in the Petrov case who went off to live in the German Democratic Republic. During the Cold War, that kind of boundary crossing was usually definitive. If you went over the wall, you stayed over.

Not Fred Rose. He went over the wall to the GDR, but after that he kept ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Reconstructing Lenin' by Tamás Krausz

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Who cares any more about Lenin? Time was, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870–1924) was revered, at least in some quarters, as the founding father of the Soviet Union, head of the first revolutionary state, pioneer in building socialism to end capitalist exploitation and create a better world. In the Soviet Union, Stalin overshadowed him for a few decades, while claiming ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Bloodhound' by Ramona Koval

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Monday, 27 April 2015

This engaging but disturbing memoir describes Ramona Koval’s obsessive attempts to find herself another father than the one who had brought her up, the ‘Dad’ who was married to ‘Mama’. Dad and Mama, along with most of their circle in 1950s Melbourne, were Jewish immigrants from Poland, among the tens of thousands who came to Australia as displaced persons ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Red Apple' by Phillip Deery

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Friday, 31 October 2014

This book is about a moral panic resulting in the deployment of huge police and bureaucratic resources to ruin the lives of some unlucky individuals who were, or seemed to be, Communist Party members or sympathisers. None of Deery’s cases seems to have been doing anything that posed an actual threat to the US government or population; that, at least, is how it loo ...

2017 Calibre Essay Prize Judges

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

sheila fitzpatrickSheila Fitzpatrick, a professor at the University of Sydney specialising in the history of modern Russia, is one of the world’s most influential Soviet historians. She is the author of two memoirs, My Father’s Daughter (2010) and A Spy ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'A Spy among Friends'

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Monday, 25 August 2014

Harold Adrian Russell (Kim) Philby was the Third Man of the notorious Cambridge spy network set up in the 1930s and partially unmasked in the early 1950s, when Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to Moscow. He had been in British intelligence (MI6) since the beginning of the war, but had been working for Soviet intelligence for some years before that. A high-flyer, ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews Biff Ward's 'In My Mother's Hands'

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Tuesday, 22 July 2014

For anyone who has ever complained about a difficult mother, or written a memoir about one, this is a humbling book. How trivial, by comparison, our complaints seem. The subtitle promises (or threatens) a disturbing memoir, and so it is. I found it difficult to get out of my head days after reading it.

Biff (born Elizabeth in 1942) Ward was the second child ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick on history vs memoir

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Tuesday, 27 May 2014

In Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Sandcastle (1957), a young artist called Rain Carter is commissioned to paint a retired schoolmaster, Demoyte, an eccentric with an offbeat sense of humour. Instead of his usual attire – a shabby red velvet jacket with tobacco stains and bow tie – Demoyte turns up ...

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