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Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick’s most recent books include The Shortest History of the Soviet Union (2022), On Stalin’s Team: The years of living dangerously in Soviet politics (2015), and White Russians, Red Peril: A Cold War history of migration to Australia (2020). Her new book Lost Souls: Soviet Displaced Persons and the birth of the Cold War will be published in November 2024. She is a professor at Australian Catholic University.

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'The Ratline: Love, lies and justice on the trail of a Nazi fugitive' by Philippe Sands

June–July 2020, no. 422 26 May 2020
Hunting Nazis is an almost guaranteed reading pleasure – the joy of the chase, plus the moral uplift of being on the side of virtue. I started Philippe Sands’s book with a sense both of anticipation and déjà vu. A respected British international human rights lawyer with the proven ability to tell a story, Sands should be giving us a superior version of a familiar product. Many readers will r ... (read more)

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl guide to the future' by Kate Brown

October 2019, no. 415 23 September 2019
This is a very disturbing book. It’s not just the Chernobyl story, but also Kate Brown’s broader story about the worldwide but inadequately studied impact on public health of lifetime exposure to ‘chronic doses of man-made radiation from medical procedures, nuclear reactors and their accidents, and atomic bombs and their fall-out’. But let’s take Chernobyl first. Cover-up is a big part ... (read more)

Ives Westlake Debussy (Australian String Quartet)

ABR Arts 09 September 2019
Nigel Westlake’s new quartet, Sacred Sky, commissioned by the Australian String Quartet, had its première before an enthusiastic audience at Sydney’s Recital Hall on 4 September 2019. Westlake wrote it in honour of his sister, the artist Kate Westlake, who died of pancreatic cancer in January 2018. He is not the first composer to write a quartet on a sibling’s death: Felix Mendelssohn did t ... (read more)

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s wartime correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt' edited by David Reynolds and Vladimir Pechatnov

April 2019, no. 410 25 March 2019
Joseph Stalin wanted this wartime correspondence published, and one can see why: he comes off best. As the authors comment, ‘the transcript of the Big Three meetings demonstrates Stalin’s careful mastery of the issues and his superior skill as a diplomatist, regularly keeping his silence but then speaking out in a terse and timely manner at key moments’. He is the one with his eye on the bal ... (read more)

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'A Spy Named Orphan: The enigma of Donald Maclean' by Roland Philipps

October 2018, no. 405 24 September 2018
Who doesn’t like to read about the Cambridge spies? Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and Kim Philby were all students at Cambridge in the early 1930s when they were converted to communism and later recruited as Soviet spies. The Cambridge Four did decades of sterling work for the Soviets. Having risen to senior positions in the British Foreign Office (Maclean and Burgess), the British ... (read more)

Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition

ABR Arts 23 July 2018
I don’t watch the World Cup or even Wimbledon, so I may have some Australian gene missing. But by the time the string quartet winners were announced at the end of the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition last week, I had become a fan, almost a barracker. I was rooting for the Eliot Quartet, whose Beethoven Opus 132 A minor quartet in the finals was extraordinary. When they came in s ... (read more)

Sheila Fitzpatrick review 'Red Flag Unfurled: History, historians, and the Russian Revolution' by Ronald Grigor Suny

April 2018, no. 400 22 March 2018
The centenary of the Russian Revolution has just passed, leaving a rather eerie silence, as Vladimir Putin’s Russia decided not to hold any official commemoration. In the current climate of what has been called a ‘new Cold War’ with Russia, people in the West often forget that the Soviet Union and its communist regime ceased to exist in 1991. The Russia of our imagination is still a superpow ... (read more)

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Virtuosi Abroad: Soviet music and imperial competition during the early Cold War, 1945–1958' by Kiril Tomoff

November 2016, no. 386 25 October 2016
The Soviet violinist David Oistrakh made a triumphant tour of Australia in 1959, a few years after his wildly successful New York début. Along with pianist Emil Gilels and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, he was the spearhead of a campaign to show the capitalist world how cultured the Soviet Union was, and to demonstrate that their violinists and pianists were the best. American historian Kiril To ... (read more)

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Stalin's Daughter: The extraordinary and tumultuous life of Svetlana Alliluyeva' by Rosemary Sullivan

June–July 2016, no. 382 23 May 2016
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, when Svetlana was six; her father treated her affectionately until as a teenager she annoyed him by becoming interested in men. Much of Svetlana's close family disappeared in the purges of the late 1930s or after the war, leaving ... (read more)

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'Red Professor' by Peter Monteath and Valerie Munt

October 2015, no. 375 24 September 2015
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 coming back to Australia, stubbornly t ... (read more)
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