The Importance of Richard Pipes

    Jacob Heilbrunn

    Politics, Europe

    Russian military planes fly above Saint Basil's Cathedral during the Victory Day parade in Moscow's Red Square

    Richard Pipes, who died on Thursday, devoted his life to studying Russian history and warning about the Soviet threat.

    Richard Pipes, who died on Thursday, devoted his life to studying Russian history and warning about the Soviet threat. A staunch cold warrior and the director of Eastern European and Soviet Affairs on the national security council during the Reagan administration from 1981–83, Pipes had fled Nazi-occupied Poland with his parents and arrived in the United States in July 1940. He spent his entire career at Harvard, where he published many books on Russia and the Soviet Union. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal stated, “Richard Pipes was a thinking man’s realist on the world’s affairs. His habits of mind and argument will be missed.”

    Central to Pipes’ mission was his stalwart opposition to totalitarianism, a term that came into bad odor in the 1970s as a new generation of scholars, influenced by the Vietnam War, began to paint the United States, not the Soviet Union, as the aggressor in the cold war. Indeed, revisionist historians, as they were known, sought to exempt Lenin and, by extension, the Bolshevik revolution from responsibility for Stalinism by arguing that the horrors of the 1930s were a quirk of Stalin’s temperament or they tried to play down the horrors of the Stalin era itself.

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