Soviet Historian Says Yale `Blackballed' Him: Case Raises Furor over `Revisionism'

By McCain, Robert Stacy | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 15, 1998 | Go to article overview

Soviet Historian Says Yale `Blackballed' Him: Case Raises Furor over `Revisionism'


McCain, Robert Stacy, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A leading historian of Soviet atrocities contends that Yale University Press "blackballed" him as an editor of a planned series of works on communism for what his U.S. critics called the "excessively `anti-Bolshevik' tone" of his work.

Vladimir Brovkin, a researcher and author of three books on the history of the Soviet Union, proposed that a series of books on the Soviet gulag prison camp system would "explain how and why a monstrous system of mass terror came into being."

But in August, Yale University Press rejected the proposal when members of an advisory committee charged that Mr. Brovkin's anti-Communist viewpoint would "threaten the scholarly reputation of the entire project."

Yale's rejection was not the first such experience for Mr. Brovkin, who was an associate professor of history at Harvard University from 1990 until last year.

"I've been told this was one of the reasons they denied tenure to me at Harvard," Mr. Brovkin, now in a temporary teaching position at American University, said of his research into Bolshevik atrocities under Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin. "It's politically incorrect, they told me."

Jonathan Brent, executive editor of Yale University Press, scoffs at Mr. Brovkin's claims.

"This is a tempest in a teapot as far as Yale University Press is concerned," Mr. Brent said. He notes that Yale University Press just last year published Mr. Brovkin's most recent book, "Bolsheviks in Russian Society."

Mr. Brovkin's proposal "was put through the standard procedure for scholarly publications." The proposal, he said, was submitted to the advisory committee - whose criticisms have been kept anonymous - and of seven responses, "five were quite negative."

Describing Mr. Brovkin's claims as "complete nonsense," Mr. Brent said he required "somebody with standing in the profession" to edit the Soviet gulag series, and the committee's criticisms "made me feel [Mr. Brovkin] lacked credibility."

One committee critic of Mr. Brovkin's proposal argued that Soviet prisoners were sent to the gulag "in accordance with the laws of the land."

Mr. Brovkin, who spent six months out of work last year after he says "they threw me out of Harvard," has been outspoken in criticizing leaders of the pro-Soviet "revisionist" school of Russian history who now "dominate" the field in U.S. universities, according to Richard Pipes, Harvard professor emeritus and author of "The Unknown Lenin."

Revisionists "monopolize jobs to a very large extent and make it very hard for anyone who holds a different point of view to get a job. [Mr. Brovkin] is a very good example," Mr. Pipes said.

"They claim that he's too passionately anti-Communist and demonizes the Soviet regime," Mr.

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Soviet Historian Says Yale `Blackballed' Him: Case Raises Furor over `Revisionism'
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