The most respected academic authority on the Russian Revolution, 20thcentury communism, and the Cold War has died. He was Richard Pipes, longtime professor of Russian history at Harvard, and a remarkable man.
Where to start with an adequate tribute to Professor Pipes? I’ll start with some biographical observations and then finish with personal reflections.
Richard Pipes was born in Poland on July 11, 1923. As a 16-year-old Jew at the time of Hitler’s invasion, Pipes mercifully escaped, thanks to a clever and shrewd father. He credited not only his father but also Providential intervention. That experience, and those that followed, taught Pipes several life lessons. In his memoir, Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger, he wrote: “The main effect of the Holocaust on my psyche was to make me delight in every day of life that has been granted to me, for I was saved from certain death.” Pipes observed: “I felt and feel to this day that I have been spared not to waste my life on self-indulgence or self-aggrandizement but to spread a moral message by showing, using examples from history, how evil ideas lead to evil consequences. Since scholars have written enough on the Holocaust, I thought it my mission to demonstrate this truth using the example of communism.”
Pipes would do exactly that.
Pipes earned a doctorate in history at Harvard in 1950. He spent the next 50-plus years there, as professor of Russian history, director of the Russian Research Center, and principal investigator of the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies. He was well-received at Harvard, with full classrooms, even as one of its few outspoken conservatives. In 1996, he retired, though his association with Harvard continued under emeritus status. Among his most important publications were Russia Under the Old Regime (1974), The Russian Revolution (1990), Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime (1994), The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive (1996), and Communism: A History (2001). The latter is a concise go-to book for understanding communism in theory, practice, and history.
But among Pipes’ greatest contributions were outside the classroom, as he helped win the Cold War at a practical-policy level. To that end, he joined President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council in 1981, where he was the NSC’s senior Kremlinologist.
He did great work for Reagan, which means he was loathed by the Kremlin.
Read more at American Spectator.