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Professor of History
Modern Germany, Russia
When I entered the University of Chicago at the age of 15 (that was not in itself remarkable at the U of C), I became the mascot of what was left of the Communist Party in Chicago. That meant that in addition to the general education BA offered by Chicago (the equivalent of nothing but distribution requirements at Tufts) in which virtually everything started with Plato and Aristotle, I was also immersed in the great thinkers of the Second and Third Internationals. Graduating after three years (again, the norm), I spent a year in the Graduate Social Science program doing history. I was going through too much Sturm and not enough Drang, so I dropped graduate work and tried to find paying work in advertising or finances. Nobody would hire me, and I was drafted into the army. After two years of debasement, degradation and humiliation I did not want to return to the United States. Nor did I have to, thanks to the G.I. Bill, and I went to Oxford instead. I told them I wanted to do Russian history, and when I was quite reasonably asked if I could read Russian, and had to reply "No", it was suggested that I had better learn it. So I spent three years doing Russian language and literature studies. Now I was properly ready for graduate work.
I think I was accepted to Harvard because the head honcho of Russian matters there liked the literary component I had acquired. I spent a year in Moscow on the Soviet-US student exchange, and after my return (and a sort of invitation to apply to the CIA) my mentors suggested, to my surprise, that it was time for me to go and teach. It had not really occurred to me that that was the point of the enterprise. In those wicked old days it was arranged for me to go to the University of California, Davis. When I had not quite finished my dissertation, they canned me. Then I looked around, thought it would be nice to return to New England, finished the dissertation, wrote a letter to the History Department here (like everybody at Harvard I thought the world ended at Porter Square, and all I knew of Tufts was that it had a dental school), and arrived at Tufts the day after the Warsaw Pact snuffed out the Prague Spring by invading Czechoslovakia and kidnapping its leaders. And one of the first things I saw was a poster of the Tufts SDS announcing "We ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more", and I felt I was going to have fun at Tufts.
And so, for the most part, I have. My bread-and-butter has been Russian and, sometimes German, survey courses, interspersed with wild cards like comparative revolutionary studies, terrorism, 1968, Marxism. Yes, I still have some of my mascot tendencies, though rather aged to the point of senility. The main intellectual problem that has concerned me, and always will, is how did the emancipatory impulse of 1917 become the Stalinist system of the USSR?
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