Stories of a Soviet Studier: My Experiences in Russia

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

Subject: Stories of a Soviet Studier: My Experiences in Russia
Date: Mon, 29 Aug 2016
From: Stephen D. Shenfield <>

[New Book: Stories of a Soviet Studier: My Experiences in Russia]

I recently published an e-book on Amazon Kindle entitled ‘Stories of a Soviet Studier: My Experiences in Russia’:

My summary

This is a collection of stories about personal experiences in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and then in post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s. These experiences helped me understand and appreciate Russia as a country and the Soviet system. I tell the story of my grandmother, who grew up in tsarist Russia and emigrated to England in 1925, and describe some of the relatives I discovered in Moscow. I explain how and why I entered the field of Soviet Studies by joining the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham and the special purpose of the journal Detente. I also discuss my involvement with two Soviet reformers, the late Fyodor Burlatsky and Colonel Viktor Girshfeld.

Ann Helgesson’s review

Shenfield & I were colleagues in the early 80s. I admired him then: his work, his sense of humor and most of all the way he asked really basic questions that dug to the root of the matter. As soon as I saw that this memoir was available I snapped it up and finished it in a day. Not only was I interested to know what he did after our paths diverged, but I was also eager to learn about his early activities – the years of “Statisticians against the bomb” and his Russian roots. And surprisingly, I learned more about what I was doing, or trying to do, back in the 80s at CREES (the Center for Russian and East European Studies at Birmingham University).Those years were the most intellectually stimulating of my life and never again did I find more unselfish and generously helpful colleagues, Shenfield included. He and I both suffered after CREES in the competitive academic environment outside. His book tells the reader what it was like to navigate the tides of Soviet Studies, a field that inspired intense feelings and emotions that the scholars at CREES tried valiantly to beat down in the interest of understanding how the USSR really worked. Shenfield’s stories of his many trips to the USSR and to post-Soviet Russia give a fine picture of the odd methods we sometimes had to use to figure out what was going on. While we tried to suppress our preconceptions, political or otherwise, we had to simultaneously cull information from Soviets who themselves had dual identities as loyal citizens and disgruntled individuals. For anyone studying the Russians today this book is very useful in fathoming the complicated century from which the Russians are still emerging.