J. Arch Getty


J. Arch Getty

John Arch Getty (born in 1950) is an American historian and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is noted for his research on Russian and Soviet history, especially the period under Joseph Stalin and the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Life and career

Getty was born in Louisiana but grew up in Oklahoma. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 and his Ph.D. from Boston College in 1979. Getty was a professor at the University of California, Riverside before moving to UCLA.

Research and ideas

Getty became notable as a member of the Revisionist school, as articulated in his "Origin of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938" (Cambridge 1985).

It is generally accepted by Western and modern Russian historians that Joseph Stalin was personally responsible for the Great Terror campaign, during which at least 724,000 people were executed by extrajudicial punishment organs, such as NKVD troikas. However, according to Getty, the Great Terror resulted from "anti-bureaucratic impulse" of Andrei Zhdanov and search for enemies by Nikolai Ezhov, perhaps contrary to Stalin's agenda . According to Getty, there is no evidence that Stalin ordered the assassination of Sergey Kirov, contrary to commonly accepted views. This led some scholars to conclude that "Getty glossed over one of the darkest and most tragic episodes in Soviet history" G.L. Freeze. "Russia. A History." Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-19-860511-0, pages 312-313. ]

Arch Getty also questioned the number of repression victims in Communist countries, as estimated in The Black Book of Communism. He noted that famine accounted for more than half of Courtois's 100 million death toll. [J Arch Getty, The Atlantic Monthly, Boston: Mar 2000. Vol.285, Iss. 3; pg. 113, 4 pgs ]

Are deaths from a famine caused by the stupidity and incompetence of the regime (such deaths account for more than half of Courtois's 100 million) to be equated with the deliberate gassing of Jews? Courtois's arithmetic is too simple. A huge number of the fatalities attributed here to Communist regimes fall into a kind of catchall category called "excess deaths": premature demises, over and above the expected mortality rate of the population, that resulted directly or indirectly from government policy. Those executed, exiled to Siberia, or forced into gulag camps where nutrition and living conditions were poor could fall into this category. But so could many others, and "excess deaths" are not the same as intentional deaths....It would be more polemical than accurate to equate famine deaths, victims of police terror, and deaths in Nazi gas chambers with the plight of Russians unable to buy food and health care today. One could place many of the century's deaths in any of several categories, according to the political point one wanted to make. Should we blame premature deaths in Russia today on the legacy of communism or on the failed policies of reformers? For how many deaths under Stalin should we blame communism? Stalin's personal paranoia? Backwardness or ignorance? We might do better to try to understand these grisly statistics in their contexts, rather than positing large polemical categories and then filling them up with bodies. Good history is about balanced interpretation and is usually more complicated than categorisation or blame.

Books:

*John Arch Getty and Roberta Thompson Manning. "Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives", (ed., with Roberta T. Manning), New York, Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-521-44670-8
*J. Arch Getty, Oleg V. Naumov. "The Central Party Archive: A Research Guide", Univ Pittsburgh Center for Russian. 1993. ISBN 9-994-48686-1
*John Archibald Getty "Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938", New York, Cambridge University Press, 1985. Ninth printing, 1996. ISBN 0-521-33570-1
*J. Arch Getty, Oleg V. Naumov, Benjamin Sher, and Oleg, V. Naumov. "The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939", (with Oleg V. Naumov), Yale University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-300-09403-5
*"Stalin's "Iron Fist:" The Times and Life of N. I. Yezhov", Yale University Press, forthcoming 2008. ISBN 0-300-09205-9

Articles:

*"Stalin as Prime Minister: Power and the Politburo," in Sarah Davies and James Harris, "Stalin: A New History", Cambridge University Press, 2005, 83-107.
*"'Excesses are not permitted:' Mass Terror Operations in the Late 1930s and Stalinist Governance," "The Russian Review", 16:1, Jan. 2002, 112-137.
*"Mr. Ezhov Goes to Moscow: The Rise of a Stalinist Police Chief," in William Husband, ed., "The Human Tradition in Modern Russia", New York, 2000, 157-174.
*"Samokritika Rituals in the Stalinist Central Committee, 1933-1938," "The Russian Review", 58:1, January, 1999, 49-70.
*"Afraid of Their Shadows: The Bolshevik Recourse to Terror, 1932-1938," in "Stalinismus vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Neue Wege der Forschung", ed. Manfred Hildermeier and Elisabeth Mueller-Luckner, Munich, 1998.
*"Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Prewar Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence," (with Gаbor T. Rittersporn, and V. N. Zemskov), "American Historical Review", 98:4, Oct. 1993

Notes

External links

* [http://www.history.ucla.edu/getty/ Official webpage] at the University of California, Los Angeles


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