Russian history authority Nicholas V. Riasanovsky dies at 87

Historians in the News

Nicholas Valentine Riasanovsky, an emeritus professor of European history at the University of California, Berkeley, and a leading authority on the history of Russia, died May 14 in an Oakland, Calif., nursing home following a long illness. He was 87.

Riasanovsky’s “A History of Russia,” an English-language textbook for undergraduates, remains the bestselling survey of Russian history and covers every period of Russian and Soviet history from the Kievan state to Vladimir Putin. The first edition was published in 1963 and the eighth edition in 2010. It has been translated into French, Italian, Korean, Polish, Mandarin and Rumanian.

“For almost 50 years, most Americans who studied Russian history studied it by reading ‘A History of Russia,’” said Yuri Slezkine, professor of history at UC Berkeley and director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies.He was a giant in the field of 19th-century intellectual history, but there was nothing about Russian history that he did not know or was not interested in.”

Mark Steinberg, a former Riasanovsky student and a professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, worked with Riasanovsky on the last two editions of “A History of Russia.”  He said Riasanovsky’s efforts creating and revising the text reflected his dedication to teaching as an essential part of scholarship. He also praised Riasanovsky’s “careful attention to documentable facts, balance and fairness, recognition of diverse points of view, and an inclusive view of history that attends not only to the actions of rulers but also to social life, the economy, ideologies, culture and the arts.”...

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