Nicholas V. Riasanovsky Dies at 87; Set Standard for Russian HistoryHistorians in the News
Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, a Russian émigré who came to the United States at 14, served in the Army during World War II and became one of the country’s leading scholars of Russian history, writing a college textbook that served as the American standard for teaching Russian history during the cold war, died on May 14 in Oakland, Calif. He was 87.
His family said he died in a nursing home after a two-year illness.
Professor Riasanovsky taught Russian and European intellectual history at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1957 until his retirement in 1997. He specialized in the reign of Emperor Nicholas I (1825 to 1855), a period he examined from different perspectives in a half-dozen books focusing on the monarchy itself, the emergence of state-sponsored nationalism and the alienation of Russia’s intellectual elite. His writing was known for its scrupulous examination of perceptions and misperceptions on all sides in unfolding events.
But when Professor Riasanovsky decided to write a textbook for undergraduates in the early 1960s, he was motivated at least in part by concern with the perceptions that Americans had about Russia, said Mark Steinberg, a professor of Russian history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a former Riasanovsky student....
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