Stanford University Home

Stanford News Archive

Stanford Report, July 26, 2000

Alexander Dallin dies; expert in Soviet and East European studies

Alexander Dallin, a leading scholar in the field of Soviet and East European studies, died July 22 at Stanford Hospital at age 76. Dallin, the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History, Emeritus, at Stanford University, suffered a stroke on July 21.

"Dallin had a profound and beneficial influence on the field of Soviet and East European studies," said David Holloway, the current Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History. "For him, the study of the Soviet Union was not a question of confirming an already held point of view, but rather a matter of seeking to understand a complex and changing reality."

The son of the famous Menshevik activist and scholar David Dallin, Alex Dallin was born in Berlin on May 21, 1924. The family fled from the Nazis to France, and then made their way to the United States.

He earned a bachelor's degree in social science from City College of New York in 1947 and master's and doctoral degrees in history from Columbia University in 1948 and 1953.

credit: Stanford News Service

Dallin began his career by working after World War II on the Harvard Interview Project, which used the testimony of refugees and emigres from the Soviet Union to study the functioning of the Soviet system. He taught at Harvard, Columbia and the University of California-Berkeley before joining the faculty at Stanford in 1971.

Holloway described Dallin as "the model scholar-organizer," who applied his immense energy for the benefit of the broader community of specialists in the field. Dallin served as director of the Russian Institute at Columbia and, later, of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at Stanford.

For several decades he was a member of virtually every important committee in the field, his colleagues recall, and in 1984-85 he served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Dallin devoted his energy to the revival of the social sciences in the former communist world. He helped to establish the new European University in St. Petersburg and ran the New Democracy Fellows Program, which brought students from the post-communist states to Stanford to do graduate work in the social sciences.

Dallin's classic study, German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945, which was published in 1957 (and republished in 1981) won the Wolfson Prize for History. According to Holloway, Dallin demonstrated how a gifted mind and a talented pen could turn painstaking research in captured German archives into a fascinating and moving story of occupation and resistance.

"Dallin's scholarship had the unusual quality of being deeply researched and carefully formulated while also lively and full of ideas. These qualities are evident in the stream of books and articles he produced for over 50 years.

"The disciplines of history and political science mix easily in his writings, while domestic politics and foreign policy are always presented in their interconnection, and not as isolated spheres of activity. He trained generations of students, providing them with encouragement and mentorship, and gaining in the process many firm friends."

Among his later works were Black Box (1985), about the Soviet shootdown of Korea Air Lines Flight 007, and The Gorbachev Era (1986), coedited with Condoleezza Rice. His last book, coedited with the Russian scholar F. I. Firsov, was Dimitrov and Stalin 1934-1943: Letters from the Soviet Archives, which was published by Yale University Press earlier this year.

Dallin is survived by his wife, political scientist Gail Lapidus, with whom he frequently collaborated; by three children from a previous marriage, Linda, Natasha and Andrew; and by four grandchildren, Nicaela, Katya, Maya and Leo. A memorial service will be held after the beginning of the academic year. SR