Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, June 6, 2001

Memorial Resolution: Alexander Dallin


Alexander Dallin, the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History Emeritus at Stanford University, died on July 22, 2000 at Stanford Hospital at the age of 76. Over 200 people gathered at Memorial Church on October 11 to celebrate his life and work and to remember and honor him.

Dallin was one of the pioneers of the field of Russian and East European Studies in the United States. Before joining the Stanford faculty in 1971 and serving as Director of our Center for Russian and East European Studies, he was for many years Professor of Political Science and Director of the Russian Institute at Columbia University. Dallin chaired virtually every major committee in the field and was a long-term Board Member and President of the AAASS, the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, which he helped to reinvigorate when he brought its headquarters to Stanford in the 1980s.

Son of the prominent Menshevik scholar, David Dallin, Alex was born in Berlin on May 21, 1924. His family fled from the Nazis to France, where, even as a teenager, he became involved in anti-fascist activities. After emigrating to the United States in 1940, Alex earned his undergraduate degree from City College in New York and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia. No doubt the harrowing experiences of his youth influenced the passion for liberty and the deep humanity that infused all of his work and deeds.

Dallin's early scholarly career was marked by his participation in the Harvard Interview Project, funded by the U.S. Air Force and organized at the Russian Research Center in the late 1940s. His long and comprehensive interviews, conducted with Soviet émigrés and deserters in Europe, planted the seeds for his classic study of the occupation and resistance, German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945 (St. Martin's, 1957). The book won the Wolfson Prize for History and was republished in an enlarged and revised edition in 1981 by Westview. This volume, still widely read and admired by scholars and students in the field, combines insights gained from the interview project with meticulous research in captured German documents and Soviet memoirs.

Dallin was a prodigious scholar, who moved effortlessly and creatively between the disciplines of Political Science and History. He helped to bridge the gap between the two disciplines at Stanford, serving as an interpreter and bridge-builder and holding appointments in both departments. He was also a brilliant stylist and an inspiring speaker. Alex's ability to express himself with sparkling clarity and eloquence marked both his scholarship and his teaching. He set the highest standards for himself, yet was self-effacing and modest about his astonishing accomplishments.

Both during the Soviet period and after, Dallin was never satisfied with pat answers or convenient stereotypes about Russia or the Russians. He constantly searched behind the ostensible one-dimensionality of the Soviet monolith for movement, change, and internal conflict. By focusing on causal linkages between domestic and foreign affairs, he was able to identify nuanced shifts in Soviet policy. He looked at Soviet-American rivalry as the outcome of a dynamic relationship, one that was subject to change and amelioration from both sides. Dallin's numerous books and articles routinely broke new ground in Soviet Studies and, more recently, in the post-Soviet field.

His colleagues and friends at Stanford barely noticed his retirement. He was repeatedly "called back to duty" to teach, and he continued to write and to participate in seminars, panels, and conferences. Together with Condi Rice, he spearheaded the development of Stanford's New Democracy Program, which provides graduate funding for students from post-communist countries. He helped set up the new European University in St. Petersburg in 1994 and traveled back and forth to Russia and the Caucasus countless times, even when his health wasn't the best, in an effort to aid the revival of the social sciences in the region.

Several generations of his students and colleagues at Columbia, Stanford, and elsewhere remember with fondness and gratitude his scrupulous mentorship, his amazing erudition, and his willingness to read and comment on manuscripts. His wisdom, generosity, and irrepressible wit will be sorely missed, especially in the History Department, which was his departmental home, in the Institute of International Studies, where he worked the past several years, and in the Center for Russian and East European Studies, which owes much of its intellectual and financial vitality to the many years of his stewardship and care.

Our deepest condolences go to Alex's wife, political scientist Gail Lapidus -- senior fellow at IIS and Professor of Political Science, by courtesy -- with whom he often collaborated; to his children from a previous marriage, Linda, Natasha and Andrew; and to his four grandchildren, Nicaela, Katya, Maya and Leo.


Terence Emmons

David J. Holloway

Nancy Shields Kollmann

Norman M. Naimark