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Soviet history as black comedy

Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick will discuss the writing of her most recent book, The Shortest History of the Soviet Union, on Thursday 17 November at 6pm in the Winstanley Lecture Theatre.

This event is open to all and there is no need to book.

Professor Fitzpatrick of the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne

Sheila Fitzpatrick is a Professor at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, and Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of the University of Chicago.

Among her books are Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics (2015), Mischka’s War (2017), and White Russians, Red Peril: A Cold War History of Migration to Australia (2021) and The Shortest History of the Soviet Union (2022).

She is currently writing a book on Soviet and Baltic “displaced persons” after the Second World War, Lost Souls, to be published by Princeton University Press.

Professor Fitzpatrick writes:

As I wrote The Shortest History of the Soviet Union in 2021, I found myself drawn into the realm of black comedy. This was partly because of the constant discrepancy between plan and reality in Soviet history. ‘Accidents’ repeatedly threatened to derail the Bolshevik rulers’ view that they understood the laws of history and knew what the future held.

I ended up making surprise a centerpiece of my interpretation; and in my talk I will explore this, particularly with respect to the aftermath of Stalin’s death in 1953, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, as well as raising general questions of how historians deal with big events that confound the expectations of politicians and societies as well as those of outside observers.

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