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Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Sheila Fitzpatrick.JPG
Born (1941-06-04) 4 June 1941 (age 78)
Melbourne, Australia
OccupationHistorian, Academic
United States
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
St Antony's College, Oxford
London School of Slavonic and East European Studies
SubjectSoviet Union
Literary movementHistorical revisionism
Notable awardsMellon Foundation Award
RelativesBrian Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick (born June 4, 1941) is an Australian historian. She is a Professor at the University of Sydney with her primary speciality being the history of modern Russia. Prior to this she taught Soviet History at the University of Chicago.


Sheila Fitzpatrick attended the University of Melbourne (BA, 1961) and received her doctorate from St Antony's College, Oxford (1969) with a thesis entitled The Commissariat of Education under Lunacharsky (1917-1921). She was a Research Fellow at the London School of Slavonic and East European Studies, 1969–72.[1]

Fitzpatrick is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Australian Academy of the Humanities. She is a past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. In 2002, she received an award from the Mellon Foundation for her academic work. From September 1996 to December 2006, Fitzpatrick was co-editor of The Journal of Modern History with John W. Boyer and Jan E. Goldstein.

Sheila Fitzpatrick spent 50 years living outside Australia. This included periods in the UK, the cold war era Soviet Union and finally 20 years in the USA. Fitzpatrick moved back to Australia in 2012.

Fitzpatrick is the daughter of Australian author Brian Fitzpatrick. She won the 2012 Magarey Medal for her memoir, My Father’s Daughter: Memories of an Australian Childhood.[2] In addition to her research, she plays the violin in orchestras and chamber music groups.


Fitzpatrick's research focuses on the social and cultural history of the Stalinist period, particularly on aspects of social identity and daily life. She is currently concentrating on the social and cultural changes in Soviet Russia of the 1950s and 1960s.

In her early work, Sheila Fitzpatrick focused on the theme of social mobility, suggesting that the opportunity for the working class to rise socially and as a new elite had been instrumental in legitimizing the regime during the Stalinist period.[3] Despite its brutality, Stalinism as a political culture would have achieved the goals of a democratic revolution. The center of attention was always focused on the victims of the purges rather than its beneficiaries, noted the historian. Yet as a consequence of the "Great Purge", thousands of workers and communists who had access to the technical colleges during the first five-year plan received promotions to positions in industry, government and the leadership of the Communist Party.

According to Fitzpatrick, the "cultural revolution" of the late 1920 and the purges which shook the scientific, literary, artistic and the industrial communities is explained in part by a class struggle against executives and intellectual bourgeois.[4] The men who rose in the 1930s played an active role to get rid of former leaders who blocked their own promotion, and the "Great Turn" found its origins in initiatives from the bottom rather than the decisions of the summit. In this vision, Stalinist policy based on social forces and offered a response to popular radicalism, which allowed the existence of a partial consensus between the regime and society in the 1930s.

Historiographic debates

Fitzpatrick was the leader of the second generation of "revisionist historians". She was the first to call the group of historians working on Soviet History in the 1980s "a new cohort of [revisionist] historians".[5]

Fitzpatrick called for a social history that did not address political issues, in other words that adhered strictly to a "from below" viewpoint. This was justified by the idea that the university had been strongly conditioned to see everything through the prism of the state: "the social processes unrelated to the intervention of the state is virtually absent from the literature."[6] Fitzpatrick did not deny that the state's role in social change of the 1930s was huge. However, she defended the practice of social history "without politics". Most young "revisionists" did not want to separate the social history of the USSR from the evolution of the political system.

Fitzpatrick explained in the 1980s, when the "totalitarian model" was still widely used, "it was very useful to show that the model had an inherent bias and it did not explain everything about Soviet society. Now, whereas a new generation of academics considers sometimes as self evident that the totalitarian model was completely erroneous and harmful, it is perhaps more useful to show than there were certain things about the Soviet company that it explained very well."[7]



  • The Commissariat of Enlightenment: Soviet organization of education and the arts under Lunacharsky, 1917–1921. Cambridge University Press. 1970.
  • (ed.) Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928–1931. Indiana University Press, 1978.
  • Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union, 1921–1932. Cambridge University Press, 1979.
  • The Russian Revolution. Oxford University Press, 1st ed., 1982/3; 2nd revised ed. 1994; 3rd revised ed. 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-923767-8
  • (ed with Alexander Rabinowitch) Russia in the Era of NEP: Explorations in Soviet Society and Culture. Indiana University Press, 1991
  • The Cultural Front. Power and Culture in Revolutionary Russia. Cornell University Press, 1992.
  • Stalin's Peasants: Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village after Collectivization. Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • (ed. with Robert Gellately). Accusatory Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789–1989. University of Chicago Press, 1997.
  • Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-505001-0
  • (ed. with Yuri Slezkine). In the Shadow of Revolution: Life Stories of Russian Women from 1917 to the Second World War. Princeton, 2000.
  • (ed.) Stalinism: New Directions. Routledge, 2000.
  • Tear off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia. Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Political Tourists: Travellers from Australia to the Soviet Union in the 1920s–1940s. Eds. Sheila Fitzpatrick and Carolyn Rasmussen. Melbourne University Press, 2008. ISBN 0-522-85530-X
  • My Father's Daughter. Melbourne University Publishing. 2010. ISBN 9780522857474. OCLC 506020660.
  • A Spy in the Archives. Melbourne University Press, 2013.
  • On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics. Princeton University Press, 2015.


  • "Ascribing Class: The Construction of Social Identity in Soviet Russia," The Journal of Modern History 65:4 (1993)
  • "Vengeance and Ressentiment in the Russian Revolution," French Historical Studies 24:4 (2001)
  • “Politics as Practice: Thoughts on a New Soviet Political History,” Kritika 5:1 (2004)
  • “Happiness and Toska: A Study of Emotions in 1930s Russia,” Australian Journal of Politics and History 50:3 (2004)
  • “Social Parasites: How Tramps, Idle Youth, and Busy Entrepreneurs Impeded the Soviet March to Communism,” Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique 47:1–2 (2006).
  • “The Soviet Union in the 21st Century,” Journal of European Studies* 37:1 (2007)
  • "A Spy in the Archives." London Review of Books [Online] vol. 32 no. 23 pp. 3–8. (2010)
  • "Which Face?" (review of Benjamin Tromly, Cold War Exiles and the CIA: Plotting to Free Russia, Oxford, 2019, 329 pp., 978 0 19 884040 4; and Peter Reddaway, The Dissidents: A Memoir of Working with the Resistance in Russia, 1960–90, Brookings, 2020, 337 pp., 978 0 8157 3773 5), London Review of Books, vol. 42, no. 3 (6 February 2020), pp. 7–9. Sheila Fitzpatrick writes: "With the end of [World War II], Vlasovites, NTS and other military collaborators [with Nazi Germany] scrambled to shed their German connections and establish relations with the Allies. Their chief facilitator was Reinhard Gehlen, the wartime head of an agency of the German Army that collected intelligence on the Soviet Union..." (p. 7.) Fitzpatrick comments (p. 9) about Reddaway's book: "Perhaps Soviet dissent was always less remarkable as an actual political movement in the domestic [Soviet] context than for the magnified reflection it gained in international media. As a focus of moral outrage outside the Soviet Union, a trump card in the Cold War, a milestone in the development of the human rights movement, it can be seen as a peculiarly Western phenomenon..."

Book reviews

Year Review article Work(s) reviewed
2014 Fitzpatrick, Sheila (Sep 2014). "'One of us' : the spy who relished deception". Australian Book Review. 364: 27–28. Macintyre, Ben (2014). A spy among friends : Kim Philby and the great betrayal. Bloomsbury.


  1. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Reports of the President and of the Treasurer (John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 1987), p. 34.
  2. ^ "Magarey Medal - Previous Winners". The Australian Historical Association. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  3. ^ Sheila Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union, 1921–1934, Cambridge University Press, 1979; "Stalin and the Making of a New Elite, 1928–1939", Slavic Review, vol. 38, no. 3, September 1979, p. 38, pp. 377-402; "The Russian Revolution and Social Mobility: A Reexamination of the Question of Social Support for the Soviet Regime in the 1920s and 1930s," Politics and Society, vol. 13, no. 2, Spring 1984, p. 13, pp. 119–141.
  4. ^ Sheila Fitzpatrick (ed.), Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928–1931, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1978.
  5. ^ Sheila Fitzpatrick, "New Perspectives on Stalinism", The Russian Review, vol. 45, October 1986, p. 358.
  6. ^ "New Perspectives on Stalinism", p. 359.
  7. ^ Afterword: Revisionism Revisited", The Russian Review, vol. 45, October 1986, p. 409–410.

External links