ASEEES Distinguished Contributions Award

2012 Citation Recipient


Sheila Fitzpatrick

The 2012 Distinguished Contributions to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Award, which honors senior scholars who have helped build and develop the field through scholarship, teaching, and service to the profession, is presented to Sheila Fitzpatrick, the Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago, in recognition of her preeminent career as scholar, mentor, teacher, and critic in the field of Modern Russian and Soviet political, social and cultural history.

Born in Australia in a family of historians, Sheila Fitzpatrick received her BA from the University of Melbourne and her PhD from St. Antony’s College, Oxford in 1969. She moved to the US in 1972 and taught at several universities before moving to the University of Chicago in 1990. More than any other historian she has been instrumental in shaping the field of Soviet history. One of the first to work seriously in Soviet archives, she explored the relationship between the intelligentsia and the Bolsheviks in The Commissariat of Enlightenment (1970). Most famously, she is known as one of the leaders of the revisionist wave questioning the dominance and uncritical application of the totalitarian model. Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union (1979) and the edited Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1921-1932 (1978) looked at affirmative action programs for proletarians, and questioned the dogma that the regime survived only on fear and terror. Never content with overarching explanations, she later explored and described the passive resistance to the regime’s policies in her classic Stalin’s Peasants: Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village after Collectivization (1994) and the coping strategies of the population in Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times (1999). Moving to cultural history in The Cultural Front (1992) and especially in Tear off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia (2005), she focused on behavior and identities. She has authored innumerable seminal articles, and The Russian Revolution, published first in 1982, has gone through three editions (1994, 2007). All throughout, she has held high the banner of historians to work closely with sources, not with ready-made models, and never to use history as a morality play. Her work has had a broad impact beyond history: in cultural and social anthropology, sociology and political science. 

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Australian Academy of the Humanities, Professor Fitzpatrick has received numerous honors and awards including the Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award and, most recently, the Megarcy Medal for Biography of the Australian Historical Association. A past president of ASEEES, she has generously given her service to the profession. She has served on the editorial boards of countless leading journals, and was the co-editor of The Journal of Modern History. The Chicago History Workshop has had a pivotal role on the work of many scholars. Most importantly, it is hard to think of anyone else with such a stellar pleiad of former graduate students, who contributed a marvelous Festschrift, Writing the Stalin Era, in her honor last year. 

As if this were not enough, Sheila Fitzpatrick is an accomplished violinist and chamber musician, and a talented contributor to the London Review of Books. In recognition of her lifetime achievement, we honor our esteemed colleague with the highest award of the Association for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies.