Headshot (Reddaway)

Peter Reddaway

Emeritus Professor of Political Science & International Affairs, George Washington U

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?    

I first developed an interest in Russian & Slavic affairs when learning Russian as a student at Cambridge University in the early 1960s and making my first two trips to the USSR – by car from England – in 1960 and 1961. On the second trip we went south from Moscow to the Black Sea and especially Georgia, where we spent five days and got to understand how profoundly different the Georgians – with their much more ancient culture and completely different language – were from the Russians. To a lesser degree we found the same thing in Ukraine. At an early stage, in 1967, I started to believe that the Soviet system was built on a weak foundation of party dictatorship and extreme ideological rigidity, and would therefore eventually collapse. This took 24 years.

How have your interests changed since then?

My interests haven’t changed since the early 1960s, except that I began to study also in a small way the communist countries of eastern Europe, and to compare them with each other and with the Soviet Union. I believed that this Soviet empire, which started to collapse in 1956 and then in 1968, and had to be shored up by force, would contribute to the eventual failure of the whole Soviet system. After this occurred in 1989 – 1991 I studied primarily the new country, the RSFSR, but also some of the other new states, especially Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Over time, these had more and more to fear from Russia, as Putin became more nationalist and imperialistic, to divert attention from his economic and other internal weaknesses.

What is your current research/work project?Russia's Domestic Security Wars: Putin's Use of Divide and Rule Against his Hardline Allies

I have just published a short book, Russia’s Domestic Security Wars: Putin’s Use of Divide and Rule Against his Hardline Allies, Palgrave Pivot, 2018. This uses detailed Russian media sources, largely ignored hitherto, to show how, from 2004, Putin exacerbated the bitter antagonisms between his two main groups of hardline allies, mainly composed of former KGB officials. These were headed on the one side by Igor Sechin, who soon became head of the oil giant Rosneft, and on the other by Viktor Cherkesov, soon to head the state drug control agency, and Viktor Zolotov, director of the Presidential Security Service. Putin’s aim was to keep these groups busy fighting each other, so that they had no time or energy to hinder him in the pursuit of his own goals. At times, as in his choice of Medvedev to succeed him as president in 2008, Putin had great difficulty succeeding in this.

In addition, I am well advanced on a book of memoirs to be published in 2019 by the Brookings Institution on my involvements with Russia and Russians in the period 1960 – 1991. This focuses to a large extent on my work in the field of procuring and then publishing as articles or books the samizdat materials that started to circulate in various parts of the USSR from the mid-1960s on.

What do you value about your ASEEES membership?

About ASEEES, I appreciate especially its organization of conferences and symposia that publicize the work of its members and also enable the members to get together and exchange ideas and information on their own topics and also, sometimes, across fields.

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

My non-work interests include theater, opera, movies, and international travel. I have greatly enjoyed travel to, in particular, Georgia, Turkey, Estonia, Ireland, Japan, and Croatia, as well as to more conventional countries like the U.K., Italy, Germany, and France. I also attend an Episcopal Church in McLean, and much enjoy singing in the choir.