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J. Arch Getty

Distinguished Research Professor

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Born in Louisiana and reared in Oklahoma, Arch Getty nevertheless received B.A. (University of Pennsylvania) and Ph.D. (Boston College) degrees in 1972 and 1979.

He specializes in the Stalin period and the history of the Soviet Communist Party. Before coming to UCLA on the first day of the current millennium, he taught at UC Riverside, where he won the Distinguished Teaching Award and suffered as History Department Chair.

His research seeks to understand how the greatest experiment of the 20th century, led by a movement that grew out of rational, enlightened, egalitarian, and democratic traditions resulted in dictatorship and the deaths of millions of its own people. His approach is social, political, and structural and he insists that Soviet history can be studied with the same methodologies we use on other times, places, and systems. It is a sad sign of the politicized Cold War origins and primitive development of Soviet studies that such concentration on factors other than Stalin's personality has been considered radical.

His books and articles on the Stalin period of Russian history have been published in the US, England, France, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Japan and Russia. In 1992, his dream came true and he was able to use formerly secret police archives to be the first to publish exact data on the number of Stalin's victims. (Everyone has their own dreams...) He now spends several months each year in Moscow working in the political archives of the former Soviet Communist Party, eating cabbages, watching coups, engaging in currency speculation, and shivering in unheated reading rooms.

Getty is a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, a Research Fellow of the Russian State Humanities University (Moscow), and has been Senior Fellow of the Harriman Institute (Columbia University), and the Davis Center (Harvard University.) He was Senior Visiting Scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Visiting Scholar at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and Visiting Professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

His research has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Foundation, the International Research and Exchanges Board, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute. He is founder and Director of Praxis International, a non-profit foundation that facilitates research travel to Russia, and arranges archival access there for western scholars. In 1993-96, 2003, and 2005 he organized and directed the Moscow Study Center of the University of California Education Abroad Program.

Professor Getty eagerly awaits the final collapses of socialism, capitalism, and all other political systems. In the meantime, he recently finished his seventh book, Practicing Stalinism: Boyars, Bolsheviks, and the Persistence of Political Traditions (formerly, "It's personal, Sonny, not business!") that investigates the proposition that the Soviet state was a facade hiding a complex of personal relationships, patrons and clients. He is beginning two projects.  One is "Burying the Russians," which is another study of persisting traditions, this time about funerals, tombstones and, well, ideas about death in general in Russia.  The second is to figure out how to have a large dog in an apartment.  


John Simon Guggenheim Fellow

The 119th UCLA Faculty Research Lecturer, 2015-2016

The Boston College Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement in Arts and Humanities, 2005.

The Distinguished Teacher of the Year, University of California, Riverside, 1985-86.

Selected Publications


Practicing Stalinism: Boyars, Bolsheviks, and the Persistence of Political Traditions, Yale University Press, 2014.

The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939, Yale University Press, 1999, 2010.

Yezhov: The Rise of Stalin's "Iron Fist," Yale University Press, 2008.

"Soversheno sekretno:" Lubianka-Stalinu o polozhenie v strane (1932-1934 g.g.) Tom 3. ["Top Secret:" From the Lubianka to Stalin on the Situation in the Country, 1932-1934, Vol. 3] (ed., with A. N. Sakharov et.al.), Moscow, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2002.

Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives, (ed., with Roberta T. Manning), New York, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Kratkii Putevoditel': Fondy i kollektsii sobrannye Tsentral'nym Partiinym Arkhivom, (The Central Party Archive: A Research Guide), Moscow, Blagovest, 1993.

Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1985. Ninth printing, 1996.

Recent Articles

"Controlling Repression, 1917-1937" in Laura Douds ed., The Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1941, Routledge, 2019.

"New Sources and Old Narratives: Roundtable on Soviet Famines," Contemporary European History, 27:3, August 2018.

"Files, Folders, and Special Folders:  Stalinist Document Secrecy," Europe-Asia Studies (formerly Soviet Studies), 69:10, December 2017.

"The Problem of Persistence," in Andy Willimott and Mathias Neumann, eds., Rethinking the Russian Revolution as Historical Divide, London, Routledge, 2017.

"The Rise and Fall of a Party First Secretary: Vainov of Iaroslavl'" in James Harris, ed., The Anatomy of Terror: Political Violence under Stalin, London, Oxford University Press, 2013.

"Pre-Election Fever: The Origins of the 1937 Mass Operations," in James Harris, ed., The Anatomy of Terror: Political Violence under Stalin, London, Oxford University Press, 2013.

"State Violence in the Stalin Period," in Marcus Levitt and Tatyana Novikov, eds., Violence in Russian Literature and Culture, University of Wisconsin Press, 2007.

"Stalin as Prime Minister: Power and the Politburo," in James Harris and Sarah Davies, eds., Stalin: A New History, Cambridge University Press, 2005.

"The Mentality of the Bolshevik Elite in the 1930s", in E. I. Pivovar, ed., Sotsial'naia istoriia. Trudy k V. Z. Drobizhev?, [Social History: Essays in Honor of V. Z. Drobizhev], Moscow, 2004.

"'A tulkapasoktol tartozkodni kell' -- Tomegterror es sztalini hatalomgyakorlas az 1930-as evek vegen," in Tamos Krausz, ed., A sztolinizmus hetkoznapjai, Budapest, 2003.

"'Excesses are not permitted:' Mass Terror Operations in the Late 1930s and Stalinist Governance," The Russian Review, Jan. 2002.

"Mr. Ezhov Goes to Moscow: The Rise of a Stalinist Police Chief," in William Husband, ed., The Human Tradition in Modern Russia, New York, 2000, 157-174.

"Samokritika Rituals in the Stalinist Central Committee, 1933-1938," The Russian Review, January, 1999.

"The Politics of Repression Revisited," in Chris Ward, ed., The Stalinist Dictatorship, London, 1998.

"Afraid of Their Shadows: The Bolshevik Recourse to Terror, 1932-1938," in Stalinismus vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Neue Wege der Forschung, ed. Manfred Hildermeier and Elisabeth Mueller-Luckner, Munich, 1998.

"Pragmatists and Puritans: The Rise and Fall of the Party Control Commission," The Carl Beck Papers, October, 1997.

"Russian Archives: Is the Door Half Open or Half Closed?," Perspectives of the American Historical Association, May/June 1996.

"Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Prewar Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence," (with Gabor T. Rittersporn, and V. N. Zemskov), American Historical Review, Oct. 1993. ["Les victimes de la repression pénale dans l'URSS d'avant-guerre," (with Gabor T. Rittersporn, and V. N. Zemskov), Revue des Etudes Slaves, 65:1, 199.]

"Commercialization of Scholarship," Slavic Review, Spring 1993.

"The Politics of Stalinism," in Alec Nove, ed., The Stalin Phenomenon, London, 1993.

"State and Society Under Stalin: Constitutions and Elections in the 1930s," Slavic Review, Spring 1991.

"Les bureaucrats bolcheviques et l'État stalinien," Revue des Etudes Slaves, LXIV: 1, 1991.