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Sheila Fitzpatrick

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Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Born (1941-06-04) 4 June 1941
Melbourne, Australia
Occupation Historian, Academic
Nationality Australian
Citizenship Australian
United States
Alma mater University of Melbourne
St Antony's College, Oxford
London School of Slavonic and East European Studies
Genre Soviet Union
Subject History
Literary movement Historical revisionism
Notable awards Mellon Foundation Award
Relatives Brian Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick (born June 4, 1941) is an Australian-American historian. She is Honorary 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 DPhil from St Antony's College, Oxford (1969); 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. 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.[2] Despite its brutality, Stalinism as a political culture would have achieved the goals of the 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".[3] 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 Sovietologists working on Stalinism in the 1980s "a new cohort of [revisionist] historians".[4]

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."[5] 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."[6]


  1. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Reports of the President and of the Treasurer (John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 1987), p. 34.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Sheila Fitzpatrick (ed.), Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928–1931, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1978.
  4. ^ Sheila Fitzpatrick, "New Perspectives on Stalinism", The Russian Review, vol. 45, October 1986, p. 358.
  5. ^ "New Perspectives on Stalinism", p. 359.
  6. ^ Afterword: Revisionism Revisited", The Russian Review, vol. 45, October 1986, p. 409–410.



  • 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
  • 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 Press, 2010.
  • A Spy in the Archives. Melbourne University Press, 2013.


  • "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)

External links

  • Official Faculty Biography at the University of Chicago
  • Fitzpatrick, Sheila Mary (1941 - ) in The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in the Twentieth Century
  • William Harms, Fitzpatrick one of five distinguished scholars to receive Mellon grant
  • William Harms, Steve Koppes, & Jennifer Carnig, Five faculty members elected as fellows of American academy
  • William Harms, Graduate Teaching Award
  • Works by or about Sheila Fitzpatrick in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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