Sheila Fitzpatrick: ‘There Are Very Good Historians Here – One Can Learn a Lot from Them’
On September 27, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Professor of Chicago University, delivered a lecture at HSE-Perm on everyday life in the time of Stalin, and on the features of a historian’s work. She talked about the purpose of her visit to Perm and shared her impressions of her interaction with the audience.
The research purpose of my visit
I have known Caroline Humphrey – a British anthropologist – for a long time. We hadn’t worked together before and decided that it would be great to study a city which is not overly large but is nonetheless interesting from a historical and anthropological point of view .
We chose Perm for a number of reasons. One of them is my acquaintance with Oleg Leibovich, Anna Kimerling and Oleg Lysenko, whom I met several years ago at a conference in Tver on the history of Stalinism. It was an unexpected but very interesting talk about Perm. We discussed how people who had been evacuated from Leningrad came to Perm during World War II. I wanted to study this topic more thoroughly. Recently, western historians have focused on Moscow because it is easier to get there, and there is a gap in our knowledge of other regions. It’s also worth mentioning that in Perm there are very good historians – which means one can learn a lot from them.
Working in the archive
Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to work in the archive this time: it turned out that we need to submit an application 45 days before our arrival for one place and five days before visiting for another, so we were too late. However, this was not a disaster as it was only our first, preparatory visit, and instead we got to know more about the city and people who live there.
About the impressions from the audience
I was surprised that there are so many students studying at HSE Perm who can speak English very well and who are able to listen to a whole lecture from a foreign professor. I liked the questions from the students during our discussion. It was great to answer them and to see the interest in their eyes.
The meeting with Sheila Fitzpatrick brought together students and historians from HSE-Perm, Perm State University and Perm Polytechnic University. She is studying the social history of Stalin’s time, she has been working in archives for many years and speaks Russian very well. Our colleagues were interested in listening to her opinion on the growing popularity of Stalin, and on overcoming Russian society’s traumatic past. Thank’s to HSE-Perm for this kind of meeting!
3rd year student, Bachelor’s programme in History
Prepared by Dinara Gagarina, Head of the HSE-Perm’s Department of Humanities