Gati, Charles 1934–

views updated

Gati, Charles 1934–


Born September 14, 1934, in Budapest, Hungary; son of Andor and Vilma Gati; immigrated to the United States, 1957; naturalized citizen, 1962; married Toby T. Olenor, April 28, 1974; children: Tom, Steve, Sue, Daniel, Adrienne; six grandchildren. Education: Indiana University, A.B. and A.M., 1961, Russian area certificate, 1962, Ph.D., 1965. Politics: "Domestic: left-of-center; foreign: right-of-center."


Home—Washington, DC. Office—SAIS, 1619 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036-1983. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, educator, political analyst. Union College, Schenectady, NY, instructor in political science, 1963-65, assistant professor, 1965-68, associate professor, 1969-74, professor, 1974-94, founder and director of program in comparative communist studies, 1970-71 and 1972-74, chair of political science department, 1975-78; Columbia University, New York, NY, senior research scholar at Research Institute on International Change, 1971-72, 1977-78, and 1979—, visiting lecturer, 1972, visiting associate professor, 1972-74, visiting professor at Harriman Institute for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union, 1975-86, director of East Europe Project, Research Institute on International Change, 1984-85; Johns Hopkins University, senior adjunct professor, research fellow, 1994—; Interinvest, Boston, MA, senior vice president, 1994-2000.

Visiting professor, University of Kansas, 1968-69, and Yale University, 1975; International Research and Exchanges Board, member of program committee and board, 1980-83; consultant to the Ford Foundation, 1980, Rockefeller Foundation, 1981-82, United States Department of State, 1982, Radio Free Europe, 1984-85, and Board of International Broadcasting, 1988, among others. Lecturer to various groups and universities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Russia, and Japan, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Wilson Center, the Foreign Service Institute, and the U.S. State Department Executive Seminar; organizer and chair of various academic conferences.


Council on Foreign Relations (member of the Washington advisory board), American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (board member, 1984-89), Freedom House academic advisory council.


Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year Award, Union College, 1971; first recipient of Marshall Shulman Prize for Outstanding Book on Soviet-Bloc International Relations, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies and Harriman Institute of Columbia University, 1987, for Hungary and the Soviet Bloc; Fulbright/Hays Award, 1977; Union College Faculty Research grants, 1964, 1965, 1970, and 1977; Marshall Shulman Book Award, 2007, for Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt; numerous grants and fellowships from National Council for Soviet and East European Research, the Ford Foundation, and the International Research and Exchanges Board, among others.


(With wife, Toby Trister Gati) The Debate over Detente, Foreign Policy Association Headline Series (New York, NY), 1977.

Eastern Europe and the World, Cliffs Notes (Lincoln, NE), 1978.

Hungary and the Soviet Bloc, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1986.

The Bloc That Failed: Soviet-East European Relations in Transition, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1990.

Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt, Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press (Stanford, CA), 2006.

Contributor to numerous books, including The Soviet Union Since Stalin, edited by S. Cohen, A. Rabinowitch, and R. Sharlet, Indiana University Press, 1980; Soviet Foreign Policy in a Changing World, edited by Robbin F. Laird and Erik P. Hoffman, Aldine, 1986; and The Future of the New Soviet Empire, edited by Henry S. Rowen and Charles Wolf, Jr., St. Martin's Press, 1988. Also contributor to periodicals, including Foreign Affairs, National Interest, Problems of Communism, Foreign Policy, World Politics, New York Times, Washington Post, and International Herald Tribune.


The Politics of Modernization in Eastern Europe: Testing the Soviet Model, Praeger (New York, NY), 1974.

Caging the Bear: Containment and the Cold War, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1974.

The International Politics of Eastern Europe, Praeger (New York, NY), 1976.

(With Jan F. Triska) Blue-Collar Workers in Eastern Europe, Allen & Unwin (London, England), 1981.


Charles Gati is a scholar whose expertise lies in Russia and Europe, with some emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe. He has written, edited, or contributed to numerous works on the politics of the region, and is a lecturer and advisor to both corporate and public institutions. Gati, a native of Hungary, immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana University, one of the nation's premier schools of Russian and East European studies. He has held academic positions at Union College in New York in addition to an appointment at Columbia University as a visiting professor and research scholar.

One of Gati's works in the field of Eastern European politics is the 1981 volume Blue-Collar Workers in Eastern Europe, edited with Jan F. Triska. This collection of essays, originally presented at a conference, appeared as world attention focused on the Solidarity labor union movement in Poland. Strikes by workers led first to a declaration of martial law by the Soviet-backed Polish government, but later to some democratic reforms that helped usher in a new era for the entire region, culminating with the fall of Germany's Berlin Wall in 1989.

As the title of Blue-Collar Workers in Eastern Europe denotes, its subject matter concerns the role of proletarian forces in the individual countries of Eastern Europe as well as their overall affect on the Soviet Bloc. Gati and Triska solicited chapters from various experts on the diverse nature of blue-collar workers among the individual nations. One of the strongest themes asserted throughout the essays is the notion of an unspoken "contract" between workers and the state that many scholars believe held the Bloc together over the decades. The volume discusses this implicit contract by which workers were guaranteed job security, a multitude of state-provided benefits, access to a decent standard of living, moderate demands on productivity, and a pension upon leaving the workforce. In return for these benefits, the workers were expected to remain relatively docile and not agitate against the regime. Archie Brown, reviewing the book for the Times Literary Supplement, remarked that "Triska and Gati have picked a strong team of contributors and no other book comes close to providing so much information and thoughtful reflection as this on the social, economic and political position of manual workers in Eastern Europe." Brown further noted that this is "a theme which is likely to retain its pressing interest and relevance in the years ahead."

Gati's 1986 book, Hungary and the Soviet Bloc, received critical attention for using a fresh approach to tackle difficult subjects in the area of Eastern European studies. This collection of the author's essays recounts the politics and history of the nation that straddles Eastern and Western Europe and examines its postwar relationships with both the Soviet Union and its neighbors. Hungary and the Soviet Bloc briefly describes some salient points of Hungarian history leading up to World War II and provides insight about postwar Soviet plans for the country. Part of the work delineates the 1956 revolution that the Soviet Union crushed, putting an end to Hungary's hopes of becoming a part of the Western European political, economic, and cultural sphere.

As Gati narrates, Soviet troops remained on Hungarian soil in the aftermath of World War II while political operatives sought to ensconce a firmly pro-Soviet communist regime. A coalition government ruled for a decade and western powers encouraged a democratic regime, but noncommunist factions lacked cohesiveness, and an uprising in the fall of 1956 sealed Hungary's fate. During that period, workers and students demonstrated in the streets for democracy until Russian troops, on orders from Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, invaded and put an end to the insurrection. Gati portrays the leaders on both sides of the 1956 struggle, drawing upon the five-hundred-thousand-word memoirs of Zoltan Vas, a significant player in the Hungarian communist movement. The author also chronicles the Soviet-controlled actions that attempted to solidify a socialist state after World War II. Many Hungarians died in the struggle, and the crushing of the revolt made it clear to the world that the Soviets were extremely intolerant of any noncommunist governmental system among the countries of the Bloc.

Hungary and the Soviet Bloc also provides an analysis of the democratic forces within the country and theorizes why they were doomed to fail. Additionally, Gati examines the Hungarians' hope of western intervention and the motives behind the lack of such action. In the aftermath of the revolt, the country did indeed embark upon the socialist road, but it took a different path from its neighbors under head of state Janos Kadar. For the next three decades Hungary was viewed with envy by its fellow Bloc members for its relatively high standard of living, benign attitudes toward dissenters, and state-sponsored economic reform that included a modicum of free enterprise. Gati theorizes that these relaxed attitudes are evidence that Moscow has not always been able to retain as much control over the countries of the Soviet Bloc as it would have liked, and that in permitting some experimentation in Hungary it bought off more serious unrest.

Gati's mid-1980s analyses proved correct a few short years later as Hungarians and some of their neighbors took to the streets, inducing a dramatic end to Eastern European communism. Critical reaction to Hungary and the Soviet Bloc was favorable. James McAdams, reviewing the work for the New York Times Book Review, described it as "an elegantly written collection," and asserted, "what makes Mr. Gati's account so noteworthy is … that he gives us a new way of looking at familiar events." Washington Post Book World contributor Timothy Foote lauded the work as a "judicious and often graceful study," likening the portrayals of the leaders involved in the 1956 uprising as "the stuff of high human drama."

During the late 1980s Gati had been at work on another book, tentatively titled The Soviet Bloc at Century's End, and expected to complete it in 1989. The chain of events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent ouster of communist regimes in the Soviet Bloc nations, however, altered the tenor of the work. Gati's effort turned into a text in 1990 called The Bloc That Failed: Soviet-East European Relations in Transition. The book examines the changes the Soviet Bloc has undergone since its rise to power under Soviet premiers Josef Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev, who retained a tight hold on the economic and political direction of Eastern Europe. The end of the era culminated in the more relaxed attitude of late-1980s leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who allowed Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, and others in Moscow's so-called "outer empire" to disembark from the communist ship without a struggle.

The Bloc That Failed also predicts the future course of Eastern European politics, forecasting that a return to communism is unlikely and that inhabitants will probably overcome the obstacles on the road to free-market capitalism and democracy. Murray Polner, critiquing the work for the New York Times Book Review, praised The Bloc That Failed as "lucid and stimulating."

Gati's 2006 title, Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt, revisits some of his earlier work on Hungary, and also focuses on how his own life was completely altered by those political events, forcing him, along with almost two hundred thousand other Hungarians, to flee to the West. The nonfiction work is based, as a contributor to the Union College Magazine noted, on "declassified documents from Hungarian, Russian, and American archives, including the CIA's operative files declassified at Gati's request under the federal Freedom of Information Act," as well as on broadcasts from Radio Free Europe, interviews with dozens of participants, and from Gati's own notes as a young journalist at the time. Gati argues that the Hungarians who revolted were not necessarily anti-socialist, but were rather anti-Russian nationalists. He further contends that the revolt could have come to a more peaceful resolution if the Soviet Union had not overreacted to U.S. denunciations and incitements on Radio Free Europe. Reviewing the work in Library Journal, Maria C. Bagshaw found it a "thorough and scholarly analysis of the revolution."

Gati once told CA: "I'm a workaholic. When I take time out from work, I wonder why I work so hard. My best guess is that I compensate for being a terrible high- school student; as a junior, I failed six of the seven courses I took, a record in the one-hundred-year history of my high school. Another possibility is that as an immigrant, I still try to prove myself. To find out for sure, I'll be a psychoanalyst in my next life. Stay tuned."



Choice, March, 2007, C.P. Vesei, review of Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt, p. 1223.

Chronicle of Higher Education, October 27, 2006, "The Hungarian Revolt, Half a Century Later."

International History Review, June, 2007, Bennett Kovrig, review of Failed Illusions, p. 437.

Library Journal, September 15, 2006, Maria C. Bagshaw, review of Failed Illusions, p. 71.

New York Times Book Review, December 14, 1986, James McAdams, review of Hungary and the Soviet Bloc, p. 34; June 24, 1990, Murray Polner, review of The Bloc That Failed: Soviet-East European Relations in Transition, p. 12.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2006, review of Failed Illusions.

Times Literary Supplement, October 8, 1982, Archie Brown, review of Blue-Collar Workers in Eastern Europe, p. 1111.

Washington Post Book World, December 21, 1986, Timothy Foote, review of Hungary and the Soviet Bloc, pp. 3, 14.


Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies—Johns Hopkins University Web site, (August 26, 2007), "Charles Gati."

Stanford University Press Web site, (August 26, 2007), "Charles Gati."

Union College Magazine Online, (April 12, 2007), "A Former Professor Unearths Fresh Facts, Tells His Own Story and Finds Success."

About this article

Gati, Charles 1934–

Updated About content Print Article