Malia, Martin (Edward) 1924-2004

views updated

MALIA, Martin (Edward) 1924-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born March 14, 1924, in Springfield, MA; died of pneumonia November 19, 2004, in Oakland, CA. Historian, educator, and author. An authority on the Soviet Union, Malia foresaw the collapse of the country's communist government at a time when most of his colleagues believed the Soviet government could simply reform itself to adapt with the times. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he graduated from Yale University in 1944 with a degree in French; he then attended Harvard University, earning an M.A. in 1947 and a Ph.D. in 1951. Malia spent the early and mid-1950s teaching at Harvard before joining the University of California at Berkeley in 1958. He remained at Berkeley for the rest of his academic career, becoming a full professor of history in 1964 and retiring in 1991 as professor emeritus. Specializing in the history of Russian and Soviet affairs, Malia came to believe that the communist system was inconsistent with European history and sensibilities and therefore could not last. This was a contrary and minority opinion compared to the thinking of many contemporary historians, who especially felt that Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika reforms of the 1980s demonstrated that the Communist Party was capable of adapting itself and, thus, surviving. Malia first gained wide attention for his ideas when he published an article in Daedulus in January 1990 under the pen name "Z." In the fall of that year, he admitted that he was the author and had used the pseudonym to protect his sources. Malia continued to explain his theories about Soviet communism in such important works as The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991 (1994) and Russia under Western Eyes: From the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum (1999). Vindicated in his belief that communism in Russia would eventually collapse, he explained in his later years that historians needed to rework their thinking about the Soviet age in order to better understand it. At the time of his death, he had just sent his last article, "The Archives of Evil," to the New Republic.



New York Times, November 24, 2004, p. C15.

Washington Post, November 27, 2004, p. B4.