Matlock, Jack F., Jr. 1929–

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Matlock, Jack F., Jr. 1929–

PERSONAL: Born October 1, 1929, in Greensboro, NC; son of Jack Foust (a teacher and school administrator) and Nellie (a teacher) Matlock; married Rebecca Bur-rum (a teacher and art consultant), September 2, 1949; children: James G., Hugh B., Nell, David M., Joseph F.. Education: Duke University, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1950; Columbia University, M.A., 1952; Russian Institute, certificate, 1952. Politics: Independent. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Photography, bookbinding, hiking, bird watching.

ADDRESSES: Home—Princeton, NJ.

CAREER: Writer, educator, diplomat. Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, instructor in Russian literature and culture, 1953–56; American Foreign Service officer, 1956–91, three tours as member of Moscow staff (before touring as ambassador), beginning 1961, other posts include Czechoslovakia, Tanzania, Ghana, and Austria, ambassador to U.S.S.R., 1987–91; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, visiting professor of political science, 1978–79; National Security Council, Washington, DC, special assistant to the President, senior director of European and Soviet affairs, 1983–87; Columbia University, New York, NY, senior research fellow, 1991–93, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor in the Practice of International Diplomacy, 1993–96; Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies, Princeton, NJ, George F. Kennan Professor, beginning 1996. Associated with the American Program Bureau and Capitol Speakers, speaker in the fields of national and global affairs, Russia and the former Soviet Union, political leadership, and bureaucratic management.

MEMBER: American Academy of Diplomacy, Academy of Political Science, Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Century Association of New York.

AWARDS, HONORS: Masaryk Award, 1983; Baltic Freedom Award, 1986; Wilbur J. Carr Award, 1991; Statesman of the Year Award from the George Washington University School of Law, 1991; Award for Excellence from the Graduate Faculties, Columbia University, 1992; McIver Award for Distinguished Public Service, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1994. L.L.D. from Greensboro College, 1989, Albright College, 1992, and Connecticut College, 1993.


(With Fred C. Holling) An Index to the Collected Works of J.V. Stalin, United States Department of State External Research Paper, 1955, reprinted, Johnson Reprint (New York, NY), 1971.

Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union, Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

(Author of introduction) Heyward Isham, editor, Russia's Fate Through Russian Eyes: Voices of the New Generation, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 2001.

Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor of articles on United States-Soviet relations, United States and Russian foreign policy, literature, culture, and the Soviet government to periodicals, including American Slavic and East European Review, Russian Review, Saturday Review, New York Times, New Republic, Survey, Political Science Reviewer, Studia Diplomatica (Brussels), Voprosy literatury, Wall Street Journal, World & I, and the New York Review of Books.

SIDELIGHTS: In Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union, former U.S. ambassador to Moscow Jack F. Mat-lock, Jr., drew on his first-hand knowledge to describe the political events that took place in the faltering Soviet Union between 1987 and 1991. He analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the various political players in the drama, chiefly Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, whose conflict provides the work's unifying thread. Matlock concluded the work with an epilogue in which he described the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse and the end of the Cold War. In addition, he professed his belief that the Soviet Union was destined to fail and that it will not be recreated regardless of any efforts by former communists to do so.

The book garnered praise from critics. "Autopsy on an Empire is one of the most scrupulously sober, intelligent and fair-minded analyses of the Soviet collapse yet to appear," proclaimed Anatol Lieven in the New York Times Book Review. "And coming from a man who from 1987 to 1991 was closer than any other Westerner to the heart of the events he describes, it also has enduring value as a historical document." Likewise, George F. Kennan, writing for the New York Review of Books, called Autopsy on an Empire "a serious and in many respects masterful work, well-written, interesting throughout, unique in both concept and execution, and of high historical importance."

A specialist with impressive credentials in Soviet politics and history, Matlock was appointed ambassador by President Ronald Reagan and remained in this post when George Bush was elected. Matlock could have put himself in the middle of his narrative, but did not, as Kennan noted: "It must be said, to the author's credit, that he firmly resisted the temptation to be carried off into autobiography, and brought his own experiences into the picture only when they were indeed relevant to the inquiry at hand." Instead, Matlock analyzed the political leaders involved. "His portrait of the last Soviet leader is psychologically acute, even moving, but Mr. Matlock is also well aware of Mr. Gorbachev's shortcomings," described Lieven. "It will be a long time before [Autopsy on an Empire] is overtaken by the more detached and specifically historical scholarly studies that must eventually follow," commented Kennan. "For the present the book may stand … for what it is: a running and very useful account of the events of the decisive four-year period (1987–91), as seen and commented upon by one who was not only uniquely prepared but also uniquely positioned for the task of understanding and judging them."

Matlock returned to a similar theme with his 2004 work, Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended, focusing on the power relationship between the U.S. president and the Soviet premier. According to Sean McMeekin, writing in Commentary, Matlock "is uniquely qualified to perform this task, having observed developments from inside perches in both Washington and Moscow." In Reagan and Gorbachev, Matlock attempts "to restore equal billing to both statesmen in the peaceful termination of the conflict," as McMeekin pointed out. Matlock concludes in his work that neither Reagan nor Gorbachev won the Cold War, but that, in fact, both parties came out winners, by avoiding a nuclear confrontation. McMeekin found Reagan and Gorbachev to be "evenhanded to a fault," while Business Week contributor Joyce Barnathan described it as "an intriguing insider's look at superpower diplomacy in a period featuring high-stakes arms-control negotiations, numerous spy flaps, and four summits." Reviewing the same work in the National Interest, Geoffrey Smith found it to be "a distinguished example of history from the engine room."



Business Week, December 11, 1995, review of Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union, p. 15; August 9, 2004, Joyce Barnathan, review of Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended, p. 16.

Commentary, February, 2005, Sean McMeekin, review of Reagan and Gorbachev, p. 85.

National Interest, spring, 2004, Geoffrey Smith, review of Reagan and Gorbachev, p. 119.

New York Review of Books, November 16, 1995, George F. Kennan, review of Autopsy on an Empire, pp. 7-10.

New York Times Book Review, November 26, 1995, Anatol Lieven, review of Autopsy on an Empire, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, October 2, 1995, review of Autopsy on an Empire, p. 62.

Washington Monthly, December, 1995, review of Autopsy on an Empire, p. 57.


Random House Web site, (September 29, 2006), "About the Author: Jack F. Matlock, Jr."