Rayfield, Donald 1942–

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Rayfield, Donald 1942–

(Patrick Donald Rayfield)


Born February 12, 1942, in Oxford, England; son of Harry Heron (an accountant) and Joan Rachel (a professor) Rayfield; married Rosalind Moore, July 27, 1963; children: Harriet, Gabriel, Barnaby. Education: Magdalene College, Cambridge, B.A., 1963, Ph. D., 1977. Politics: "Liberal with a small ‘l.’" Hobbies and other interests: Breeding otters and wallabies, propagating shrubs, language study (especially languages of eastern Europe and the Near East).


Office—Department of Russian, Queen Mary College, University of London, Mile End Rd., London E1 4NS, England. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, lecturer in Russian, 1964-66; Queen Mary College, University of London, 1967—, began as lecturer, became professor of Russian and Georgian, professor emeritus.


Awarded the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, 2003, for services to Slavic studies.


(Translator and author of introduction) Nadezhda Mandel' shtam, Ch.42, Menard Press (London, England), 1973.

(Translator and author of introduction) Osip Mandel' shtam, The Goldfinch, Menard Press (London, England), 1973.

Chekhov: Evolution of His Art, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1975.

(Translator) Galaktion Tabidze, Ati Leksi (title means "Ten Poems"), Ganatleba, 1975.

The Dream of Lhasa: The life of Nikolay Przhevalsky (1839-88) Explorer of Central Asia, Ohio State University Press (Athens, OH), 1976.

(Editor) Victor X., The Confessions of Victor X, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1985.

The Cherry Orchard: Catastrophe and Comedy, Twayne (New York, NY), 1994.

The Literature of Georgia: A History, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994, 2nd revised edition, Curzon Press (London, England), 2000.

(Editor and translator) The Chekhov Omnibus: Selected Stories, Everyman (Dent, England), 1994.

Anton Chekhov: A Life, HarperCollins (London, England), 1997, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1998.

(Translator and author of introduction) Ilia Chavchavadze, King Dimitri's Sacrifice, Tbilisi, 1998.

Understanding Chekhov: A Critical Study of Chekhov's Prose and Drama, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1999.

(Editor, with O.E. Makarova) Dnevnik A.S. Suvorin, 1834-1912, Garnett Press (London, England), 2000.

(Editor, with others) The Garnett Book of Russian Verse: An Anthology with English Prose Translation, Garnett Press (London, England), 2000.

Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor) Comprehensive Georgian-English Dictionary, Garnett Press (London, England), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including The Elek Book of Oriental Verse and Cambridge Essays in Drama. Contributor to literature and Slavic studies journals.


Donald Rayfield is a professor of Russian whose books have been instrumental in broadening the knowledge of Eastern European history. Among his later works is Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him, in which he studies the policies and tendencies of Stalin and his followers, most of whom needed no urging to use violence. Rayfield traces Stalin's history from his days as a seminary student to his rise as a tyrant who was responsible for the deaths of approximately ten million in his war against the peasants and hundreds of thousands of free thinkers in the 1930s. He comments on Stalin's ability to attract the kind of people who were willing to act on his behalf. "Rayfield's book shows us the whole pyramid of murderers with Stalin at the apex and his coterie of banal, mediocre yes-men in the layer just below, down to the bottommost stratum of sadists who did the actual killing," wrote Roger Cooke in Sarmatian Review. A Contemporary Review contributor noted: "The continuing fear of a Stalinist revival in Russia is one reason for this book." Cooke concluded: "We need a book like Rayfield's every year."

Rayfield once commented: "Academics usually write books for the wrong reasons. They become obsessed with minutiae, polemics, and the search for authority. Readers and publishers should help them by insisting on the Pushkinian virtues of ‘brevity, clarity, and simplicity,’ and the Chekhovian standards of ‘feeling, sense, and taking time.’ Readers might also call for a return to multilingual standards, so that the art of translation might revive from its present insular inertia and make up for its deficient inspiration."



Contemporary Review, September, 2004, review of Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him, p. 190.

Library Journal, January 1, 2005, David Lee Poremba, review of Stalin and his Hangmen, p. 130.

Publishers Weekly, December 13, 2004, review of Stalin and His Hangmen, p. 59.

Sarmation Review, September, 2005, Roger Cooke, review of Stalin and His Hangmen, p. 1150.


School of Modern Languages, Queen Mary College, University of London Web site,http://www.modern-languages.qmul.ac.uk/ (December 29, 2006), biography.

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