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Obituary
Martin Malia

08 December 2004

Martin Edward Malia, a leading specialist on Russia who taught at Berkeley for more than three decades, died on Nov. 19 at the age of 80. The Albany resident, who had recently suffered from pneumonia and a series of infections, died at a convalescent hospital in Oakland.

Malia, who joined Berkeley’s history faculty in 1958 and retired in 1991, continued to write during his retirement and to enjoy public recognition among scholars for his body of work.

Malia’s major works include Russia Under Western Eyes (1990), which the New York Times Book Review called “the most insightful book published in any language to date on Russia’s place in European intellectual and political history.” His other works include The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991 (1994) and Alexander Herzen and the Birth of Russian Socialism 1812-1855 (1961), widely regarded as a masterpiece.

Yuri Slezkine, a Berkeley professor of history and Russia specialist, noted that, in addition to his remarkable books, Malia wrote numerous insightful and highly influential articles on the changing situation in Russia in both the public press and many academic journals.

Malia generated international controversy when, in 1990, he anonymously published the article “To the Stalin Mausoleum,” which predicted that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev could not prevent the dissolution of communism.

History would prove him right, but at the time, the article — published in a scholarly journal and excerpted in the The New York Times and elsewhere — generated wide attention and speculation about the authorship, as it was published under the name “Z”. Some wondered if a high-ranking Bush administration official had written the article in an attempt to influence policy. Ultimately, Malia acknowledged authorship.

Born in Springfield, Mass., on March 14, 1924, Malia served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He received a bachelor’s degree in French from Yale University in 1944 and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1947 and 1951. He was an assistant professor of history at Harvard from 1954 to 1958, and while on leave from Harvard was a special assistant for Russian book acquisitions at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., before joining the Berkeley faculty in 1958.

Malia, who just prior to his death was completing a book on comparative revolutions (exploring those of America, Russia, and France), earned numerous prestigious awards during his career, including Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships.

He is survived by a niece and four nephews. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 10:30 a.m. at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish, 2700 Dwight Way, in Berkeley, with a reception to follow.

— Janet Gilmore