J. Arch Getty
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J. Arch Getty

John Archibald Getty, III (born November 30, 1950)[1] is an American historian and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, specializing in the History of Russia and History of the Soviet Union.

Life and career

Getty was born in Louisiana and grew up in Oklahoma. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 and his Ph.D. from Boston College in 1979. Getty was a professor at the University of California, Riverside before moving to UCLA. Getty is a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, a Research Fellow of the Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow), and has been Senior Fellow of the Harriman Institute (Columbia University), and the Davis Center (Harvard University.) He was Senior Visiting Scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.[2]

Research and ideas

The traditional approach to the Soviet history claimed it was a totalitarian system, with the personality cult and the almost unlimited powers of the "great leader". These ideas were challenged later by historians, one of whom was Arch Getty.[3] In his book, Origins of Great Purges published in 1985, Arch Getty argued that the Soviet political system was not completely controlled from the center, and that Stalin only responded to political events as they arose. [3] The book was a challenge to works by Robert Conquest. In an appendix to the book, Getty also questioned the previously published findings that Stalin organized himself the murder of Sergey Kirov to justify his campaign of Great Terror.[4]

Regarding the 1936 Soviet Constitution, Getty wrote:

Many who lauded Stalin's Soviet Union as the most democratic country on earth lived to regret their words. After all, the Soviet Constitution of 1936 was adopted on the eve of the Great Terror of the late 1930s; the "thoroughly democratic" elections to the first Supreme Soviet permitted only uncontested candidates and took place at the height of the savage violence in 1937. The civil rights, personal freedoms, and democratic forms promised in the Stalin constitution were trampled almost immediately and remained dead letters until long after Stalin's death.[5]

Other historians criticized work by Arch Getty as apologetics for Stalin and accused them of downplaying the terror.[6][4]Sarah Davies and James Harris note that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the release of the archives, some of the heat has gone out of the debate as Getty's more pro-Soviet findings were found to be true, and he could even be found to be even more critical than actual documents would excuse.[3]


  • John Arch Getty and Roberta Thompson Manning. Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives, (ed., with Roberta T. Manning), New York, Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-521-44670-8
  • J. Arch Getty, Oleg V. Naumov. The Central Party Archive: A Research Guide, Univ Pittsburgh Center for Russian. 1993. ISBN 99944-868-6-1
  • John Archibald Getty Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1985. Ninth printing, 1996. ISBN 0-521-33570-1
  • J. Arch Getty, Oleg V. Naumov, The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939, Yale University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-300-09403-5
  • Stalin's "Iron Fist:" The Times and Life of N. I. Yezhov, Yale University Press, 2008. ISBN 0-300-09205-9
  • J. Arch Getty Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars, and the Persistence of Tradition, Yale University Press, 2013, ISBN 0-300-16929-9


  • "Stalin as Prime Minister: Power and the Politburo," in Sarah Davies and James Harris, Stalin: A New History, Cambridge University Press, 2005, 83-107.
  • "'Excesses are not permitted:' Mass Terror Operations in the Late 1930s and Stalinist Governance," The Russian Review, 16:1, Jan. 2002, 112-137.
  • "Mr. Ezhov Goes to Moscow: The Rise of a Stalinist Police Chief," in William Husband, ed., The Human Tradition in Modern Russia, New York, 2000, 157-174.
  • "Samokritika Rituals in the Stalinist Central Committee, 1933-1938," The Russian Review, 58:1, January, 1999, 49-70.
  • "Afraid of Their Shadows: The Bolshevik Recourse to Terror, 1932-1938," in Stalinismus vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Neue Wege der Forschung, ed. Manfred Hildermeier and Elisabeth Mueller-Luckner, Munich, 1998.
  • "Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Prewar Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence," (with Gabor T. Rittersporn, and V. N. Zemskov), The American Historical Review, 98:4. Oct. 1993, 1017-1049.
  • "Trotsky in Exile: The Founding of the Fourth International," Soviet Studies, vol. XXXVIII, no. 1, January 1986, 24-35.


  1. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF).
  2. ^ "Faculty page". www.history.ucla.edu. Retrieved .
  3. ^ a b c Sarah Davies; James Harris (8 September 2005). Stalin: A New History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 3-5. ISBN 978-1-139-44663-1.
  4. ^ a b Lenoe, Matt (2002). "Did Stalin Kill Kirov and Does It Matter?*". The Journal of Modern History. 74 (2): 352-380. doi:10.1086/343411. ISSN 0022-2801.
  5. ^ J. Arch Getty. (1991). "State and Society Under Stalin: Constitutions and Elections in the 1930s". Slavic Review. Vol. 50. No. 1. pp. 18--35.
  6. ^ John Earl Haynes; Harvey Klehr (1 January 2003). In Denial: Historians, Communism, & Espionage. Encounter Books. pp. 15-17. ISBN 978-1-893554-72-6.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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