Historian Robert Conquest, Soviet regime expert, dies at 98

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Posted: Aug 05, 2015 2:20 AM
Historian Robert Conquest, Soviet regime expert, dies at 98

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — British-born historian Robert Conquest, whose influential works on Soviet history shed light on the terror during the Stalin era, has died. He was 98.

Conquest's wife, Elizabeth Neece, said he died Monday of pneumonia in Palo Alto, California.

Conquest was the author of 21 books on Soviet history, politics, and international affairs. His "The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties," which documented the purges of dictator Josef Stalin in the 1930s, remains one of the most influential studies of Soviet history.

Published in 1968, the book estimated that under Stalin, 20 million people died in labor camps, executions and famines. It has been translated into more than 20 languages.

"Robert Conquest set the gold standard for careful research, total integrity, and clarity of expression about the real Soviet Union," said former Secretary of State and Hoover Institution distinguished fellow George P. Shultz.

A renowned historian of Soviet history, politics and foreign policy, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

A noted poet and a figure in the "Movement" poetry of 1950s England, Conquest spent 28 years at the Hoover Institution where he was a Senior Research Fellow.

While at Hoover, Conquest again wrote about Stalin's regime in "The Harvest of Sorrow," which depicted the brutal collectivization of Soviet farms under Stalin.

"Once again, he definitively established the colossal scale of Soviet horrors, correctly identified their source in Marxist ideas and practices, and underscored the legions of Western dupes who retailed Soviet lies, from when Stalin was alive and decades thereafter," said Stephen Kotkin, Hoover Research Fellow and Princeton University historian.

He was an exhibitioner in modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford, receiving his BA and MA in politics, philosophy, and economics.

Conquest served in the British infantry in World War II and thereafter in the diplomatic service. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire. In 1996 he was named a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, the Hoover Institution said.