Faculty Profile

The Karpovich brand of magic does not contain the usual ingerdients of fire and brimstone. His eyes have none of the intense spark that one expects to radiate from "the mighty and colorful"; he indulges in no cock-eyed hobbies, has nothing of the Norman Bel Geddes. He is a quiet little man with kindly eyes, a soft-spoken accent, and a well-broken-in pipe. He used to smoke two to three packs of cigarettes a day, using a holder and fishing out the minute butts with his wife's hair pin, but he turned to the pipe because it only takes half as much refilling and gives just as much smoking time. Aside from smoking, the Professor has a deep love for good music, good food, and everything about Russia but the Communists. In spite of his fourteen years on Brattle Street and his small farm in Vermont, he is a real Russian nationalist. Good music is Tschaikowsky, Moussorgsky and the "Mighty Band" school. Compared to the old Russian opera and ballet, the contemporary attempts are flimsy. When a tutee invited "Karpy" to a big club dinner, he enjoyed himself immensely--till the salad course appeared. It was caviar--served in bowls! The quantity of the rare dish never fazed him, but to eat caviar as a salad course was verging on the barbaric. Mores Americanos curdled his Russian taste on one other occasion, when his son started reading such magazines as Ranch Romances, The Shadow and Terror Tales. The Professor became quite worried. In Russia, Tolstoi was the only drugstore literature. Could his child be moronic?

Once "Karpy's" strong feelings created a minor international situation. He went to a Soviet entertainment in Prague, at the time when the Czechs and bolshevists were on very friendly terms, and refused to rise to the strains of the "Internationale." The general furore which followed considerably upset the Professor, so he went to some friends in the foreign office and explained that he didn't want to cause any trouble, but perhaps he had best pack up and go to Nazi Germany, where an American citizen could get the proper respect. Result: Czech back down. This is a typical illustration of "Karpy's" way of handling a situations: quiet and to the point.

He is good-hearted in the same unspectacular, but definite way. A number of years ago, a boy at Eliot House was in danger of being thrown out of college because his scholarship was taken away. "Karp" rounded up the money to keep him going. Another time, when "Karp" was giving a night school course in Russian history, he got a badly mangled final exam paper from one of his quainter pupils: a white-haired old school marm. She sent him a post card, admitting that she hadn't done very well, but saying she didn't know why. What could the Professor do? He didn't know: He gave her a C plus.

It is this refusal to grind an axe: this kindliness, combined with a supreme ability to handle a difficult situation, that explains how "Karp" solved his unemployment problem by first getting a job as Secretary to the Russian Embassy, and then as Professor of History at Harvard.