After 37 Years, Pipes Set to Retire

World-Renowned Russian History Scholar to Pursue Writing, Fun

Baird Professor of History Richard Pipes announced last month that he will retire this spring after more than 37 years of teaching at Harvard.

Pipes, who is the professor of the popular core course Historical Study B-56: "The Russian Revolution," told students at the last lecture that he would no longer be lecturing and would finish teaching with a first-year seminar this spring.

"I basically plan to do research, write and travel," Pipes said in an interview at his Cambridge home yesterday. "I bought myself a convertible," he added with a chuckle.

Pipes, who is a world-renown scholar of Russian history, served from 1981 to 1982 in the Reagan administration as an advisor to the National Security Council on Eastern Europe.

Pipes is the author of dozens of books and is currently working on another. He spent the last year in Russia researching his new work, titled Lenin's Secret Archive, which will be released soon by the Yale University Press.


In his career with the federal government and as an academic, Pipes has seen a great deal of change in the almost-half century since he moved to this country from Poland in 1948 to begin his graduate studies at in the history department here.

While working for the National Security Council, Pipes witnessed the Soviet crackdown in Poland and assured government officials his native country would survive.

While working on Russian history, he saw the field grow from a program at a handful of lvy League universities to an international field of study.

"We've seen a tremendous growth," Pipes says, adding that over the course of his career he has advised approximately 60 doctoral students who are now working at institutions across the country.

In addition, the university now has three chairs in Russian history and a Russian Resource Center," he says.

The most recent developments in the former Soviet Union, although interesting from a political and journalistic point of view, have yet to be explored by academics, Pipes says.

Still, the fall of the former Soviet Union has greatly altered the field of Russian studies, Pipes says.

"Until very recently I never taught a course on the Soviet period because we didn't have access to the archives," he says.

"We have to work from primary sources," he explains, adding that until minutes of politburo meetings and internal archives become available the most recent history of Eastern Europe will be the property of journalists and political scientists.

Still, as further archives are opened a wealth of historical ever increasing knowledge becomes available, which Pipes says he would pursue "If I were 30 years younger."

Now, however, the professor plans to spend at least a year relaxing and enjoying his retirement.

Upon leaving Harvard this June, Pipes plans to complete a book about property and to spend time pursuing his other interests--which include gardening, art collecting and literature. (He is currently reading all of the works of Trollope.

Recommended Articles