J. Arch Getty

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John Archibald Getty, III (born November 30, 1950)[1] is an American historian and Distinguished Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is noted for his research on Russian and Soviet history, especially the period under Joseph Stalin and the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Life and career[edit]

Getty was born in Louisiana but 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.

Research and ideas[edit]

Getty established himself as a forerunner among revisionist historians of the Soviet Union with his first book, Origin of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 (Cambridge 1985). Most recently, Getty has published a biography of N.I. Yezhov (2008). He is a controversial figure in the field of Soviet studies, as he was one of the first to put forth the thesis that the Great Purge was planned and commanded not only by Stalin, but by Yezhov and other Stalin's subordinates as well.[2][3][4] According to Robert Conquest, (whom Getty sharply criticized in his first book) "Getty belongs to a gaggle of ‘revisionists’ who have achieved, like David Irving in another sphere, a certain notoriety. They are for some reason concerned to deny that much of a terror took place in the USSR in the Thirties, a stance only achievable by rejecting ... the vast corpus of evidence to the contrary.[5]

In particular, Arch Getty was the first to argue that Stalin was not culpable for Kirov's assassination, calling the evidence "complicated and at least secondhand." His views have been confirmed by the latest scholarship.[6] Getty echoed Khrushchev's observation of NKVD complicity in the murder. However, he considered the confession by NKVD head, Genrikh Yagoda that he arranged the murder of Kirov as a proof of Stalin's innocence. Getty argued that it would have been "very dangerous to allow [Yagoda] to appear later before the microphones of the world press" if he had knowledge of Stalin's complicity because he "knew that he would be shot anyway" and "it would have been easy for him to let slip that Stalin had put him up to it."[7]

Jonathan Haslam remarks on the paradox that Getty's work is rehabilitating Stalin's reputation just when Soviet historians were exposing the details of Stalin's crimes against the Soviet people.[8]


  • 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 Gаbor T. Rittersporn, and V. N. Zemskov), American Historical Review, 98:4, Oct. 1993
  • "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. ^ Average Joe: The Return of Stalin Apologists by World Affairs
  3. ^ John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr. In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage. Encounter Books, 2003. ISBN 1-893554-72-4 pp. 15–17
  4. ^ Timo Vihavainen, "The Yezhovshchina: Premeditated Social Engineering or the Result of Unforeseen Circumstances? Some Objections to J. Arch Getty's Revision of the Great Purges," Nordic Journal of Soviet & East European Studies (1985) 2#3 pp 129-136.
  5. ^ Starving the Ukraine, a review by Arch Getty and responses by Robert Conquest, published in London Review of Books
  6. ^ Getty, J. Arch, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-38, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 207. Mathew E. Lenoe, The Kirov Murder and Soviet History, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010)
  7. ^ Getty, Origins, 208.
  8. ^ Jonathan Haslam, "Why Rehabilitate Stalin?" Intelligence & National Security (1987) 2#2 pp 362-367

External links[edit]