It is with great sadness that the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation marks the passing of Dr. Richard Pipes, the eminent scholar of Soviet Russia, Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom laureate, and longtime member of VOC’s Academic Council. Dr. Pipes passed away peacefully in his home on Thursday, May 18.
Richard Pipes, 1923–2018/
From his early life, the great historian of totalitarianism was shaped by its ravages. Born into a Jewish family in the Polish town of Cieszyn in 1923, the young Pipes watched the drama of fascism’s rise firsthand. Through luck and his father’s connections to the diplomatic service, the Pipes family escaped first to Italy in 1940 and then to the United States. After serving in the US Army Air Corps in World War II, Pipes returned to the United States and pursued his education. In 1958, he became a professor of Russian history at Harvard University, where he spent his entire career.
His many books helped define the worldwide debate about the origins, effects, meaning, and legacy of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet regime it spawned. His The Russian Revolution, first published in 1990, is one of the canonical histories of that baleful event.
Dr. Pipes also served as the head of “Team B,” a group of experts tasked by the CIA with compiling an estimate of Soviet military strength to supplement the official (“Team A”) report. During the Reagan administration, Dr. Pipes served on the National Security Council as a Soviet expert.
Our executive director, Marion Smith, wrote about Richard Pipes’s life and legacy for National Review. Dr. Lee Edwards, the chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, memorialized Dr. Pipes in the Daily Signal. Other obituaries were published in the New York Times and the Washington Post.