Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
tel. +358-(0)50-563 63 07

Eeva Korteniemi
tel. +358-(0)50-4150 571

aleksanteri-fellows [at]

Aleksanteri Institute
P.O.Box 42 (Unioninkatu 33)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

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Richard Stites, Historian, 1931 -2010

The Aleksanteri Institute wishes to pay tribute to a visiting scholar and close friend of many of the Institute’s staff, Professor Richard Stites, who passed away in Helsinki, on March 7th. Richard had been diagnosed with cancer and had been hospitalised with other complications. He was 78 years old. He had been a regular visitor to Finland for over 30 years, spending nearly all his summers – and sometimes longer periods – researching and teaching here. His specialty was Russian history, but he commanded a huge range, and wrote and lectured on a wide variety of topics.

Richard Stites Stites was born in Philadelphia, and was educated in the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with honors in 1956; he then took an MA in George Washington University, and received his PHD in Harvard in 1968. He had several academic posts, including fellowships in the USSR and Denmark, before becoming Professor of History in Georgetown University, Washington D.C. in 1977, a post he retained for the rest of his life. He received numerous fellowships and grants, and sat on many advisory and editorial boards. In 2003 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Helsinki.
In 2010 Professor Stites was nominated as Honorary Visiting Fellow by the Aleksanteri Institute. He's the only person to be so nominated.

His books included The Women's Liberation Movement in Russia, Princeton University Press, 1978, (named Outstanding Academic Book by Choice); Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Social Experiment in the Russian Revolution, Oxford University Press, 1989, (awarded the Wayne S. Vucinich Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies for the best book in Slavic Studies published in 1989) and the more recent, Serfdom, Society, and the Arts in Imperial Russia: the Pleasure and the Power, Yale University Press, 2005, (selected as a Foreign Affairs Best Book about Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Republics, September 2006).

Beyond his outstanding academic achievements, Richard Stites was a unique personality; extroverted, charming, and refreshingly irreverent and witty. That he could balance this youthful exuberance with his dedicated scholarship was what made him so remarkable. He was a superb teacher and very generous mentor; he was always enthusiastic and encouraging to fellow scholars and students. We mourn his loss but also wish to honour a long and most remarkable life.

Richard Stites, Historian, 1931 -2010, R.I.P.

Text: Brendan Humphreys
Photo: Kari U. Timonen