Interview with Ronald Suny--December 26, 2014
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Interview with Ronald Suny, the Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Social and Political History at the University of Michigan and also Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Chicago. The interview was conducted in Istanbul, Turkey on December 26, 2014. Ron Suny has written and edited several books on Russian, Soviet, Armenian and Georgian history, including Armenia in the Twentieth Century (1983), The Making of the Georgian Nation (1988); Looking Toward Ararat: The Armenians in Modern History (1993); The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (1998) and edited volumes on nationalism, the Caucuses, the Russian Revolution, and the Armenian genocide. He was the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (the former AAASS, now the ASEEES), and now has books on the Armenian genocide, Stalin, and the historiography of the Soviet Union and Russia’s Empires in the publication queue.
Interview Themes -- 01:25 How Suny came to Soviet history; 02:15 Suny's Armenian roots in Turkey and Russia; 03:40 On how Suny's father encouraged him to think differently about the Russian Revolution; 06:05 The difficulty of working out where the Russian Revolution went wrong; 08:20 Russia and the Soviet Union -- a disambiguation?; 10:50 Suny's first visit to the USSR in 1964; 13:00 Family trip to Armenia in 1964; 14:50 On seeing the Soviet experience from a non-Russian perspective; 17:25 How knowing a great deal about Soviet history influenced Suny's understanding of leftism and ideology more generally; 20:10 Skepticism vis-a-vis the institutionalization of leftism; 21:15 Overlap between Western leftism and early dissidents; 23:45 On the relationship between violence and the construction of an alternative to market capitalism; 31:10 Gorbachev and the unravelling of the USSR; 33:20 Soviet Union's lessons for "empires" about how to/not to collapse; 35:25 Was the Armenian genocide the end or the beginning of a polity?; 37:20 Nationalism and ideology as preoccupations of Soviet vs. East European historians; 42:10 The impact of the war in Yugoslavia on the Soviet field; 47:50 Class vs. nationalism as "imagined communities"; 51:30 Suny's characterization of his own generation of scholars; 55:55 Historical divisions (or not) and factions in the Soviet field - emergence of Kritika; 58:15 How did the atmosphere change in the Soviet field?; 59:05 What a Soviet scholar could tell a scholar of the Middle East today; 1:01:55 Impact of the dissolution of the USSR on the Soviet field; 1:05:25 Things to be optimistic about in our time; 1:06:40 The challenge of turning "nuance" into politics; 1:08:30 History vs. political science (from the perspective of someone who does both); 1:09:50 On being a leftist who studies the Soviet Union; 1:10:40 Suny's views on area studies and its usefulness in our time; 1:11:55 Suny's views on Turkey as a scholar of the USSR/Russia; 1:14:10 What is the "European way"?; 1:15:45 Will the European Union have staying power?; 1:16:25 Most interesting aspects of the various fields Suny works in; 1:17:50 Suny's all-time favorite books; 1:19:35 How we should be training the next generation of scholars