Richard Pipes

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Richard Pipes
Richard Pipes 2004.JPG
Richard Pipes in October 2004
Born(1923-07-11)July 11, 1923
DiedMay 17, 2018(2018-05-17) (aged 94)
Nationality Polish American
CitizenshipPoland (1923–1943)
United States (1943–2018)
Alma mater Cornell University
Harvard University
Spouse(s)Irene Eugenia Roth
Children Daniel Pipes, Steven Pipes
Awards National Humanities Medal
Scientific career
Fields Modern history
Doctoral advisor Michael Karpovich
Doctoral students Fiona Hill, Arthur Waldron, Anna Geifman, Peter Kenez, Abbott Gleason, Richard Stites

Richard Edgar Pipes (Polish : Ryszard Pipes; July 11, 1923 – May 17, 2018) was a Polish American academic who specialized in Russian history, particularly with respect to the Soviet Union, who espoused a strong anti-communist point of view throughout his career. In 1976 he headed Team B, a team of analysts organized by the Central Intelligence Agency who analyzed the strategic capacities and goals of the Soviet military and political leadership. Pipes was the father of American historian and expert on American foreign policy and the Middle East, Daniel Pipes.

Polish language West Slavic language spoken in Poland

Polish is a West Slavic language of the Lechitic group. It is spoken primarily in Poland and serves as the native language of the Poles. In addition to being an official language of Poland, it is also used by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 50 million Polish-language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Team B

Team B was a competitive analysis exercise commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to analyze threats the Soviet Union posed to the security of the United States. It was created, in part, due to a 1974 publication by Albert Wohlstetter, who accused the CIA of chronically underestimating Soviet military capability. Years of National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) that were later demonstrated to be very wrong were another motivating factor.


Pipes was born to a Jewish family in Cieszyn, Poland, which fled the country as refugees after it was invaded by Nazi Germany. Settling in the United States in 1940, he became a naturalized citizen in 1943 while serving in the United States Army Air Corps. From 1958 to 1996, Pipes worked at Harvard University.

Cieszyn Place in Silesian, Poland

Cieszyn(listen) is a border town in southern Poland on the east bank of the Olza River, and the administrative seat of Cieszyn County, Silesian Voivodeship. The town has about 36,100 inhabitants, and lies opposite Český Těšín in the Czech Republic's Karviná District, Moravian-Silesian Region. Both towns belonged to the historical region of Austrian Silesia and are the historical capital of the region of Cieszyn Silesia.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

United States Army Air Corps Air warfare branch of the US Army from 1926 to 1941

The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) was the aerial warfare service of the United States of America between 1926 and 1941. After World War I, as early aviation became an increasingly important part of modern warfare, a philosophical rift developed between more traditional ground-based army personnel and those who felt that aircraft were being underutilized and that air operations were being stifled for political reasons unrelated to their effectiveness. The USAAC was renamed from the earlier United States Army Air Service on 2 July 1926, and was part of the larger United States Army. The Air Corps became the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941, giving it greater autonomy from the Army's middle-level command structure. During World War II, although not an administrative echelon, the Air Corps (AC) remained as one of the combat arms of the Army until 1947, when it was legally abolished by legislation establishing the Department of the Air Force.

Personal life

Richard Pipes was born in Cieszyn, Poland to an assimilated Jewish family (whose name had originally been spelled "Piepes"). [1] His father Marek was a businessman and a Polish legionnaire. [2] By Pipes's own account, during his childhood and youth, he never thought about the Soviet Union; the major cultural influences on him were Polish and German. When he was age 16, Pipes laid eyes upon Adolf Hitler at Marszałkowska Street in Warsaw when Hitler made a victory tour after the Invasion of Poland. [3] The Pipes family fled occupied Poland in October 1939 and arrived in the United States in July 1940, after seven months passing through Italy. [4] [5] Pipes became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1943 while serving in the United States Army Air Corps. He was educated at Muskingum College, Cornell University, and Harvard University. He married Irene Eugenia Roth in 1946, and had two children with her, Daniel and Steven. His son Daniel Pipes is a scholar of Middle Eastern affairs. [6] [7]

Second Polish Republic 1918-1939 republic in Eastern Europe

The Second Polish Republic, commonly known as interwar Poland, refers to the country of Poland in the period between the First and Second World Wars (1918–1939). Officially known as the Republic of Poland, sometimes Commonwealth of Poland, the Polish state was re-established in 1918, in the aftermath of World War I. When, after several regional conflicts, the borders of the state were fixed in 1922, Poland's neighbours were Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Free City of Danzig, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and the Soviet Union. It had access to the Baltic Sea via a short strip of coastline either side of the city of Gdynia. Between March and August 1939, Poland also shared a border with the then-Hungarian governorate of Subcarpathia. The Second Republic ceased to exist in 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the Slovak Republic, marking the beginning of the European theatre of World War II.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Marszałkowska Street, Warsaw street in Warsaw, Poland

Marszałkowska is one of the main thoroughfares of Warsaw's city center. It links Bank Square in its north sector with Plac Unii Lubelskiej in the south.

Pipes died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 17, 2018 at the age of 94. [8] [9]


Pipes taught at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1996. He was the director of Harvard's Russian Research Center from 1968 to 1973 and later Baird Professor Emeritus of History at Harvard University. In 1962 he delivered a series of lectures on Russian intellectual history at Leningrad State University. He acted as senior consultant at the Stanford Research Institute from 1973 to 1978. During the 1970s, he was an advisor to Washington Senator Henry M. Jackson. In 1981 and 1982 he served as a member of the National Security Council, holding the post of Director of East European and Soviet Affairs under President Ronald Reagan. [10] He also became head of the Nationalities Working Group. [11] Pipes was a member of the Committee on the Present Danger from 1977 until 1992 and belonged to the Council of Foreign Relations. In the 1970s, Pipes was a leading critic of détente, which he described as "inspired by intellectual indolence and based on ignorance of one's antagonist and therefore inherently inept". [12]

Harvard University Private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities.

Emeritus, in its current usage, is an adjective used to designate a retired chairman, professor, pastor, bishop, pope, director, president, prime minister, rabbi, emperor, or other person.

Saint Petersburg State University is a Russian federal state-owned higher education institution based in Saint Petersburg. It is the oldest and one of the largest universities in Russia.

Team B

Pipes was head of the 1976 Team B, composed of civilian experts and retired military officers and agreed to by then-CIA director George H. W. Bush at the urging of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) as a competitive analysis exercise. [10] Team B was created at the instigation of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as an antagonist force to a group of CIA intelligence officials known as Team A. His hope was that it would produce a much more aggressive assessment of Soviet Union military capabilities. Unsurprisingly, it argued that the National Intelligence Estimate on the Soviet Union, generated yearly by the CIA, underestimated both Soviet military strategy and ambition [13] and misinterpreted Soviet strategic intentions.

George H. W. Bush 41st president of the United States

George Herbert Walker Bush was an American politician who served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993 and the 43rd vice president from 1981 to 1989. A member of the Republican Party, he held posts that included those of congressman, ambassador, and CIA director. Until his son George W. Bush became the 43rd president in 2001, he was usually known simply as George Bush.

Competitor analysis in marketing and strategic management is an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors. This analysis provides both an offensive and defensive strategic context to identify opportunities and threats. Profiling combines all of the relevant sources of competitor analysis into one framework in the support of efficient and effective strategy formulation, implementation, monitoring and adjustment.

National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) are United States federal government documents that are the authoritative assessment of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) on intelligence related to a particular national security issue. NIEs are produced by the National Intelligence Council and express the coordinated judgments of the United States Intelligence Community, the group of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. NIEs are classified documents prepared for policymakers.

Team B faced criticism. The international relations journalist Fred Kaplan writes that Team B "turns out to have been wrong on nearly every point." [14] Pipes's group insisted that the Soviet Union, as of 1976, maintained "a large and expanding Gross National Product," [15] and argued that the CIA belief that economic chaos hindered the USSR's defenses was a ruse on the part of the USSR. One CIA employee called Team B "a kangaroo court". [16]

Pipes called Team B's evidence "soft." [10] Team B came to the conclusion that the Soviets had developed several new weapons, featuring a nuclear-armed submarine fleet that used a system that did not depend on active sonar, and was thus undetectable by existing technology. [17]

According to Pipes, "Team B was appointed to look at the evidence and to see if we could conclude that the actual Soviet strategy is different from ours, i.e. the strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). It has now been demonstrated totally that it was". [18] In 1986, Pipes maintained that Team B contributed to creating more realistic defense estimates. [19]

Writings on Russian history

Pipes wrote many books on Russian history, including Russia under the Old Regime (1974), The Russian Revolution (1990), and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime (1994), and was a frequent interviewee in the press on the matters of Soviet history and foreign affairs. His writings also appear in Commentary , The New York Times , and The Times Literary Supplement. At Harvard, he taught large courses on Imperial Russia as well as the Russian Revolution and guided over 80 graduate students to their PhDs.

Pipes is known for arguing that the origins of the Soviet Union can be traced to the separate path taken by 15th-century Muscovy, in a Russian version of the Sonderweg thesis. In Pipes' opinion, Muscovy differed from every other State in Europe in that it had no concept of private property, and that everything was regarded as the property of the Grand Duke/Tsar. In Pipes' view, this separate path undertaken by Russia (possibly under Mongol influence) ensured that Russia would be an autocratic state with values fundamentally dissimilar from those of Western civilization. Pipes argued that this "patrimonialism" of Imperial Russia started to break down when Russian leaders attempted to modernize in the 19th century, without seeking to change the basic "patrimonial" structure of Russian society. In Pipes's opinion, this separate course undertaken by Russia over the centuries made Russia uniquely open to revolution in 1917. Pipes strongly criticized the values of the radical intelligentsia of late Imperial Russia for what he sees as their fanaticism and inability to accept reality. The Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn denounced Pipes' work as "the Polish version of Russian history". Pipes, in turn, accused Solzhenitsyn of being an anti-Semitic Russian ultra-nationalist, who sought to blame the ills of Communism on the Jews rather than to admit to the Russian roots of the Soviet Union. Writing of Solzhenitsyn's novel, August 1914 in the New York Times on November 13, 1985, Pipes commented: "Every culture has its own brand of anti-Semitism. In Solzhenitsyn's case, it's not racial. It has nothing to do with blood. He's certainly not a racist; the question is fundamentally religious and cultural. He bears some resemblance to Dostoevsky, who was a fervent Christian and patriot and a rabid anti-Semite. Solzhenitsyn is unquestionably in the grip of the Russian extreme right's view of the Revolution, which is that it was the doing of the Jews". [20] Pipes explained Solzhenitsyn's view of Soviet communism: "[Solzhenitsyn] said it was because Marxism was a Western idea imported into Russia. Whereas my argument is that it has deep roots in Russian history." [21]

Pipes stressed that the Soviet Union was an expansionist, totalitarian state bent on world conquest. He is also notable for the thesis that, contrary to many traditional histories of the Soviet Union at the time, the October Revolution was, rather than a popular general uprising, a coup foisted upon the majority of the Russian population by a tiny segment of the population driven by a select group of intellectuals who subsequently established a one-party dictatorship that was intolerant and repressive from the start, rather than having deviated from an initially benign course. In Pipes's view, the Revolution was a total disaster, as it allowed a small section of the fanatical intelligentsia to carry out policies that were completely unrealistic.[ citation needed ]

In what was meant to be an "off-the-record" interview, Pipes told Reuters in March 1981 that "Soviet leaders would have to choose between peacefully changing their Communist system in the direction followed by the West or going to war. There is no other alternative and it could go either way – Détente is dead." Pipes also stated in the interview that Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of West Germany was susceptible to pressure from the Soviets. It was learned independently that Pipes was the official who spoke to Reuters. This potentially jeopardized Pipes' job. The White House and the "incensed" State Department issued statements repudiating Pipes' statements. [22]

In 1992, Pipes served as an expert witness in the Constitutional Court of Russia's trial of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. [23]

Criticism of Pipes' approach

The writings of Richard Pipes have provoked criticism in the scholarly community, for example in The Russian Review . [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29]

Criticism of Pipes's interpretation of the events of 1917 has come mostly from revisionist Soviet historians, who under the influence of the French Annales school, have tended since the 1970s to center their interpretation of the Russian Revolution on social movements from below in preference to parties and their leaders and interpreted political movements as responding to pressures from below rather than directing them. [30] Among members of this school, Lynne Viola and Sheila Fitzpatrick write that Pipes focused too narrowly on intellectuals as causal agents. Peter Kenez (a one-time PhD student of Pipes') argued that Pipes approached Soviet History as a prosecutor, intent solely on proving the criminal intent of the defendant, to the exclusion of anything else. [31] Pipes' critics argued that his historical writings perpetuated the Soviet Union as evil empire narrative in an attempt "to put the clock back a few decades to the times when Cold War demonology was the norm". [32] [33]

Other critics have written that Pipes wrote at length about what Pipes described as Lenin's unspoken assumptions and conclusions while neglecting what Lenin actually said. [34] Alexander Rabinowitch writes that whenever a document can serve Pipes' long-standing crusade to demonize Lenin, Pipes commented on it at length; if the document allows Lenin to be seen in a less negative light, Pipes passed over it without comment. [27]

Pipes, in his turn – following the demise of the USSR – charged the revisionists with skewing their research, by means of statistics, to support their preconceived ideological interpretation of events, which made the results of their research "as unreadable as they were irrelevant for the understanding of the subject" [35] to provide intellectual cover for Soviet terror and acting as simpletons and/or Communist dupes. [36] He also stated that their attempt at "history from below" only obfuscated the fact that "Soviet citizens were the helpless victims of a totalitarian regime driven primarily by a lust for power". [37]


Pipes had an extensive list of honors, including: Honorary Consul of the Republic of Georgia, Foreign Member of the Polish Academy of Learning (PAU), Commander's Cross of Merit of the Republic of Poland, Honorary DHL at Adelphi College, Honorary LLD at Muskingum College, Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Silesia, Szczecin University, and the University of Warsaw. Honorary Doctor of Political Science from the Tbilisi (Georgia) School of Political Studies. Annual Spring Lecturer of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Institute, Walter Channing Cabot Fellow of Harvard University, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Guggenheim Fellow (twice), Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies and recipient of the George Louis Beer Prize of the American Historical Association. [38] He was a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He served on a number of editorial boards including that of the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. He received one of the 2007 National Humanities Medals [39] [40] and in 2009 he was awarded both the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation [41] and the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Prize by the William & Mary Law School. [42] In 2010, Pipes received the medal "Bene Merito" awarded by the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Since 2010 he belonged to the Russian Valdai Discussion Club.

He was a member of the advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. [43]


External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Presentation by Pipes on The Unknown Lenin, November 22, 1996, C-SPAN
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Presentation by Pipes on Property and Freedom, December 13, 1999, C-SPAN
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Interview with Pipes, conducted by William F. Buckley Jr., on Communism: A History, November 1, 2001, C-SPAN
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Booknotes interview with Pipes on Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger, December 7, 2003, C-SPAN





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  29. Richard Pipes; Ronald Grigor Suny (1991). "The Russian Revolution". The American Historical Review. Oxford University Press. pp. 1581–83. JSTOR   2165391.Missing or empty |url= (help)
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Further reading