Alexandras Shtromas speaking on the Fall of the Soviet System, Geneva, Switzerland, August 1985
|Born||April 04 1931|
|Died||June 12 1999 (aged 68)|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Salford UniversityHillsdale College
|Alma mater||Vilnius University|
Moscow State University
Human rights activism with participation in dissident movement in the Soviet Union
Alexander Shtromas (Lithuanian: Aleksandras Štromas; April 4, 1931 in Kaunas, Lithuania – June 12, 1999 in Chicago) was a prominent political scientist, dissident, professor, and author. He survived the horror of Nazi imprisonment in a Jewish ghetto and the tyranny of the Soviet regime to have a successful career in academia in Europe and the United States, teaching and publishing in several languages.
A brilliant scholar, he invested greatly in his students, brought invaluable insights to the scholarly world, and is remembered as one of very few political scientists who accurately predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Alexander Shtromas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. His father, Jurgis Shtromas, served as a diplomat in Berlin and then as an official in Kaunas. His mother, Eugenija Kozin, was a Russian-speaking Jew. His father was killed by the Nazis shortly after the German invasion.
During the Nazi occupation of Lithuania Alexander, along with his mother and sister, was imprisoned in the Kovno Ghetto, later concentration camp, in Vilijampolė. After two years, Alexander and his sister were rescued from the ghetto by Antanas and Marija Macenavicius, a Catholic family who hid them outside the city. However, Alexander would go back into the city to see his mother in the concentration camp until she committed suicide.
After the Russians reoccupied Lithuania, Shtromas was found by Antanas Sniečkus, a Soviet general who had known his father, and who took him in and raised him as his adopted son. Sniečkus became the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Lithuania, and Alexander became a faithful believer in Communism.
With the support of Sniečkus, he completed his secondary education in 1947 and studied law at Vilnius University, and then finishing at Moscow State University where he was a classmate of Mikhail Gorbachev. He spent the next years practicing and teaching law, and publishing a number of books and articles.
Until the time of Stalin's death in 1953 he was a staunch believer in Communism. He and his comrades believed that any problems, and they noticed the atrocities and injustices perpetrated by the Soviet regime, were either necessary in order to transform Lithuania into a just socialist society or were the mistakes of individual executioners of the Party's will. He was convinced that Stalin, and Sniečkus in Lithuania, were working toward the most noble human goals.
This changed with Stalin's death, when he recognized that Stalin was the source of the system's evils, not the opportunistic apparatchiks who were acting on his orders. He became anti-Soviet, but held on to his Marxist beliefs for another decade. When the expected socialist revolution which was to free them from Soviet totalitarian control and bring about the true socialist society did not materialize, his belief in Marxism evaporated. Along with other Russian intellectuals who had become dissidents, critical of the Soviet regime, under pressure from the Soviet authorities he was forced to leave the country. He received permission to emigrate and left Moscow on September 5, 1973.
His sister was married to a successful British businessman and living in England, so he moved to the United Kingdom.
There, he was appointed to a position in the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford by Adam Curle. He later served as Lecturer in Politics at Salford University, and, until his death, as Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College in the United States.
While living in England he met and married Violeta Rakuskaite, a Lithuanian singer who was also born in Kaunas, who left Soviet-controlled Lithuania in 1975.
Aleksandras Shtromas died of lung cancer on June 12, 1999 aged 68.
After graduating from Moscow State University with a degree in law, Shtromas practiced as a defense lawyer in the early 1950s. He then taught law in Vilnius, Ivanovo, and Moscow, as well as working at the Soviet All-Union Research Institute of Legal Science in Moscow, and publishing books and articles on law and criminology. He was accepted as a member of the Soviet Sociological Association of the Academy of Sciences in 1969.
After leaving Moscow in 1973, he was appointed to a position in the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He worked in the United Kingdom as a consultant and researcher, later holding a tenured position at the University of Salford, becoming a Reader in Politics in 1983. Through his presentations at conferences throughout Europe and the United States, Shtromas was offered a visiting professorship at the University of Chicago in 1982, and also taught at Boston College. He took a full-time job as Professor of Politics at Hillsdale College in 1989. His colleague Mickey Craig noted that "After everything he had been through, he used to say he was grateful to HIllsdale for providing him with such a boring job." He continued teaching at Hillsdale until his death in 1999.
Shtromas presented papers and published numerous articles and books revealing truths about Communism and the Soviet Union. His 1984 speech at the inaugural meeting organizing the Professors World Peace Academy (PWPA), "To Fight Communism: Why and How?" was a novel call to challenge Communism on an ideological level, urging the West to support the idea of "change in the USSR and its dependencies." His presentation at the 1985 PWPA conference in Geneva, Switzerland on "The Fall of the Soviet Union: Prospects for Transition to a Post Soviet World," which he co-organized with Morton Kaplan, made it clear that the Soviet Union had internal problems and "he believed it could change from within, without triggering a nuclear holocaust."
Having survived two of the world's worst tyrannies in the twentieth century, as a Jew in Lithuania under Nazi oppression followed by life under the Communist regime of the Soviet Union, Shtromas not defeated by these experiences but rather responded with courage and intelligence. Although he dedicated his career to revealing the problems, and solutions, to such totalitarianism, he was also able to enjoy life, developing lasting friendships with colleagues around the world.
Shtromas was a powerful influence on his students: "Hearing Shtromas talk about the politics of the Soviet Union, the inner circle, and the Politburo, knowing many of the people that were there was a phenomenal insight into that major part of world history."
A book with tributes by fellow dissidents, academic colleagues, and former students (mainly in English but also in Lithuanian and Russian) was published in 2008 in Lithuania, edited by Leonidas Donskis (XX A. Zmogus: Aleksandro Stromo Portretai, Versus Aureus, 2008).
Major works in English
- Who are the Soviet Dissidents?. 1979.
- Political Change and Social Development: The Case of the Soviet Union. 1981.
- The Soviet Method of Conquest of the Baltic States: Lessons for the West. 1986.
- The Soviet Union and the Challenge of the Future with Morton A. Kaplan (eds.). 1988.
- The End of "Isms"?: Reflections on the fate of ideological politics after Communism's collapse (ed.). 1994.
- Totalitarianism and the Prospects for World Order: Closing the Door on the Twentieth Century. 2003.
- To Fight Communism: Why and how? International Journal on World Peace 1(1) (Autumn 1984): 20-44. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
- Leonidas Donskis, A Baltic woman ahead of her time, The Baltic Times, March 23, 2016. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
- Morgan Delp, Remembering Aleksandras Shtromas The Collegian, December 4, 2014. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
- Baltic World Conference Baltic Tribunal Against the Soviet Union, July 25 and 26, 1985. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
- Robert A. McKinlay, "From Harvard to Bradford" in Tom Woodhouse (ed.), Peacemaking in a Troubled World (Berg Pub Ltd, 1991, ISBN 978-0854965946).
- Romuald J. Misiunas, Book Review Political Change and Social Development: The Case of the Soviet Union by Alexander Shtromas; Politinė Samonė Lietuvoje (Political Consciousness in Lithuania) by Aleksandras Stromas Political Psychology
- Alexander Shtromas, To Fight Communism: Why and how? International Journal on World Peace
- Gordon Anderson, Some Memories of Alex Shtromas Professors World Peace Academy, December 18, 2002. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Donskis, Leonidas. Identity and Freedom. Routledge, 2015. ISBN 978-1138874411
- Mccauley, Martin. The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union. Routledge, 2007. ISBN 978-0582784659
- Woodhouse, Tom. Peacemaking in a Troubled World. Berg Pub Ltd, 1991. ISBN 978-0854965946
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