This volume gathers some of the many key articles and reviews published by me over the last forty years and more in a wide variety of scholarly venues, some of which are not readily accessible. They constitute, I think, important contributions not only to Russian history broadly understood, but also to the study of history itself. The collection includes a note from the editor as well as an introduction by me, where I sum up my decades of historical work and point to new avenues of needed research, all the while emphasizing that "history" properly understood does not exist somewhere on its own but is the creation, however imperfect, of professional historians.
My most important current project has been researching and writing a book on Jane Addams and her decades-long encounter with Leo Tolstoy, a previously untold story of, I’ve found, surprisingly wide import. Yes, Jane Addams the famous Chicago social reformer and Tolstoy the great Russian writer but also, a fact little-known today, a major moral influence, through his religious tracts as much as his fiction, in Progressive-era America. Addams started reading Tolstoy in her twenties (born 1860), went all the way to Russia to meet him in her thirties, and was still invoking him in the last years of her life (died 1935; Tolstoy lived 1828-1910). By her own account he decisively influenced her founding of Hull-House and, later, her plunge into pacifism, the cause that dominated the second half of her life. I argue that Tolstoy’s personal example in trying to live up to his lofty principles, what she called his “sermon of the deed” and for which he incurred both opprobrium and ridicule as well as awestruck praise, sustained her through the setbacks and harsh public rebukes of her own strenuous career, lending it a kind of religious significance. A new dimension is thereby added to the Addams legacy. The book is titled Two Shining Souls: Jane Addams, Leo Tolstoy, and the Quest for Global Peace – “shining soul” being her term for him and the quest for peace – personal, social, national, international – the single most important link between them. A major theme of the book is the great crisis in the history of pacifism, which by 1914 had achieved unparalleled public support in Europe and America, precipitated by World War I. Though scholarly in its original research and regular citation of sources, the book is aimed as much or more at students and general readers as at academic specialists – at anyone with an interest in either Addams or Tolstoy but also in women’s studies, World War I and the history of pacifism, social justice issues, religion and ethics. As I say in the book’s Preface, the story of Addams’s encounter with Tolstoy raises issues of public concern that are very much with us today. They include the often conflicting demands on the individual, particularly but not only on women, of family and society; the legitimacy of violence in pursuit of political aims; the role of government in social reform; the problem of poverty; and the place of religion in both public and private life. The distinctive ways in which Addams and Tolstoy dealt with such issues offer lessons, I suggest, that are valuable even now.