H-Diplo Essay 255- Tsuyoshi Hasegawa on Learning the Scholar’s Craft: Reflections of Historians and International Relations Scholars21 min read

I have had a somewhat unique professional career.  I was born in Japan and graduated from a Japanese university.  I came to the United States to study Russian history, received my Ph.D. in the United States, and taught in the United States and Japan.  I acquired American citizenship.  I have made numerous trips to the Soviet Union/Russia to conduct research there.

H-Diplo Essay 255

Essay Series on Learning the Scholar’s Craft: Reflections of Historians and International Relations Scholars
8 July 2020

The History of My Career

Series Editor: Diane Labrosse | Production Editor: George Fujii

Essay by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, University of California, Santa Barbara, Emeritus

I have had a somewhat unique professional career.  I was born in Japan and graduated from a Japanese university.  I came to the United States to study Russian history, received my Ph.D. in the United States, and taught in the United States and Japan.  I acquired American citizenship.  I have made numerous trips to the Soviet Union/Russia to conduct research there.

Also, I wear two hats in terms of research interests.  The first is the study of the Russian Revolution, and the second is the Cold War in Asia, especially Soviet-Japanese Relations.

I was an undergraduate student at Tokyo University, Komaba Campus, in the early 1960s. Uemura Tadao, a noted scholar on social-historical thoughts, Ito Takayuki, my future colleague, and Kawaguchi Yoriko, who became foreign minister, were my classmates.  I belong to the Anpo-generation that went through the student movement against the renewal of the US-Japan security treaty.  This was the time when young Marxist historians, who were stimulated by new Soviet historical trends, challenged the ossified Stalinist historical interpretation of Russian history that had dominated Japanese historians on Russia.  They established a journal, Roshia-shi Kenkyu (Research on Russian History), and organized monthly workshops. I was invited to this group, and made my first scholarly presentation on the Bolshevik sub-group in the February Revolution, based on my senior graduation thesis. The orientation of this group, led by the young Wada Haruki, who is now the doyen of Russian history in Japan, had a lasting influence on my historical approach.

It is interesting to note that the recent autobiographical essay by Ronald Suny in his book on American historiography on Russia[1] argues that young American historians of Russia were at the same time moving away from orthodox interpretation of Russian history, and came to espouse an approach that was strongly influenced by Marxism. In the United States, this culminated in the dominance of social history of the Russian Revolution in the 1970s and 1980s.  In Japan, historians on Russia also came to focus on social history, but from the opposite direction, liberating themselves from rigid Soviet historical interpretations, though still under the shadow of Marxism.  They felt more affinity to British historians such as E. H. Carr and Isaac Deutscher than to American historians.

I was interested in why the Soviet Union, founded by Marxism, came to produce the monstrous regime of Joseph Stalin.  My inclination was to study its origin in the Russian Revolution, and I began to study its beginning, the February Revolution.  But, alas, I got stuck on the ten days of the February Revolution for more than ten years.

When I graduated from Tokyo University, I was granted an opportunity to study Russian history at the University of Washington, where Professor Donald Treadgold obtained a Ford Foundation scholarship to train a Japanese historian.  My mentors and colleagues, including Professor Wada, were skeptical about my studies in the United States.  They thought a Ford Foundation scholarship was one of the attempts of the United Stated, under the banner of the ‘Reischauer Line,’–Edwin Reischauer was U.S. ambassador to Japan under the Kennedy Administration, promoting cultural exchange between Japanese and American universities– to lure anti-American scholars to adopt a more American friendly policy and interpretation.  But given that I had no opportunity to do archival research in the Soviet Union since there was at that time no cultural exchange program between the Soviet Union and Japan, studying in the United States seemed to be the next best thing for me. I took the opportunity.

Initially I had thought the University of Washington was located in Washington, D.C., but soon I discovered that Seattle was my destination.  Soon after I arrived in Seattle, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident took place.  Being critical of U.S. policy toward Vietnam, I was appalled to see the students in the dorm overwhelmingly supporting the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.  But soon I witnessed the changing atmosphere at the university, which was greatly influenced by both the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam movement.

The University of Washington was not a hotbed of social history like Columbia University was at the time.  But I was fortunate to work under Donald Treadgold and Marc Szeftel, who approached Russian history somehow differently than the Haimson school of social history at Columbia.[2] I learned there was an important strand in Russian history, especially its religious-philosophical tradition that was deeply rooted in its history. Though I was also influenced by the Haimson school, I was aware of the important religious tradition that existed alongside the tradition of revolutionary intelligentsia.

Don Treadgold trained us well in his seminars.  His teaching emphasized that no matter what work you were writing, even a small book review, you gave your very best so that you could take pride in your work.  This has been ingrained in my work throughout my career, and I hope I have transmitted this also to my students.  My graduate student cohort at the University of Washington included Bob Nichols, David Goldfrank, Joe Sanders, Dan Matuszewski, Alan Kimball, Gary Ulmen, John McErlean, George Jewsbury, and Charlie Timberlake.  I not only learned a great deal from them, but also established long-lasting friendships.

I defended my dissertation in 1969, but due to nation-wide student movements that shut down all the universities in Japan, I could not return to Japan.  I was already married and had a child.  I had to find a job.  The recession then squeezed the job market.  The New Yorker magazine printed a cartoon which depicted two ‘bums’ on a bench in a park.  One asks the other: “Mine was booze, what’s yours?” The other responds: “Mine was a PhD in history.” In this tight job market, I landed a job in upstate New York at SUNY Oswego.  It was a teaching institution that mandated a heavy teaching load, four courses a semester, and undervalued the importance of research, left me dissatisfied.  And yet, I acquired valuable colleagues who had very insightful understanding and knowledge of history, especially David Danahar, Paul Morman, and Tom Judd.

My manuscript on the February Revolution, based on my dissertation, was originally accepted by Princeton University Press for publication on the condition that I made the revisions suggested by an anonymous reviewer.  But these revisions took a long time.  Since I was not a US citizen, I was not eligible for the cultural exchange program with the Soviet Union.  Only in 1973-1974 was I able to visit Moscow when I accompanied my wife, who had been accepted in an International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) exchange program, and two children.  As a spouse, not a bona fide exchange scholar, I could not get access to Soviet archives.  My research was thus done mainly at the Lenin Library Reading Room, when I was not taking care of my children.

My Moscow experience was memorable for two important reasons.  First, that year’s exchange program included the most talented graduate students who later became major scholars in Russian studies, including, among others, Laura Engelstein, Diane Koenker, Lewis Siegelbaum, Daniel Orlovsky, Paul Bushkovich, Jeff Brooks, Neil Weissman, and Ken Bailes.  Each day, after they returned to the Zona V of the Moscow State University dorm, we often engaged in endless discussions, not only on history, but also on Soviet life.  The comradery we established there has been long-lasting to this day.

Second, my wife and I divorced in the middle of our stay in Moscow.  I took the children back to upstate New York, and became a single father. I acquired U.S. citizenship in 1976.  I successfully applied for the IREX exchange program this time as an American scholar, and stayed in Leningrad in 1976-1977.  This time I was allowed to use the archives.  I got acquainted with leading Soviet scholars, including Vitalii Ivanovich Startsev, Valentin Semenovich Diakin, and Rafail Sholomovich Ganelin.  Finally able to access archival materials, I made substantial revisions to my dissertation on the February Revolution, and completed the book manuscript.  I take great pride in this monograph, which I completed despite my heavy teaching obligations at a small college without the support that big research universities grant their faculty.

Unfortunately, due to the long lapse of time after the initial acceptance of the manuscript, Princeton University Press had rescinded the original offer, and sent the manuscript anew to an outside reviewer.  This anonymous outside reviewer did not like my interpretation since it did not conform to the prevailing interpretations of social history on the Russian Revolution, and recommended that the press not to publish the manuscript.  After Princeton rejected the book, I contacted the University of Washington Press, and my first book, The February Revolution, Petrograd, 1917, was published in 1981.[3]  The anonymous reviewer for the University of Washington Press, I later learned, was Alan Wildman, who enthusiastically recommended that my manuscript be published.

At the time that I published the book, the United States was facing a crisis over the future of strategic competition with the Soviet Union.  Due to the never-ending nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, there emerged a fear that the world would be blown up in a nuclear apocalypse.  Jonathan Schell’s Fate of the Earth [4]was immensely influential.  After fifteen years of research on the ten days of the February Revolution, I was looking to branch out into something different for my next research project.  The nuclear question seemed to me to be one of the most urgent questions that faced the world, and I decided to retool myself as a specialist in esoteric nuclear strategy.  I obtained a Ford Foundation fellowship to study the comparative nuclear strategy of the United States and the Soviet Union at Columbia University in 1982-83, taking seminars by Seweryn Bialer, Robert Legvold, Robert Jervis, Warner Schilling, and Marshall Shulman.

When I returned to SUNY Oswego, despite the publication of my book on the February Revolution, my promotion to full professor was blocked by the President because I had protested the administration’s decision to unjustly fire my colleague, Michael Urban, of the political science department.  Teaching Soviet history, in which I emphasized the dissident movement and the role of conscience and social responsibility in face of totalitarian/authoritarian oppression, I chose to resign my tenured position at SUNY Oswego when Urban was fired.

Fortunately, this act coincided with the passing of a new law by the Japanese Ministry of Education that allowed national universities to hire foreign scholars as regular professors.  Even though I was born in Japan, my friend from my Tokyo University days, Professor Ito Takayuki, invited me, as an American citizen, to apply to the Slavic Research Center (SRC) of Hokkaido University, the only research institute on Russian/Slavic studies in Japan.  And I landed the job in Japan as the first foreign professor to be hired at a national university.

The day before I arrived in Sapporo, Soviet Air Defense forces had shot down KAL 007, off Sakhalin.  At the press conference where I was introduced as the first foreign professor to be hired as a regular faculty position at a national university, I spent most of time answering questions about the incident.  From then on, I was sought after as a specialist on U.S.-Soviet military policy, especially on nuclear issues.  At the risk of being immodest, there were not many specialists in Japan then who could comment on these issues.  My training at Columbia was a valuable asset.

My tenure at the Slavic Research Center coincided with Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika.  We were all fascinated by the fast developing events in the Soviet Union.  I became thoroughly absorbed in the analysis of perestroika, which pushed my primary interest in the Russian Revolution to the back burner, I considered it my task to inject scholarly analysis into the news items that journalists covered.  I wrote numerous articles and commentaries, covering arms control, Soviet nuclear strategy, Gorbachev’s new political thinking and foreign policy, its impact on Asia, and Russo-Japanese relations under the Gorbachev period.  My Slavic Research Center years were my most productive years in terms of output, and these were ones of many happy memories and new friendships, especially with my colleagues, Kimura Hiroshi, Ito Takayuki, Togawa Tsuguo, Tabata Shinichiro, Mochizuki Tetsuo, and Akizuki Toshiyuki.  It was in Sapporo where I married and had a son.  My Canadian-born wife has been my great companion and a fine editor for everything I have written since.

The Slavic Research Center has a program by which two foreign scholars are invited every year to join the faculty.  In addition, the SRC organizes numerous workshops and conferences, which also involve foreign scholars.  Through these programs I got to know James Scanlan and Sam Baron well.  Also, we managed to invite Soviet scholars.  One of the most memorable conferences was held early in 1991, when Aleksandr Tsipko, Leila Shevtsova, and others discussed the fate of perestroika just before the 9 +1 Agreement that Gorbachev concluded with nine republics in 1991.  I predicted the possibility of a coup against Gorbachev at the conference.

One of the hotly debated issues in Japan at that time was the fate of Soviet-Japanese relations during perestroika.  Japan and the Soviet Union disputed the rightful ownership of what the Japanese call “the Northern Territories” and what the Soviets call the “Southern Kurils.”  Led by the Foreign Ministry and the conservative Japanese media, which was dominated by conservative scholars and pundits including my colleague, Kimura Hiroshi, the Japanese government, used the Soviet policy toward the Northern Territories as the litmus test for the sincerity of Gorbachev’s new political thinking foreign policy.  Those in Japan’s left-wing critics, led by Wada Haruki, argued for rapprochement with the Soviet Union by pointing out the flaws of the nationalist arguments, and Japanese public opinion was hopelessly divided between the right and the left.

I argued that Japan’s official policy, which was one advocated by conservative scholars, was putting the cart before the horse.  I began to write about the seriousness of Gorbachev’s foreign and security policy as the epicenter of the reconfiguration of world politics, with the possibility of changing the Cold War paradigms.  In this polarized public opinion, I injected important analyses drawing on my knowledge of the evolution of Soviet nuclear strategy and nuclear security relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, and criticizing both Japan’s and the Soviets Union’s intransigent positions, which I saw as being driven by narrow nationalist perspectives. Eventually, I earned the respect even among some in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially, Togo Kazuhiko, who eventually left the Ministry and became a great friend and colleague.

While at the SRC, I was invited to numerous international conferences on perestroika, and I had the opportunity to exchange views and establish a scholarly network.  Among those scholars I became closely associated were McGeorge Bundy, David Holloway, George Breslauer, Ed Hewett, Bob Scalapino, Greg Grossman, and Sato Seizaburo.  My contribution at these conferences was to emphasize that Soviet foreign policy should be viewed not only from the U.S. and/or European perspectives, but also from its Asia perspective, which had often been ignored, and which had some distinct features.  I also participated in conferences organized by Gil Rozman at Princeton on changing international relations in East Asia.

During this period I also took short research trips to Moscow, attended international conferences, and established connections with Soviet specialists on Japan, including Georgii Kunadze, Konstantin Sarkisov, Vladimir Ivanov, and Aleksei Kirichenko.

In 1989-90, Professor Gail Lapidus of UC Berkeley invited me to teach two courses, Soviet foreign policy and Soviet military policy in the political science department.  I spent a year, and had numerous conversations with Greg Grossman, Martin Malia, Reginald Zelnik, Viktor Zaslavsky, and Nicholas Riasanovsky.  Malia had just published his famous “Z” article, and was preparing his book, Soviet Tragedy,[5] for which I wrote an introduction in the Japanese edition.  My research on Russo-Japanese relations I conducted at the SRC resulted in the monograph, The Northern Territories Dispute and Russo-Japanese Relations, and an edited volume on Russo-Japanese relations.[6]

After working at the SRC for eight years, I became worried that I was becoming a TV commentator and journalistic pundit without genuine scholarly output.  I felt that it was essential to test my scholarship in the wider world scholarly community.  I accepted a position at the University of California at Santa Barbara as a tenured full professor in 1990.  As I prepared to leave Japan, an abortive coup was attempted in Moscow in August 1991.  One day before my departure from Tokyo, I was writing a piece for a Japanese monthly journal, Chuo koron, about the significance of the failed coup, offering a pessimistic prognosis for the future of the post-Soviet period under Yeltsin.

At UC Santa Barbara, Fredrik Logevall and I established the Cold War Studies (I named it COWHIG—Cold War History Group, but later it was renamed to the Center for Cold War Studies and International History) to organize annual conferences for graduate students working on the Cold War.  It began modestly, but it expanded widely, involving national and international graduate student.  We collaborated with George Washington University and the London School of Economics, and alternated the location of the conference among Santa Barbara, Washington, and London.  The Center for Cold War Studies and International History, now headed by Salim Yaqub, was extremely successful, serving to create a global network of graduate students and scholars.  We attracted many specialists on the Cold War, including Odd Arne Westad, Chen Jian, Vlad Zubok, Robert McMahon, Chester Pach, Mel Leffler, Marc Trachtenberg, John Lewis Gaddis, David Wolff, and others, and trained a host of excellent graduate students.  The collaboration with Fred Logevall at UCSB marked the happiest years in my entire career.

My book, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan[7] started out as a chapter of the book on the Northern Territories.  This chapter piqued my curiosity about the role of the Soviet Union in ending the Pacific War, which, I felt, was not analyzed sufficiently in the end-of-the-war literature.  At first, I was going to write a chapter or a short book on this topic, but soon I realized that I would have to cover not only Soviet-Japanese relations, but U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Japanese relations.  In other words, the book had to be an international history, involving the Soviet Union, the United States, and Japan.  After much work in the archives in the three countries (and three languages), Racing the Enemy was published in 2005.  It provoked a wide response, and featured an interesting debate in H-Diplo among Michael Gordin, Gar Alperovitz, Richard Frank, David Holloway, and Barton Bernstein.[8]

I also organized two conferences at the Center for Cold War Studies, one on the end of the Pacific War, and another on the Cold War in Asia.  Both resulted in published volumes.[9]  In addition, Togo Kazuhiko and I organized a conference on the legacy of the Cold War in post-Cold War Asia, and together edited a book.[10]

As the bicentennial year of the Russian Revolution was approaching, I took a leave from Cold War studies and Russo-Japanese relations and returned to my studies of the revolution.  I became absorbed in two projects.  The first was the revision of my February Revolution book by incorporating literature and materials that had become available in the thirty years after it was published.  The second was the project I had been working on and off for many years: crime, police, and samosudy (mob justice) during the Russian Revolution.  I published a small book[11] in Japanese on social life in Petrograd during the Russian Revolution in 1989, but my research on this topic was pushed to the back burner even though I managed to collect some materials whenever I stayed in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  This project was, in a way, my response to the social history that was predominant in the 1970s and 1980s, and filled the gap that historians had not paid sufficient attention to: the breakdown of society in Petrograd by crime and violence in the form of samosudy during the Russian Revolution.

Preparing for the second book, I spent two weeks in St. Petersburg with the support of the Likhachev Foundation fellowship in 2010, one month in Bellagio under the Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, and two months, again, in St. Petersburg with the support of the Fulbright fellowship. The Likhachev group included Jonathan Schell, whose book, The Fate of the Earth,[12] had a tremendous influence on my decision to retool myself in strategic studies in the 1980s. Jonathan and I had intensive discussions about the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the rooftop restaurant every night until closing time. I also met Susan Goodman, whose knowledge of Russian art and Soviet photography helped me to broaden my horizon.  The month my wife and I spent in Bellagio was the most magical moment in my career, meeting interesting scholars from all over the world, and strolling the trails in the Rockefeller compound which overlooked Lake Como.  During my second visit to St. Petersburg, I established close connections with Andrei Nikolaev, the world’s foremost authority on the February Revolution, and Boris Kolonitskii.

I retired in March 2016.  The retirement provided me with necessary free time to complete the two projects in time for the bicentenary.[13] For the latter work, I received warm encouragement and support from Ron Suny, Rex Wade, and Mark Steinberg, and benefited immensely from discussions with Semion Lyandres, Daniel Orlovsky, Michael Hickey, Sarah Badcock, and Andrei Nikolaev. The paperback edition of the February Revolution book was published in 2018.[14]

I am currently working on a new project: Abdications: Nicholas II and Grand Duke Michael in the February Revolution.

In 2019, Wada Haruki, who first inspired me to become a historian on Russia back in the 1960s, published a book on the February Revolution.[15] Here on this topic, Wada and I overlapped.  Our reviews of each other’s books are supposed to be printed in the forthcoming issue of Rodhia-shi Kenkyu.  History indeed comes full circle.

My career has spanned three countries, Japan, the United States, and Russia.  I have worked on the Russian Revolution and on the Cold War in Asia, the end of the Pacific War, and Russo-Japanese relations.  Throughout my career, I have met many scholars and friends from whom I have benefitted a great deal.  Many of them are deceased, and I miss them greatly.  I cherish the friendship and professional contact with all of the scholars and friends I have met in my career.


Tsuyoshi Hasegawa is a professor emeritus at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  He earned his BA at Tokyo University (1964), his MA in Soviet area studies at the University of Washington, (1967), and his Ph.D. in history at University of Washington (1969).  He taught at SUNY Oswego (1969-83), the Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University (1983-1990), and at the University of California at Santa Barbara (1990-2016).  At UCSB, together with Fredrik Logevall, he created the Center for Cold War Studies.  He retired from teaching in 2016.  He has authored many books and articles on the Russian Revolution and the Cold War in Asia.

[1] Ronald Grigor Suny, Red Flag Unfurled: History, Historians, and the Russian Revolution (New York: Verso, 2017), 1-14.

[2] Leopold Haimson’s article, “The Problem of Social Stability in Urban Russia, 1905-1917,” Slavic Review 23:4 (December 1964): 619-642 and 24:1 (March 1965): 1-22 had a tremendous influence on young historians on Russia.

[3] Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, The February Revolution: Petrograd, 1917 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981).

[4] Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth (New York: Knopf, 1982).

[5] Martin Malia (“Z”), “To the Stalin Mausoleum,” Daedalus (January 1990); Malia, The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia 1917-1993 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994).

[6] Hasegawa, The Northern Territories Dispute and Russo-Japanese Relations, 2 vols. (Berkeley: International and Area Studies,1998); Andrew Kuchins, Jonathan Haslam, and Hasegawa, Russia and Japan: An Unresolved Dilemma between Distant Neighbors (Berkeley: International and Area Studies, 1993).

[7] Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (Belknap Harvard University Press, 2005).

[8] H-Diplo Roundtable Discussions: Racing the Enemy.  https://hdiplo.org/to/RT7-2

[9] Hasegawa, The End of the Pacific War: Reappraisal (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007); Hasegawa, The Cold War in Asia (Washington D.C. and Palo Alto, CA: Woodrow Wilson Press and Stanford University Press, 2011).

[10] Hasegawa and Togo Kazuhiko, eds., East Asia’s Haunted Present: Historical Memories and the Resurgence of Nationalism (New York: Praeger, 2008).

[11] Hasegawa, Roshia kakumeika petorogurado no shiminseikatsu [Daily Life in Petrograd during the Russian Revolution] (Tokyo: Chuokoronsha, 1989).

[12] See footnote 4.

[13] Hasegawa, The February Revolution Petrograd, 1917: The End of the Tsarist Regime and the Birth of Dual Power (Leiden: Brill, 2017); Hasegawa, Crime and Punishment in the Russian Revolution: Mob Justice and Police in Petrograd (Cambridge MA: Belknap Harvard University Press, 2017).

[14] Hasegawa, The February Revolution Petrograd, 1917: The End of the Tsarist Regime and the Birth of Dual Power (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2018).

[15] Wada Haruki, Roshia kakumei: Petorogurado, 1917nen 2gatsu [The Russian Revolution: Petrograd, February 1917] (Tokyo: Sakuhinsha, 2019).