Top Young Historians: 56 – David R. Stone


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

56: David R. Stone, 6-11-07

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Professor of History, Faculty member of the Institute for Military Studies and 20th Century Studies, Kansas State University
Area of Research: Diplomatic History and International Affairs, Military History, European History, Russian History
Education: Ph.D, History, Yale University, 1997
Major Publications: David Stone is the author of Hammer and Rifle: The Militarization of the Soviet Union, 1926-1933, (University Press of Kansas, 2001) was a recent selection of the History Book Club. It also was named the
David R. Stone JPGwinner of the 2001 inaugural Best First Book prize of the Historical Society and was co-winner of the 2001 Shulman Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. He is also the author of A Military History of Russia From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya, (Greenwood Press, 2006) Stone’s has numerous journal and book chapters published including “Imperialism and Sovereignty: The League of Nations’ Drive to Control the Global Arms Trade” in the Journal of Contemporary History, April 2000; “Tukhachevskii in Leningrad: Military Politics and Exile, 1928-1931” in Europe-Asia Studies, December 1996; “The Balkan Pact and American Policy, 1950-1955” in the East European Quarterly, September 1994; “Soviet Intelligence on Barbarossa: The Limits of Intelligence History” in Peter Jackson and Jennifer Siegel, eds., Intelligence and Statecraft: The Use and Limits of Intelligence in International Society (Praeger, 2005), pp. 157-171, and “The Russian Civil War, 1917-1921,” “The Russo-Polish War,” “Ideology and the Rise of the Red Army, 1921-1928,” and “Industry and the Soviet Army, 1928-1941,” all in Robin Higham and Frederick Kagan, eds., The Military History of the Soviet Union (St. Martin’s / Palgrave, 2001).
Awards: Stone is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Inaugural Best First Book Prize from the Historical Society for Hammer and Rifle, 2001;
Co-Winner of the Shulman Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies for Hammer and Rifle, 2001;
Winner of Kansas State University’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2001;
Fellow of Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, CA, 2005/6;
International Research and Exchanges Board grant for research in Moscow (additional support from History, 2003;
Department, College of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Military History and Twentieth-Century Studies);
Summer Fellow of Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, for the workshop “Contentious Politics: Seeking Causes,” 2000;
University Small Research Grant, Kansas State University for research on “US Financial Diplomacy and the Soviet Bloc;
Mellon dissertation writing fellowship;
Jacob Javits fellowship for graduate study (US Department of Education);
Smith-Richardson summer research fellowship;
MacArthur dissertation and summer research fellowships;
Olin fellowship for graduate study in Military and Strategic History.
Additional Info:
Stone has also taught in the history department at Hamilton College and in the International Security Studies Program at Yale University.

Personal Anecdote

Stalin dismissed historians as “archive rats,” but Russianists have proudly adopted the label. Moscow in the early 1990s was an astounding place to do research. The archives were thrown open, and my passport and relative wealth shielded me from the miseries I saw every day. But things were more complicated than I realized.

My research made me recognize how Western I was. I naively assumed that there would be clear rules for what was secret and what wasn’t, and access would be equal. Russia didn’t work that way. Non-Russianists often assume this means archivists were corrupt, but that wasn’t the case. I was never asked to trade money for access, and the highly-professional archivists would have been offended at the suggestion. Instead, access was fuzzy, and centered on relationships. I still had to establish myself as a serious and responsible scholar. That meant I had to show up, and keep showing up, day after day. My funding let me do that. At Yale, Paul Kennedy had established International Security Studies, an interdisciplinary research center, and attracted the foundation grants to make it thrive. ISS provided me the backing to go to Moscow early and stay late.

Time and guidance let me feel my way through the maze of Russian archives dealing with the Soviet military in the 1920s and 1930s. While limited archival access had been available to foreigners even before communism began to disintegrate, military and foreign policy materials had been strictly off-limits. This meant I had little secondary literature to rely on and had to build the basic chronology of events for myself. The payoff, though, was that I and the other scholars working on the Soviet military could truly break new ground.

Access was never complete. Archivists denied that some collections even existed. When I brought in books by well-connected Russian scholars with precise citations to those collections, the stone-faced denials never changed. Still, by patiently chipping away at archival barriers, I was able to assemble a comprehensive picture of Soviet military policy. Using multiple archives (military, party, economic, and state), each with different filing systems and different sets of classified and unclassified documents, helped enormously. So did the remaining irrationalities of archival policy. Documents that I couldn’t see in reading rooms were perfectly accessible, as long as I read them in the bowels of archive conservatories. My clear intent to write up and publish what I found in those sources was not a problem. The result was that I ended up finding what I needed.

One downside to working on the Soviet military, even sixty years later, was suspicion. Military history in the USSR was an exclusively military preserve (an excellent argument for keeping military history vigorous in our universities), and a foreign civilian studying the military was naturally presumed a spy. I was asked directly, more than once, whether my true employer was the CIA.

The golden age ended even before I left Moscow. Putin’s administration has been rightly blamed for chipping away the liberties of the Yeltsin era, but the archival reversal began well before Putin. In my experience, the key moment was Chechnya. The outbreak of open warfare in December 1994 had an immediate (and palpable) effect on archivists’ attitudes, and limits on research became much tighter. Things are nowhere near the bad old days of the Soviet Union, but it’s hard not to miss those first heady years.


By David R. Stone

  • Hammer and Rifle JPG “From 1926 to 1933, a vast transformation swept through the Soviet state, economy, and society, a transforA Military History of Russia  From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya JPGmation as stark in its changes and as far-reaching in its implications as the simultaneous and better-known revolutions shaking Soviet society. While collectivization cahnges the face of the Soviet countryside, and Joseph Stalin quashed dissent both within and without the Bolshevik party to turn it into a tool of his personal rule, a military-industrial revolution transformed the Soviet Union into an immensely powerful war machine. The militarization of the Soviet economy and political system, marked by increased control from the center, a substantial role for the military in making policy, and a large and growing defense industry, was an essential element of Stalin’s revolution from above. . . The story of the late 1920s and early 1930s is of the steady and inexorable destruction of every barrier to massive rearmament in the USSR.” — David R. Stone in “Hammer and Rifle”

About David R. Stone

  • Stone does an artful job of recounting over 500 years of Russian military campaigns and explaining the
    A Military History of Russia  From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya JPGcomplex and reciprocal relationships between the military and society in Russia, as well as Russia’s role in Western military history (e.g., the triumph against Napoleon), enacted at the expense of its economic and civic gains. He clarifies Russia’s place in the ebb and flow of alliances among emerging nation states in Europe. Every Russian history written in the past 20 years contains much of the same information that Stone presents, but he has a notable ability to clarify military history and thereby Russian history generally. —Library Journal
  • “David Stone’s Hammer and Rifle documents in extraordinary detail the transformation of the Russian army from a World War I-era force into a modern military machine in the 1930s. Stone shows the profound effect of this military-industrial revolution, not just on the Red Army, but on society and the state. This study enriches our understanding of the Soviet economy in the 1920s and 1930s, and by extension, the obstacles post-Soviet Russia has encountered in trying to undo the Stalinist legacy. Seeking to enhance the breadth and depth of our knowledge of militarized societies, Stone demonstrates the military’s dominance in the state’s economy and its decisions regarding resource allocation . . . Hammer and Rifle shows the defense sector’s stake in Stalin’s victory over his domestic political opponents. A beautifully-written study, Hammer and Rifle is important for our understanding of a certain type of civil-military relations.” — American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, prize committee for 2001 Marshall Shulman Book Prize.
  • “An extraordinary piece of Soviet archival investigation. . . Stone proves himself an adept economic and political as well as military historian as he charts the ways in which military concerns, especially the Manchurian crisis of 1931-1932, led to profound changes in Soviet economic policy and accelerated the concentration of political power in the hands of Josef Stalin. Yet Stone also persuasively demonstrates how the militarization of the Soviet Union created serious problems both in the medium and long term. . . . This lucid, impressively documented, and important study reflects Stone’s mastery of historical research, analysis, and writing.” — Historical Society, prize committee for inaugural Best First Book Prize.
  • “Based on extensive research in newly opened Russian archives, this careful study is the best analysis to date of the central role of militarization in the development of state, society, and economy in the U.S.S.R. between the end of the ‘New Economic Plan’ in 1926 and the conclusion of the first ‘Five-year Plan in 1933.'” — Publishers Weekly reviewing “Hammer and Rifle”
  • “Based on prodigious research in newly-accessible Russian archives, Stone’s landmark book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the advent of the Soviet garrison state. Touching on nearly every significant issue of the period, he deepens, challenges, or modifies many existing interpretations and cuts through the fog of conjecture, theory, and half-truths that still cloaks the era between 1926 and 1933.” — Bruce Menning, author of Bayonets before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914 reviewing “Hammer and Rifle”
  • “An important contribution to the field of Soviet military, economic, and political history.” — Steven Miner, author of Between Churchill and Stalin and Stalin’s Holy War reviewing “Hammer and Rifle”
  • “An exemplary work throughout. Here is not only an exposition of that ‘military nature’, the ‘militarized culture’ which was fundamental to Stalin’s Soviet Union . . . but also a rigorous examination of the process by which the increasing military role in the Soviet economy and growing defense expenditures was intimately associated with Stalin’s political domination. . . . Hammer and Rifle makes for indispensable reading . . . the disclosures from the archives a treasure-trove in their own right.” John Erickson reviewing “Hammer and Rifle”
  • “Thoroughly researched study . . . a great deal of information and analysis” — R. W. Davies reviewing “Hammer and Rifle”
  • “An impressive range of archival sources . . . a valuable contribution” — Evan Mawdsley reviewing “Hammer and Rifle”
  • “A fine example of scholarly detective work in the often labyrinthine world of the Russian archives” — Richard Harrison reviewing “Hammer and Rifle”
  • “”He deserves a very large raise.”… “A stimulating and interesting teacher. He really knows the subject matter well, and is truly enthusiastic about it.”…”I don’t think I have ever learned so much in a history class.”… “The lecture was so interesting that I often forgot to take notes.”… “Seems to genuinely care about his work, students, and the subject matter. He always takes time for the students.”… “I came in with very little knowledge of Russian history and left enthralled with the subject.”… “The only one of my classes that I never skip.”… “It takes someone special to make history interesting– Dr. Stone does this with wit, enthusiasm, and charisma.”… “An excellent teacher who clearly loves what he is doing.” “an amazing ability to keep everyone’s attention and make lectures fun and interesting.”… “charisma is infectious and makes Russian history seem like the only history worth knowing!”… “passionate about the material, fair, and simply a pleasure to learn from.”… “I have never had a teacher with such an interest in the class and his students.”… “Enthusiastic to the point of manic”… “I have not in my long years here had a professor more passionate about his students’ learning than Dr. Stone.”” — Anonymous Students

Posted on Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 9:23 PM

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