Gregory (Grisha) Freidin

Gregory "Grisha" Freidin

Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Emeritus
1978: Ph.D., Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of California at Berkeley
1972: Brandeis University
1969-71: The First State Institute of Foreign Languages, Moscow, USSR

I have been interested, among other things, in contemporary Russian culture, literature, politics and society. I am now completing my long-standing project on the Russian Jewish writer Isaac Babel. Much has been done, including a series of essays, a definitive annotated edition of Babel's writings, letters, reminiscences, and critical reception (Isaac Babel's Selected Writings. Norton Critical Edition. W.W. Norton, 2009); a collection of essays on Babel's works and days (The Enigma of Isaac Babel, Stanford UP, 2009); what remains is a critical biography of the writer, A Messiah from Odessa: Isaac Babel. A Critical Biography (Reaktion Books, EDP: 2024), which I hope to bring to a close in 2023. I have also been working on a film script, tentatively entitled Red Cavalry, based on Babel's works and days. A Messiah from Odessa will be my second critical biography of a major Russian (Russian Jewish) author; the first, Coat of Many Colors , a study of the life and art of Osip Mandelstam, came out in 1987 (paperback, 2010) and, selectively, in Russian in the 1990s. An essay in comparative biography of Isaac Babel and Osip Mandelstam has appeared in the Moscow journal Znamya in May 2015 (a longer version is about to appear in a collection of scholarly and critical artciles, ed. by Elena Pogorleskaya). In 2004, as part of his Isaac Babel project, I organized an International Isaac Babel Conference and Workshop at Stanford, producing the U.S. premiere of Isaac Babel's play "Maria" (dir. By Carl Weber) and curating, along with the graduate students Elif Batuman, Amelia Glaser and Josh Sky Walker, an exhibition on Babel at the Hoover Libraries and Archives. These Babel-related events have received a permanent lease on life in “Babel in California,” a long essay by Elif Batuman, who opens with it her critically acclaimed volume Possessed (FSG, 2010).

Beginning in 1988, when I first returned to the USSR since coming to the US in 1971, and into the twenty first century, the main focus of my scholarly activity (research, conferences, publications, as well as participant observation) revolved around the changes taking place in my native Russia. In 1990, I produced the first translation into Russian of The American Federalist (Американские федералисты, Chalidze Publications, 1990) that became an important text during the drafting of the new Soviet (the Union Treaty 1991) and later, the new Russian Constitution (1993). One wide-ranging snapshot of the changes afoot in Russia was Russian Culture in Transition (Stanford, 1993) a collection of articles, including two of my own ("Romand Int Italians" and "Or Did we Live In Vain: Gorbachev, Evheny Popov, with an Epilogue on Yeltsin"), by leading American and Russian students of contemporary Russian culture and cultural scene. Another was a collection of eyewitness accounts (including my own) of the failed putsch in Moscow in August 1991 that marked the end of communism in Russia and the dissoluition of the USSR: Russia at the Barricades (M.E. Sharpe, 1994). Yet another volume, much broader in scope, was Russia at the End of the Twentieth Century: Culture and Its Horizons in Politics and Society, based on the papers prepared and delivered at the international conference by the same name, I organized at Stanford in 1998. During this time, I also founded, together with Robert F. Ball, a publishing venture to produce a Russian version of Encyclopaedia Britannica that has subsequently evolved, with the help of the Open Society Institute, into the on-line Russian encyclopaedia Krugosvet. Since the late 1980s, along with my research, scholarly writing and teaching, I have continued to observe and comment on cultural and political developments in Russia through large-circulation publications in Russia and the US, including The New Criterion, The New Republic, Los Angeles Times, Times Literary Supplement, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Rossiiskaya gazeta, and Neprikosnovennyi zapas. As an expert on Russian culture and politics, I have appeared on the BBC 4, PBS, NPR, KQED, VOA, and our own Entitled Opinions (KZSU). More recently, I have inaugurated my own blog echoing Osip Mandelstam's reminiscences, The Noise of Time/TNT, where I publish occasional pieces on Russian film, photography, and other odd subjects, like Leo Tostoy, the ife of bees, and Soviet kitchens.

My courses at Stanford have represented the scope of my interests, cultural, literary, historical, philosophical, and sociological, but they did not exhaust them. Over the years, I have developed an interest in film criticism and photography, and I intend to pursue these subjects in the future - in writing as well as practice. After completing my Isaac Babel project, I intend to turn to a volume on the subject that has been central to my research and thinking, Authorship and Citizenship: Russian Literature, Society and State in the Twentieth Century, a collection of my essays, some already published, some new. The conference that my former students organized at Stanford on October 17, 2015, "Charismatic Modernisms," has moved this undertaking closer to the front burner.

On 1/1/2013, I became professor emeritus but went on teaching under the recall arrangement in 2013-2015. Since I have maintained my ties to my colleagues in the DLCL and the university, as well as my former students. It has been a great run! I know the connection will taper off but I hope not too soon. In the meantime, I am awash in writing projects. To be continued...



Research Interests

  • Russian & Eurasian Languages, Literatures & Cultures