Correspondence, research materials, and personal papers of Marc Isaakovich
Raeff (1926-2008), a Russian history scholar and Bakhmeteff Professor of Russian
Studies at Columbia University.
Professor Marc Raeff (1923-2008) was a prominent historian, writer, and educator. His
academic and teaching career spanned nearly four decades, which he divided between
Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Columbia University in New York City.
Marc Raeff was born in Moscow on July 28, 1923. His parents were Isaac Raeff, a
railroad engineer and an active Menshevik, and Victoria Raeff, biochemist. Marc
Raeff’s earliest years were spent in Czechoslovakia where Isaac Raeff worked on
behalf of the Soviet government. About 1927 or 1928, Isaac Raeff was recalled to
return to the Soviet Union, but he decided to move his family to Berlin instead.
Marc Raeff received his early education in Berlin. In 1933, the family made another
move, this time to Paris. The family lived there until 1941, when they managed to
escape to the United States via Portugal.
Marc Raeff studied briefly at the City College of New York before he was drafted into
the U.S. Army. Raeff, who spoke fluent Russian, German, French and English, served
as an interpreter in camps for prisoners of war and displaced persons. After the end
of World War II, he attended Harvard University, where he studied history with
Michael Karpovich. In 1950, Raeff received his Ph.D. in Russian history and
began his own teaching career at Clark University (1949-1960). While at Clark
University, Raeff met Lillian Gottesman, whom he married in 1951. The Raeffs had
two daughters, Anne and Catherine.
Marc Raeff joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1961 and became Bakhmeteff
Professor of Russian Studies in 1973. As Bakhmeteff Professor, Marc Raeff trained
several generations of historians. The range of his knowledge was legendary and can
readily be seen in the titles of his nine books, not to mention the numerous
articles, essays and reviews that he wrote in English, French, German and Russian.
(He also read Italian and some Polish.)
Books by Raeff included
Origins of the Russian Intelligentsia
(Harvest Books, 1966),
which argued that the pursuits of the Russian intellectual class had their roots in
the thinking of 18th-century Russian nobility;
Understanding Imperial Russia
(Columbia University Press, 1985), a history that traces the strains of Russian
thought from the 16th century to the 20th; and
Russia Abroad: A Cultural History of
the Russian Emigration, 1919-1939
(Oxford University Press, 1990), reflecting the
history of people like himself who left during the early Soviet era.
"He was very much interested in the Western aspect of Russian culture," said Richard
Pipes, a professor emeritus at Harvard and the author of
A Concise History of the
"He was a pillar of Russian historical studies in this
country." Raeff died on September 20, 2008, in Teaneck, New Jersey.