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Mints, Isaak Izrailevich

(1896–1991), historian and Communist Party activist. Isaak Mints was born in the village of Krinichki, Ekaterinoslav province. As a youth, he participated in the revolutionary movement and circulated propaganda to workers in Verkhnedneprovsk and Ekaterinoslav. In 1917, he joined the Bolshevik Party and became a Red Guard, joining the Red Army in 1918. He finished the war as a commissar of the Chervonnii Cossack corps.

In 1923, Mints was appointed commissar of the Air Force Academy in Moscow and began studying history at the Institut Krasnoi Professury (University of Red Professors; IKP), where he organized and became permanent secretary of a seminar on the history of the Russian Civil War, led by leading Soviet historian and founder of Bolshevik historical scholarship Mikhail Pokrovskii. In 1926, he served as deputy director of the IKP history department and also headed the department of Leninism at the International Leninist School.

Toward the end of his IKP studies, Mints published his first works on the Civil War period. The positions he formulated in these writings became the basis for a rigid model, to which all subsequent works on the history of the Civil War were expected to conform. In 1931 Mints was appointed executive secretary of the main editorial board of the multivolume publication Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR (History of the Civil War in the USSR). Its first volume, of which Mints was both editor and a main writer, appeared in 1935. Simultaneously, he participated in assembling collections of documents on Civil War history and also wrote introductions to these collections. From 1932 to 1949 he headed the Soviet history departments at Moscow State University, the Higher Party School, and the Moscow Institute of History, Philosophy, and Literature. In 1939 he was elected corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences.

During World War II, Mints contributed to party propaganda, at the same time continuing his scholarly publishing. In 1946 he was elected to be a full member of the Academy of Sciences. This, however, did not protect him during the anticosmopolitan campaign: in 1949 he was dismissed from most of his positions, but not arrested. Still, in early 1953 he actively collected signatures for a provocative letter by Soviet Jews to Pravda, in which selected prominent Jewish figures condemned Zionism, Israel, and the “spy group of doctors-murderers.”

From 1950 to 1960, Mints headed the Soviet history department at the Lenin State Pedagogical Institute in Moscow. During this period, his main academic focus was on the October Revolution. In 1957, at his initiative, a scholarly council for the study of this revolution was created (which he headed until 1989). From 1968, Mints also worked at the Historical Institute of the Academy of Sciences. Between 1967 and 1973, his three-volume monograph Istoriia Velikogo Oktiabria (History of the Great October) was published, for which he was awarded a Lenin Prize in 1974. Earlier, in 1943 and 1946, Mints had become a Stalin Prize laureate as a member of authors’ collectives.

In 1976, Mints received the Soviet Union’s highest honor, becoming a Hero of Socialist Labor, and in 1986 he was awarded the State Prize. Bearing the state’s highest honors, Mints, apart from his official positions, was the symbol of the “ideal” Soviet Jew, and in both historical scholarship and nationalities policy he adhered to the party line.

Suggested Reading

Vladimir Illeritskii, Vladimir Naumov, and Iurii Poliakov, “Istoricheskaia nauka v SSSR: 80-letie akademika I. I. Mintsa,” Voprosy istorii 2 (1976): 139–145; Elaine Mackinnon, “Writing History for Stalin: Izaak Izrailevich Mints and the Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny,Kritika 6 (2005): 5–54; Benedikt Sarnov, “Kak eto bylo,” Lekhaim 135.7 (July 2003): 38, available at .html.



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson