RIP: Professor Uri Ra’anan (1926-2020)

Beloved professor, colleague, and Russia and Soviet Union expert, Uri Ra’anan – Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies Professor Emeritus – died on August 10, 2020, in Bethesda, MD. He had just turned 94 in June.

He joined Boston University in 1988 as a University Professor and was among the founding faculty of the Department of International Relations (now the Pardee School) until his retirement in 2010. He also served as the Director of the Boston University Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy. Prior to joining Boston University, Uri Ra’anan was Professor of International Politics and Director of the International Security Studies Program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University for over two decades.

Ra’anan had a varied international career as a diplomat, journalist, and finally as an academic. A prolific author and commentator on world affairs, has was a renowned expert on the politics of communist countries particularly the Soviet Union, and on the resurgence of post-Soviet Russia. He was author, co-author, editor, and co-editor of 25 books and contributor to 19 others, primarily on Soviet Affairs. Among those works were Flawed Succession: Russia’s Power Transfer Crises (2006), Russia: A Return to Imperialism (1995), Russian Pluralism — Now Irreversible? (1992), State and Nation in Multi-ethnic Societies (1991), Inside the Apparat: Perspectives on the Soviet Union (1990), Gorbachev’s USSR: A System in Crisis (1990), and The Soviet Empire and the Challenge of National and Democratic Movements (1990). In addition to his book-length works, he published extensively in both scholarly journals and general readership newspapers, including the Slavic ReviewStrategic ReviewGlobal AffairsSoviet Analyst, the Boston Globe, and the Boston Herald.

“Admired for his expertise in the field of Soviet studies, Uri Ra’anan inspired also by his wide intellectual repertoire,” said Igor Lukes, Professor of International Relations and History at the Pardee School. “Those who knew him joyfully confirm that he was a connoisseur of Mozart’s music, knew much about Bismarck’s attitude toward the Ottoman empire and the Civil War, followed debates in the field of philosophy of science, and knew the Bible better than many a professional theologian. He impacted generations of students, not only by the facts that he could present with smooth elegance, but because he never failed to appreciate that the storms of historical events were always most directly felt by ordinary citizens.”

“He had a brilliant and detailed knowledge of European history and politics, a remarkable ability to draw precise, free-hand, maps, a broad cultural hinterland, and a love in particular of Mozart,” said Erik Goldstein, Professor of International Relations and History at the Pardee School. “He would always arrive with a pile of notes for his lectures, and then speak with clarity and precision for the session without ever having to consult them. He was one of the pillars in building an academic program in international relations at BU.”

“Professor Ra’anan was a towering figure – not just in his field but at Boston University,” said Pardee School Dean Adil Najam. “As a leader of the University Professors program at BU and known for his dedication to teaching, he was mentor to generations of our brightest students, but also a role model to look up to for so many in the faculty – including myself when I first joined Boston University. He was truly among the founding faculty of what was then the Department of International Relations and has left a deep and lasting impact on what has now grown into the BU Pardee School.”

Uri Ra’anan will be dearly missed by his family, his students, his colleagues, and his friends around the world.