By Matthew Turk
History professor Norman M. Naimark ’66 M.A ’68 Ph.D. ’72 received the Norris and Carol Hundley Award — one of the most prestigious awards for books on historical subjects — on Friday for his 2019 book “Stalin and the Fate of Europe: The Postwar Struggle for Sovereignty.”
The award, granted by the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association (PCB-AHA), recognizes the “most distinguished book on any historical subject” written by a scholar who lives within the 22 states or four Canadian provinces of the Pacific Coast. This is the second award that he has won for the book, following a recognition on the “Financial Times” Best History Books of 2019 list.
The PCB-AHA is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 that dedicates itself to the promotion of historical studies, the preservation of documents and artifacts and the dissemination of historical research. Naimark said that this year’s award ceremony took place over Zoom instead of in-person in Oregon, but there will be a chance to receive the award in-person next year.
Naimark’s book breaks new ground in analyzing Joseph Stalin’s intentions for post-World War II Europe. Through case studies of postwar European nations and cities, Naimark builds the case that Stalin was less determined to disseminating and enforcing communist ideology across the continent as he was to prevent countries from potentially taking a hostile stance against the Soviet Union. In doing so, Naimark rejects the idea that the division of Europe after the war was inevitable.
“Stalin understood that he could not fight another war,” Naimark said. “He was just trying to establish his sphere of influence, but not at the expense of peace.”
‘It’s time to finish’
Naimark began his career as a professor at Boston University, having received his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. from Stanford. He also served as a fellow at the Russian Research Center at Harvard University.
“I learned a lot,” he said of his 15 years in Boston, “but I’m glad to be back at Stanford. I loved being here as a student, and I love being here as a faculty member.”
This coming school year, Naimark will be on sabbatical to work on another book, although he notes the importance of teaching during his writing process, and often teaches what he is writing about in a freshman seminar.
Naimark said his book was nearly two decades in the making. In 2004, Naimark wrote an article in the “Journal of Modern European History” titled “Stalin and Europe in the Postwar Period, 1945-1949: Issues and Problems,” focusing on postwar policy Europe and the emergence of the Cold War, prompting him to start his first draft of “Stalin and the Fate of Europe.” Over the following years, he wrote on and off until he finished the manuscript three or four years ago.
Along the way, Naimark wrote other publications focusing on the postwar period and Soviet policy in Europe. “Stalin and the Fate of Europe” was “part of that trajectory of research and thinking,” according to Naimark.
“It’s one of these front-burner-back-burner things,” he said. “And finally, I decided, ‘It’s time to finish it.’ Some books you could write on forever. Really, you could spend your whole life on some subjects.”
Contact Matthew Turk at mjturk ‘at’ stanford.edu.