Sorokin to Edward A. Ross (July 1922)

 

Sorokin to Edward A. Ross

 

The following letter (in Russian) to the American sociologist Edward A. Ross of the University of Wisconsin was written by Sorokin in July 1922, when Sorokin was in St Petersburg..

 

ГЛУБОКОУВАЖАЕМЫЙ КОЛЛЕГА!

Позволю себе послать Вам мою небольшую заметку* о Вашей прекрасной книге, случайно попавшей в Петроград, любезно предоставленной мне для прочтения глубокоу-важаемым г. Кини, представителем Христианского Союза молодых людей.

Вместе с этим позволю обратиться к Вам и через Вас другим американским социологам с большой просьбой: мы, русские социологи, до сих пор оторваны от амери-канской и европейской социологии,  – книг и журналов. Этот духовный голод чувствуется нами острее, чем мате-риальный. Я лично, выпустивший за эти годы два тома «Системы социологии» (многотомная работа) и «Голод как фактор», не имею литературы зарубежной, вышед-шей после 1916/17 гг. (кроме немногих книг, в частности книг профессора Е. С. Hayes ‘а, любезно им присланных недавно).

Этим Вы очень обрадуете нас и принесете большую пользу. Лично я, как проводник американской социологии в России (и вообще чрезвычайно высоко ставящий Аме-риканское общество), был бы чрезвычайно признателен Вам.

Если правительство России даст мне разрешение – то я намерен через месяца два-три прибыть в Америку и пробыть в ней год или два, чтобы хорошо изучить американскую социологию, многому научиться, а с другой стороны – поделиться и с вами знаниями и, в частности, большим опытом и выводами, полученными из нашего великого трагического эксперимента.

Если Вы позволите – я очень бы желал посетить Вас и поучиться у Вас.

в заключение в позвольте еще обеспокоить Вас одной просьбой. Вам, конечно, известно, что революция сде-лала и ученых бедными. Я еду в Америку без субсидий государства, рассчитывая только на свой мозг и мускулы. Для существования я должен буду искать какой-нибудь работы. Не были бы добры как-нибудь помочь мне в этом отношении? Я готов делать какую угодно работу, не исключая и мускульной, лишь бы она была мне по силам и не была морально унизительной. Я молод (еще 32 года) и жена – преподавательница ботаники в Агрономическом институте (26 лет), и потому мы можем – если не найдется интеллектуальной работы – работать физически.

Вы очень обязали бы нас, если бы помогли нам в этом отношении. Простите за просьбу – нормально не очень тактичную, но наши исключительные ненормальные условия вынуждают к ней и делают в известной мере извинительными».

 

DEAR COLLEAGUE!

Let me send you my little note about your wonderful book,* which happened to be in Petrograd, kindly provided to me for reading by Mr. Keeny,** a representative of the Young People’s Christian Union.

At the same time, I will take the liberty to address you, and through you, other American sociologists, with a big request: we Russian sociologists are still divorced from American and European sociology, books, and magazines. This spiritual hunger is felt more acutely by us than material hunger. I personally, who over the years have published two volumes of System of Sociology (a multi-volume work) and Hunger as a Factor, have had access to no foreign literature since 1916/17 (except for a few books, in particular the books of Professor E. C. Hayes, kindly sent to them recently).

Under such conditions, perhaps you will not find it a tactless request: to send your works of recent years and to ask other American sociologists and, in particular, The American Journal of Sociology, to do the same generously.

You will greatly please us with this and it will be a great benefit. Personally, as an expositor of American sociology in Russia (and having, in general, an extremely high regard for American society), I would be extremely grateful to you.

If the Russian government gives me permission, then I intend to come to America in two or three months and stay there for a year or two in order to study American sociology in depth, to learn a lot, and on the other hand, to share with you the knowledge and, in particular, the profound experience and conclusions obtained from our great tragic experiment.

If you allow it, I would very much like to visit and learn from you.

Let me further bother you with one request. You know, of course, that the revolution has made scholars poor. I am going to America without state subsidies, relying only on my brain and body. To exist, I will have to look for some kind of work. Would you be kind enough to help me in any way in that regard? I am ready to do any work, not excluding physical, as long as it is within my power and is not morally humiliating. I am young (32 years old) and my wife is a teacher of botany at the Agronomic Institute (26 years old), and therefore we can – if there be no intellectual work – work physically.

You would be very obliged to us if you could help us in this regard. Sorry for the request – which is not per se very tactful, but our exceptionally abnormal conditions necessitate and make it to a certain extent excusable.

translation from the Russian by Roger W. Smith

 

*Edward Alsworth Ross, Foundations of Sociology (1905)

**Spurgeon M. (Sam) Keeny, a friend of Sorokin’s, who had served during World War I as a Y.M.C.A. volunteer with the British Army. At the time of Sorokin’s letter, he was serving with the American Relief Administration (ARA) headed by Herbert Hoover.

 

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Probably we would have settled in Czechoslovakia “permanently” as teachers in one of the Czech universities if I had not received invitations from two distinguished American sociologists, Edward C. Hayes of the University of Illinois and Edward A. Ross of the University of Wisconsin. They invited me to come to America to deliver a series of lectures on the Russian Revolution. These unexpected invitations radically changed the course of our subsequent life. For many years before, I had been greatly interested in the United States and had studied American social, economic, and political institutions and theories, American culture, literature, and the way of life. …. I greatly admired the American people, democracy, and way of life. This admiration was seemingly so great that many of my friends and colleagues in Russia even nicknamed me “a Russian-American.”

A Long Journey: The Autobiography of Pitirim A. Sorokin, pg. 200

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

     March 2022

 

Edward Alsworth Ross

Russell Middleton: from his “History of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison”

 

Middleton excerpts

 

Posted here as a Word document are fascinating excerpts pertaining to Sorokin from History of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Volume 1: Challenges, Ups, and Downs, 1874-2016 by Russell Middleton (Madison, Wisconsin: Anthropocene Press, 2001).

 

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email from Russell Middleton to Roger W. Smith

August 22, 2018

 

Dear Mr. Smith:

I am happy to give you my permission to cite and quote from my discussion of the relationship between E. A. Ross and Pitirim Sorokin. Ross strongly disagreed with Sorokin’s view of the Soviet leaders, but he was taken in by Soviet propaganda. Nevertheless, he had great respect for Sorokin as a scholar and played a major role in helping him land a job at the University of Minnesota and later as chair of the Sociology Dept. at Harvard.

When I was a graduate student at Minnesota in 1951 there was a joke circulating among the sociology graduate students that Sorokin had read every book in the library. I almost came to believe it when I was looking for some good French sociology texts to use in practice for my French reading exam (which was required for the PhD then). In the stacks I pulled down some very old issues of L’année Sociologique, the famous French journal of Durkheim, Mauss, etc. I was startled to see that Sorokin was the last (and only) person who had checked out the volume in all the years since Sorokin had taught there.

When I run across people who argue that Lenin was a decent leader, in contrast with Stalin, I tell them to go read Sorokin’s autobiography.

Best wishes,
Russell Middleton
Prof. Emeritus of Sociology
University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

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I wish to thank Professor Middleton for giving me permission to post these excepts from his book.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

     August 2021