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Adam Ulam

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Title: Adam Ulam  
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Subject: Stanislaw Ulam, Guggenheim Fellows, Kremlinology, Totalitarianism, National Book Award for Nonfiction
Collection: 1922 Births, 2000 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Historians, 20Th-Century American Writers, American Agnostics, American Historians, American Male Writers, American People of Polish Descent, American People of Polish-Jewish Descent, Brown University Alumni, Deaths from Lung Cancer, Guggenheim Fellows, Harvard University Alumni, Harvard University Faculty, Historians of Russia, Jewish Agnostics, Jewish American Historians, Jews from Galicia (Eastern Europe), People from Lviv, University of Wisconsin–madison Faculty
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Adam Ulam

Adam Ulam
Adam Ulam
Born Lwów, Poland
Occupation Sovietologist, author and historian
Language English
Nationality Polish (before 1939), American (from 1939)
Ethnicity Polish-Jewish
Citizenship American (from 1939)
Alma mater Brown University, Harvard University
Subject Sovietology, Education
Children two sons
Relatives Stanislaw Ulam (brother)

Adam Bruno Ulam (8 April 1922 – 28 March 2000) was a Polish-American historian and political scientist at Harvard University. Ulam was one of the world's foremost authorities on Russia and the Soviet Union, and the author of twenty books and many articles.


  • Biography 1
  • Works 2
  • List of works 3
  • References 4


Ulam was born on April 8, 1922, in Lwów (Lviv), then Poland now Ukraine. After graduating from high school, he emigrated to the United States on or around August 20, 1939, to go to college. This was but days before the German invasion of Poland which marked the beginning of the Second World War. His father had, at the last minute, changed his departure date from September 3 to August 20, most likely saving his life since Poland was invaded by Germany on September 1. His entire family, save for his brother Stanislaw Ulam, a famous mathematician and key contributor to the Manhattan Project, perished in the Holocaust. After the United States entered the war, he tried to enlist in the army, but was rejected at first for having "relatives living in enemy territory" and later, after a second attempt, for near-sightedness.

He studied at Brown University, taught briefly at University of Wisconsin–Madison, and obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard University, where he studied from 1944 to 1947. He became a member of Harvard's faculty in 1947, was awarded tenure in 1954, and enjoyed the title of Gurney Professor of History and Political Science until he became professor emeritus in 1992. He directed the Russian Research Center (1973–1974) and was a research associate for the Center for International Studies, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1953–1955). He married in 1963 and had two sons. He died from lung cancer on March 28, 2000, at the age of 77.


He was the author of twenty books and many articles, primarily on the Soviet Union and the Cold War (the major exception being Fall of the American University, a critique of U.S. higher education, written in 1972). He is considered one of the most eminent Kremlinologists.

In his first book - Titoism and the Cominform - published in 1952 and based on his Ph.D. thesis, he argued that the Communist focus on certain goals blinded them to the disastrous socioeconomic side effects which could weaken their hold on power.

His Unfinished Revolution (1960) explored Marxist thought. The Bolsheviks (1965) quickly became a standard biography of Vladimir Lenin, and Stalin : The Man and His Era (1973) did the same for Stalin. Expansion and Coexistence: The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-67 (1968) was probably his most known work. There were two sequels: The Rivals: America and Russia since World War II (1971) and Dangerous Relations: The Soviet Union in World Politics, 1970-1982 (1983).

Several of his remaining books were dedicated to aspects of Russian revolutionary thought. He also wrote a novel, The Kirov Affair (1988) on the Soviet 1930s. In one of his last books, published in 1992 — the year he retired — Communists: The Story of Power and Lost Illusions, he commented on the fall of the Soviet Union, writing that communists lost because their ideology was misguided and realization of that by the governing elites led to their demoralization, which in turn fed the growing tensions and conflicts within and between Communist states.

List of works

This is a partial list.
  • Bolsheviks: The Intellectual and Political History of the Triumph of Communism in Russia (1965)
  • Communists: The Intellectual and Political History of Communism
  • Communists: The Story of Power and Lost Illusions, The (1992)
  • Dangerous Relations: Soviet Union in World Politics, 1970-82 (1983)
  • Expansion and Co-existence, The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-67 (1968)
  • Fall of the American University (1972)
  • History of Soviet Russia
  • In the Name of the People
  • Ideologies and Illusions: Revolutionary Thought from Herzen to Solzhenitsyn
  • Kirov Affair, The (1988) - note: a novel
  • Lenin and the Bolsheviks
  • Patterns of Government with Samuel Beer (1958)
  • Prophets and Conspirators in Prerevolutionary Russia
  • Rivals. America and Russia since World War II, The (1971)
  • Russia's Failed Revolutions
  • Stalin: The Man and His Era (1973)
  • Titoism and the Cominform (1952)
  • Understanding the Cold War: A Historian's Personal Reflections - note: a memoir
  • Unfinished Revolution, The (1960)


  • Kramer, Mark, "Memorial Notice: Adam Bruno Ulam (1922–2000)", Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 2, no. 2, spring 2000, pp. 130–132
  • on Adam (Bruno) UlamCrystal Reference Encyclopedia
  • Harvard News and Events: Memorial Minute: Adam Bruno Ulam read by Timothy J. Colton in 2002 and printed in the Harvard University Gazette
  • Adam Ulam's memorial page, with obituaries, biography, letters and other items
  • obituaryHarvard Gazette
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