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Robert Conquest

Robert Conquest (born 15 July 1917) is a historian specializing in the Soviet Union. He has also achieved some notability as a poet.

Born in Malvern to an American father and British mother, he attended Winchester College, the University of Grenoble, and Magdalen College, Oxford, joining the Communist Party in 1937. After graduating in 1939, he joined the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and worked in military intelligence, later going to Bulgaria as a liaison officer. He met his second wife there; both left after the communist takeover of Bulgaria in 1948, moving to London, where they married.

He had joined the Foreign Office in 1946, and in 1948 went to work at the Information Research Department, where he stayed until 1956. After that he did a variety of free-lance writing and study. In 1962-63 he was a literary editor at The Spectator.

In 1981, he joined the Hoover Institution, where as of 2003 he is a senior research fellow and "scholar-curator" of its Russian and Commonwealth of Independent States Collection.

Table of contents
1 Historian
2 Poet
3 Works
4 External links


Conquest is the author of a number of books on Soviet history, its politics, and international affairs, including the classic The Great Terror (Macmillan, 1968).

Conquest is often criticized by supporters of Stalin and the Soviet Union for exaggerating the number of people killed during the famines in Ukraine in 1932-33 and the purges of 1936-38.

Robert Conquest has also been identified as having worked for the IRD from when it was set up until 1956. The Information Research Department (IRD), was a section set up in 1947 (originally called the Communist Information Bureau) whose main task was to combat Communist influence throughout the world by planting stories among politicians, journalists and others in a position to influence public opinion. A 1978 story in the The Guardian alleged that Conquest's work there was to contribute to the so-called "black history" of the Soviet Union -- in other words, fake stories put out as fact and distributed among journalists and others able to influence public opinion. After he had formally left the IRD, Conquest continued to write books suggested by the IRD, with Secret Service support. His book The Great Terror, a basic anti-communist text on the subject of the power struggle that took place in the Soviet Union in 1937, was in fact a recompilation of text he had written when working for the secret services. The book was finished and published with the help of the IRD. A third of the publication run was bought by the Praeger Press, normally associated with the publication of literature originating from CIA sources. Conquest's book was intended for presentation to "useful fools", such as university professors and people working in the press, radio and TV. Conquest to this day remains, for anti-communist historians, one of the most important sources of material on the Soviet Union.

Conquest has explicitly denied complicity in falsification, and no proof of his involvement has ever been produced, but the IRD connection is frequently mentioned by publications seeking to discredit his serious historical work.


He started writing poetry in his college days, and published some poems in an anthology.

He met Kingsley Amis in 1952 and they became friends.

(how to characterize his poetry?)


External links