Obituary: Dennison Rusinow
- DENNISON RUSINOW (1930 - 2004)
Dr. Dennison (Denny) Rusinow, one of the world's leading scholars on Yugoslavia, was killed in an automobile accident in St. Petersburg, Florida on 20 January 2004. Dr. Rusinow had studied Yugoslavia for almost 50 years, and his book The Yugoslav Experiment: 1948-1974 (1977) is widely regarded as the single best study of Tito's Yugoslavia up to the adoption of the 1974 constitution.
Denny Rusinow took his doctorate in recent history from St. Antony's College, Oxford, under the guidance of Sir William (Bill) Deakin, a former aide in the British mission to Marshall Tito and the Partisans in World War II, writing his dissertation on the Trieste negotiations after World War II. His work thereafter was marked by the breadth of vision and careful use of sources of the historian applied to very recent political history.
Dr. Rusinow's knowledge of Yugoslavia was developed during a decade of residence in Beograd and Zagreb (1963-73) as a member of the American Universities Field Staff, a position that required constant analysis of developments in the country. His reports of the unfolding of the 'Croatian Spring'in 1971 are among the very best contemporary reports on the maspok, and probably as a result of their bluntness led some Croatian intellectuals to break their connections with him; he moved to Vienna in 1973 to continue his research on Yugoslavia. Ironically, as Tudjman's HDZ government polarized Serbs and Croats in Croatia in 1990-91 some of Rusinow's Zagreb colleagues told him that they now recognized the accuracy of his 1971 reporting. However, by that time his analyses of the policies and likely effects of Milosevic's rule provoked hostility among some of his colleagues in Beograd. Rusinow's own view was that if he was criticized as being anti-Croat in 1971 and anti-Serb in 1990, he was probably writing accurately both times.
Rusinow saw the gathering problems of the SFRY before most other analysts, and in 1986 hosted a conference in Washington on 'Yugoslavia: Federal vs. Regional Relationships' which drew participants from all over the SFRY. The report of this conference was published as 'Yugoslavia: A Fractured Federalism' in 1988,and gave warnings of the crisis in Yugoslavia's federal system before these were seen by most other analysts.
In 1988 Rusinow joined the University of Pittsburgh as Research Professor of East European History, a position he held until his retirement in 2000. With the self-destruction of the SFRY he produced a number of excellent articles on the early stages of the crisis, but perhaps even more importantly, served as discussant and critic of the work of newer scholars in the field. Denny Rusinow's careful scholarship and extraordinarily detailed knowledge of Yugoslav politics and society, coupled with his refusal to adopt or accept extreme positions made him a very valuable source of balance in a field of study that was subject to as much polarization as the peoples of Yugoslavia themselves.
Robert Hayden is Director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies and Professor at the Anthropology Department of the University of Pittsburg. This obituary was first published in NIN (Belgrade).