Robert Conquest, Esteemed Soviet Union Historian, Dies at 98

President Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to historian Robert Conquest
President Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Robert Conquest / AP

Robert Conquest, the Anglo-American historian famous for his writings on the Soviet Union, died at the age of 98 on Monday in Palo Alto, California.

The Telegraph writes in his obituary:

An ardent Bolshevik as a young man, Conquest became a bitter foe of Soviet "Socialism." He had first visited Russia in 1937 as a youthful devotee of the great experiment. It was a half century before he returned in 1989, having spent his life between chronicling the horrors the country had endured, and emerging, in the view of the Oxford historian Mark Almond, as "one of the few Western heroes of the collapse of Soviet Communism."

Most notable of Conquest’s works was The Great Terror, which was the first detailed account to chronicle the horrors of Joseph Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union between 1937 to 1939. According to his estimates–which were eventually deemed high but relatively accurate–20 million people died under Stalin’s rule due to famine, Soviet labor camps and executions.

Conquest’s work won him appreciation from world leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who even consulted with Conquest regarding how to deal with Soviet Russia.

The historian was also awarded the President Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005 "for his distinguished and profound contributions to the intellectual life of our nation and the world," according to the White House citation.

In addition to his writings from the Cold War, Conquest was also a published poet. He continued to produced poetic work into his 90s.