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Russian Radical 2.0: 1995 vs. 2013: What's Different?

The 2013 second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical offers a vastly expanded content over its 1995 predecessor. I have written a "Preface to the Second Edition," which I will publish here tomorrow. And whereas the first edition closed with the Epilogue, the second edition adds three new appendices, expanded notes and references, and an expanded index as well.

Readers will recall that I did not have access to Rand's college transcript when I published Russian Radical and that I had to piece together a portrait of a very turbulent time in the history of what was then Petrograd State University (and later became Leningrad University, and then, returned to its original name: the University of St. Petersburg). Nevertheless, I stated explicitly that the evidence I had collected and the conclusions I reached included a dose of reasonable speculation and a nod to "best explanation."

But I knew more evidence existed out there, and I was relentless in my quest to locate Rand's actual college transcripts. Some of this quest involved dealings with the Ayn Rand Institute discussed here. Not to be deterred by what I believed were unreasonable demands made by ARI, I was able to network globally with a remarkably cooperative and generous group of scholars and archivists, who eventually led me to the first college transcript. My analysis of its contents appeared in the first issue (Fall 1999) of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. The article was entitled "The Rand Transcript". As the abstract to the article states:

This essay discusses the major historical significance of the discovery and investigation of Ayn Rand's transcript from the University of St. Petersburg. The document provides evidence of Rand's study with some of the finest Russian scholars of the period, and helps to resolve certain paradoxes concerning Rand's relationship to the philosopher, N. O. Lossky. It also contributes to our understanding of those methods and ideas that may have influenced Rand's intellectual development.

But further investigation was required; more information and more detailed transcripts existed. Researching her biography of Ayn Rand (which was later published in 2009 as Ayn Rand and the World She Made), Anne C. Heller, working with Blitz Information Services, offered to share all of the information she recovered on Rand's education in the Soviet Union. My work on those materials subsequently helped her to piece together a more complete documentation for her Rand biography. It was truly a refreshing moment in scholarly cooperation.

It was not until the Fall of 2005 that I was able to publish my findings of the most detailed transcript analysis to date. As indicated in the abstract to that essay, "The Rand Transcript, Revisited":

In an examination of recently recovered materials from Russian archival sources, Sciabarra expands on his earlier studies of Rand's secondary and university education in Silver Age Russia (see the Fall 1999 Journal of Ayn Rand Studies essay, "The Rand Transcript"). He uncovers new details that are consistent with his historical theses, first presented in the 1995 book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. He reexamines the case for a connection between Rand and N. O. Lossky, and proposes a possible parallel between Lossky and a character Rand called "Professor Leskov" in an early draft of the novel, We the Living.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce that "The Rand Transcript" and "The Rand Transcript, Revisited" are now Appendices I and II, respectively, in the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. This is where this research belonged; they complete the historical investigations of part one of the book in ways that could not have possibly been anticipated in 1995, when the book was first published.

Up to 2012, no scholar anywhere had fully taken on the task of criticizing the actual historical case that I made in the first edition of Russian Radical or in the subsequent essays in JARS. Then, in 2012, ARI-affiliated scholar Shoshana Milgram wrote an essay entitled "The Education of Kira Argounova and Leo Kovalensky," which now constitutes a new Chapter Four of the expanded second edition of Robert Mayhew’s edited collection, Essays on Ayn Rand’s "We the Living". For the first time, some aspects of my historical detective work are found "problematic" by a writer who is actually the newly 'designated' "authorized" biographer of Ayn Rand.

Appendix III, entitled "A Challenge to Russian Radical---and Ayn Rand," written especially for the second edition of Russian Radical is my reply to her criticisms. I won't spoil the reading experience, but I'll just say that Milgram essentially dismisses my contention of any connection between Rand and Lossky, by dismissing Rand's recollections of Lossky... recollections, mind you, that were communicated to Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden in biographical interviews in the early 1960s, and that were published in Barbara Branden's biographical essay (and the title of the 1962 book): "Who is Ayn Rand?" That essay was the only published biographical essay in Ayn Rand's lifetime and had her full sanction even after her 1968 break with the Brandens.

My response to Milgram, therefore, is not merely a defense of my historical thesis, but a defense of the integrity of Rand's memory of a traumatic period in her life.

The three appendices are not the only additional materials in the second edition. I was able to update some of the scholarship, do a few nips and tucks, and provide a whole new sub-section for Chapter 12 ("The Predatory State"), which expanded considerably on material already present in the first edition. That new subsection is called "The Welfare-Warfare State," and it reveals things about Rand's views of U.S. foreign policy that might astound both her conservative and liberal critics.

A full "Table of Contents" comparison of the two editions can be found here. Readers will be able to trace even the page differences between the first and second editions at that link.