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Gregory (Grisha) Freidin's interests include contemporary Russian culture, literature, politics, and society. He is now completing his long-standing project on the Russian Jewish writer Isaac Babel, which includes the following: a definitive annotated edition of Babel's writings, letters, reminiscences and critical reception (W.W. Norton, 2009); a collection of essays on Babel's works and days called The Enigma of Isaac Babel (Stanford University Press, 2009); and finally, his own critical biography of the writer, A Jew on Horseback: Isaac Babel in Life and Art (Stanford University Press, forthcoming). This will be Freidin’s second critical biography of a major Russian author; his first, Coat of Many Colors, a study of the life and oeuvre of the poet Osip Mandelstam, came out in 1987 (paperback edition in 2010). In 2004, as part of his Isaac Babel project, Freidin organized an international conference at Stanford and, along with it, produced the U.S. premiere of Isaac Babel's play "Maria" and curated an exhibition on Babel. Freidin's next project is a collection of essays on literature, culture, society, and politics, tentatively entitled Authorship and Citizenship: Understanding Russian Culture.

After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1978, Freidin began his career at Stanford as Assistant Professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literature, earning tenure in 1985. His service career at Stanford includes: chairmanship on the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages (DLCL), Center for Russian, East Europrean and Eurasian Studies (CREEES), as well as directing the Graduate Program in Humanities and the Interdisciplinary Program in Humanities. Since 2013, he is Professor Emeritus, recalled to duty in 2013-15.

Shortly after emigrating to the United States in 1971, as a stringer for Time magazine, Freidin transcribed and, along with Strobe Talbott, translated into English the second volume of Nikita Khrushchev’s Memoirs (Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament, 1973). From 1988 to 2006, Freidin was a frequent visitor to Russia, doing research in Russian literature, observing and reporting on the recent developments in Russian culture, politics, and society. His columns have appeared in large-circulation publications in the United States and Russia (The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times, Neprikosnovennyi zapas, and others). In 1990, Freidin translated into Russian The Federalist Papers. The first ever such edition in Russian, for presentation to President Mikhail Gorbachev. This translation, the first ever edition of The Federalist Papers in Russian, was initiated by President George Bush as a gift for President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was then working on a new Soviet constitution, the Union Treaty, to be adopted in August 1991. That month, Freidin and his wife, Victoria E. Bonnell, found themselves participant observers in the protests against the overthrow of Gorbachev’s government. They later included their reminiscences of the failed coup d'états in a book that they co-edited with the then NPR Moscow bureau chief, Ann Cooper. In the wake of this experience, Bonnell and Freidin collaborated on a study of television's role in the defeat of the Coup ("Televorot," 1994).

In 1995, along with former Stanford colleague, Robert Ball, Freidin founded a Moscow publishing venture, The Russian Britannica LLC. The aim was to provide the new Russia with up-to-date Western reference work unencumbered by Communist ideology and censorship. The resulting project has since evolved, under the management of the Soros Foundation, into an online Russian encyclopedia, Krugosvet.

As a commentator on Russian politics and culture, Freidin has appeared on the BBC, McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, NPR, and KQED. In recent years, Freidin has been reviewing and writing on contemporary Russian film for the Telluride Film Festival selection committee and its journal; he is a member of the editorial board of Slavic Review. Freidin has been a regular contributor to Stanford's Arcade, as well as his own blog, The Noise of Time.

Key works

A Jew on Horseback: Isaac Babel in Life and Art.  Stanford University Press, forthcoming.

The Norton Critical Edition of Isaac Babel’s Selected Writings, Letters, Contemporary Views, Criticism, Scholarship, and Chronology.Ed., with an introduction, annotations, a critical essay, and chronology by G. Freidin.  W. W. Norton, 2009.

The Enigma of Isaac Babel: Biography, History, Context. Ed. Gregory Freidin. Stanford University Press, 2009.

Russia at the Barricades: Eyewitness Accounts of the Moscow Coup. Eds. Victoria Bonnell, Ann Copper and Gregory Freidin. Introduction by Victoria Bonnell and Gregory Freidin. M.E. Sharpe, 1994

Russian Culture in Transition (Selected Papers of the International Working Group for the Study of Russian Culture, 1990 1991). Compiled, edited, and with an Introduction by Gregory Freidin. Stanford Slavic Studies 7 (1993)

A Coat of Many Colors: Osip Mandelstam and His Mythologies of Self Presentation. University of California Press, 1987

Prof. Freidin in the News

May 27, 2014
Gregory Freidin, professor emeritus of Slavic languages and literature, remembers how kitchens...
February 24, 2010
Gregory Freidin, professor of Slavic languages and literatures reviews "Kamennyi Most."
February 24, 2010
Full list of Prof. Freidin's columns
February 16, 2010
As a teenager in the mid-1960s, Gregory Freidin moved with his family to a rough side of Moscow, to...


  • Modernism
  • Modern Russian Literature
  • Russian Poetry
  • Russian Revolution
  • Stalinist Culture
  • Contemporary Russian Literature and Culture
  • Soviet and Post-Soviet Literature and Culture
  • Soviet and Post-Soviet Culture and Society
  • Culture and Politics in Russia
  • Russian-Jewish Nexus
  • Russian and European Intellectual History
  • Aesthetics
  • Literary Theory
  • Russian Film and Visual Arts
  • Osip Mandelstam
  • Isaac Babel
  • Leo Tolstoy


The First State Institute of Foreign Languages, Moscow, USSR, 1969-1971
Special Student, Brandeis University, 1972
M.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1972-1974
Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 1978