Myron Rush, a Kremlinologist whose careful lexical analysis of public leadership statements determined that Nikita Khrushchev had won the power struggle to succeed Joseph Stalin, died Jan. 8 of kidney failure at his home in Herndon, Virginia. The professor emeritus of government died a week after his 96th birthday.
His book “The Rise of Khrushchev” described a predictive analytic technique that established his reputation among the pre-eminent Soviet scholars of his generation. His life and his career at the CIA, RAND Corp. and Cornell coincided with the USSR’s history. A faculty member since 1965, he retired from Cornell in 1992 as the Soviet Union collapsed.
“By his magical use of time, Myron enjoyed a rare combination of gifts: a love of his family that had few limits; a devotion to Cornell demonstrated in the demands he made of students, faculty colleagues and his own pioneering research that reshaped our thinking of Soviet history; and decades-long service to his country, notably his quiet work with the CIA,” said historian Walter LaFeber, the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor Emeritus. “As I discovered when I asked him to critique a lengthy draft of my Cold War book’s new edition, Myron could be extraordinarily sensitive yet unrelenting in his wonderful critique in demanding high standards. His compassion for his family, his academic demands and his work in his nation’s Cold War set Myron’s life apart.”
Rush was born Jan. 1, 1922, the son of Louis and Anna Rush, the youngest of five children and the only son in a family of Orthodox Jews who had immigrated from Motal, in what is now Belarus. He grew up in Hyde Park on the south side of Chicago. As a youth he studied violin and was an avid athlete, which continued throughout his life. He appreciated literature, art and music, including bel canto opera, Bach, Mozart and Haydn.
Rush graduated from Woodrow Wilson Junior College (now Kennedy-King College), where he won a competitive scholarship to the University of Chicago. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1942 with a liberal arts degree. He then joined the Army Air Forces, where he trained as a meteorologist and later served as an encryption specialist at Adak Army Airfield, Alaska. Upon honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, Rush studied under sociologist Edward Shils and historian Daniel Boorstin at the University of Chicago, and he was deeply influenced by philosopher Karl Popper while attending the London School of Economics. He earned his Ph.D. in the social sciences from the University of Chicago in 1951; his dissertation was on “Disillusion in American Social Thought 1880-1920.”
He worked for the CIA as an economist and then as a member of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service Analysis Group, where he helped establish the field of Kremlinology. He joined the RAND Corp. in 1955.
In 1965 he joined the Cornell faculty, focusing on political succession in the USSR and Soviet bloc countries and international relations. With Arnold Horelick he wrote “Strategic Power and Soviet Foreign Policy,” an analysis of the Cuban missile crisis. He took leave from Cornell to serve as the first scholar-in-residence at the CIA, a program he helped make successful. He served as a consultant to the CIA several times from the 1970s through the 1990s.
He was preceded in death by his parents, sisters and wife, Theresa. He is survived by three children and several grandchildren, nieces and a great-granddaughter.
Memorial donations can be sent to Thresholds at www.thresholds.org or ATTN: Dennis, 4101 N. Ravenswood, Chicago, IL 60617.
This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.