Eminent historian Hari Vasudevan dies of COVID-19

Published : May 10, 2020 21:45 IST

Hari Shankar Vasudevan

Renowned historian Hari Shankar Vasudevan, who was internationally acclaimed for his work on Russian and European history and Indo-Russian relations, passed away in the early hours of May 9 after contracting COVID-19. He was 68. Vasudevan is survived by his wife, historian Tapati Guha-Thakurta and daughter Mrinalini.

A highly respected academic and writer, Vasudevan was the author of Shadows of Substance: Indo-Russian Trade and Military Technical Cooperation (2010), and Footsteps of Afanasii Nikitin: Travels through Eurasia and India in the Early 21st Century (2015). He also edited and co-edited several books including Commercialization and Agriculture in Late Imperial Russia: Essays on Russian Economic History, Indo-Russian Relations: 1917-1947 – Select Documents from the Archives of the Russian Federation – Part II (1929-1947), and The Global Politics of the Iraq Crisis and India’s Option. His most recent publication was the chapter “India and the October Revolution: Nationalist Revolutionaries, Bolshevik Power and Lord Curzon’s Nightmare”, which was published in the book The Global Impact of Russia’s Great War and Revolution, Book 2: The Wider Arc of Revolution, Part 2, (Bloomington, Indiana: Slavica Publishers, 2019).

After completing his PhD in Cambridge in 1978, Vasudevan began teaching at Calcutta University. He was the UGC Emeritus Professor, Department of History and China Centre of Calcutta University (CU), and also served as Director, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. Though attached to Calcutta University throughout his life, he was associated with other institutions, including Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi, the Asiatic Society in Kolkata (of which he was a member of the Russian Archives project), Cornell University in the United States, King’s College in London, Academy of Sciences in Russia, Kiev University in Ukraine, and Dagon University in Myanmar. Vasudevan was also Chairman, Syllabus Committees and Textbook Development Committees for Social Sciences, NCERT, from 2005 to 2015, and Consultant on Indo-Russian Trade for the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, between 2006 and 2007.

Historian Suchetana Chattopadhyay, who teaches at Jadavpur University, described Vasudevan as a “brilliant historian specialising in Russian, Soviet and European history, a legendary teacher loved by all over decades and one of the finest human beings in our profession.... He was immensely generous and encouraging, a pillar of support to younger scholars.”

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, in his condolence message said Vasudevan was a “multifaceted person” and a “prominent specialist” in Russian and European history and Indo-Russian relations. “[H]e made his mark while being involved in a formal consultative capacity with projects/institutions of the Ministry of Culture, MHRD, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India…. His contributions to society will be ever recalled.”