John Slatter Obituary
John Slatter, my dear friend who passed away at 73, was an esteemed scholar in the realm of Russian studies. He delved into research on the peasantry while also producing fascinating work on the role of Russian émigrés during the last 50 years of Tsarist rule, leaving a significant impact on his field.
John was born in Richmond, located in southwest London, and was adopted by Henrietta (nee Grundy) and Albert Slatter, who worked as a wine taster. He went to Latymer Upper school in Hammersmith before studying Russian and French at Jesus College, Cambridge from 1963 to 1966. It was at Cambridge where we formed a close bond.
In the summer of 1964, we both attended a language course in Moscow. Before departing from Victoria train station in London, I introduced him to Irene Gottlieb, a fellow student of Russian at the University of London. They would later marry on July 30, 1966, the same day England won the World Cup.
Following graduation, John joined the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Russian and East European Studies, earning his master’s degree in social sciences and completing a PhD on the peasantry and rural Soviets during the early years of Soviet power. His supervisor was Moshe Lewin. He then became a lecturer in Russian history and language at the University of Durham in 1968, where he spent his whole academic career. During this time, Irene also became a Russian language teacher.
John was incredibly healthy in his youth, but was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his 40s. Despite this, he maintained his connection with Russian culture and current events by immersing himself in Russian films and satellite television. As his eyesight worsened, he turned to Russian documentaries, plays, and music, which he cherished. John had a deep appreciation for music, spanning from classical to jazz and beyond. He familiarized me with both Charles Aznavour’s music and Mozart’s transcendent G minor Piano Quartet.
After retiring in 2003, John and Irene continued to visit Antibes in the south of France every summer, until recently. Even while juggling his own health issues, John remained a supportive and devoted husband to Irene, who had her own significant health problems. In 2016, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with great joy.
John was a kind, principled, self-effacing, and humorous man, devoted to his role as a loving husband and father. He is survived by Irene, their two sons, Stephen and Paul, and a grandson, Sebastian.