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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Authoritarianism in the former Soviet Union is John Heathershaw’s métier.

Heathershaw is a professor at the University of Exeter where he specializes in studying and teaching “conflict, security and development in authoritarian political environments, especially in post-Soviet Central Asia.”  Recently, he took exception to my critical reviews of books on Russia by fellow British academics – one  by Mark Galeotti, and others by Oliver Bullough, Elisabeth Schimpfossl,  and Robert Service.  He wrote to me to say so, recognizing my “journalistic work” and adding: “I’m not interested in hatchet jobs or conspiracy theories regarding people doing perfectly good research.” This is the record of what happened when the journalist asked the professor for his evidence.

—— Original Message ——

From: “John Heathershaw”
To: “John Helmer”
Sent: 27/09/2019 18:31:47
Subject: Re: From London
 

Dear John,

On Galeotti, I’m not interested in hatchet jobs or conspiracy theories regarding people doing perfectly good research.  We may not agree with all of it, but we don’t need to disparage the individual. The world of Russia specialists has become even more factional and bad-tempered in recent years.  I am glad I am not part of it.

Regards,

John

 

On Sat, Sep 28, 2019 at 8:47 AM John Helmer wrote:

Dear John:

Many thanks.

On your second point, I entirely agree. The test of research is truth;   without the test of truth, there is nothing but rubbish or warfare. My case is that Galeotti’s book The Vory  fails the former and is an example of the latter. I regret you aren’t extending the truth test to my work. If by “hatchet job”, “conspiracy theories” and “bad tempered” you are referring to me, why use an innuendo instead of evidence, argument or debate? 

Best,

John 

 

—— Original Message ——

From: “John Heathershaw”

To: “John Helmer”

Sent: 05/10/2019 18:16:03

Subject: Re: Re

 

Dear John,

I would not generally comment on your book reviews, yet you angled for a response.  Of the four authors we hosted working on Russia last academic year (including yourself), I find all their work to be credible, evidence-based and valuable in various respects.  This is not perfect truth by any means – no doubt there are omissions and preferences – but then these are not religious texts which make that claim.  

You have now rubbished the work of all three others we invited and accused two of them of being part of an MI6 campaign against Russia without any credibel evidence to support this view.  I do not appreciate this lack of generosity towards the work of others and do not think your claims about their work are correct.  It puzzles me as to why you feel the need to attack their work in this way.  Maybe its because the world of Russian Studies has become one of warfare for so many of its protagonists?  I do not wish to be part of that war.

Regards,

John

 

—— Forwarded Message ——

From: “John Helmer”

To: “John Heathershaw”

Sent: 05/10/2019 19:30:38

Subject: Re[2]: Re

 

Dear John:

Thank you for giving me your opinion. 

There is a standard in this time of warfare, as you yourself acknowledge, which university men on both sides have been forgetting. The truth test. If you will examine what Service had to say on cross-examination in the High Court, you will be able to start with his own admissions. In regard to his claims, he is conclusive. Perhaps he thought the transcripts of what he said on those two days in 2011 would never see the light of day. They have now — and it’s incumbent on scholars to study them. I did. 

I’m hardly alone, though I’m in the minority. The majority publishes itself in all the mainstream media and in all the universities and think-tanks. Galeotti’s book has been examined by Russian experts, and I’ve quoted one of them in my piece. It’s disrespectful to describe that piece of mine as “rubbishing”. Please find me another review of that book as painstaking and as thoroughly sourced. 

As for Galeotti’s involvement in government-funded propaganda campaigns (not limited to MI6), you’ll note that I presented his defence so that readers may judge for themselves.  

I’m sure you’ll concede that the mainstream newspapers and book reviews no longer publish negative-judgement reviews. I believe Private Eye is the only remainer – it’s readership speaks for itself, the largest in UK-Europe: https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/abc-news-mags-private-eye-circulation-holds-firm-year-on-year/

This is a pity — readers, like students, are likely to learn as much from obloquies as from encomia.  

I’m afraid your sentence, “[I] do not think your claims about their work are correct” — is lacking the obvious, your evidence. If you would like to present that, I’ll be glad to publish your presentation. 

Alternatively, I would be glad to debate my findings with their authors one of these days at Exeter. 

If there’s to be no debate, nor process of argument and rebuttal, then how am I or your students and readers to accept your disclaimer — you are part of the war. 

Best wishes,

John 

 

On Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 3:49 AM John Helmer wrote:

Dear John:

I thought the attached gave you two options, both academically principled and fair. Since I’ve missed your response, may I add there are three other options: the first is that you would retract the email you sent me with opinions for which you aren’t providing evidence or argument; the second is that you would apologize and we’ll forget the matter; the third is that you will indicate by your silence that during a Eureka moment in your bath, you slipped, hit your head, and can’t remember sending the email of Oct 5.

Best,

John

 

—— Original Message ——

From: “John Heathershaw”

To: “John Helmer”

Sent: 15/10/2019 10:02:25

Subject: Re: Fw: Re[2]: Re

 

Dear John,

I am too busy to spend my time providing evidence of the lack of evidence for the claims you make about the books of others.  I respect your journalistic work and knowledge of the region but I do not appreciate the attacks on others.

Regards,

John

 

On Tue, 15 Oct 2019, 08:14 John Helmer wrote:

Dear John:

You weren’t too busy to issue a professional insult. Retract it now or defend it. 

 

— JH

 

—— Forwarded Message ——

From: “John Heathershaw”

To: “John Helmer”

Sent: 16/10/2019 22:31:20

Subject: Re: Re[2]: Fw: Re[2]: Re

 

Dear John,

I am sorry you feel offended and if you feel my words were not well chosen. I am happy to apologise for any offence caused. However. I simply do not evaluate Galeotti and the others you have charged in the way you do and do not want to be sent these messages from you in the future. I prefer not to take sides in these wars in the study of Russia and Eurasia. I am not continuing this conversation any further.

That’s all. 

Regards, 

John 

NOTE FOR THE NON-ACADEMIC READER:  Heathershaw’s academic record has been measured here. Eighty-four publications have been cited by other academics or researchers for a total of 1,507 times; that’s an average of 18 per publication over almost sixteen years. One-third of the publications have been cited by no one, yet. For an example of Heathershaw’s evidence on the gravest operation alleged against the Kremlin in recent British political history, the Skripal case, here is Heathershaw’s publication; it appeared on March 21, 2018; that was seventeen days after Sergei and Yulia Skripal were hospitalized in Salisbury.   The publisher was Open Democracy, a publication financed by the George Soros and Pierre Omidyar groups.  

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