Professor Emeritus Albert (Al) Resis passed away on March 10, at the age of 99. A noted expert in Russian history, he served as a faculty member of NIU’s History department from 1964 until his retirement in 1992.
His research focused on foreign policy, and his many publications included the notable 1988 book Stalin, the Politburo and the Onset of the Cold War: 1945-1946. He served as editor of the book Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics (working with Russian author Felix Chuev).
He authored the cover story for the American Historical Review in April 1978, “The Churchill-Stalin Secret “Percentages” Agreement on the Balkans, Moscow, October 1944.” Resis’ piece examines Winston Churchill’s account of a meeting with Joseph Stalin where the two discussed how to balance their countries’ interests in the Balkans. Churchill proposed the areas be divided up by percentages and claimed Stalin agreed. In 1958, the Soviets denied Stalin had agreed or accepted the proposal. Churchill later claimed it wasn’t not a long-term, spheres-of-influence arrangement but rather a temporary wartime measure dealing with immediate war-time arrangements regarding zones of military and political responsibility. When the US, Britain and the Soviet Union met in 1944, the agreement was tested immediately. Resis concluded the “percentages” agreement worked until Britain proved too weak to sustain the bargain, especially in the face of the desire of the United States to curb Soviet influence as much as possible. Resis noted that this moment “marked the beginning of the Cold War in southeastern Europe.”
As fellow emeritus professor, Stephen Foster notes, “The prominence of Al’s piece in the only journal common to the whole of the profession was a coup of the highest order.”
Resis, earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University, enjoyed music, specifically classical music. Earning a music scholarship at Northwestern University, he played the bassoon in the school orchestra and was the drum major for NU’s marching band. Resis enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, and was in a military orchestra that performed weekly radio concerts.
Former colleagues remember Resis as a warm and gracious presence in the department, a supportive ally for women on the faculty, and a great lover of books: “Towering library shelves lined the walls of his house,” recalls Professor Emerita Elaine Spencer.
He will be missed by the many NIU colleagues and students whose lives he enriched.