Papers of Dr Rudolf Schlesinger, 1901-1969, Marxist theoretician, lecturer and co-founder of the University of Glasgow Institute of Soviet and East European Studies

Scope and Content

  • Articles, c1930-1980
  • Correspondence, c1930-1969
  • Editorials, 1930-1983
  • Lectures, c1948-1966
  • Draft work for articles and books, c1930-1969
  • Records of the German Communist Party, c1920-1930
  • Stock checks, 1967-1975
  • Invoices, 1967-1975
  • Accounts, 1967-1975
  • Receipts, 1958-1960

Administrative / Biographical History

Dr Rudolf Schlesinger was born at Vienna, Austria, in 1901. He was the son of a Jewish Doctor and a German mother. He attended a Catholic secondary school, which was run by Jesuits, before then attending Schottengymnasium, a renowned boys’ school in Vienna. It was here that he first encountered the anti-Semitism that was to be the inspiration for his life-long fight against fascism. He received his doctorate from the University of Vienna in 1922. At this time he was a member of the Young Worker’s Socialist Organisation. In 1923, he moved to Berlin, Germany, to take up the position of assistant to the economist Professor E Varga. During his time in Berlin he was actively involved in the organisation of anti-Fascist demonstrations. In 1926, backed by Professor Varga, he moved to Moscow, USSR, for fourteen months, to study the failure of Soviet Socialism, and the implications that this posed for the German Communist Party. On his return to Berlin, he worked at the International Agrarian Institute and studied the problems of the Volga German Republic. He also worked as a member of the Committee on Agitation and Propaganda in Lichtenberg, Germany.

In 1927, Schlesinger married Mila Sellvig, whom he had first met in 1923. Although, they married in a secret ceremony, they were able to live together in Berlin. Schlesinger wrote for a number of underground communist magazines, including Die Neue Welt, and promoted discipline at anti-Fascist demonstrations. Consequently, in 1933, he was ordered by police to leave the country. He stayed in Berlin, however, in hiding until he was arrested and imprisoned on 7th August 1933. His wife sought the assistance of the Austrian Embassy so that after some weeks he was released and taken across the German Austrian border. He arrived in Vienna but went to Prague, Czechoslovakia, where he helped to set up the anti-Fascist newspaper Gegenangriff. At the end of 1934 he left for Moscow, where he took up the editorship of the German edition of Communist International. A friend of Schlesinger’s was arrested in 1936 and after the subsequent hearing, Schlesinger was declared 'alien to the Communist party'. Schlesinger returned to Vienna, but the impact of his expulsion from the Communist party meant that the only way he could publish any of his work was to do so anonymously.

In 1939, Schlesinger left Vienna to return to Prague, where he was appointed editor of the German monthly journal for the Society of Czechoslovak-Soviet relations. The main source of his income, however, came from the revenue produced by articles, which were written for the Journal of Institut Fur Sozialforschung in the USA, which was published in Paris, France. He and his family applied unsuccessfully, for a visa in order to emigrate to the USA. As a result, they decided to flee to Poland at the onset of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, in 1939. From there, they sailed to Britain on 21st April of the same year, on the last ship to leave Poland. In Britain, Schlesinger was active writing and contributing to a number of journals. At the University of Glasgow in 1948, he co-founded with Jacob Miller, the journal Soviet Studies, which he edited and contributed to for several years. He worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University department of Soviet Studies, and continued there, after it had expanded to become the Institute of Soviet and East European Studies. He made a series of Marxism-Leninism lectures and launched the journal Co-Existence: A Journal for the Comparative Study of Economics, Sociology and Politics in a Changing World. He officially retired in 1966, although he remained active in his fields of work. He died at Kilmun, Argyll, in 1969.

Source: James Down, 'Rudolf Schlesinger: A Display of Documents to Commemorate the 25th Anniversary of his Death 11th Nov 1969' Glasgow, (1994)


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information

Access is open, however an appointment may be required. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Acquisition Information

Gift : René Beerman : 1991 : ACCN 4529

Other Finding Aids

See also University of Glasgow Collections

Draft boxlist

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 247 procedures

Custodial History

Held by René Beerman since 1969


Gift : Robert McLernan : c1998 : ACCN 4795

Transfer : GUAS : 2005 : ACCN 4890