“The Soviet bureaucracy will shake off all attempts to reform it as easily as a bear would swipe away attacking rabbits,” Professor Goldman wrote in his book “Gorbachev’s Challenge: Economic Reform in the Age of High Technology” (1987).
In 1989, upheavals that had begun in Eastern Europe exposed fatal fissures in the Soviet bloc. By the end of 1991, with consumer goods scarce, secessionist movements mounting and Kremlin intrigue deepening, Mr. Gorbachev resigned as president.
“Marshall Goldman counts among the pioneers of American studies of the Soviet economy,” Paul Roderick Gregory, an economics professor at the University of Houston and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote in an email.
By 1983, in his “U.S.S.R. in Crisis: The Failure of an Economic System,” Professor Goldman was suggesting that the failing economy was encouraging Soviet citizens “to wonder whether or not they should continue to be so passive” and whether “the time is riper than ever for some kind of explosion.”
Not everyone agreed with him.
“Marshall was an excellent lecturer and attracted a lot of interest to the Russian economy,” Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank, wrote in an email. “But he was on the wrong side of Russia’s last three leaders, opposing both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, while lauding Putin.”
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Professor Goldman credited President Vladimir V. Putin with invigorating the Russian economy by nationalizing energy companies.
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“Russia would be very different, but that rapid economic growth would still be there, Putin or no Putin,” he said in a 2008 lecture. In his book “Petrostate: Putin, Power and the New Russia” (2008), he wrote, “Putin made a difference, but oil and gas made an even more important difference.”
Professor Goldman warned, however, about Kremlin cronyism and the precariousness of what he called the Russian petrostate relying so heavily on energy exports.
In 2010, in a new preface to “Petrostate,” following an economic slump, he wrote that the decline in oil prices had prompted his wife to suggest that the book’s title was misleading. Not only had it been misread as “Prostate,” he wrote — “Did I know something about Putin’s health that his physicians had been hiding from the public?” — but, he added, it might have been more appropriately titled “Impoverished State.”
Marshall Irwin Goldman was born on July 26, 1930, in Elgin, Ill., to Sam Goldman and the former Bella Silvian, who ran an army surplus store and later sold liquor wholesale.
He graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1952 and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in economics at Harvard University.
After being drafted and serving as a teacher in the Army, he joined the faculty at Wellesley in 1958 and remained there until he retired in 2002 as professor emeritus.
Professor Goldman was associate director of what became known as the Davis Center at Harvard from 1975 to 2006 and was instrumental in securing its enduring financial support. He was also a founding director of Century Bank and Trust Company and vice chairman of Century BanCorp. He frequently wrote Op-Ed and Sunday Business articles for The New York Times.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, the former Merle Rosenblatt, a professor emerita at Boston University, where she has specialized in modern Chinese history; their three other children, Ethan Goldman, Dr. Avra Goldman and Dr. Karla Goldman; 12 grandchildren; and his sister, Rhoda Frank.