In 1957, Myron Rush established himself as a world-renowned Kremlinologist after his analysis determined that Nikita Khrushchev had won the power struggle to succeed Stalin. The former professor died Jan. 8 of kidney failure at his home in Herndon, Virginia. He was 96.
Rush taught in Cornell’s government department for 28 years, during which he focused on the succession of leadership in the USSR and countries under Soviet influence. He retired in 1992, around the same time the Soviet Union collapsed.
Rush was born and raised in Hyde Park on the south side of Chicago. In 1938 he won a competitive scholarship to study at the University of Chicago, where he eventually received his doctorate from the Committee on Social Thought.
His career began with his work as an economist for the CIA and then as a member of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service Analysis Group, where he developed the methodology of Kremlinology. Rush then joined the RAND corporation, where he worked until he made his transition into a scholar and teacher at Cornell.
His family said that Rush was an avid athlete whose applied study, discipline and competitiveness overcame an aversion to cold and any limitations in talent to win pickup basketball, stickball, football and tennis games throughout his life.
Prof. Peter Katzenstein, Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies, referred to Rush as “among the most warm-hearted of colleagues.”
“His courses on Soviet politics and foreign policy were for decades a mainstay of the department’s offerings,” said Katzenstein. “If you wanted to understand world politics during the Cold War, Professor Rush’s highly-valued lectures and seminars were mandatory.”
Rush wrote four books concerning Kremlinology and foreign policy. His joint effort with Arnold Horelick led to the creation of the analytical book “Strategic Power and Soviet Foreign Policy,” which provided an important look into the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Sidney Tarrow, the Maxwell Upson Professor of Government, Emeritus, regarded Rush as “a retiring, thoughtful colleague and teacher who did what he did well and never tried to range beyond his considerable expertise, which many ‘Kremlinologists’ did at the time.”
“When he came to my class to offer his considerable expertise to my students, he was always well-prepared, thoughtful, and responsive to the students’ needs,” Tarrow said. “With typical Rush understatement, he once complimented my interaction with my students: ‘You ask good questions,’ he offered.”
Rush took leave from Cornell in the mid-70s in order to serve as the first scholar-in-residence at the CIA “to forge a relationship with academia,” according to his son. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Rush consulted for the CIA despite student protest, as he felt that it was in the country’s best interest for foreign policy to be influenced by his expertise and analysis.
According to his family, in retirement Rush read, listened to music, and enjoyed walks in the parks and idling on benches where he took in the view and passing parade of dogs and children.
Rush is survived by his three children, grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.