Franklyn Holzman

Franklyn Dunn Holzman in a 1974 photograph.

Seminar to pay tribute to Franklyn Holzman

In appreciation of the contributions that Franklyn Dunn Holzman made to Soviet studies and economics, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University invites his friends and colleagues to attend a seminar on Tuesday, November 12, from 4-6 p.m.

The seminar will be held in Room 3, second floor, at 625 Massachusetts Ave. in Central Square, Cambridge, and will be followed by a light buffet. The speaker will be Josef C. Brada, E64, G65, professor of economics at Arizona State University. Brada will comment on his former professor's work and Holzman's impact on the field. Brada was also the organizer and editor of the festschrift, Economic Adjustment and Reform in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union: Essays in Honor of Franklyn D. Holzman.

Holzman was a professor of economics at Tufts from 1961 to 1990, when he retired and was named professor emeritus. He died in September at age 83.

He is perhaps best known for uncovering regressive taxation in the Soviet Union and railing against intelligence estimates of Soviet military spending. In a book published in 1955, Holzman described how the Soviet Union's turnover tax, a form of sales tax, redistributed money from low-income people to wealthier people, which ran counter to the basic dictates of the Communist system.

"It was a book I told him that I wish I had written," said Marshall I. Goldman, associate director of the Davis Center at Harvard University. "It was good economics. It was good Sovietology."

Holzman's criticisms of the Soviet system also extended to trade. In the early 1960s, he used theory and statistics to argue that prices in East European Communist countries would have been lower if the Soviet Union had allowed them to trade with the rest of the world.

Though economists took the most note of his early writing, Holzman became more widely known in the late 1970s and 1980s for accusing American politicians, especially President Ronald Reagan, of drastically overstating Soviet military spending in an effort to sway budget decisions at home. He waged a continuing battle, sometimes through pieces he wrote for The New York Times, with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department over the figures and was partly vindicated by the collapse of Communism.

Holzman earned his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of North Carolina in 1940. He entered the Army Air Corps and was stationed at a Soviet-American air base in Poltava, Ukraine, that supported the Allied bombing of Berlin. It was during his military service that he developed an interest in Soviet culture and economy.

After the war, Holzman began graduate studies at Harvard University under two Russian-born giants of economic theory, Alexander Gerschenkron and Wassily Leontief. He later married a fellow student, Mathilda Wiesman Holzman, a professor of child development at Tufts from 1966 to 1993. She died in June 2000.

A fund in Holzman's memory has been established at the Davis Center. The proceeds will be used to underwrite the Davis Center economics seminar in which he was an active participant.

Those interested in attending should RSVP Marshall I. Goldman, 625 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139; phone: (617) 495-4485; e-mail: