Leading Sovietologist, Economist Dead at 83

Franklyn D. Holzman, an economist who uncovered regressive taxation in the Soviet Union and railed against intelligence estimates of Soviet military spending, died Sept. 1 at the home of his daughter, Miriam Meyer, with whom he lived in Clifton, Virginia. He was 83.

The cause was complications of a stroke suffered two years ago, said his son David, of Lexington, Massachusetts.

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 more highly paid ones. This phenomenon 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 Goldman, associate director of the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University, where the two had been colleagues.

"It was good economics. It was good Sovietology. Usually, at the time he wrote it, you did one or the other, but you didn't do both."

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

Though economists took most note of this early writing, Holzman became known in the late 1970s and 1980s for accusing American politicians, especially former President Ronald Reagan, of drastically overstating Soviet military spending in an effort to sway budget decisions at home.

Holzman waged a continuing battle with the CIA and the Defense Department over the figures, sometimes in the business and Op-Ed pages of The New York Times, and was partly vindicated by the collapse of communism. Military spending in dollar terms had indeed been lower than Washington experts estimated, but the strain from such spending still managed to break the back of the Soviet economy.

Franklyn Dunn Holzman was born and raised in Brooklyn and received a bachelor's 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, which would support the Allied bombing of Berlin. There, he began to nurture an interest in the Soviet Union's culture and economy.

After the war, Holzman began graduate studies at Harvard University under two Russian-born giants of economic theory, Alexander Ger-schenkron and Wassily Leontief. He later married a fellow student, Mathilda Wiesman. She died in June 2000.

Holzman first taught at the University of Washington, Seattle, but spent most of his career at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

An author and editor of several tracts on centrally planned economies and the theories of inflation and trade, Holzman retired in 1990.

In addition to David and Miriam, Holzman is survived by another son, Thomas, of Bethesda, Maryland, and four grandchildren.