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Creating the Soviet Historical Profession, 1917-1934

  • Robert F. Byrnes (a1)


Despite the richness of primary sources covering the 1917-1921 period of Soviet history, the swirl of events and disagreements over policy among the Bolsheviks make the period confusing for the scholar. In this confusion and understandable disorder, the goals and policies of the Soviet leaders were remarkably consistent: They sought to acquire and retain full control. Lenin and his colleagues were fully aware of the importance of history and of those who wrote and taught it. In their new world, history was to provide the scientific explanation of the past and provide guidance for the future, but acquiring power and beginning construction of the new society occupied higher priorities for them than did the, historical profession.



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A travel grant from IREX enabled me to conduct research on this article in the Soviet Union; this work is part of a study of the Kliuchevskii school. I benefited also from research fellowships in the History of Ideas Unit of the Australian National University and in the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

1. V. A. Ul'ianovskaia, Formirovanie nauchnoi intelligentsii v SSSR, 1917-1937 gg. (Moscow, 1966), 6; Ronald G. Charbonneau, “Non-Communist Hands: Bouregois Specialists in Soviet Russia, 1917-1927” (Ph.D. diss., Concordia University, Montreal, 1981), 9-11. In 1914 the ten universities had 6, 000 “scientific workers” ; see Galina D. Alekseeva, Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia i istoricheskaia nauka v Rossii, 1917-1923 gg. (Moscow, 1968), 203-205.

2. Alekseeva, Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia, 18.

3. See for example, Piontkovskii, S. A., “Velikorusskaia burzhuaznaia istoriografiia poslednogo desiatiletiia,” htorik-Marksist, 28-29 (1930), 157176 ; Ivanova, L. V., U istokov sovetskoi istoricheskoi nauki. Podgotovka kadrov istorikov-marksistov v 1917-1929 gg. (Moscow, 1968), 12, 38, 89, 90; Alekseeva, Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia, 17, 203, 217-218; Ul'ianovskaia, Formirovanie, 4, 112-113.

4. Iurii V. Got'e, Time of Troubles: The Diary of Iurii Vladimirovich Got'e. Moscow, July 8, 1917-July 23, 1922, trans., ed., and intra. Terence Emmons (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988).

5. For this section, I rely heavily on Charbonneau, “Non-Communist Hands,” especially 5-6, 45-48, 70, 103-105, 120-133, 154-168, 179-190, 200-210, 259-281, 346, 393, 409-451, 461, as well as Ul'ianovskaia, Formirovanie, 96-126; Alekseeva, Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia, 247-252; Fitzpatrick, Sheila, Education and Social Mobility in the Soviet Union, 1921-1934 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 80 ; Fitzpatrick, Sheila, “The ‘Soft Line’ on Culture and Its Enemies: Soviet Cultural Policy, 1922-1927,Slavic Review 33 (June 1974): 268287.

6. Charbonneau, “Non-Communist Hands,” 461-466; Ul'ianovskaia, Formirovanie, 73-87, 96-129; Fitzpatrick, “ ‘Soft Line’ on Culture,” 267.

7. A. I. Alatortseva and Galina D. Alekseeva, eds., 50 let sovetskoi istoricheskoi nauka: Khronika nauchnoi zhizni, 1917-1967 (Moscow, 1971), 19, 29, 42-43, 65; Alekseeva, Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia, 31, 37-38, 41-47, 65, 204, 253-255, 269; Mints, I. I., lstorigrafiia istorii SSSR. Epokha solsializma (Moscow, 1982), 5758.

8. George Enteen, The Soviet Scholar-Bureaucrat: M. N. Pokrovskii and the Society of Marxist Historians (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1978), 6-12, 156-164; Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility, 75.

9. Emmons in Got'e, Time of Troubles, 19-21; Alekseeva, Oktiabr'skaia revolimsiia, 257-262; Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Commissariat of Enlightenment: Soviet Organization of Education and the Arts under Lunacharsky, October, 1917-1921 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), xi-xvi; 73.

10. Fitzpatrick, “ ‘Soft Line’ in Culture,” 270-271.

11. Demidov, I. A. and Ishutin, V. V., “Obshchestvo istorii i drevnostei rossiiskikh pri Moskovskom universitete,” htoriia i istoriki, 1975 (Moscow, 1978), 275280 ; Vucinich, Alexander, Empire of Knowledge: The Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1917-1970 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 73 ; Fitzpatrick, Commissariat of Enlightenment, 73-86, 270-272.

12. Alekseeva, Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia, 18, 203-204, 263-266; Ul'ianovskaia, Formirovanie, 37-69; Vucinich, Empire of Knowledge, 68; Charbonneau, “Non-Communist Hands,” 79-95.

13. Anatolii V Kol'tsov, Kul'turnoe stroitel'stvo v RSFSR v gody pervoi piatiletki, 1928-1932 (Moscow, 1960), 116-124; Vucinich, Empire of Knowledge, 92-121.

14. Alekseeva, Oktiabr'skaia revoliutsiia, 22-23, 29-42; Mints, Istoriografiia, 55-59; Vucinich, Empire of Knowledge, 70.

15. Enteen, The Soviet Scholar-Bureaucrat, 75.

16. I rely heavily in this section on Graham, Loren, The Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Communist Party, 1927-1932 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967); some of the works of George Enteen, especially The Soviet Scholar-Bureaucrat; “Marxists vs. non-Marxists: Soviet Historiography in the 1920s,” Slavic Review, 35 (March, 1976), 91-110 and “Marxist Historians during the Cultural Revolution: A Case Study in Professional In-Fighting,” in Siieila Fitzpatrick, ed., Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928-1931 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978), 154-168; see also Levin, Alexey E., “Expedient Catastrophe: A Reconsideration of the 1929 Crisis at the Soviet Academy of Sciences,” Slavic Review, 47 (Summer, 1988): 261279.

17. Enteen, “Marxist Historians,” 154-160.

18. Enteen, “Marxists vs. Non-Marxists,” 91-110.

19. L. Hamilton Rhinelander, “Exiled Russian Scholars in Prague: The Kondakov Seminar and Institute,” Canadian Slavonic Papers, 16 (1974), 331-352; Graham, Soviet Academy, 105-107.

20. Tompkins, Stuart L., “Trends in Communist Historical Thought,” Slavonic and East European Review, 13 (1935), 306308 ; Vostokov, P, “Les Sciences historiques en Russie,” Le Monde Slave, 1, no. 12(1930), 437442 .

21. Graham, Soviet Academy, 192-197; Vucinich, Empire ofKnowlege, 81-88, 92-99, 123-149; Enteen, “Marxist Historians,” 154-178.

22. Graham, Soviet Academy, 128-134, 174-175; Emmons, in Got'e, Time of Troubles, 20-22.

23. Tchernavin, Vladimir V., Speak for the Silent Prisoners of the Soviets (Boston, 1935), 359368 ; Shteppa, Konstantin F., Russian Historians and the Soviet State (New Brunswick, N.J., 1966), 17, 48-49, 418 ; Barber, John, Soviet Historians in Crisis, 1928-1932 (New York, 1981), 1314, 38, 41; Enteen, The Soviet Scholar-Bureaucrat, 102-111; Baron, Paul H., “M. N. Pokrovsky and the Impact of the First Five-Year Plan on Soviet Historiography,” in Curtiss, John Shelton, ed., Essays in Russian and Soviet History in Honor of Geroid Tanquary Robinson (New York, 1963), 297298 ; Conquest, Robert, The Great Terror. Stalin's Purge of the Thirties (New York, 1968), 333 ; Antonov-Ovseenko, Anton, The Time of Stalin. Portrait of a Tyranny (New York, 1981), 194195 ; Medvedev, Roy, Let History Judge (New York, 1973), 120.

24. Boris Raymond, Krupskaia and Soviet Russian Librarianship, 1917-1939 (Metuchen, N.J., 1979), 125-146.

25. Fitzpatrick, Education and Social Mobility, 231.

26. V. K. Iatsynskii, “Istoricheskaia geografiia. Istoriia geograficheskikh nauk. Kraevaia istoriografia,” Akademiia Nauk. Institut istorii, Ocherki istorii istoricheskoi nauki v SSSR (Moscow, 1963), 3, 605; I. Z. Ioninas, “Istoriografiia Litvy,” ibid., 2 (1960), 701; Ioninas and lu. I. Zhiuzhda, “Istoriografiia Litvy,” ibid. 3 (1963), 670; V. N. Pertsev, “Istoriografiia Belorussi,” ibid., 2 (1960), 726; 3; D. V. Karev, “Voprosy kolonozatsii v kurse lektsii M. K. Liubavskogo po istoricheskoi geografii Rossii,” Akademiia Nauk SSSR. Institut istorii, Problemy obshchestvenno-politicheskogo razvitiia i klassovoi bor'by v Rossii XVII-XV1I1 vv. (Moscow, 1983), 158; L. P. Lapteva, “Professor M. K. Liubavskii kak prepodavatel’ istorii zapadnykh slavian v Moskovskom universitete 1894-1918 gg.,” Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta: Ser. 8, Istoriia, no. 2. 1985, 46-54.

27. B. H. Sumner, “Soviet History,” Slavonic and East European Review, 16 (1938), 602; Medvedev, Let History Judge, 499.

28. A. N. Gorianov, “Slavianovedy—zhertvy repressii 1920-1940-kh godov: nekotorye neizvestnye stranitsy iz istorii sovetskoi nauki,” Sovetskoe slavianovedenie, no. 2, 1990, 78-79; Militsa V. Nechkina, “Vopros o M. N. Pokrovskom v postanovlenii partii i pravitel'stva 1934-1938 gg.,” Istoricheskii zapiski, no. 118, 1990, 233-246.

Creating the Soviet Historical Profession, 1917-1934

  • Robert F. Byrnes (a1)


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