Mikhail Pokrovsky

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M.N. Pokrovsky (1868-1932), Soviet historian.

Mikhail Nikolayevich Pokrovsky (Russian: Михаи́л Никола́евич Покро́вский, August 29 [O.S. August 17] 1868 – April 10, 1932) was a Russian Marxist historian. He is regarded as the most influential Soviet historian of the 1920s.


Early years[edit]

Mikhail Pokrovsky was born August 29, 1868 in Moscow into the family of a state official who had gained hereditary nobility from the Tsar. He was well educated as a boy, completing work at a classical gymnasium before enrolling in the History Department of Moscow University at the age of 19, where he studied under Vasily Klyuchevsky and Paul Vinogradov, two of the most renowned historians of the era.[1] He would graduate from that institution in 1891, going on to pursue a Master's degree with Klyuchevsky; this work was not completed due to personal differences.[1]

Undeterred by his lack of an advanced academic degree, Pokrovsky began teaching in secondary schools and university extension programs, pursuing his ambition of becoming a professional historian.[1] A young man of progressive sympathies, Prokrovsky was prohibited from giving public lectures in 1902 owing to his radical views.[1]

Political career[edit]

Pokrovsky became a Marxist during the Russian Revolution of 1905, joining the Bolshevik Party.[1] Jackson was invited by party leader V.I. Ulianov (Lenin) to contribute to the party's official newspaper published in exile, Proletarii (The Proletarian).[1]

Pokrovsky emphasized Marxist theory and the brutality of the upper classes in his Russian History from the Most Ancient Times (1910–13), downplaying the role of personality in favour of economics as the driving force of history. He wrote a Brief History of Russia, published in 1920 to much acclaim from Vladimir Lenin, who said in the preface to the first edition that he "like[d] the book immensely". Pokrovsky was head of the Institute of Red Professors from 1921-31. In 1929, he was elected to the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He played a major role in the destruction of the non-Marxist historical tradition in Russian historiography.

Posthumously, the Communist Party accused Pokrovsky of "vulgar sociologism", and his books were banned. It has been suggested that his works lost favor because their opposition to "great men" history contradicted Joseph Stalin's cult of personality. After Stalin's death and the subsequent renouncement of his policies by the Communist Party, Pokrovsky's work regained some influence. His perspective, originally praised by the Bolsheviks, had a decidedly anti-Russian nationalist character, with a resurgence of Russian patriotism under Stalin, especially during World War II, his historiographical perspective was de-emphasized and replaced by new historical interpretations which praised the role of Russians.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f George Jackson with Robert Devlin, Dictionary of the Russian Revolution. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989; pp. 451-453.


  • 7 let proletarskoi diktatury (7 years of proletarian dictatorship). Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel'stvo, n.d. (1924).
  • Brief History of Russia. In two volumes. D.S. Mirsky, trans. New York: International Publishers, 1933.
  • Izbrannye proizvedeniia v chetyrekh knigakh (Selected Works in four volumes). Moscow: Mysl, 1966.
  • Russia in World History: Selected Essays. Roman Szporluk and Mary Ann Szporluk, trans. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1970.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernard W. Eissenstat, "M.N. Pokrovsky and Soviet Historiography: Some Reconsiderations," Slavic Review, vol. 28, no. 4 (Dec. 1969), pp. 604-618. In JSTOR

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Victor Nogin
Mayor of Moscow
November 1917–March 1918
Succeeded by
Pyotr Smidovich