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 Bolshevik Russian historian. He was born and died in Moscow.


Pokrovsky graduated from Moscow University in 1891. A Bolshevik from 1905, 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 Russia; Peter Gran writes:

In 1929, the Cultural Revolution struck the field of history when the Institute of History was transferred from the Russian Association of Scientific Institutes for Research in the Social Sciences to the Communist Academy, and the government changed the institute's official function from research to buttressing the positions espoused by the political elite and contributing generally to the agitation and propaganda for Marxist-Leninism. A historian close to the power structure, Pokrovsky, ran the Communist Academy. He made no effort, however, to protect his colleagues in the institute. To the contrary, he expelled and drove into exile a number of prominent historians, and in the process some of these historians met their deaths. Evidence from the period suggests that for all Pokrovsky's prestige, many of his fellow historians did not respect him. They continued to pursue their traditional historical scholarship by paying lip service to Marxist-Leninism and by avoiding domains of special concern to the party. Pokrovsky, nonetheless, was the dominant historian of the period in the view of many scholars...[1]

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. ^ Peter Gran, Beyond Eurocentrism: A New View of Modern World History (Syracuse University Press, 1996: ISBN 0-8156-2692-4), p. 50.


  • 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.


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