Timasheff "came from an old family of Russian nobility"; his father was Minister of Trade and Industry under Nicholas II. In St. Petersburg, where he was born, he attended a classical high school; he went on to attend the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum, the University of Strasbourg, and the Saint Petersburg State University (MA 1910, LLD 1914). At the latter university he met the Polish-Russian jurist Leon Petrazycki, who was a significant influence on him throughout his life. Two years later he began teaching sociological jurisprudence at the University of Petrograd. He emigrated to the United States following an alleged involvement with the Tagantsev Conspiracy in 1920. He took up a similar position at Fordham University, and was one of the original developers of the discipline of sociology of law.
Timasheff was the author of various works, including The Great Retreat: The Growth and Decline of Communism in Russia (New York, 1946), in which he argued that the Bolsheviks made a conscious retreat from socialist values during the 1930s, instead returning to traditional ones like patriotism and the family. Historian Terry Martin considers this a misnomer, because "in the political and economic spheres, the period after 1933 marked a consolidation, rather than a repudiation, of the most important goals of Stalin's socialist offensive: forced industrialization, collectivization, nationalization, abolition of the market, political dictatorship."
Buried: Oakland Cemetery (Yonkers, New York) Westchester County, USA.
- Goul, "N. S. Timasheff 1886-1970," p. 363.
- A. Javier Treviño, introduction to Nicholas S. Timasheff, An Introduction to the Sociology of Law (Transaction Publishers, 1939: ISBN 0-7658-0729-7), p. xi.
- Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (Cornell University Press, 2001: ISBN 0-8014-8677-7), p. 415.
- Roman Goul, "N. S. Timasheff 1886-1970," Russian Review 29 (1970): 363-365.
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