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Nicholas Karamzin and Russian Societyin the Nineteenth Century

Nicholas Karamzin and Russian Societyin the Nineteenth Century

Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1975
Pages: 264
  • Book Info
    Nicholas Karamzin and Russian Societyin the Nineteenth Century
    Book Description:

    This monograph focuses on the final third of Nicholas Karamzin's life, on his career at court (1816-26) and on the cultural heritage he left to the Russian Empire.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-3207-3
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Transliteration and System of Citing Dates
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    The year 1766 was a momentous one for the Russian nobility. In December of that year, Catherine II issued a manifesto calling for the establishment of a commission to consider legal and political changes in the Russian Empire. HerNakaz,or ‘Instructions’ which was designed to provide philosophical guidelines for the discussion to follow, provoked the admiration of Russians and Europeans alike. It acknowledged ideas from the best thinkers of the times and apparently made it possible for Russians to dwell on matters once regarded as the prerogative of the autocrat. Although the potential of this commission was never reached,...


    • 1 Creative Writer to Historian 1766-1800
      (pp. 3-33)

      On 28 September 1803, after almost two decades of remarkably successful and prolific literary activity, Nicholas Karamzin applied to Alexander I for the rank of Imperial Historiographer. He was granted that position a month later, and so gave up purely literary writing in order to compile a national history, a task which he expected to finish in five years but which was not fully completed at the time of his death twenty-three years later.

      Karamzin had been fascinated by history from his youth and so the transition to historical writing was in keeping with his general frame of mind. His...

    • 2 The Sage and Political Pundit 1800-3
      (pp. 34-61)

      Concerned with the problems of Russian society from the early years of Paul’s reign, Karamzin had hinted in November 1797 that he would like to produce something that would assure him permanent fame (‘gloire’). It is unlikely that he was already thinking of writing the definitive national history¹ but, in June 1798 two diary entries clearly demonstrate that he was going to delve into Russia’s past.² The first of these embodied some rambling thoughts about a possible study of the reign of Peter the Great:

      What was Russia? Justification of his [Peter I’s] system. Be silent small minds! Only enlightenment...

    • 3 Historian and Man at Court: Karamzin and Russian Society 1803-26
      (pp. 62-96)

      Among the wide cross-section of Russian writers who met regularly at Karamzin’s home in Moscow were G. R. Derzhavin, Kheraskov, I. I. Dmitriev, S.L. and V.L. Pushkin. A younger generation gathered there too, including the Turgenev brothers, Voeikov, Zhukovsky, and Viazemsky, on whose father’s estate Karamzin lived. Others of Russia’s talented youth came to be associated with him over the ensuing decade - Batiushkov, Merzliakov and, until he and Karamzin became estranged over their respective political leanings, A. S. Pushkin.

      This was an exhilarating time for Russian intellectuals. TheMessenger of Europeserved as a model for other periodicals, most...


    • 4 The History: Textbook for Emperors and Citizens
      (pp. 99-128)

      It was not until he had completed a decade of labour on theHistorythat Karamzin admitted to Dmitriev that he was writing in order to leave a guide for all actions taken by future emperors of Russia.¹ That he believed Russian rulers and people were in need of such guidance had been made plain long before, in 1803, when he had insisted that ‘the historian ... must condemn ... what would be harmful for governments.’² Karamzin was like most of the European historians of his time when he insisted that it was his duty to make moral judgements about...

    • 5 The History and Russian Society in the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 129-155)

      As we have seen, the first eight volumes of theHistorywere published in February 1818. The initial publication proved such an immense success that the entire edition of 3000 rather expensive copies sold within a month, a remarkable phenomenon for a society that previously had not shown much interest in its own history and where the native language had only recently been accepted as one suitable for scholarly activity. In fact, a second edition was already being printed in July of that same year.

      TheHistorywas the first study of Russia’s past which combined thoroughness, scholarship, and a...

    • 6 Karamzin and ‘Statist’ Thought in Nineteenth-Century Russian Historical Writing
      (pp. 156-186)

      Even its bitterest critics never denied the importance of theHistoryin making the national history better known to Russians, but the extent of its persuasiveness in Russian society is incalculable. It did become the primary vehicle of Russianism for youth, students, and gentry. Since so many Russians made a demi-God of Karamzin, it was no easy task for historians to follow him. Even the great Solov’ev recalled how he was confronted by Bludov, who hinted that a new general Russian history was superfluous.¹ But it was through historians that Karamzin’s theses became a permanent part of tsarist ideology.


  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 187-190)

    As a practitioner of historical writing, Karamzin brought together the two main tendencies of his predecessors in eighteenth-century Russia: the pragmatic lessons of history’ approach and the notion that history had to be as masterfully written as the works of a Raphael or of a Michelangelo were painted. By paying heed at the same time to the more modern historical methods being introduced to Russians by European scholars at the turn of the century, he was able to produce a national history that was far superior to any published previously in Russia. But it was not Karamzin’s historical method that...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 191-238)
  10. Glossary of Russian Terms
    (pp. 239-240)
  11. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 241-250)
  12. Appendix
    (pp. 251-256)
  13. Index
    (pp. 257-264)