Historian Sergey Platonov

I plan to use this blog to publish a very condensed, sketchy translation of a course in Russian history, written by one of the best Russian historians of the XX century -- Sergey Fyodorovich Platonov. Wikipedia has a very short article about this outstanding personality, but since, in my opinion, he deserves a more detailed biography, I would like to start with a short description of his life.

All articles from this blog will also be posted at Sima Qian Studio history forum.

Sergey Platonov was born in Chernigov, not far from Kiev, on June 16, 1860. In 1878 he entered the St.Petersburg university. In 1888, he published his first large work, where he tried to use Russian folk-tales as a source of new information about the period called the Time of Troubles (the interregnum between 1598-1613), which remained his favourite period for the rest of his life. The work was published both as a thesis and as a monography and received the Uvarov Award of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In 1899, he became a doctor of sciences and published 'The Time of Troubles' (translation by John T. Alexander published by University Press of Kansas in 1987), an extensive review of the Russian society of the early XVII century.

Platonov became famous when he prepared two history courses: Lectures on Russian history (1899) for universities and a Coursebook on Russian history for schools (1909-1910). For some years, Platonov taught the children of emperor Alexander III, duke Mikhail and duchess Olga. Nikolay II, though, didn't like his works, since they "did not cause love to the fatherhood or the pride of the Russian people." Platonov attempted to avoid the subjective viewpoints of other historians of that period: Kluchevsky's liberalism, conservative monarchism of Ilovaisky, marxism of Pokrovsky. "There is no need to introduce any personal viewpoints into history, since a subjective idea is not a scientific idea."

His opinion of the Bolshevist revolution was negative. The political program of the Soviets is "contrived and utopian," he said. "My worldview was based on Christian morale, positivist philosophy and scientific theory of evolution. Atheism is just alien to me as the religious dogmatism." After the revolution, he worked as the chairman of the Russian administration of archives, director of Pushkin House and the Library of the Academy of Sciences. He published new works about Peter I, relations between Russia and Europe in XVI-XVII centuries, earliest Russian settlements on the banks of the Arctic Ocean, etc.

In 1929, OGPU (ex-Cheka) checked the archives, managed by Platonov and found some documents written by Nikolay II and his brother Mikhail. Platonov was accused of hiding these documents (he reported about them in 1926) and dismissed. Worse than that, in 1930, he was accused of participation in a counter-revolutionary monarchist plot and arrested together with many other famous non-marxist historians.

In August 1931, the main 'criminals' were sentenced to 5 years of exile and deported to Samara, where I live. In 1933, he died here in Samara, but I still do not know where.

(posted at SimaQianStudio)

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