Politics Projected into the Past: What Precipitated the 1936 Campaign Against M.N. Pokrovsky?



One of the earliest professionally-trained Marxist historians to be associated with the Russian revolutionary movement, M.N. Pokrovsky was enormously influential as a teacher, pedagogue and scholar. He was also a prominent administrator, serving as Deputy Commissar of the Enlightenment and head of the Communist Academy and Institute of the Red Professors from 1918 until his career was cut short by cancer in 1932. That said, his reputation outlived him by only four years before coming under a withering official assault in the days and weeks after 27 January, 1936. Much of the literature on the Stalinist state’s suppression of the so-called ‘Pokrovsky school’ contends that this campaign was the inevitable outcome of a ‘Great Retreat’ on the historical front that had been foreshadowed in party and state decrees since the early 1930s.1 Archival evidence, however, indicates that the shift caught many on the ground by surprise. A.V. Shestakov, one of the most prominent court historians of the Stalin period, was bombarded at public lectures during the late 1930s by questions from audience members struggling to understand the regime’s break with the materialist internationalism that Pokrovsky had popularised during the first 15 years of Soviet power.2 Some, recalling Lenin’s endorsement of the academician’s seminal Russian History in its Most Condensed Form.


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Copyright information

© David Brandenberger 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of RichmondUSA

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