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Regular version of the site

Nikolay Karamzin and the Red Army: February Anniversaries in the Richard Stites Memorial Historical Library

The Centre for Historical Research and the HSE in St Petersburg Bachelor's Programme 'History' carry on the joint students' project on promoting the Richard Stites Memorial Historical Library

February report from the Library by Yaroslava Alexandrova, Margarita Dudakova & Polina Raznotina. This time we are paying tribute to the very first publication of Nikolay Karamzin's classical "History of the Russian State" in February 1808, and the establishing of the Red Army in 1918 and hence the emergence of the yet celebrated "Defender of the Fatherland Day" (February 23).

Richard Pipes, Karamzin’s Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia: A Translation and Analysis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.
Signature: 947 P 68

In Soviet historical science, it was customary to consider the development of its state in the 19th century as an "extended introduction" to the succession of the next revolutions and the establishment of a regime of Bolshevik power. This book, written by the American scientist Richard Pipes, is intended to shed a light on the little-studied aspect of the history of the Russian Empire, called the "tradition of conservatism" and to look at it through the prism of the views and ideas of Nikolay Mikhailovich Karamzin. Analyzing the little-known "Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia" at the time of the 1950s, the author answers two important questions that Soviet historians so tried to avoid: what prompted Russian emperors to adhere to such a hopeless, as it turned out later, political course and what are the origins of the government and people loyalty, the idea of absolutist power. Inserting the figure of the Russian historian into the context of the events of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and making him a guide to the world of conservative tradition, Richard Pays thus fills the visible lacunae in the history of the Russian Empire that allows us to explore it much deeper.


Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1979.
Signature: 320 W 18

The book of the Polish historian Andrzej Walicki, by right, became one of the first fundamental works on the intellectual history of Russia, the history of people who created ideas. Covering the period from the reign of Catherine the Great and to the First Russian Revolution, the author presents an impressive picture of socio-political and ideological searches, views and discussions. One of its chapters describes in detail the dual nature of the thought in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, based, on the one hand, on the conservatism of Nikolay Mikhailovich Karamzin, and, on the other hand, on the revolutionism of the developing Decembrist movement. Comparing and revealing significant differences between their views and ideas, Andrzej Walicki, nevertheless, comes to a conclusion that they both were formed by the same reasons and had a significant influence on the further development of the Russian state. Written clearly and entertaining, this book can be of interest to both specialists and a wide range of readers interested in the fate of the Russian thought.


Marc Raeff, Russian Intellectual History: an Anthology. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966.

Signature: 947.06 R 14

In his anthology Mark Raev, an American historian, presents a brief history of the Russian Empire thoughts. Through carefully collected pieces of small but significant works on his problems, he shows that the minds of the representatives of the Russian intelligentsia, including Nikolay Karamzin, were worried. Three of his articles "Love of Country and National Pride", “The Book Trade and the Love of Reading in Russia” and "Foreword to the History of the Russian State", translated into English, fully reveal the views and ideas of the Russian historian who remained faithful to his Fatherland, his "sons" and culture.


James Cracraft, Major Problems in the History of Imperial Russia. Lexington: D. C. Heath and Company, 1994.
Signature: 947 M 19

James Cracraft in his book offers for consideration a unique collection of essays and documents on the history of the times of the Russian Empire. As the author writes, it can be useful not only to students, wishing to develop the skills of historical analysis and critical thinking, but also to all those who would like to delve deeper into the study of the main empire problems and the alternatives of its development on the threshold of the 1917 revolution. "Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia ", written by Karamzin in 1811 and included in this collection, in a condensed form contains an ideological program of the multi-volume "History of the Russian State," over which the author will work till the end of the life. But what more important is that in this detailed memorandum that Karamzin, for the first time, draws attention to the dark side of Peter's reforms and poses a number of problems that will be later occupied by Westerners and Slavophiles, whose ideas and thoughts will develop in the 30-50s of the XIX century.


Alexander M. Martin, Romantics, Reformers, Reactionaries: Russian Conservative Thought and Politics in the Reign of Alexander I. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997.
Signature: 947 M 35

In the work "Romantics, Reformers, Reactionaries: Russian Conservative Thought and Politics in the Reign of Alexander I" historian Alexander M. Martin explains the formation and development of conservatism in the first quarter of the XIX century, linking its special "popularity" with the Napoleonic wars and the French Revolution, influenced on the well-known minds of the empire.  Analyzing a wide range of the sources, including the works of Nikolay Mikhailovich Karamzin, and also linking the intellectual and cultural life of the Russian state with national politics, he defines the existing groups of the conservatives, their views and positions, and also the role in the development of foreign and domestic policy. In particular, it becomes evident that the development of the ideas of nationalism and Russian conservative thought, the pressure of its ideologists on the higher political circles, stimulated Alexander I to change the political course and left the previous plan of the liberal reforms. The book by Alexander M. Martin will be useful to all those who are exploring the political culture of Russia and the development of the ideology of conservatism since in reality, the works connected with its study are still few.


W. Bruce Lincoln, Nicholas I, emperor and autocrat of all the Russians. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.
Signature: 947.07 L 75

In an attempt to describe the reign of Nicholas I objectively, Bruce Lincoln, immersing the figure of the emperor in his historical context, presents his work as one of the most reliable for students to study. Despite the simple narrative, the American historian illustrates in detail the time of the "apogee of the autocracy" in Russia, revealing not only the personality of the emperor, but also the influence of the intellectuals and the court circles on him. Thus, according to the author’s opinion, Nicholas I owes a lot to the Russian historian Nikolay Karamzin, who often met with the emperor before his accession to the throne, his vision of the role of an autocratic monarch as a sacred mission. In general, Bruce Lincoln's book serves as a successful introduction to the life story of Nikolay Romanov as one of the ambiguous figures, but whose government time, nevertheless, has become one of the most stable in Russian history.



Gary Marker, Publishing, Printing, and the Origins of Intellectual Life in Russia, 1700-1800. Princeton University Press, 1981

Signature: 70 M31

Gary Marker describes an effective public voice by political, Church, and literary elites in Russia as synonymous with the trol the printed media, showing that publishing and printing evolved in a way that sharply diverged from Western experiences but that proved to be highly significant for Russian society. Moving from control by Orthodox Church to government control and finally to control by elite scholastic institutions and private interests, printing and publishing by the end of the 1700s died a separation of intellectual and political life. A significant part of this text tell about the influence of Karamzin on Russia and its history.


Bernard Pares, A History of Russia, New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1958

Signature: 947 Р25

From the Russia of pre-history down through the famous and infamous tsars, through two world wars, Stalin, and the dawn of modern times, this single-volume history tours us in style through a vast, populous, and truly remarkable country. In this book we should give attention to the end of 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. It’s a period of a hard work of Karamzin to the wealth of Russia and its establishment on same level with advanced European countries.


February 23. People began to celebrate this date in the USSR. It should be noted that in its history the holiday has changed its name more than once. For example, since 1946 the date was called as " day of the Soviet Army and Navy»

History of the "February 23" begins with the adoption of a decree on the organization of the workers 'and peasants' army in 1918 (January 28) under the leadership of The Council of people's Commissars led by Lenin. We can say that initially, "February 23" is a celebration of the creation of the Red Army.


M.K. Dziewanowski, Russia in the twentieth century (2002)

This book is an excellent example of a summary of the history of Russia of the twentieth century. The source provides a holistic view of the last phase of the tsarist regime, the history of the Soviet Union from 1917 until 1991, and introduces the history of the current Russian Federation. The seventh Chapter of "Utopia at the creation" includes a review of the history of the red Army. Readers will learn about the features of the" new army", organization, motivation within the public consciousness.


Melvin C. Wren,The course of Russian History

This book is the work of an American historian and educator, a member of the American Council of scientists. The text allows the reader not only to form a certain idea of a very difficult, but at the same time no less exciting, the history of Russia, but also to feel the atmosphere of the events. The head of the" Troublous Times " includes the history of the red Army, tells about the actions associated with this event.


Anatole G. Mazour, Tsarist Russia and Communist

"Tsarist Russia and Communist" is a Historical book, the peculiarity of which is that the author does not stop only on the chronological narrative of events, but also tries to consider the cultural aspects of Russian history. The book does not once mention the Red Army. The author details the history of creation, notes the importance of this event.


Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Soviet state and society between revolutions, 1918-1929

The is book devoted to the analysis of revolutionary actions. The author considers the topic of relations between society and the state in the period from 1917 to 1929. The book is divided into five chapters: "Bequeathals of the Revolution 1918-1920"; "the Crisis of 1920-21"; "the Rails of Retreat and Recovery"; "Living with NEP"; and "Rangers and Opportunities."The author considers the social issue, which is one of the peculiarities of the history of the red Army.