Platonov, Sergei Fyodorovich

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(18601933), Russian historian.

Born in Chernigov, Sergei Platonov graduated from a private gymnasium in St. Petersburg (1878) and the Department of History and Philology of St. Petersburg University (1882). His tutor was Konstantin Bestuzhev-Ryumin, who recommended that he be allowed to remain at the university in order to "prepare to be a professor." Platonov was influenced also by the works of Vasily Klyuchevsky. He belonged to the "St. Petersburg school" of Russian historiography, which paid special attention to the study and publication of historical sources. In 1888 Platonov defended his master's thesis on the topic of Old Russian Legends and Tales About the Seventeenth-Century Time of Troubles as a Historical Source (published in the same year and honored with the Uvarov Award of the Academy of Sciences).

Despite not yet having earned a doctorate, in 1889 Platonov headed the Department of Russian History of St. Petersburg University. In 1899 Platonov defended his doctorate thesis by presenting a monograph, Studies in the History of the Troubles in the Muscovite State in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. This work was Platonov's masterpiece, based on a scrupulous analysis of sources. Platonov sought to "show, with facts, how a modern state was being formed." The main purpose of the "political mishaps and social tension" of the early seventeenth century was, according to Platonov, the replacement of the boyar aristocracy with the nobility. He defined the Oprichnina of Ivan the Terrible, which became one of the initial causes of the Time of Troubles, not as the "whim of a timid tyrant," but as a thought-out system of actions aimed at destroying the "appanage aristocracy." Platonov was also one of the first to show that one of the aspects of the Time of Troubles was the tension between the nobility and the serfs over land and freedom.

Platonov earned wide acclaim through the repeatedly republished Lectures on Russian History (1899) and the Russian History Textbook For Middle School (in two parts, 19091910). From 1900 to 1905, Platonov was the dean of the History and Philology Department of St. Petersburg University, and from 1903 to 1916 he served as the director of the Women's Pedagogical Institute.

Despite his negative opinions of the October Revolution, Platonov continued to work actively in several scholarly institutions. From 1918 to 1923, he was the head of the Petrograd branch of the Main Directorate of Archival Affairs. From 1918 he served as the chairman of the Archaeographical Commission of the Academy of Sciences. In 1920 Platonov was elected as a member of the Academy of Sciences. Platonov worked in the Academy of Sciences as the director of the Pushkin House (19251928) and the Library of the Academy of Sciences (19251929). The peak of his academic career was his election as the head (academic secretary) of the Department of Humanities and a member of the presidium of the Academy of Sciences in March 1929.

During the 1920s Platonov published biographies of Boris Godunov (1921), Ivan the Terrible (1923), and Peter the Great (1926) and the monographs The Past of the Russian North (1923) and Muscovy and the West in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1925). Platonov opposed the nihilist views on history before the Russian revolution and the purely negative depiction of the actions of Russian tsars.

From 1929 to 1931 Platonov was the central figure of the so-called Academic Affair. The formal explanation for the persecution of scholars was the presence of political documents, including the act of resignation of Nicholas II, in the Library of the Academy of Science. The real motive of the Soviet regime in the Academic Affair was to bring the Academy under its control. In November 1929 the Politburo decided to release Platonov from all positions that he held. On January 12, 1930, Platonov was arrested. He was accused of being a member of the International Union of Struggle Toward the Rebirth of Free Russia, a monarchist organization fabricated by the prosecutors. According to the OGPU (secret police), the purpose of this fictional organization was to overthrow the Soviet regime and establish a constitutional monarchy; Platonov was the supposed future prime minister.

While in custody Platonov was expelled from the Academy of Sciences. In August 1931 he was sentenced by the OGPU to five years of exile and deported, with his two daughters, to Samara. He died in Samara.

See also: academy of sciences; pushkin house


Platonov, Sergei F. (1925). History of Russia. New York: Macmillan.

Platonov, Sergei F. (1970). The Time of Troubles: A Historical Study of the Internal Crises and Social Struggle in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Muscovy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

Platonov, Sergei F. (1972). Moscow and the West. Hattiesburg, MS: Academic International.

Platonov, Sergei F. (1973). Boris Godunov, Tsar of Russia, with an introductory essay, "S.F. Platonov: Eminence and Obscurity," by John T. Alexander. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press.

Platonov, Sergei F. (1974). Ivan the Terrible. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press.

Tsamutali, Aleksei Nikolaevich. (1999). "Sergei Fedorovich Platonov (18601933): A Life for Russia." In Historiography of Imperial Russia, ed. Tomas Sanders. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Oleg Budnitskii

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Platonov, Sergei Fyodorovich

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