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State Principle


State principle is the leading principle of writing and explaining Russian history in nineteenth-century and, with some modifications, twentieth-century national historiography.

Professor Johann Philipp Georg Ewers (17811830) was the first to apply to the study of ancient Russian law the Hegelian theory of peoples' evolution from family or kin phase to that of a state. This idea was adopted and further elaborated by the founders of the so-called state (or juridical) school in Russian historiography, Konstantin Kavelin (18181885) and Sergei Soloviev (18201879). According to Soloviev, the transition from kin relations as the dominant system to the strong state organization in Russia took about four hundred years, from the end of the twelfth century till the reign of Ivan IV. Only after that, having endured severe experience in the Time of Troubles, the young Russian state found its place among other European powers. Thus the whole course of Russian history was presented as a progressive and logically necessary movement toward the modern centralized and autocratic state.

Though Soviet scholars, unlike Soloviev, considered Kievan Rus to be a feudal state, and thus found state organization even in the ninth century, they remained loyal to the state principle in their own way. Thus, disunity of the Rus lands in the twelfth through fourteenth centuries was regarded as a negative phenomenon, and historians explicitly sympathized with the process of gathering Rus' by Muscovite princes, dating the beginning of this process as early as possible, in the early fourteenth century (e.g., Cherepnin, 1960). Since the 1950s, well into the 1980s, it was much debated who had been allies and enemies of Muscovite centralization, but "centralization" itself was still perceived as an absolute good.

In spite of its teleological and nationalistic implications, the state principle can be detected in post-Soviet Russian historiography as well.

See also: historiography; kievan rus; muscovy; solovrev, vladimir sergeyevich; time of troubles

Mikhail M. Krom

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