Skip to main content

Kareev, Nikolai Ivanovich (1850–1931)


Nikolai Ivanovich Kareev, the Russian historian and philosopher, was educated at Moscow University, where he took his doctorate in history (1884). During the late 1870s and early 1880s he spent several years studying abroad. Kareev taught modern European history, first at Warsaw University and then at St. Petersburg University. He became a corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1910 and an honorary member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1929. His main historical studies were devoted to eighteenth-century France, especially the Revolution of 1789.

Although a moderate in politics, Kareev was deeply influenced by such radical Russian thinkers as Aleksandr Herzen, Dimitrii Pisarev, Pëtr Lavrov, and N. K. Mikhailovskii. Like Lavrov and Mikhailovskii, Kareev was a "semipositivist," but he was less influenced by either G. W. F. Hegel or Karl Marx than Lavrov had been. His views of history echo Herzen's "philosophy of chance." "History," Kareev declared, "is not a straight line, not a regular design traced out on a mathematical plane, but a living fabric of irregular and sinuous lines, which are intertwined in the most varied and unexpected ways" (Osnovnye voprosy [Fundamental problems], Part I, p. 153).

Kareev's position in ethics, which he called ethical individualism, was even more Kantian than that of Lavrov's early works. He defended individual autonomy against three dominant anti-individualist tendencies: that which breaks down the self into a series of psychic events (David Hume); that which turns the individual into an expression of the Zeitgeist or Volksgeist (Hegel); and that which reduces the individual to a product of socioeconomic relations (Marx). From the point of view of the "human dignity and worth of the individual person," Kareev insisted, "external [sociopolitical] freedom is a necessary condition for the spiritual growth and happiness of all the members of society" (Mysli, 2nd ed., 1896, p. 135).

Kareev rejected the "utilitarian attitude toward the person, which treats her as an object," adding that the "principle of individuality" guarantees the individual's right "not to be an instrument or means for another" or reduced to the status of an organ of a "social organism" (ibid., p. 138). In attributing absolute value to individuals as such, Kareev said, we take account of both their natural rights andas Lavrov had stressedtheir present potentiality for future moral and intellectual growth. In the name of this absolute value, Kareev condemned not only political assassination and capital punishment but also euthanasia. On this point he came close not only to Immanuel Kant but also to Lev Tolstoy, whose philosophy of history, like those of Hegel and Marx, he had criticized perceptively and in detail.

See also Ethics, History of; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Herzen, Aleksandr Ivanovich; Kant, Immanuel; Lavrov, Pëtr Lavrovich; Marx, Karl; Mikhailovskii, Nikolai Konstantinovich; Philosophy of History; Pisarev, Dmitri Ivanovich; Russian Philosophy; Tolstoy, Lev (Leo) Nikolaevich.


works by kareev

"K voprosu o svobode voli s tochki zreniya teorii istoricheskovo protsessa" (On the question of freedom of the will from the standpoint of the theory of the historical process) appeared in Voprosy filosofii i psikhologii 1 (4) (18891890): 113142. It was reprinted in Istoriko-filosofskiye i sotsiologicheskiye etyudy (Studies in sociology and the philosophy of history; St. Petersburg, 1895; 2nd ed., St. Petersburg, 1899), pp. 279304. Mysli ob osnovakh Nravstvennosti (Thoughts on the foundations of morality) was published in St. Petersburg in 1895; 2nd ed., St. Petersburg, 1896.

Osnovnye voprosy filosofii istorii (Fundamental problems in the philosophy of history). Moscow: L. F. Panteleev, 1883.

Filosofiia kul'turnoi i sotsial'noi istorii novago vremeni (The philosophy of modern cultural and social history). St. Petersburg: M. M. Stasiulevich, 1893.

Obshchii khod vsemirnoi istorii: ocherki glavneishikh istoricheskikh epokh (The general course of world history: Essays on main historical epochs). St. Petersburg: Brokgauz-Efron, 1903.

Osnovy russkoi sotsiologii (Foundations of Russian sociology). St. Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo Ivana Limbakha, 1996.

works on kareev

Pogodin, S. "Russkaia shkola" istorikov: N. I. Kareev, I. V. Luchitskii, M. M. Kovalevskii (The "Russian school" of historians: N. I. Kareev, I. V. Luchitskii, M. M. Kovalevskii). St. Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburgskii gosudarstvennyi tekhnicheskii universitet, 1997, pp. 139202.

Zenkovsky, V. V. Istoriya Russkoi filosofii. 2 vols. Paris, 1948 and 1950. Translated by G. L. Kline as A History of Russian Philosophy, 2 vols. (London and New York, 1953), pp. 374375.

Zolotarev, V. P. Istoricheskaia kontseptsiia N. I. Kareeva: soderzhanie i evoliutsiia (N. I. Kareev's conception of history: Its content and evolution). Leningrad: Izdatel'stvo Leningradskogo universiteta, 1988.

George L. Kline (1967)

Bibliography updated by Vladimir Marchenkov (2005)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Kareev, Nikolai Ivanovich (1850–1931)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . 20 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Kareev, Nikolai Ivanovich (1850–1931)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . (February 20, 2019).

"Kareev, Nikolai Ivanovich (1850–1931)." Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.