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The author sums up certain results of research carried on by Soviet historians over many years into the history of the formation of a unified Russian State at the turn of the 16th century. The article is based on the appraisal, given by V. I. Lenin in a number of his works, of the social, economic and political system of the Russian State in the 16th-17th centuries.

In special historical literature, the author says, the attempt to examine the problem of formation of a centralized Russian State was made by M. N. Pokrovsky, who pointed out that the unification of Russia was proceeding in conditions when the country was dominated by the feudal countryside and the town served as a strongpoint of the princely rule. The leading social forces in the unification process were big secular and ecclesiastical feudal lords. Contradicting his own theses, M. N. Pokrovsky asserted that trade capital played a determinative part in Russian history. Shortly before his death he renounced his views about the role of trade capital in the Middle Ages and singled out two periods in the development of the Russian State - the "medieval-type" feudal state which existed at the turn of the 16th century and "bureaucratic monarchy," the transition to which took place in the 17th century under the impact of the growth of trade capital. M. N. Pokrovsky was not in a position to understand the progressive character of the unification process and the significance of the Russian people's struggle against external enemies.

A new stage in the development of Soviet historiography which began in mid-1930's was connected with the efforts to overcome the errors committed by M. N. Pokrovsky and his pupils. These were the conditions in which a new conception of the formation of a centralized Russian State was taking shape, being elaborated by S. V. Bakhrushin and particularly by K. V. Bazilevich. It was premised on the thesis about the similarity of the process of the emergence of centralized states in Western and Eastern Europe. S. V. Bakhrushin and K. V. Bazilevich proceeded from the fact that the 17th century

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already witnessed the formation of a single all-Russian market and regarded the preceding period as one marked by growing economic ties within the country, which provided the basis for political unification. At the same time K. V. Bazilevich maintained that the origin of money relations dated back to the end of the 15th century. Somewhat later, however, he already referred to the 14th-15th centuries as the period of the growth of economic ties, stressing the role of the towns and the nobility in the unification process. The centralized Russian State which arose as a result of the unification process was characterized by K. V. Bazilevich as a feudal monarchy in which the nobility played the dominant role. The theoretical elaboration of this conception remained unfinished.

K. V. Bazilevich and other historians, writes the author, failed to take into consideration a number of theoretical propositions, advanced by the founders of Marxism-Leninism, concerning the specific features attending the emergence of centralized states in the countries of Eastern Europe and pointing out that economic unification is by no means an indispensable condition for the political centralization of feudal countries. It was an erroneous view to regard the 17th century as the final stage in the formation of an all-Russian market because, in actual fact, this period witnessed the beginning of that process, which was organically linked with the genesis of capitalist relations and terminated much later. The conception advanced by Bazilevich and Bakhrushin played a big part in focussing attention on the social-economic character of the unification process in Russia. At the same time a number of its propositions were subjected to criticism by S. V. Yushkov and other scientists. L. V. Cherepnin and V. T. Pashuto emphasized the role of the class struggle in the formation of a centralized state and showed the significance of the feudal nobility in its development. In the "Outline History of the U. S. S. R." devoted to the country's history in the 14th - 16th centuries, it is pointed out that political centralization appeared in Russia prior to the emergence of bourgeois relations and the elimination of the country's economic disunity. At the same time much importance in this edition was attached to the development of the home market in the 14th - 17th centuries. In the "Outline History of the U. S. S. R." devoted to the country's 17th - century history, this century is characterized not as the final stage in the formation of an all-Russian market but as a period marking the beginning of that process. Elaboration of the general conception was accompanied by intensive research work devoted to diverse aspects of the history of the social, economic and political development of Russia in the 14th - 16th centuries. L. V. Cherepnin's new research work entitled "The Formation of the Centralized Russian State" (published in 1960) for the first time makes an attempt to reveal, on the basis of extensive material, the prerequisites for the formation of a single Russian State in the sphere of agrarian relations. L. V. Cherepnin showed that the development of the serf-owning system was not only the consequence but also the condition for the formation of a unified state, since in the situation of an acute class struggle the feudals needed a strong state organization capable of protecting their ownership of the land and peasant labour. L. V. Cherepnin also makes an attempt to analyze the role of trade, the towns and commodity circulation in the unification process. He believes that the development of economic ties took place in the 14th - 15th centuries and that the towns played an important part in political events. However, at that period commercial ties did not yet affect the foundations of feudal production and did not assume the character of a qualitatively new phenomenon. The author regards the arguments advanced by L. V. Cherepnin on that issue as highly debatable ones. A new stage in the development of trade began only from the 17th century, when the merchants formed a separate class of feudal society. In the 14th - 15th centuries the dominant role in home trade was played by the feudals. It is very doubtful whether L. V. Cherepnin is right when he writes about an alliance formed by the Grand Prince with the population of the towns, since, with the exception of Novgorod and Pskov, the towns in the 14th - 15th centuries did not represent an independent political force, although the role played by their population was quite significant. Another problem that requires elucidation in L. V. Cherepnin's monograph is the correlation between feudal and urban elements in the unification process. Representing a major contribution to Soviet historiography, L. V. Cherepnin's monograph has profoundly disclosed the processes of the class struggle in the 14th - 15th centuries and revealed the complexity and contradictory character of the social-economic development at that period. At the same time it testifies to the complex character of the problem of formation of the centralized Russian State and shows that a number of concrete problems require further elucidation. It is necessary comprehensively to examine the feudal character of Russia's political centralization, proceeding from V. I. Lenin's directives and the results of contemporary research; to compare the centralization processes not only in the countries of Western and Eastern Europe but also in the countries of the East; to assess the influence of the Tatar-Mongol invasion on the level and rate of Russia's social-economic development (particularly the decline of the towns), the significance of the processes of migration of the population and the formation of the Great-Russian nationality. It is necessary to assess, in the author's opinion, the role and significance of the development of the state landownership and landlord systems for centralization, as well as the character and the basic stages in the delevopment of money-commodity relations in feudal Russia. Profound research into every aspect of the social, economic, political and ethnic development of feudal Russia in their close interconnection will provide a firm basis for appraising the historical significance of the

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formation of the centralized Russian State in the entire' dialectical contradictoriness of that process with its progressive and conservative aspects.


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A. M. SAKHAROV. The Problem of the Rise and Development of the Centralized Russian State in Soviet Historiography // New-York: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 20.09.2018. URL: (date of access: 23.06.2024).


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