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Author(s) of the publication: Sergei PSHIRKOV

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Before October 1917 it was in the scheme of things in Russia: every intellectual, that is one who belonged to what we call the intelligentsia, should be well versed in native history and know the acts of one's forefathers. Therefore many historians were anxious to improve the status of history at school where it lingered in the shadows as a stepdaughter of sorts. One of these dedicated men was a scholar eminent in those days - Nikolai Ivanovich Kareyev. Alas, today few know anything about his lifework, and those eager to learn must search high and low for snips and snatches of reminiscences, too scarce, unfortunately. So in this memorial appreciation we would like to recapitulate some of the milestones of the life of this glorious man.

That happened on the sixth of December of 1850 in Moscow: a boy Nikolai was born into a family of hereditary nobility and career officers. His grandfather was an army general; and his father, an army officer too, fought in the Crimean War of 1853-1856. Wounded in action, he sent in his papers to become a civil servant: he held a governor's office in various small towns of the Smolensk gubernia (province). The infant's mother was Yekaterina Osipovna Gerassimova, a landlord's daughter.

In his early childhood Nikolai received excellent at home - the family invited tutors who taught him arithmetic, geography and French. He continued his education at the First Moscow Gymnasium (classical grammar school) for which purpose his parents had to sell part of their property It paid off: being at the top of the class, the boy was in for honorary mention on the gymnasium's "golden roll", and he received a gold medal on graduation.

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While at grammar school, the young Nikolai made friends with Vladimir Solovyov who grew up to become an illustrious philosopher, poet and prose writer; now, Vladimir's father was a prominent historian and member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences-Sergei Solovyov. Nikolai Kareyev later had the good fortune to attend Ms lectures at Moscow University's Department of History and Philology upon his enrollment there.

Nikolai Kareyev revealed his first flicker of interest in history already during his university years, particularly, in the situation of French peasants in the latter half of the 18th century Working on this subject for many years, Kareyev devoted his M.A. dissertation to it. Most of the copious material for this work the young historian collected by studying books and documents of the French National Library and National Archives. This fundamental study drew praise from Russian and French scholars.

Thereupon Kareyev was invited to Warsaw University as professor extraordinary; he lectured there from 1879 to 1885. He combined teaching with scientific research into Polish history. Professor Kareyev wrote a doctoral dissertation, Fundamentals of the Philosophy of History, alongside such major works as The Reformation Movement and the Catholic Reaction in Poland; A Study in the History of the Polish Sejm; Polish Reforms of the 18th Century; 'The Fall of Poland' in the Historical Literature "...

In 1885 Nikolai Kareyev received an invitation to St. Petersburg University as lecturer at the department of general history, and he held this job up until the end of 1899. Professor Kareyev, in defiance of the reactionary statute effected by the tsarist government (which restricted enlightenment activities and college freedoms), organized a course of lectures and seminars on subjects that rubbed the government the wrong way; and he displayed great fortitude in this cause. Furthermore, in 1899 Professor Kareyev upheld a students' protest action and demanded resignation of the university's rector. The Ministry of the Interior countered with "lowdown" in an attempt to sally his reputation as a loyal citizen; accordingly, the "disloyal" professor was dismissed.

Being a resolute man of action, Nikolai Kareyev plunged into political struggle. He tried to prevent the shooting of a peaceful demonstration on the "bloody Sunday" of the ninth of January 1905 in St. Petersburg; detained, he spent ten days in the Sts. Peter-and-Paul Fortress, the main political prison in tsarist Russia. Upon his release, Nikolai Kareyev joined the Constitutional- Democratic Party and became president of its town committee in St. Petersburg; on its ticket he was elected to the State Duma, a pseudoparliament. As deputy he hoped to take up the cudgels for human rights and dignity. Yet those were forlorn hopes: besides, Kareyev saw he was not born for a political career, and he bade farewell to the Duma.

Nikolai Kareyev never stopped for a moment his scholarly pursuits. It was in those fitful years that his voluminous work, The History of Western Europe in Recent Time, saw print - a work to which he devoted twenty-five years. All told Kareyev published more than 400 books and papers.

In 1906 he returned to St. Petersburg University. Although elected corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, Professor Kareyev did not give up lecturing and kept up this work for many years. But, as he confided, after 1923 things went downhill with him-it was the afternoon of his life, his "occidental years", as he put it. His age and attendant maladies began to tell. So Kareyev had to abandon his lecturing. But all that notwithstanding, he prepared for publication a three-volume edition of Historians of the French Revolution, the first ever review of historiography on this subject in the Russian and foreign literature. It was out in 1924 and 1925.

Then came misfortunes. They never come singly: the death of his wife, and the arrest of his son Konstantin in 1928 who was then banished from Leningrad. To cap it all, some of the colleagues fell upon the old professor who, despite the heavy odds, was elected honorary member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1929.

Dr. Kareyev always sought to tie in his research activities with practical teaching-he taught at Moscow grammar schools (1873-1878), at St. Petersburg University (1879-1899), at the Alexander Lyceum in St. Petersburg (1884-1907). That is why he strove to elevate the significance of history in school curricula. For this purpose he wrote a great number of teaching aids and manuals, many of them addressed to the youth. As a historian he was anxious to rear historical and ethical awareness among the younger generation, and in this sense he worked for the future.

To conclude, a few words about Professor Kareyev's textbooks on history In those years D. Ilovaisky's textbooks held undivided sway at school (incidentally, D. Ilovaisky was the grandfather of the Russian poetess Marina Tsvetayeva), they had been there for decades, easy to read but quite superficial. Professor Kareyev joined hands with Academician P. Vinogradov and, working together, they produced adequate textbooks that were approved by the Ministry of Education and recommended for a course in history at secondary schools. Kareyev's textbook on ancient history saw nine editions, his manual on the Middle Ages-ten, and that on recent history-as many as sixteen editions. A poll conducted in 1913 gave top ratings to Pr. Kareyev's textbook on recent history.

Nikolai Ivanovich Kareyev died in 1931. Concerned about the future, this man has made a notable contribution to Russia's school of history. We , his descendants, ought to be grateful to him.


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Sergei PSHIRKOV, FOR FUTURE'S SAKE // London: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 08.09.2018. URL: https://libmonster.com/m/articles/view/FOR-FUTURE-S-SAKE (date of access: 23.04.2021).

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