Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of History and Politics


Nikolai Aleksandrovich Rozhkov (1868-1927) was a wellknown and Influential Russian historian and political activist. He was held in great respect by his teachers, colleagues and students and was regarded by some as the most gifted disciple of Kliuchevskii, the greatest of all Russian historians. Kliuchevskii held Rozhkov in higher esteem than he did Mikhail Nikolaevich Pokrovskii, who eventually became the leading historian of the early Soviet period. Despite such accolades, no major work has been written on Rozhkov either in the Soviet Union or in the West. An assessment of his historical writings and of his political activities is long overdue. This thesis aims at addressing the first of these two areas. It investigates Rozhkov's understanding of history and his interpretation of early Russian history. The thesis also sheds light on Rozhkov's political ideas. It argues that Rozhkov's historical views led him to adopt a Menshevik position after 1907. For Rozhkov, the political ideas of Menshevism were consistent with the mechanical determinism of his theory of historical development. The thesis therefore offers an explanation of his political career as well as assessing his historical ideas.

The thesis examines Rozhkov's theory of history with the aim of determining what kind of historian he was. In so doing, the thesis tries to ascertain what the most important influences on Rozhkov were and to determine the concepts that formed the essential ingredients of his theory of historical development. These concepts are then examined in a detailed study of Rozhkov's interpretation of Kievan Rus'.

The thesis demonstrates that from his earliest work Rozhkov believed that history was a science. So he also believed that the methods used in the natural sciences could be applied to all social sciences, especially the science of history. The thesis further demonstrates that by 1905 Rozhkov had already formulated his theory of history. This theory was the product of several schools of thought that existed in Russia, but two were particularly important. Rozhkov was influenced by Auguste Comte's writings and the positivist ideas that existed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Russia. The most important result of this positivist influence was Rozhkov's conviction that there existed laws of social statics and laws of social dynamics and that the study of history has as its purpose the discovery and verification of these laws.

While his theory of history owed most to positivism, his approach to historical methodology and to the interpretation of historical evidence owed most to the influence of his teacher and mentor, Kliuchevskii. From Kliuchevskii, Rozhkov inherited a passion for documentary research, a concern for social and economic factors and an interest in formulating general laws of historical development. It was also from Kliuchevskii that he came to believe in the value of the primacy of the economic factor in history. It is a shame that Rozhkov did not also acquire Kliuchevskii's sensitivity to the difficulty of identifying and applying historical laws in practice.

Contrary to accepted opinion, Marxism was a less important influence on Rozhkov than either positivism or the work of Kliuchevskii. It is true that by 1905 Rozhkov was familiar with aspects of Marxist thought. He believed that Marxism was essentially about economics and that economic factors played a vital role in history. There can be no doubt that in his early works he rejected certain tenets that are central to Marxist thought. Rozhkov placed no great emphasis upon class analysis and class struggle in his history writing. He also criticised Marxism for not taking into account the important insights provided by the psychological school in sociology.

The thesis concludes that Rozhkov was a prolific historian who, in the tradition established by Kliuchevskii, had acquired a huge appetite for primary research. His skill in analysing primary sources provided a sound base for his historical research. His work is very impressive by virtue of the enormous detail and erudition it contains. It is also important and valuable because in his desire to make sense of the past, Rozhkov produced a grandiose classification scheme that organised data and led to many interesting and profound questions. Yet, despite producing some historical studies that were as impressive and scholarly as those written by Kliuchevskii, Rozhkov was a flawed historian.

He was a flawed historian not only because he believed that the social sciences ought to be treated and analysed as natural sciences, but chiefly because he believed that all phenomena could be explained and predicted when the universal laws that governed them were discovered.Although the search for historical laws was common among some thinkers at the turn of the century, in the end, Rozhkov's sociological theory of history was too rigid to do justice to the complex situations it was trying to explain.

Despite the fact that Rozhkov believed his laws of social statics and social dynamics were derived from the historical evidence that he presented, this thesis will demonstrate that Rozhkov was unable to marry successfully the disciplines of history and sociology as he defined them. This is so because Rozhkov could not escape from the simplistic positivist belief that simple, mechanical laws can be deduced that explain historical development.

The legacy of such an assumption was an interesting but unsuccessful blend of impressive mastery over historical details with a naTve belief in unconvincing and crude historical laws. In the final analysis, Rozhkov produced a history of Russia that, although interesting, was tainted with laws of social development that were mechanical and wooden in nature. This is not to suggest that Rozhkov's history should not be read and studied. Despite its faults and weaknesses, Rozhkov's historical work and theory serve as an excellent illustration and reflection of the complex array of philosophical thoughts that existed at the turn of the century and that determined the character of late Russian imperial and early Soviet historical writing. His work also counts as one of the most thoroughgoing attempts by a pre-revolutionary Russian historian to identify and explore the role of general laws in the historical process.

The principal question of what kind of historian Rozhkov was leads to other questions about him and about his place in Russian and Soviet historiography. Rozhkov has fared poorly at the hands of Soviet critics because he embraced Menshevik views from 1907. In the past, the narrow manner in which the origins and early development of Soviet historiography have been analysed has made for a rejection of Rozhkov's historical works. Both inside and outside the Soviet Union, this analysis has been carried out within a narrow "Marxist versus non-Marxist" framework. This approach is a legacy of Bolshevik and Stalinist intolerance; it should no longer affect the way historians approach the past. It resulted in a distortion of historical reality. Not only was the false impression gained that a single "Marxist doctrine" existed but that people and ideas could be evaluated according to some yardstick of orthodox Marxism. This study argues that the Marxist versus non-Marxist account is a most inadequate way of examining the historiography of this period. It not only prevents the researcher from posing broader questions about historians that are considered "Marxist" but, more significantly, it belittles or denies the importance and merit of those historians who are characterised as "non-Marxist".

It is inadequate to discuss Rozhkov's work purely within the Marxist tradition. By placing Rozhkov firmly within the positivist tradition, this thesis allows for a much better understanding of his ideas. At the same time, an implication of this conclusion is that positivism played a greater role in historical thinking in Russia at the turn of the century than did Marxism. To my knowledge, the thesis also contains the fullest, existing bibliography of Rozhkov's writings.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.