Desnitskii, Semen Efimovich
Born circa 1740, in Nezhin; died June 15 (26), 1789, in Moscow. Russian educator and lawyer.
By social origin, Desnitskii was from the petite bourgeoisie (meshchane). He studied at Moscow University in the years 1759-60 and completed his education in Glasgow, where he received the title of doctor of civil and church law in 1767. From 1767 to 1787 he was a professor of law at Moscow University, where he was the first to expound on Russian law and to teach it in Russian He gave his teaching of law a practical bent by drawing on Russian legislation and Russian juridical practice. Desnitskii regarded the institution of private ownership, especially in land, as a very important stage in the development of society. What had to be discussed, he wrote, were not the imaginary states of the human race but how such institutions as private property, ownership, inheritance, and the like originated and what qualifications were placed on them. This was to be done by studying the actual history of society. Desnitskii’s antifeudal views, his critique of serfdom, and his sympathy for bourgeois development all followed from this general approach. However, he was not consistent, as can be seen from the notes he wrote for the commission called to draw up a new code of laws in 1767-68.
WORKSIn Izbrannye proizvedeniia russkikh myslitelei 2-i poloviny 18 v., vol. 1. Moscow, 1952.
REFERENCEShtrange, M. M. Demokraticheskaia intelligentsiia Rossiiv XVIII v. Moscow, 1965.
N. L. RUBINSHTEIN