Kareev, Nikolai Ivanovich

Kareev, Nikolai Ivanovich


Born Nov. 24 (Dec. 6), 1850, in Moscow; died Feb. 18, 1931, in Leningrad. Russian historian. Professor from 1879 to 1884, first at the University of Warsaw and later at St. Petersburg University. Corresponding member of the Russian Academy from 1910. Honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR from 1929. Graduated in 1873 from Moscow University, where he studied the history of the Great French Revolution under V. I. Ger’e.

In his youth Kareev was influenced by N. G. Chernyshevskii, N. A. Dobroliubov, and particularly D. I. Pisarev; later, he was influenced by P. L. Lavrov and N. K. Mikhailovskii, ideologists of Narodnichestvo (Populism). He became acquainted with Marx’ Das Kapital in the 1870’s. In his approach, he was a typical eclectic idealist, a positivist of a liberal orientation. Politically he belonged to the ranks of liberals of the postreform generation—constitutionalists and advocates of social reforms. He wrote his best book during the 1870’s: The Peasants and thePeasant Question in France in the Last Quarter of the XVIIIth Century (1879). In 1881 his Studies in the History of the French Peasants From Earliest Times to 1789 was published. Because of Kareev, Russian scholarship was at the fore in the concrete study of the peasant question on the eve of and during the Great French Revolution. He showed the onerous feudal oppression to which the French peasantry was subjected, an oppression that was intensifying around the time of the revolution. Thus he refuted A. de Tocqueville’s thesis that prior to the revolution feudal relations were already gradually disappearing in France and that the peasants had in the main become free landed proprietors. Marx called Kareev’s work of 1879 “first-rate” (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Sock, 2nd ed., vol. 34, p. 286), and Engels called it the “best work on the peasants” (ibid., vol. 37, p. 125).

In his dissertation Basic Questions of the Philosophy of History (3 vols., 1883–90) and in other historical-philosophical and sociological works, Kareev contrasted history with sociology, in effect denying the genuinely scientific nature of history. Adopting a standpoint of extreme subjectivism, Kareev, like Mi-khailovskii, proclaimed the content of the philosophy of history to be the “ideal world of norms, the world of the proper, the world of the true and the just, to which actual history will be compared.” In the 1890’s, he used the same subjective idealist position to combat Marxism, identifying it with “economic materialism.”

Moderate as his liberalism was, Kareev was dismissed from St. Petersburg University in 1899 in connection with student disturbances there. He returned only in 1906. During the Revolution of 1905–07, he joined the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) and was elected a member of the first State Duma. In Kareev’s textbook The History of Western Europe in Modern Times (7 vols., 1892–1917), which is eclectic but valuable for its wealth of factual material, socioeconomic processes are accorded an important place. Between 1911 and 1915, Kareev began working on a history of the revolutionary sections of Paris. In 1924–25 he published the three-volume work Historians of the French Revolution. This was the first composite survey—not only in Russian but anywhere in historical literature—of the historiography of the Great French Revolution.


Ocherk istorii reformatsionnogo dvizheniia i katolicheskoi reaktsii v Pol’-she. Moscow, 1886.
Neizdannye dokumenty po istorii parizhskikh sektsii 1790–1795 gg. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Neizdannyeprotokoly Parizhskikh sektsii 9 termidora Hgoda. St. Petersburg, 1914.
Iz dalekogo i blizkogo proshlogo (collection). Petrograd-Moscow, 1923. (This and the following book contain a more complete listing of Kareev’s works.)
Istoriki Frantsuzskoi revoliutsii, vol. 3. Leningrad, 1925.


Ocherki istorii istoricheskoi nauki v SSSR, vols. 2–3. Moscow, 1960–63.
Veber, B. C. “Pervoe russkoe issledovanii frantsuzskoi burzhuaznoi revoliutsii XVIII v.” In the collection Iz istoriisotsial’no-politicheskikh idei. Moscow, 1955.
Frolova, I. I. “Znachenie issledovanii N. I. Kareeva dlia razrabotkiistorii frantsuzskogo krest’ianstva v epokhe feodalizma.” In the collec-tion Srednie veka, issue 7, 1955.