Likhachev, Nikolai

Likhachev, Nikolai Petrovich


Born Apr. 12 (24), 1862, in Chistopol’, present-day Tatar ASSR; died Apr. 14, 1936, in Leningrad. Russian historian and scholar of the arts. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1925; corresponding member, 1902).

Likhachev was the son of a nobleman. In 1884 he graduated from the University of Kazan. In 1890 he received his master’s degree in Russian history (his thesis was D’iaki [Officials] of the Razriadnyi Prikaz [Military Office] in the 16th Century, 1888); he received his doctorate in 1892 (his dissertation being Paper and the Oldest Paper Mills in the Muscovite State, 1891). Likhachev became a member of the Archaeographic Commission in 1894 and also a professor at the St. Petersburg Archaeological Institute. In 1902 he became the assistant director of the St. Petersburg Public Library. Likhachev published many acts and documents of 16th- and 17th-century Russian history: Mestnichestvo Cases, 1563–1605 (1894), The List of Boyars, 1611 (1895), and A Collection of Acts Found in Archives and Libraries (1895).

Likhachev’s works touch on all branches of the study of sources and the specialized historical disciplines of Russian archaeography, paleography, the study of documents, the study of Russian and Western European diplomatics, genealogy, numismatics, and epigraphy. For his research in Eastern, Byzantine, and especially ancient Russian sphragistics, Likhachev can be considered the founder of Soviet sphragistics: From Lectures on Sphragistics (1899), Ancient Sphragistics (1906), and Materials for the History of Byzantine and Russian Sphragistics (issue 1, 1928). Likhachev’s works on book science and historical bibliography are of considerable interest: The Library and Archive of the Muscovite Sovereigns of the 16th Century (1894) and A Catalogue of Broadsheets and Their Reprintings (1895).

Likhachev’s fundamental research, The Paleographic Significance of Paper Watermarks (parts 1–3; an album; 1899), has retained its importance as a reference work for determining the exact chronology of undated manuscipts. His works that made a significant contribution to the study of ancient Russian painting include Materials on the History of Russian Icon Painting (vols. 1–2, 1906), The Painting Style of Andrei Rublev (1907), and The Historical Significance of Greco-Italian Icon Painting (1911). The principal value of Likhachev’s works lies in their wealth of factual material and concrete historical observations.

In 1925, Likhachev gave the Academy of Sciences of the USSR the unique museum of paleography that he had created. The museum has extremely rich collections of steles and papyruses from ancient Egypt, cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, monuments of Coptic, Greek, Arabic, and Latin writing, incunabula, and seals from many countries of the world (including more than 600 ancient Russian seals—an absolute majority of those discovered up to that time).


Ianin, V. L. “K stoletiiu so dnia rozhdeniia N. I. Likhacheva.” Sovetskaia arkheologiia, 1962, no. 2. Pages 10–16.
Istoriia istoricheskoi nauki v SSSR: Dooktiabr’skii period. Bibliografiia. Moscow, 1965. Page 321.