Boris Chicherin

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Chicherin, Boris Nikolaevich


Born May 26 (June 7), 1828, in Tambov; died Feb. 3 (16), 1904, in the village of Karaul, Tambov Province. Russian philosopher, historian, publicist, and public figure.

Chicherin was of noble birth. He studied under T. N. Granovskii and graduated from the law faculty of the University of Moscow in 1849. In 1853 he successfully defended his master’s thesis, Regional Institutions of Russia in the 17th Century (published 1856); he was retained at the university, where he was named professor of Russian law in 1861. In 1866 he defended his doctoral dissertation, On Popular Representation, which was published in book form (1866). In 1868, Chicherin was one of a group of professors who resigned in protest against violation of the university statute; he then lived in the village of Karaul, where he carried on his research work and participated in zemstvo activities. In 1882–83 he was mayor of Moscow; he was forced to resign by order of the emperor Alexander III because of a speech at the coronation in which the tsar misinterpreted an allusion made by Chicherin to the demand for a constitution.

From the mid-1850’s, Chicherin was a leader of the liberal Westernizers’ wing of the Russian social movement. Chicherin and K. D. Ravelin’s joint “Letter to the Editor” (published in Voices From Russia, vol. 1) was the first document to appear in print as a program of Russian liberalism. In September 1858, Chicherin traveled to London to talk with A. I. Herzen about changing the line of propaganda of the Free Russian Printing House. His attempt to persuade Herzen to make concessions to the liberals ended in complete rupture, thus initiating the separation of liberalism and democracy that marked Russian social thought in the second half of the 19th century.

Chicherin described the Peasant Reform of 1861 as “the greatest monument of Russian legislation,” and he took an extremely negative view of the revolutionary democrats’ activities; in the fall of 1861 he spoke out against the student movement, and he supported the government’s reactionary policy on Poland and the Polish Uprising of 1863–64. The political principle formulated by Chicherin—”liberal measures and strong rule”—was supported in governmental circles. In his works he developed the idea of gradual transition, through reforms, from autocracy to constitutional monarchy, which he considered the ideal form of government for Russia.

Chicherin was the most prominent theoretician of the current known as the state school of Russian historiography; he was the originator of the theory of “enslavement and emancipation of the estates,” which held that in the 16th and 17th centuries the government had created the estates and subordinated them to state interests; in the subsequent course of historical development, when the need for the “forcible lifelong service of the estates” had passed, the government supposedly began to emancipate them. This notion was the theoretical basis of the bourgeoisie’s and nobility’s liberalism, which was grounded in the idea of reforms “from the top.”

As a philosopher, Chicherin was the most notable representative of right-wing Hegelianism in Russia. In his later years he wrote various works on the natural sciences (chemistry, zoology, and descriptive geometry). His Memoirs (parts 1–4, Moscow, 1929–34) are a valuable source of historical information on social life and social movement in the second half of the 19th century.


Istoriia politicheskikh uchenii, parts 1–5. Moscow, 1869–1902.
Sobstvennost’ i gosudarstvo, parts 1–2. Moscow, 1882–83.
Kurs gosudarstvennoi nauki, parts 1–3. Moscow, 1894–98.
Filosofii aprava. Moscow, 1900.
Voprosy filosofii. Moscow, 1904.
Sistema khimicheskikh elementov. Moscow, 1911.


Kitaev, V. A. Ot frondy k okhranitel’stvu. Moscow, 1972.
Zor’kin, V. D. Iz istorii burzhuazno-liberal’not politicheskoi mysli Rossii 2-i poloviny XIX-nachala XX v. (B. N. Chicherin). Moscow, 1975.
Gul’binskii, I. B. N. Chicherin: Biobibliografich. ocherk. Moscow, 1914.
Porokh, I. V. “Polemika Gertsena s Chicherinym i otklik na nee v ’Sovremennike’.” In Istoriograficheskii sbornik, no. 2, [Saratov] 1965.
References in periodicals archive ?
Kunitsyn's commitment to individual autonomy, civil rights, and the rule of law; his unqualified acceptance of private property, the free market, and the principle of laissez-faire; and his recognition that Russian liberalism depended ultimately on the growth of civil society--all make him a direct predecessor of Russia's later, more influential liberal thinkers, in particular of Boris Chicherin (as Berest might have indicated).
Russian Westernism of the 1840s and 1850s produced three of the country's great liberals: Timofei Granovskii, Konstantin Kavelin, and Boris Chicherin. (24) Granovskii was appointed professor of history at Moscow University in 1839 and became the most revered teacher of his generation.
Hamburg, Boris Chicherin and Early Russian Liberalism, 1828-1866 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992).
Boris Chicherin (1828-1904) is perhaps the ideology's founding father.
Among the main figures in this revival, she gives close attention to Dostoevsky, and also takes into account the two greatest philosophers of nineteenth-century Russia, Boris Chicherin and Vladimir Solov'ev.
Eikhenbaum adds that according to Boris Chicherin (writing in his memoirs), Tolstoy in these years "had no notion of philosophy."
The third chapter is more disparate, treating the positions of a wide range of intellectuals from the jurist Boris Chicherin to radicals such as Tolstoy and Lenin to the Petersburg Religious-Philosophical Society.
A much better known figure is Novikov, whose implicit linkage of freedom of conscience and human dignity in his essay "On Human Dignity in Relation to God and the World" anticipates to a certain extent the thought of Konstantin Kavelin, Boris Chicherin, and Vladimir Solov'ev (on them, see below).
(32) In that capacity he exercised great influence on the subsequent development of Russian liberalism, especially through his student Boris Chicherin (1828-1904).
My Life lacks the spontaneity and literary genius of Alexander Herzen's My Past and Thoughts, the variegated texture of Vladimir Korolenko's History of My Contemporary, the evocative democratic ethos of Maxim Gorky's My Universities, and the intellectual precision of Boris Chicherin's Memoirs.
Two examples known to the Tolstoys were Alexander Pushkin's marriage to Natalya Goncharova (at marriage, he was thirty-two, she eighteen) and Boris Chicherin's marriage to Alexandra Kapnista (at marriage, he was forty-two, she twenty-five).