Boris Grekov

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Grekov, Boris Dmitrievich


Born Apr. 9 (21), 1882 in Mirgorod, present-day Poltava Oblast; died Sept. 9, 1953, in Moscow. Soviet historian and public figure; academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1935; corresponding member, 1934).

Grekov studied at the University of Warsaw during 1901–05. In 1905 he transferred to Moscow University, graduating in 1907. His earliest research was devoted to the social and economic history of Novgorod. He rejected the then prevailing formalistic juridical treatment of feudalism and focused attention on the social and economic aspects of feudal relations and on the study of the internal processes of the feudal votchina (patrimonial estate).

After the victory of the Great October Revolution, Grekov espoused Marxism and fought for its establishment in the field of history. An important subject of his research was the history of ancient Rus’ and the eastern Slavs. His major research work, Kievan Russia (1939), based on a careful analysis of many types of sources, refuted the view then held in historical literature regarding the slaveholding character of ancient Rus’ and demonstrated that the eastern Slavs went from the communal structure to feudal relationships directly, bypassing the slaveholding structure. He established that the basic economic activity of ancient Rus was highly developed land cultivation rather than hunting or trapping, thereby destroying the legend of the bourgeois historians regarding the backwardness of the socioeconomic structure of the eastern Slavs. After investigating the formation of the ruling and dependent classes, he concluded that there was a state in ancient Rus’ and refuted the antiscientific theory of the Nor-manists, who held that state structure had been brought in only in the ninth century. At the same time he destroyed the nationalist conception of M. S. Grushevskii that Kievan Rus’ was the homeland of the Ukraine alone and showed that it was the common cradle of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian peoples. His work The Culture of Kievan Russia (1944) showed that Kievan Russia had developed a high level of culture in no way inferior to its European neighbors and that it played an important role in international affairs.

He also devoted much attention to the history of the western and southern Slavs and to the study of their legal codes. An important subject of his scholarly works was research into the history of the Russian peasantry. In 1946 he published his major research work, The Peasants in Rus’ From Ancient Times to the 17th Century (2nd ed.. books 1–2, 1952–54). He presented an integral Marxist history of the Russian peasantry from the tenth to the 17th centuries in close conjunction with the history of the peasants of Lithuania and Poland.

With A. Iu. lakubovskii he wrote The Golden Horde (1937; 2d ed.. The Golden Horde and Its Downfall, 1950). He made a great contribution to the development of historiography and the study of sources, assisting in the publication of more than 30 important editions of documents. He attached great importance to studying the classics of Marxism for an understanding of Russian history. He also wrote on the historical views of such figures as M. V. Lomonosov, A. S. Pushkin, and M. N. Pokrovskii.

Grekov combined research with teaching (he was a professor at Leningrad and Moscow universities) and administration (he was director of a number of institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, including the Institute for the History of the USSR and the Institute of Slavic Studies). He was deputy to the Second Convocation of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR and deputy to the Third Convocation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. In 1947 he became a member of the Polish and Bulgarian Academies of Sciences, an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the Byelorussian SSR, and doctor of philosophy at the University of Prague. Grekov was awarded the State Prize of the USSR in 1943. 1948. and 1952: he also received two Orders of Lenin and two other orders.


Izbr. trudy, vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1957–60.


B. D. Grekov. Moscow-Leningrad. 1947. (Materialy k biobibliografii uchenykh SSSR: Seriia istorii, vol. 2.)
Shunkov, V. I. “Grekov, B. D. (Tvorcheskii put’).” In the collection Akademiku B. D. Grekovu ko dniu semidesiatiletiia. Moscow, 1952. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.