Dmitrii Petrushevskii

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Petrushevskii, Dmitrii Moiseevich


Born Sept. 1 (13), 1863, in the village of Kobrinovo, Kiev Province (in present-day Cherkassy Oblast); died Dec. 12, 1942, in Kazan. Russian medievalist. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1929; corresponding member, 1924). Honored professor (1925).

In 1886, Petrushevskii graduated from the University of Kiev, where he studied under I. V. Luchitskii. He taught in Moscow, Warsaw, St. Petersburg, and Ivanovo and became a professor at Moscow University in 1906. He resigned his post in 1911 in protest against the reactionary policies of L. A. Kasso, the minister of education, but returned to the university in 1917. In the 1920’s he was director of the institute of history of the Russian Association of Research Institutes of Social Sciences (RAN-ION).

Petrushevskii, a member of the socioeconomic school of Russian medievalists, was somewhat influenced in his early scholarly work by historical materialism. He continued the work of P. G. Vinogradov on the study of agrarian relations in medieval England. His Wat Tyler Revolt (parts 1-2, 1897-1901; 4th ed., 1937), a classic of bourgeois historiography, examines the crisis of the English manor in the 13th and 14th centuries. Petrushevskii considered the revolt of the English peasants a natural result of the decline of the feudal society and the emergence of new economic relations in the English village. The study presents a vivid picture of the uprising and points out the progressive and antifeudal nature of the revolt. However, Petrushevskii ana-chronistically characterized socioeconomic relations in 14th-century England by labeling them capitalistic and exaggerated the extent to which money rents were being used. He idealized feudal relations in the period of their greatest development (before the end of the 13th century, according to Petrushevskii) and attempted to prove that the economic interests of the lord and the peasant commune converged. His Essays on the History of Medieval Society and the Medieval State (1907; 5th ed., 1922) dealt with the origins of feudalism in Western Europe. His Essays on the History of the English State and English Society in the Middle Ages (1903; 4th ed., 1937) focused on the distinctive features of feudalism and the feudal state in England to the end of the 13th century.

On the whole, Petrushevskii held to the commune theory of historical development, which he combined with the patrimonial estate theory. Viewing medieval society as a product of Roman and Germanic interaction, he attempted to show the specific way feudalism developed in Western Europe under various historical conditions. At the same time, Petrushevskii’s historical views were characterized by an artificial distinction between “political” and “social” feudalism. He defined the former as a state of political fragmentation and the latter as an economic structure of society having a subsistence economy, patrimonial relations, and organization by estates.

In the 1920’s, Petrushevskii was influenced by the theories of G. von Below and A. Dopsch (particularly the latter) and began adopting neo-Kantian positions. He began viewing feudalism as an exclusively political institution, which was unrelated to any specific type of economic activity. He saw feudalism as a system, created by the state to satisfy its needs, in which the various estates were mutually subordinated. Petrushevskii consequently denied the existence of the free peasant commune and spoke of the existence of private property and social inequality in Germanic society from time immemorial and of “patrimonial capitalism” in the Middle Ages. These views are reflected most fully in Essays on the Economic History of Medieval Europe (1928). Petrushevskii also translated and edited source material on the history of England from the 11th through 14th centuries.


Srednie veka, fasc. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946. (Dedicated to Petrushevskii’s memory; contains a bibliography of his works.)
Danilov, A. I. “Evoliutsiia ideino-metodologicheskikh vzgliadov D. M. Petrushevskogo i nekotorye voprosy istoriografii srednikh vekov.” Srednie veka, fasc. 6. Moscow, 1955.
Mogil’nitskii, B. G. “D. M. Petrushevskii kak istorik zapadnoevropeis-kogo feodalizma.” Uch. zap. Tomskogo gos. un-ta, 1958, no. 30.
Gutnova, E. V. Istoriografiia istorii srednikh vekov. Moscow, 1974. (See index of names.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
From the 1880s until the early 1900s, Vinogradov, his student Aleksandr Savin (1873-1923), and occasionally Dmitrii Petrushevskii (1863-1942) (25)--all of them specialists on medieval and early modern England--wrote regularly in ZhMNP about developments in historiography in the West generally (Vinogradov), and more specifically in Great Britain (Savin and Petrushevksii).