Mikhail Shcherbatov

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Prince Mikhailo Mikhailovich Shcherbatov
Imperial Historian
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shcherbatov, Mikhail Mikhailovich


Born July 22, 1733; died Dec. 12, 1790. Prince. Russian state and public figure. Historian and publicist.

While still a young child, Shcherbatov was registered in the Semenovskii Guards Regiment. He received a broad and thorough education at home. In 1759 and 1760 he wrote a series of articles presenting reactionary sociopolitical views; for example, he rejected the equality of all people and called for strong state authority. In 1762, Shcherbatov retired from military service with the rank of captain, and in 1767 he entered the civil service. In the late 1760’s he served on the commission for the compilation of a new legal code and emerged as a leader of the rodovitoe dvorianstvo (hereditary nobility) opposed to the government. In 1778 he served as president of the Chamber Collegium, and in 1779 he became a senator. Shcherbatov retired circa 1788 with the rank of actual, or active, privy councillor.

In the 1770’s, Shcherbatov produced a series of publicist articles and notes, and in the late 1780’s he wrote On the Decline of Morals in Russia, in which he sharply criticized government policies and the morals of those at the court. In 1783 he wrote the Utopian novel Journey to the Land of Ophir, in which he set forth his conception of the ideal state—essentially a police state supported by the nobility and exploiting the labor of slaves. In his History of Russia From Earliest Times, which ended at 1610, Shcherbatov stressed the role of the feudal aristocracy and treated historical progress as nothing more than advances in knowledge, science, and the intelligence of individuals. Nevertheless, the work is of considerable value, since it incorporates a wealth of material from such sources as chronicles and legal documents.


Sochineniia, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1896–98.
Istoriia Rossiiskaia ot drevneishikh vremen, vols. 1–7. St. Petersburg, 1904.
Neizdannye sochineniia. Moscow, 1935.


Fedosov, I. A. Iz istorii russkoi obshchestvennoi mysli XVIII St.: M. M. Shcherbatov. Moscow, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Although many scholars have identified the death of Ivan IV in 1584 as a probable endpoint, the 18th-century historian Mikhail Shcherbatov claimed to have seen images of the coronation of Tsar Fedor (r.