Samarin, Iurii Fedorovich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Samarin, Iurii Fedorovich


Born Apr. 21 (May 3), 1819, in St. Petersburg; died Mar. 19 (31), 1876, in Berlin. Russian public figure, thinker, historian, and publicist. One of the greatest Slavophiles.

Born of the high dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry), Samarin graduated from Moscow University in 1838; in 1844 he completed his master’s thesis, “Stefan Iavorskii and Feofan Proko-povich.” From 1844 to 1852 he was a state official, primarily in the Baltic region. From 1853 he was engaged in literary and publicistic activity; he also worked in municipal and soslovie (estate) organizations. He took an active part in the preparation and implementation of the peasant reform of 1861 and was a member of the Editing Commissions.

Initially a Hegelian, Samarin came under the influence of K. S. Aksakov and A. S. Khomiakov and in the early 1840’s joined the Slavophile movement. He viewed the Russian Orthodox religion as a special cultural principle underlying the history of the Russian people and on the basis of this developed the idea of three periods of national life—”exclusive nationality,” “imitation,” and “reasoned nationality.” Sharing Khomia-kov’s conception of “integral knowledge” and counterposing the freedom of “moral inspiration” to the “tyranny of reason,” Samarin believed that “the spirit in its living wholeness” was preserved only among the common people. He saw everyday political life as a struggle between the life of the people and “dull, abstract civilization.” His political doctrine was based on an acknowledgement of only two forces—the autocracy and the rural obshchina (peasant commune), which Samarin saw as in-dissolubly intertwined; he ascribed no particular importance to the dvorianstvo, an “absurd milieu,” which had “so few popular roots” that it had no creative power. Criticizing materialism, Samarin asserted that it “is by no means the logical outcome of the natural sciences.”

Samarin’s main historical works were devoted to socioeconomic and national relations in the Baltic region, the abolition of serfdom in Prussia, and the history of the Jesuits. In his note “On Serfdom and the Transition to Civil Liberty” (1856), Samarin pointed to serfdom as the cause of Russian socioeconomic backwardness and, in particular, as the cause of Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War of 1853–56. Prominent among Samarin’s literary-aesthetic legacy are his article “On Sovre-mennik’s Historical and Literary Opinions” (1847) and his views of the work of M. lu. Lermontov and M. V. Gogol.


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