Boris F. Porshnev: Between Russian and French History, or On the Role of Chance in a Historian’s Life

Tamara Kondratyeva

Abstract


This article considers the beginning of the academic career of Boris F. Porshnev, an eminent Soviet historian. During his postgraduate studies in RANION (Soviet Social Science Consortium) at the Institute of History (1926–29), he specialised in Russian history and was writing a thesis on public thought in Russia. Later, in Rostov-on-Don (between 1930 and 1932), Porshnev lectured on world history and would work on any projects available. After returning to Moscow (1932), he was going to become an ethnographer; however, instead he got a job at the Lenin State Library, then headed by his teacher V. I. Nevsky. Porshnev wrote texts on a variety of subjects and had no academic preferences. Such diversity was most likely caused by financial reasons (food rationing and high inflation in the USSR). The country witnessed many ideological campaigns; the academic landscape and establishment changed frequently in accordance with ideological attitudes. The choice to pursue
an academic career largely depended on social connections, conditions, and chance. For years to come, the historian’s destiny was determined by a chain of accidents: V. I. Nevsky’s arrest in 1934, Porshnev’s resignation from the library in 1935, and his work on editing a translation of The Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz (1932–36).


Keywords


history of Russia; history of France; B. F. Porshnev; Lenin State Library

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2017.3.254

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