Gavrilov S. V. Russian Historian Vasily Semevsky and the Free Economic Society (.pdf)
The article examines the process of the long-term cooperation of the eminent Narodnik historian Vassily Semevsky and the Free Economic Society. It explores varied forms of the researcher’s interaction with one of the oldest civil society institutions in Russia founded in the mid-18th century. The paper deals with a set of published historical sources, especially with the materials of pre-revolutionary Russian periodicals, the journals of meetings and records of the Free Economic Society, as well as with Semevsky’s works on history of the peasantry and the peasant question in Russia in the 18th – the first half of the 19th centuries. The author uses the documents from the collections of the Russian State Historical Archive and from the archival funds of the St. Petersburg University. Semevsky is characterized not only as a major specialist in studying the genesis and evolution of the peasant question in Russia but as a person with liberal democratic views. He did not withdraw into “pure” science but proclaimed its active transformative power. The author analyzes the relationship of the scholar with the Free Economic Society in the statuses of a nominee, a lecturer, an expert and the Chairman of the contest committee. Further, he determines the specificity of the historian’s attitude toward the the abolition of corporal punishment in Russia in historical, legal and economic contexts. In conclusion, the author states that Semevsky’s participation in the activities of the Free Economic Society was primarily connected with seeking a platform for a relatively free discussion of important problems of socio-economic development of the country in the post-reform period and for the advocacy of his civic standpoint. Moreover, it symbolized strong connections of the historian with various scientific societies.
Key words: the peasant question, Free Economic Society, civil society, emancipation, authorities and society.