Soviet Medieval Studies Today: a Lost Legacy, or Continuation of the Tradition?
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Soviet Medieval Studies Today: a Lost Legacy, or Continuation of the Tradition?
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Based on the fact that this issue consists of the materials of the conferences held in honour of two centenaries of well-known Soviet medievalists, the author of the article poses a question, if there is continuity between present-day historians and traditions of Soviet medieval studies, and if the works of E. V. Gutnova, A. N. Chistozvonov and other their contemporaries are of interest from the historiographical point of view only. The article shows a series of terminological differences of Soviet and post-Soviet medieval studies. But, on the whole, general research problems and even writing style remain similar in many respects. However, it is not a methodological continuity, but rather a tendency to withdraw from theory and “hide” behind concrete historical material. At the same time, it is worth remembering that it was characteristic for the Soviet historiography to have several assumptions: a developed number of legitimized arguments that allows proving the importance of the question under consideration and putting it in the broader historical context; certainty in existence of common Marxist concepts and terms. This does not mean, however, that in 1970's — 1980's the medievalists always based the importance of their research problem on the concerns of contemporary ideological struggle or gave a theoretical exposition in the spirit of Marxism. On the contrary, overindulgence in this was, in a way, a bad form. Nevertheless, there was an implicit consensus of a certain kind that allowed resorting to the known arguments in case of need. While present Russian historiography follows and continues in many respects the problems of the best works of the Soviet medievalists, it is free of requirement to prove the social value of its research and necessity to reflect on its definitions. In this, Russian historians follow the example of both their Western colleagues and stylistics of an average historian in the late Soviet period. However, the present-day situation in Russia is qualitatively different. Firstly, the necessity to study a “foreign Middle Ages” is not that evident for local authorities, much as we would like. Secondly, it is clear that there are no not only rigid definitions but also consensus among the professionals on such terms as state and politogenesis, genesis of capitalism, absolutism, representative monarchy, feudalism, revolution, etc. The very fact that recently our professional community has gradually begun to participate in the discussions on these basic concepts is a circumstantial evidence of the end of the Soviet period in history of Russian medieval studies.
status of a medievalist, legitimizing arguments, Soviet medieval studies, historiography, terminology, continuity, present medieval studies, theoretical structure, E. V. Gutnova, A. N. Chistozvonov
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