“The guiding idea for the founding of the Russian Historical Society was a conviction that the history of our country will become the more attractive the more it is known and that the best procedure for making it well-known is to publish without any bias all historically significant acts and documents which were previously kept in inaccessible archives, yet when published would provide a very sound basis for the historical literature.”
From the speech of A.A. Polovtsov
Chairman of The Imperial Russian Historical Society
The Russian Historical Society (RHS) that was founded by the order of Emperor Alexander II (The Liberator) existed in Russia between 1866 and 1920. Prominent historians, literary figures, educators and diplomats stood at the origins of the society. Until 1917 the RHS activities were exercised under the patronage of the reigning House of Romanovs. The Society was granted the title Imperial Society after the mid-1870s.
An ever-increasing interest in historical documents that were authentic witnesses of past events arose in Europe in the mid-19th century. Activities of the Imperial Russian Historical Society were congruent with this trend. Members of the Society were collecting and even purchasing abroad hitherto unknown archival documents which were later published in the famous Transactions of the Society.
50 years of this painstaking activity resulted in the publication of 148 volumes, most of which are still relevant both for professional historians and for aficionados of Russian history. In particular, it was through the efforts of the Imperial Russian Historical Society that papers of the Catherinian Legislative Commission (the precursor of the Russian parliament), documents related to the history of the 1812 Russian Patriotic War and comprehensive diplomatic correspondence were published.
After the Great Russian Revolution of 1917 The Imperial Russian Historical Society was dissolved by the decision of the General Assembly of Academy of Sciences due to the lack of financing for continuing its activities.
The Russian Historical Society was resurrected only 92 years later.
«The significance of The Russian Historical Society was unique for many reasons.
First, it gave an example how representatives of the higher state authority as well as scientific and civic circles could unite around a most important and consolidating idea.
Second, it turned the attention of the state to the fact that it was necessary to conduct the awareness-raising work and to undertake joint efforts in this direction engaging representatives of all liberal sciences.
Third, the Society has noticeably strengthened the foundations of the archival and museum studies plus gave a powerful impulse to the publishing efforts.
And, last but not least, it compelled us to give a thorough thought to the lessons of our national history which, as nothing else, teach about moral conduct in politics. Plus they show that great achievements and victories can be possible only on the basis of consolidation around such enduring values as patriotism and civic spirit including the high level of honest service to the state.
Providing examples of exactly this, highly responsible, attitude to our history, to studying and teaching history is extremely important today, too. This is why in the process of restoring the Historical Society we must pool together efforts of both the state and the scientists, representatives of various social and professional groups for the purpose of creating a nationwide historical culture. And we must act on the basis of the objective, unbiased study of historical events, their popularization and their transfer to next generations.»
Excerpts from the speech of Sergey Naryshkin,
Chairman of The Russian Historical Society
27 leading Russian educational, scientific and cultural institutions reached a decision on June 20, 2012 to reconstitute The Russian Historical Society in an organizational and legal form of an association.
More than 300 professional historians as well as representatives of educational non-commercial organizations and the media are members of the RHS today. 40 regional offices of the RHS in Russia and three foreign representations—in France, Israel and Armenia—are involved in current activities.
The RHS implements many cultural, educational and scientific projects every year, the most important of which were the development of the conceptual foundation for teaching national history in Russian middle schools and the preparations for significant historical anniversaries: 200th anniversary of the Patriotic War against Napoleon, 100th anniversary of World War I, 70th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, and 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
This year, at the direction of Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, the RHS created the Steering Committee for organizing events to commemorate 100th anniversary of the 1917 Russian revolution.
The mission of The Russian Historical Society is to pool together efforts of professional historians, civic community, the state and the media for the purpose of creating a nationwide historical culture on the basis of objective, unbiased studies, presentation and popularization of historical events of the global and national scope, aiming to preserve national memory.