Mikhail Pogodin

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Mikhail Petrovich Pogodin (Russian: Михаи́л Петро́вич Пого́дин; 23 November [O.S. 11 November] 1800 – 20 December [O.S. 8 December] 1875) was a Russian historian and journalist who, jointly with Nikolay Ustryalov, dominated the national historiography between the death of Nikolay Karamzin in 1826 and the rise of Sergey Solovyov in the 1850s. He is best remembered as a staunch proponent of the Normanist theory of Russian statehood.

Pogodin's father was a serf housekeeper of Count Stroganov, and the latter ensured Mikhail's education in the Moscow University. As the story goes, Pogodin the student lived from hand to mouth, because he spent his whole stipend on purchasing new volumes of Nikolay Karamzin's history of Russia.

Pogodin's early publications were panned by Mikhail Kachenovsky, a Greek who held the university chair in Russian history. Misinterpreting Schlozer's novel teachings, Kachenovsky declared that "ancient Russians lived like mice or birds, they had neither money nor books" and that Primary Chronicle was a crude falsification from the era of Mongol ascendency. His teachings became exceedingly popular, spawning the so-called sceptical school of imperial historiography.

In 1823, Pogodin completed his dissertation in which he debunked Kachenovsky's idea of Khazar origin of Rurikid princes. He further stirred up the controversy by proclaiming that serious scholars should not only trust but worship Nestor. The dispute ended with Kachenovsky's chair being devolved on Pogodin. In the 1830s and 1840s he augmented his reputation by publishing many volumes of obscure historical documents and the last part of Mikhail Shcherbatov's history of Russia.

Towards the end of the 1830s, Pogodin turned his attention to journalism, where his career was likewise a slow burner. Between 1827 and 1830 he edited The Herald of Moscow with Alexander Pushkin as one of the regular contributors. Upon first meeting the great poet in 1826, Pogodin (in)famously remarked in his diary that "his mug doesn't look promising". However, this remark is usually taken out of context as Pogodin wrote glowing reviews of Pushkin's work as early as 1820.

In 1841 Pogodin joined his old friend Stepan Shevyrev in editing Moskvityanin (The Muscovite), a periodical which came to voice Slavophile opinions. In the course of the following fifteen years of editing, Pogodin and Shevyrev steadily slid towards the most reactionary form of Slavophilism. Their journal became embroiled in a controversy with the Westernizers, led by Alexander Herzen, who deplored Pogodin's "rugged, unbroomed style, his rough manner of jotting down cropped notes and unchewed thoughts".

Pogodin's main focus during the last segment of his scholarly career was on fending off Kostomarov's attacks against the Normanist theory. By that period, he championed the pan-Slavic idea of uniting Western Slavs under the aegis of the tsars and even visited Prague to discuss his plans with Pavel Jozef Šafárik and František Palacký. In the 1870s he was again pitted against a leading historian, this time Dmitry Ilovaisky, who advocated an Iranian origin of the earliest East Slavic rulers.

His grandson Mikhail Ivanovich Pogodin (1884–1969) was a museologist.

See also