Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Tarle, Evgenii Viktorovich

(1874–1955), historian. In 1893, Evgenii Tarle entered the Kiev University Historical-Philological Department. As a young man, he drew close to the Social Democrats and published articles in left-wing newspapers. In May 1900, he was arrested at an illegal gathering. After a month and a half of imprisonment, Tarle was exiled to Kherson province, then to Warsaw. There he finished his master’s degree, having written his thesis on Thomas More’s social views. In 1903, Tarle was appointed privatdocent at Saint Petersburg University, where he became one of the most popular lecturers. In 1913–1918 he held a professorship at Iur’ev University.

Although not a revolutionary, Tarle remained politically involved: he wrote for the liberal periodical Osvobozhdenie (Liberation), published abroad by Peter Struve, and participated in student demonstrations. In October 1905, in a clash with the police in the course of such a demonstration, he was wounded.

Over the next decade, Tarle published a number of studies on the period of the French Revolution. During World War I and the February Revolution, he adhered to a liberal, democratic position, and perceived the October Revolution as the ruin of democratic hopes. Nevertheless, he turned down an offer of a professorship at the Sorbonne and remained in Russia, where he was appointed professor at Petrograd University in 1918.

In the early 1920s, Tarle investigated the history of international relations, simultaneously continuing his studies of the French working class. In 1923, he began yearly expeditions to France to do archival research. He lectured at the Sorbonne, and from 1924 to 1929 at Swedish and American universities as well. His career was also on the rise in the Soviet Union; he was elected corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences in 1921 and served as a full member in 1927.

Everything changed in 1930, when Tarle was arrested in the framework of the “Academicians’ Case,” fabricated in 1929 by the Leningrad GPU against “bourgeois intelligentsia” in the Academy of Sciences and intended to terminate the remains of the Academy’s autonomy. Tarle, as well as some other prominent historians, was charged with involvement in a monarchic plot. In 1931, he was sent to Alma-Ata (Almaty) for five years. With the help of his former student Fedor Goloshchekin, first secretary of the Kazakhstan Communist Party, Tarle was appointed professor at Kazakhstan University. In October 1932, he was the first of those convicted in the “Academicians’ Case” to be allowed to return from exile, and was restored to his professorship. In the 1930s, Tarle wrote a biography of Napoleon. When it was subjected to devastating criticism in 1937, Stalin came out in Tarle’s defense.

Throughout the second half of the 1930s, Tarle enjoyed the full confidence of the authorities. During World War II, his books Nashestvie Napoleona na Rossiiu (Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia; 1938) and Krymskaia voina (The Crimean War; 1941–1943) became especially popular. During the war years, Tarle assisted with propaganda work for the Sovinformbiuro (Soviet Information Bureau) and the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs.

In the postwar years, on Stalin’s orders, Tarle began work on a trilogy titled Rossiia v bor’be s agressorami v XVIII–XX vv. (Russia in the Struggle with Aggressors in the Eighteenth through the Twentieth Centuries). The first volume, devoted to the eighteenth-century struggle with Sweden, was completed in 1949. Stalin, however, insisted that publication of the trilogy begin with the third volume, in which his role as military commander was supposed to be praised. Tarle used various pretexts to evade this demand. The situation became especially delicate for him in 1951. During the anticosmopolitan campaign, Tarle was defamed and accused of having insufficient scientific competence, lacking patriotic feeling, and underestimating Mikhail Kutuzov’s role in the War of 1812. To avoid the threat of repression, Tarle wrote a time-serving article about Kutuzov in which he declared that he had reexamined several of his former views on the war. However, even the threat of repression could not force him to write the concluding volume of the trilogy.

Suggested Reading

Evgenii Chapkevich, “Evgenii Viktorovich Tarle,” in Portrety istorikov: Vremia i sud’by, ed. Grigorii Sevost’ianov and Lidiia T. Mil’skaia, vol. 2, pp. 322–333 (Moscow, 2000); Boris Kaganovich, Evgenii Viktorovich Tarle i peterburgskaia shkola istorikov (Saint Petersburg, 1995).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson