Boris Akunin is rewriting the history of the Russian state.

October 15, 2013
Boris Akunin is rewriting the history of the Russian state. Boris Akunin has recently announced his new book project History of the Russian State which will take him 10 years and include both historical materials and literary sources.

He compared his work with that of his famous predecessor , 18th century novelist turned historian Nikolai Karamzin who wrote the seminal text of Russian history also entitled History of the Russian State (1818-24). Other than Karamzin, Akunin pointed out, no Russian writer has been able to create a lot of interest in history among general public.
Akunin stated upfront that he considered himself a dilettante, retelling history to other dilettantes.

In order to achieve this aim, Akunin has chosen as his format two parallel texts; a fictional saga of members of a Russian family starting at the founding of the Russian state, alongside a recounting of major historical events.

On top of this, there will be a series of books published to accompany the volume. These will be edited by Akunin and will include the best, in his opinion, documentary and fictional works that correspond to the various periods of history covered in his book.

The first two volumes will be released on the 15th November. This will include the volume Part of Europe dealing with the era from Russia’s genesis to the Mongol invasion, and three stories entitled Finger of Fire.
Akunin stressed that his book will be concerned with Russia as a state and not a country;

“I will not adopt those conceptions of history that have hitherto been the received wisdom. Culture, religion and economics I will touch on only in connection with politics. It is the state itself which is the cause of Russian troubles and triumphs”

Like any other Historical work, Akunin’s book relies on historical sources, he talked of the paucity of these in regard to Russia’s early history, and that consequently much of his history of that period is qualified by statements such as “possibly’, “ it’s not out of the question that” and “It is not clear”. As one moves through to the present day, those sources of course become clearer and definitive, he emphasized.

Akunin’s project comes at a time when Vladimir Putin has called for a “canonical” version of Russian history to be taught at schools, prompting a rewrite of school textbooks. It will be interesting to see how Russian history according to Akunin, a vocal opponent of the Putin government, will be received by Russian officialdom, media and public.

By Simon Knapper