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Petrov, Aleksei Leonidovich

Petrov, Aleksei Leonidovich (b. March 4/16, 1859, St. Petersburg [Russian Empire], Russia; d. January 5, 1932, Prague [Czechoslovakia], Czech Republic) — Russian emigre historian and professor. Petrov taught the history of Slavic peoples at St. Petersburg University from the 1890s until 1922, when he emigrated to Czechoslovakia and settled in Prague. Virtually all of his publications dealt with Rusyns living south of the Carpathians in the former Kingdom of Hungary. His major work is a series of monographs entitled Materialy dlia istorii Ugorskoi/Zakarpatskoi Rusi, 9 vols. (1905-32). He was particularly interested in publishing documents, often with extensive commentaries, dealing with the impact of the Protestant Reformation in *Subcarpathian Rus’ (Otzvuk Reformatsii v russkom Zakarpat’i XVI v., 1923), the formation of the Uniate/Greek Catholic Church (“‘Staraia viera’ i Uniia v XVII-XVIII vv.,” 2 pts., 1905-06) and the reaction of Orthodox defenders like Mykhail *Orosvygovo-Andrella (1932), and *Maria Theresa’s decrees on lord-serf socioeconomic relations (Pervyi pechatnyi pamiatnik ugro-russkago nariechiia, 1908). Many of his studies dealt with the toponomy of the Rusyn-inhabited lands—Karpatoruske pomistni nazvy z pol. XIX a z poc. XX st. (1929)—and the problem of the frequently changing ethnographic border with neighboring Slovaks and Magyars—Ob etnograficheskoi granitsie (1915) and K voprosu o slovensko-russkoi etnograficheskoi granitsie (1923). His views on these matters were based on analyses of statistics and ethnographic maps prepared during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, including Prediely ugrorusskoi riechi v 1773 po offitsial’nym dannym, 2 vols. (1909-11).

Petrov’s scholarship is characterized by attention to detail and accuracy. As a Positivist, he believed only in the validity of written documentary sources. His most ambitious and interpretive work in this regard was Drevnieishiia gramoty po istorii karpatorusskoi tserkvi i ierarkhii, 1391-1498 g. (1930)—abridged English version, Medieval Carpathian Rus’ (1998)—in which he dismissed many of the legends surrounding the early history of Carpatho-Rusyns, in particular what he considered unsubstantiated claims about the fourteenth-century magnate Peter Peto (alias Petro Petun/Petrovych) and Prince Fedor *Koriatovych. Petrov always described Rusyns as Carpatho-Russians and believed that they formed a branch of the Russian nationality living beyond the borders of the Russian state. In this regard, he emphasized the Orthodox tradition, which he considered to be the “old faith” (*stara vira) of the Rusyn population, for centuries subjected to foreign influences from the “Latin” West.

Bibliography: Iuliian A. Iavorskii, “Aleksei L. Petrov,” in idem, Iz istorii nauchnago izsliedovaniia Zakarpatskoi Rusi (Prague, 1928), pp. 6-18; Ivan Pan’kevych, “Prof. Aleksii Petrov simdesiat’litnyi,” Podkarpatska Rus’, VI, 4 (1929), pp. 73-79; Paul Robert Magocsi, “The Icon-Breaker: Aleksei L. Petrov as Historian,” in Aleksei L. Petrov, Medieval Carpathian Rus’ (New York, 1998), pp. ix-xxv.

Paul Robert Magocsi

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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