Aleksandr Brikner

Aleksandr Brikner

Russian historian
Country: Germany

Biography of Alexander Brickner

Alexander Gustavovich Brickner was a Russian historian born in Germany in 1834. He initially followed in his father's footsteps and worked as a merchant for several years. However, he later decided to pursue a career in history and studied under the guidance of renowned scholars such as Geisser, Droysen, Ranke, Kuno-Fischer, and Raumier for three years.

In 1860, Brickner obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Heidelberg University for his dissertation on the history of the Reichstag in Worms. He then began teaching history at the School of Jurisprudence in 1861. In 1864, he defended his master's dissertation on "Copper Coins in Russia (1653-1663)". In 1867, he received his Doctor of History degree from the University of Dorpat for his dissertation on financial history titled "Financial Historical Studies: The Copper Coin Crisis". Following this, he was invited to join Novorossiysk University and in 1871, he was elected to the chair of Russian history at the University of Dorpat.

After retiring in 1892, Brickner moved to Jena where he passed away. His most significant works focused on the cultural and political history of Russia, particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. The central theme of Brickner's major works revolved around the process of "Europeanization" of Russia through the introduction of Western concepts and interests. He placed special emphasis on the era of Peter the Great, though his interpretation of this period was somewhat outdated, often overshadowing the significance of Moscow's pre-existing history. Brickner's most notable work on this era was "The History of Peter the Great" (St. Petersburg, 1882), which received mixed reviews from specialists but was well received by the general reading public.

Among Brickner's numerous works related to the reign of Catherine the Great, his most extensive was "The History of Catherine II", initially published in German in 1883 as part of the Onken collection ("Allgemeine Geschichte"), and later translated into Russian with many illustrations. In this work, similar to "The History of Peter the Great", he provided a detailed account of external events, wars, and diplomatic affairs, but offered less insight into internal life and reforms.

In his later years, Brickner's most significant works were "Materials for the Biography of Count N.P. Panin", volumes I-VII (St. Petersburg, 1888-1892), and the beginning of an extensive work on the general history of Russia intended for the series "Geschichte der europaischen Staaten" by Geeren and Uckert, aimed at German readers. Only the first part of this planned two-volume work was published, titled "The History of Russia until the End of the 18th Century. Part I: Overview of Development until the Death of Peter the Great" (Gotha, 1896).

Brickner was not only an independent researcher but also a popularizer of new phenomena in Russian historiography focused on political and cultural history of the 17th and 18th centuries. His numerous works, published in both Russian and German, greatly contributed to the correct understanding of Russian history by foreign audiences. A detailed overview of Brickner's scholarly activities can be found in the obituary written by E.F. Shmurlo ("Journal of the Ministry of Public Education", 1897, February).