Count Sergey Semyonovich Uvarov, once proclaimed by Aleksandr Herzen as a ‘Prometheus of our day’, has in the past 160 years become something of an also-ran in Russian History. Notwithstanding his manifold contributions to the Russian education system as Minister of Education for more than fifteen years. And of course his invention of the holy trinity of 19th-century Russian conservatism: ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality’. Uvarov’s time in the shadows of Russian history is now however over thanks to the veteran writer and journalist, Lesley Chamberlain
’s biography. In the Ministry of Darkness: How Sergei Uvarov Created Conservative Modern Russia
(Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), Chamberlain delineates Uvarov's career and shows how one of the most cosmopolitan of men, became in the course of his official career the inventor of much that can be seen in to-day's xenophobic and nationalistic Russia of Vladimir Putin. How a celebrated men of letters and correspondent of Goethe, became in due course the opponent and hounder of Aleksandr Pushkin and Pyotr Chaadaev. All this from the acclaimed author of Motherland: A Philosophical History of Russia
and The Philosopher Steamer: Lenin and the Exile of the Intelligentsia
. In short, the ‘Ministry of Darkness’ is a must read for any serious student of modern Russian history. In the words of Rachel Polonsky of Cambridge University: “A wise, nuanced, and admirably readable work of intellectual history, this book is indispensable for anyone wishing to understand the complexities and contradictions of Russian conservatism.”
Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.