Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Charles Ruud


Despite the accepted view that the early nineteenth century in Russia was a time of political relaxation and liberal reforms, little is known about the intellectuals who contributed to the development of the Russian liberal thought. Among the many reasons behind this neglect is a long-standing assumption about Russian liberals' indifference to the issues of individual rights and freedoms that comprised the essence of European liberal ideology. The life and writings of Alexander Kunitsyn present a challenge to this assumption. He was one of the first native professors of natural law in Russia who aspired to spread among the educated public the ideas of individualistic liberalism. German-trained and steeped in European philosophy, Kunitsyn helped lay the foundations for the legal philosophy as an academic subject popular among progressive-minded students. This dissertation explores the intellectual sources of Kunitsyn’s philosophy and the way he adapted European thought for Russian readers. From a methodological viewpoint, the study belongs to the interdisciplinary field of intellectual and social history that combines detailed textual and contextual analysis of Kunitsyn’s writings. Both archival and published primary sources (including the epistolary writings of his contemporaries) serve as the basis for reconstructing Kunitsyn’s intellectual life and his interactions with other Russian liberals. To deepen understanding of Kunitsyn’s role, one of the chapters examines other works on natural law in early nineteenth century Russia that are little known in contemporary scholarship. It argues that Kunitsyn’s Natural Law presented the most liberal account of Western legal philosophy in Russia of Alexander I, and that it iii caused an official reaction against teaching of natural law in Russian institutions. This dissertation is a first full-scale biography of Alexander Kunitsyn in Western scholarship and a step towards comprehensive examination of Russian liberalism in the early nineteenth century.



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