Searching for Africa in Russia: The Fate of Apollon Davidson




Apollon Davidson, Soviet historiography, Russia and Africa, Anglo-Boer War, Comintern, Nikolai Gumilev


This article is devoted to analysing the scholarly path of the outstanding Russian Africanist Apollon Davidson. His personality has already attracted scholarly attention, primarily in connection with the history of the Centre for African Studies of the Institute of Global History, which Davidson created in 1971. In this study, comprehensive analysis of the subject of Russia and Africa in Davidson’s work is conducted for the first time. Earlier research has only partially touched upon this theme. The main sources are Davidson’s works. The origins of Davidson’s interest in Africa are analyzed. This interest was closely connected with the atmosphere of Stalin’s Soviet Union, in the conditions of which the historian’s personality was formed. The analysis shows that avoiding problems related to the political situation was a conscious choice for Davidson, who sought to avoid having to write propaganda essays within the framework of the dominant ideology. The article identifies the key subjects that attracted Davidson’s attention: the formation of Africa’s image in Russia, the position of Russia in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902, the Comintern and Africa, and the main aspects of Soviet foreign policy in Africa. It is shown that Davidson was especially interested in the African travels of Nikolai Gumilyov and the surge of interest in Africa among the Russian intelligentsia of the Silver Age. The publication of most of Davidson’s studies was possible only in the post-Soviet period.

Author Biographies

Alexey Antoshin

Dr. Hab. (History), Professor, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-6093-2219

Alexander Balezin

Dr. Hab. (History), Senior Researcher, Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

32a, Leninsky Ave., 119334, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-1693-1366


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Balezin, A. S. (2019). A. B. Davidson i Tsentr afrikanskikh issledovanii [A. B. Davidson and the Centre for African Studies]. In Balezin, A. S. Mirolyubie i mirotvorchestvo v Afrike. K 90-letiyu akademika Apollona Borisovicha Davidsona. Sbornik statei. Moscow, Ves’ mir, pp. 21–34.

Davidson, A. B. (1972). Yuzhnaya Afrika. Stanovlenie sil protesta. 1870‒1924 [South Africa: The Rise of Protest Forces. 1870‒1924]. Moscow, Nauka. 614 p.

Davidson, A. B. (1992). Muza stranstvii Nikolaya Gumileva [The Muse of Nikolai Gumilyov’s Wanderings]. Moscow, Nauka. 316 p.

Davidson, A. B. (2001). Nikolai Gumilev. Poet, puteshestvennik, voin [Nikolai Gumilyov. Poet, Traveler, Warrior]. Smolensk, Rusich. 414 p.

Davidson, A. B. (2008). Ya was lyublu [I Love You]. Moscow, MIK. 336 p.

Davidson, A. B. (2017). …Izhe imenuetsya Afrika. Vzglyad iz russkoy stariny […This is Africa. A View from the Russian Past]. Moscow, Printsipium. 560 p.

Davidson, A. B. (Ed.). (1999). Rossiya i Afrika. Dokumenty i materialy. XVIII v. – 1960 g. v 2 t. [Russia and Africa. Documents and Materials. 18th Century – 1960. 2 Vols.]. Moscow, Institut vseobshchei istorii. Vol. 1. 285 p. Vol. 2. 397 p.

Davidson, A. B., (Ed.). (2019). Africa v sud’be Rossii. Rossiya v sud’be Afriki [Africa in the Destiny of Russia. Russia in the Destiny of Africa]. Moscow, Politicheskaya entsiklopediya. 606 p.

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Davidson, A. B., Makrushin, V. A. (1975). Oblik dalekoi strany [The Face of a Distant Country]. Moscow, Nauka. 424 p.

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Davidson, A., Filatova, I. (1998). The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War. Cape Town, Human & Rousseau. 287 p.

Filatova, I. I, Davidson, A. B. (2012). Rossiya i Yuzhnaya Afrika. Navedenie mostov [Russia and South Africa. Building Bridges]. Moscow, Izdatel’skii dom Vysshei shkoly ekonomiki. 491 p.

Filatova, I., Davidson, A. (2013). The Hidden Thread: Russia and South Africa in the Soviet Era. Cape Town, Johannesburg, Jonathan Ball Publ. 553 p.

Gorodnov, V., Davidson, A. (Eds.). (2003). Komintern i Afrika [The Comintern and Africa]. St Petersburg, Aleteiya. 352 p.

Nenarokov, A. P. (2009). V poiskakh zhanra. Zapiski arkhivista s dokumemtami, kommentariyami, fotografiyami i posvyashcheniyami v 2 kn. [Looking for a Genre. An Archivist’s Notes with Documents, Comments, Photographs and Dedications. 2 Books]. Moscow, Assotsiatsiya issledovatelei rossiiskogo obshchestva, Novyi khronograf. Book 1. Vdal’ k nachalu. 296 p.

Schelokhaev, V. V. (1997). Proshchanie s proshlym [Farewell to the Past]. Moscow, ROSSPEN. 304 p.



How to Cite

Antoshin, A., & Balezin, A. (2022). Searching for Africa in Russia: The Fate of Apollon Davidson. Quaestio Rossica, 10(4), 1517–1526.



Hereditas: nomina et scholae