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What did the Teacher of Russian the Army Foreman A. Leonov “on the Solemn Act” the Novocherkassk Gymnasium Speak on August 12, 1854 about?

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Abstract. The article analyzes the content of the speech pronounced by the army foreman A.A. Leonov in the Novocherkassk gymnasium on August 12, 1854. Also, it provides short biographic information about A. Leonov, his role in educational and cultural processes in the Don region in the middle and second half of the 19th century. The significance of the A. Leonov speech is considered in the context of the social and political situation in the Don region in 1850–beginning the 1860s and events of Russian history. The content of the speech represents one of the first historiographic reviews of historical literature on the Don Cossack history in the middle of the 19th century. A. Leonov gave special attention to the problem of the Don Cossacks origin, criticizing ideas of Cossacks as “special people”. A. Leonov connected the lack of the “real”, “undistorted” history of the Don Cossacks with a small number of sources providing a “truthful” image of the Don Cossacks. Leonov’s speech also testifies to the existence of a split among representatives of the educated Cossacks of the 1850s and 1860s, who are in search of their identity, including in the state of choice between the “Cossack” people or part of the “Russian world”.

Keywords: A. Leonov, Novocherkassk gymnasium, history of the Don Cossacks, problem of origin of the Cossacks, historiography.

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