George M. Enteen identifies two approaches to the study of Soviet historiography. A totalitarian approach associated with the Western analysis of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian society, controlled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, this school "thought that signs of dissent merely represented a misreading of commands from above."363 For Enteen the other school of writing on Soviet historiography is the social-history school which draws attention to "important initiative from historians at odds with the dominant powers in the field."363 Enteen is unable to decide between these different approaches based on current literature.
In Markwick's view there are a number of important post war historiographical movements, which have antecedents in the 1920s and 1930s. Surprisingly these include culturally and psychologically focused history. In the late 1920s Stalinists began limiting individualist approaches to history, culminating in the publication of Stalin and other's "Short Course" History of the Soviet Communist Party (1938). This crystallised the piatichlenka or five acceptable moments of history in terms of vulgar dialectical materialism: primitive-communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism and socialism.284 Following publication of the "Short course", on 14 November 1938 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union issued a special statement that the course and its chapter "About dialectic and historical materialism" were declared as "encyclopedia of philosophical knowledge in a field of Marxism-Leninism", in which were given "official and verified by the Central Committee interpretation of basic issues of history of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and Marxism-Leninism and without allowing any other arbitrary interpretations".
While the triumph of Stalinist history was being imposed, different modes of history began to emerge. These included BA Romanov's People and Morals in Ancient Rus' (1947), a study of mentalités at the height of the Zhdanovshchina. However, it was not until the 20th Congress of the CPSU that different schools of history emerged from the Stalinist freeze. Firstly, a "new direction" within Leninist materialism emerged, as an effectively loyal opposition to Stalinist dialectical materialism, secondly a social psychology of history emerged through a reading of Leninist psychology, thirdly a "culturological" tendendency emerged.284–285
Soviet-era historiography was deeply influenced by Marxism. Marxism maintains that the moving forces of history are determined by material production and the rise of different socioeconomic formations. Applying this perspective to socioeconomic formations such as slavery and feudalism is a major methodological principle of Marxist historiography. Based on this principle, historiography predicts that there will be an abolition of capitalism by a socialist revolution made by the working-class. Soviet historians believed that Marxist–Leninist theory permitted the application of categories of dialectical and historical materialism in the study of historical events.
Marx and Engels' ideas of the importance of class struggle in history, the destiny of the working class, and the role of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the revolutionary party are of major importance in Marxist methodology.
Marxist–Leninist historiography has several aspects. It explains the social basis of historical knowledge, determines the social functions of historical knowledge and the means by which these functions are carried out, and emphasizes the need to study concepts in connection with the social and political life of the period in which these concepts were developed.
It studies the theoretical and methodological features in every school of historical thought. Marxist–Leninist historiography analyzes the source-study basis of a historical work, the nature of the use of sources, and specific research methods. It analyzes problems of historical research as the most important sign of the progress and historical knowledge and as the expression of the socioeconomic and political needs of a historical period.