A biographical study of the academician S.A. Zhebelev on the basis of new archival findings allows to illuminate the emergence of a number of key systemic elements of the Soviet academia: creation and reform of research institutes, development of certain historiographical concepts, influence of the state on the direction of historical research. In this regard, the relations of Zhebelev, the leading Classicist of the prewar USSR, with the Soviet state can be divided into two stages: untill 1933 – the period of rejection or active persecution, and after 1933, when Zhebelev’s works unexpectedly aligned with the dominant ideological scheme. The award to Zhebelev of the title ‘Honored worker of science’ in 1940 became the final chord of the relationships between Zhebelev and the Soviet state. Several documents from different archival collections are considered in interrelation with each other and within the context of the period. S.A. Zhebelev’s letters to N.Ya. Marr, S.Ya. Luria, D.M. Petrushevsky, excerpts from letters to M.I. Maximova, A.I. Boltunova (Amiranashvili), A.V. Oreshnikov, and the ‘awards file’ of S.A. Zhebelev are published for the first time and form the basis for the reconstruction of his scholarly biography and of the history of the prewar Soviet Classical studies. The major source for reconstruction of S.A. Zhebelev’s scientific biography in 1913‒1927 is his correspondence with N.Ya. Marr and also their colleagues’ memories of their relationship. In his correspondence with Marr, Zhebelev appears to be a follower of traditional scientific principles and an opponent of trendy pseudo-scientific currents. The convergence and divergence of the two scientists was due to different attitudes towards the basic principles of scientific research.