Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Brendan Humphreys (University of Helsinki, Finland)

Locating Russian Exceptionalism: a Comparative Perspective

With his written address to the American people (New York Times, September 12, 2013) Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked much debate. One aspect was of his letter was of compelling interest; Putin's denial of Russian exceptionalism, and his rebuke of President Obama's exceptionalist claims for the United States. It is generally naïve to take political leaders at their word, but there might be some historical significance in the claim of a Russian leader that Russia was just another country. Much Russian (and later Soviet) historical experience was predicated on the opposite argument, that Russia was unique in the world. This paper seeks to define exceptionalism, and in particular try to locate some Russian – Imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet – claims in the context of other countries that have made (and acted on) exceptionalist claims. There are two rivals of Russia; the United States and Poland, a "sentimental ally" of Russia, Serbia, and a country with a deep and complex relationship with Russia, Israel. Historically however, Russia's claim is the most complex, as it had to radically secularize itself after the October Revolution, transforming Holy Russia (sviatoruusskii) into the fulcrum of world revolution. Post-Soviet Russia – assertive and expansive – presents a compelling work in progress, an excellent case study in exceptionalism, despite President Putin's denials.