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

Susanna Rabow-Edling (Uppsala University, Sweden)

Kåre Johan Mjør (Uppsala University, Sweden)

Mikhail Suslov (Uppsala University, Sweden)

Panel abstract: Modernity and Authenticity in Russian Thought

The theme of this panel is "modernity and authenticity" in Russian nineteenth-century thought. Its papers discuss how Russian thinkers from the age of Nicholas 1 to the turn of the twentieth century have searched for possible paths to modernity that accommodates for indigenous political and religious traditions.

Susanna Rabow-Edling's paper Nationalism and Imperialism in Russian pre-Revolutionary Liberal Thought is about Russian liberalism. While Russian liberals today are often regarded as unpatriotic and accused of being agents of Western powers, this has not always been the case. In late imperial Russia, liberalism was a powerful movement, in fact the only political force the regime truly feared. It was also a period in Russian history when issues of nation and empire were of real concern. This paper argues that both nationalism and imperialism were part of the pre-revolutionary liberal project and associated with the formation of a modern Russian state. The paper discusses Peter Struve, the prominent liberal thinker of the first Russian liberal party (The Constitutional Democratic Party), who emerged as the spokesman of liberal nationalism in late imperial Russia. It looks at the way he tried to combine nationalism, imperialism and liberalism into a general outlook and how he employed these principles as means to modernize his country and create a Great Russia.

Kåre Johan Mjør's paper Between Ideology and Nauka: Russia's First Visions of an Indigenous Philosophy is devoted to the idea of "Russian philosophy" as significantly different from the philosophies of Western Europe, which was formulated for the first time in the 1830s. It discusses academic philosophers such as Orest Novitskii, Fedor Sidonskii, Vasilii Karpov and the Archimandrite Gavriil, the latter being the first to write a "history of Russian philosophy". The other three, by contrast, all saw a Russian indigenous philosophy to be a project for the future, i.e. a task that had not yet been accomplished. Thus, their visions testify to a dynamic understanding of time, or an experience of modernity, however much they otherwise sought to conform to the "official nationalism" of the regime (cf. the Minister of Education Sergei Uvarov's "Autocracy, Orthodoxy, Nationality"). At the same time, this new official ideology was itself a programme for Russia's modernisation and transition from apprenticeship to maturity and independence vis-à-vis the other European powers.

Mikhail Suslov's paper "...The Enemy Who Depersonalized Us and Enslaved Us": The Concept of "Germanness" in Late Imperial Debates on Authenticity examines the history of the concept "German" in late imperial debates on Russia's authenticity through the prism of the "struggle for recognition" analytical frame. It argues that the concept of "German" embodied the traumatic experience of the lack of recognition from the meaningful "Other", and therefore triggered a series of intellectual reconsiderations, which lie at the centre of pre-revolutionary intellectual history. These reconsiderations include the idea of "Germans" as "false" Europeans, "pretenders" and "impostors", which culminated in the war-time interpretation of "Germans" as "barbarians". The image of a "German" as the "father of lies" reinvigorated the medieval concept of "two Europes" and ensured Russia's status as "true Europe", thereby symbolically compensating for the lack of recognition.