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The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Meditations on Pre-Soviet and Early Soviet Philosophical Legacies

Chair: Maija Könönen (University of Eastern, Finland)
Discussant: Tapani Kaakkuriniemi (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland)
Liisa Bourgeot (University of Helsinki, Finland): Gustav Shpet and GAKhN – Philosophy for the New Culture in German Tradition
Elina Viljanen
(Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland): Ivan Lapshin and the Philosophical Phase of Soviet Musicology of the 1920s
Vesa Oittinen (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland): Mikhail Lifshits – "The Man of the Thirties"

Russia has experienced a multifaceted and multiphase re-evaluation of its cultural history under changing cultural political atmosphere of Post-Soviet Russia. Under Putin’s current cultural policy, Russian cultural institutions and humanities are encouraged to take upon the revival of various past Soviet cultural currents from a modern perspective. Whereas it is easy to point out the logic and reasons for certain contemporary cultural currents, it is pertinent to ask whether we know enough about the actual philosophical content of the past Soviet intellectual currents to analyze and comprehend them in sufficient level. The panel addresses the Soviet philosophical legacies. Several transitions in Soviet culture still lacks identification in the West. Analyzing early Soviet intellectual currents, which underline and explain cultural historically the modern Russian cultural studies, the panelists engross the question about the conceptual shifts and continuities of philosophical and theoretical traditions. Gustav Shpet was forced to alter his defense of “pure” academic philosophy after the revolution and employed at GAKhN. His new aesthetic philosophy can be considered a theory for a “new culture” of a young state. Alongside with traditional Russian metaphysics, his theory was rooted in Husserl’s phenomenology, Humboldt’s philosophy of language and the German traditions of Kunstwissenchaft and Geisteswissenschaft. This German scientific connection gave GAKhN’s aesthetics credibility in front of the Bolsheviks, who were trying to formulate an optional revolutionary cultural policy to the leftist avant-garde. According to Bourgeot, GAKhN’s appearance as the defender of continuity of traditional values creates an interesting background to Shpet’s philosophy of the “inner form of the word,” which attempted to prepare ground for a new theory of art and culture. Ivan Lapshin’s lectures at the Russian Institute for Arts History influenced the first generation of Soviet musicologists. Meanwhile important Russian philosophers of the day were deported in 1922, the philosophical phase of musicology lasted until the mid-1920s having a significant impact on Soviet cultural theory of music. A short neo-Kantian momentum of musicology shows in its critical perspective towards the esoteric mystical writings of the Silver Age. Reflecting the breaks and continuums of the pre-revolutionary philosophical legacy Viljanen argues that there are decisive features that characterize the 1920s musicology, which both underlines and differs from the 30s. Mihail Lifshits characterized himself as "chelovek 30-h godov." With this, he meant that the early years of the Stalin regime, when the Soviet Union began, after the "great turn," to build socialism, resulted in an epochal turn, which set new parameters for economy and politics. In comparison to the revolutionary critique of the old culture and experiments with the new, a constructive return to the forms of old culture was in the foreground of the 30s. In this respect, it reminded of the epoch of the Restoration after the French revolution. Lifshits saw the actuality of Hegel in this light. Oittinen discusses Lifshits' attempt of positive evaluation of the "father of modern conservativism," Edmund Burke. Consequently, Lifshits' conception of Marxism got a very idiosyncratic character.