Conference e-mail
fcree-aleksconf@helsinki.fi



The Aleksanteri Institute

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

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Russia and Europe: Civilizational Identities and Interpretations of Modernity

Chair: Mikhail Maslovskiy (Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia)
Discussant: Wolfgang Knöbl (Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Germany)
Jiri Subrt (Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic): The Eurasia Concept: Russian vs. Western Perspectives
Sergei Akopov
(National Research University Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg, Russia): European and Non-European Trajectories of Modernity within Russian Intellectual Discourse on Identity
Vladimir Kozlovskiy and Ruslan Braslavskiy (Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia): Dynamics of Modernity in Europe and Russia in the Context of Civilizational Encounters
Mikhail Maslovskiy (Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia): The Relationships between Russia and Europe as a Clash of Interpretations of Modernity

The panel presents different perspectives on the relationships between Russia and Europe in the context of civilizations and modernities. Jiri Subrt’s paper “The Eurasia Concept: Russian vs. Western Perspectives” compares several approaches to the theme of Eurasia. The concept of Eurasia was born in the 1920s developed by Russian exile intellectuals in Prague to offer a new understanding of Russia. The starting point was social geography followed by the study of cultural, religious and economic aspects. After WWII the idea of Eurasia was promoted by George Vernadsky in the USA and Lev Gumilyov in Russia. Its leading current figure is Alexander Dugin for whom it provides the basis of his geopolitical considerations. Besides, there is a Western conception a leading light of which is the British anthropologist Chris Hahnn who builds on Jack Goody’s ideas. Modernity is a way in which human beings conceive of their lives, but also the specificity of modernity is commitment to autonomy (Peter Wagner). Building up on this interpretative approach Sergei Akopov’s paper “European and Non-European Trajectories of Modernity within Russian Intellectual Discourse on Identity” explores metaphors about Europe in the discourses of Russia’s identity. In particular it looks at how this approach can provide an explanatory framework for co-existence and ambivalence of several interpretations of “modernity” by Russian intellectuals with different political identifications. Specifically the paper focuses on current Russian civilizational and transnational discourses of Europe. While the former usually builds around metaphors of Russia’s sovereignty from Europe, the latter explores an ideal of “Russian Europeans”. Vladimir Kozlovskiy and Ruslan Braslavskiy argue in their paper “Dynamics of Modernity in Europe and Russia in the Context of Civilizational Encounters” that the formation of social and cultural orders of contemporary societies and the relations between them cannot be adequately explained in the framework of modernization theory or the model of the “clash of civilizations”. Attempts to diagnose the “restoration” of the Soviet system in Russia and returning to “Cold War” in its relations with the West also do not fully reflect current developments. Today one needs more flexible analytical models, in particular based on the sociological tradition of civilizational analysis and the theory of multiple modernities. The paper examines the changing patterns of European and Russian modernities in the processes of global transformations and civilizational encounters. Mikhail Maslovskiy’s paper “The Relationships between Russia and Europe as a Clash of Interpretations of Modernity” draws on new approaches in International Relations and historical sociology. Within IR there is a trend to regard civilizations as “imagined communities” while it is admitted that civilizational imaginaries may become institutionalized. From the sociological multiple modernities perspective there are no “intact” civilizations in today’s world but various civilizational legacies can be seen as the sources of multiplication of modernity. In contemporary sociology this approach is represented by the works of Arnason, Delanty and Wagner. It is argued that combining their ideas can result in better understanding of Russia’s relationships with Europe in the context of different visions of modernity.