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Visiting Fellows 2012-2013



Mikhail D. Suslov, Russian Institute for Cultural Research, Moscow / Uppsala University, Sweden

“Debating authenticity: Appropriation of Slavophilism in modern Russian political philosophy and ideology from the late imperial period to the present”
Fellowship period: February 1–March 31, 2013

Dr. Mikhail D. Suslov is a Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Institute for Cultural Research (Moscow) and a visiting researcher at the Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University with the project on ideology of the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church. He holds a Candidate of Science degree in Russian history (2003) and a PhD, defended at the European University Institute (Florence) in 2009. His doctoral thesis deals with geopolitical utopianism in Russian history and political culture in comparative perspective. He has developed an interest in the longue durée approach to Russian political philosophy with the focus on the intersections among the Slavophile ideas, anti-colonial sensibility and religious fundamentalism. His publications in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Russian History, Ab Imperio, Revolutionary Russia, Acta Slavica Iaponica, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Voprosy filosofii and other international journals analyze various ideological manifestations of Russian (geo)political imagination. Dr. Suslov discusses, the means by which ideological constellations ‘newness enters’ into the Russian intellectual history.  Now he works on a book project, which discusses appropriation and revival of Slavophilism in the contemporary ideological debates in Russia.

Abstract of current research:
My general intention is to introduce two undeservedly neglected methodologies: Utopian Studies, and post-colonial theory, to the field of Russian intellectual history. This would help me to analyze Slavophilism and its ideological evolutions in the late 19th – early 20th century (neo-Slavophilism and Eurasianism), late Soviet period (right-wing Samizdat) and in today’s Russia (quasi-fundamentalism of the ‘Russian Doctrine’ type). Due to the ambivalent position of Russia as both a colonizer and a colonized, Russian intellectuals were one of the first to conceptualize anti-colonial criticism. To a great extent early Slavophiles prefigured 20th-century debates on the authenticity of the colonial peoples, and shaped political imagination of the next generations of the Russian intellectuals, who tried to conceive of an alternative to the imperial modernization. However, by doing so, intellectuals drove themselves to a number of paradoxes and contradictions, characteristic of the colonial situation. These paradoxes include the paradox of self-reduction, that is the intention to avoid productive imagination as an enslaving practice of the West; the paradox of ‘négritude’, i.e. restoration of the colonial differences by turning over the roles the colonized and the colonizer; the paradox of self-government  (Slavophiles, belonging to the political elite, tried to evoke grassroots’ spontaneous activities). All in all, the Slavophile tradition of anti-colonialism as a ‘utopia for people’, not ‘people’s utopia’, stood at a threshold of a truly post-colonial theory, but it never transcended it. Nevertheless, I argue that Slavophilism is important and central to the political discussions in Russia and elsewhere because of its take on such topics as authenticity and modernization, rational planning and grassroots self-government, empire and nation, memory and forgetting. The liminal position of the Slavophile political philosophy on the border of politics and utopia, between the colonizers and the colonized, conditions its role as a point of conceptual growth, from where ideological ‘newness comes’. This said, I intend to devote two month at the Aleksanteri Institute to tightening the analytical framework of my argumentation and to writing an Introduction for the proposed monograph.

Email: md.suslov [at]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sanna Turoma and Vesa Oittinen