Slavophile Empire

Slavophile Empire: Imperial Russia's Illiberal Path

Laura Engelstein
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Slavophile Empire
    Book Description:

    Twentieth-century Russia, in all its political incarnations, lacked the basic features of the Western liberal model: the rule of law, civil society, and an uncensored public sphere. In Slavophile Empire, the leading historian Laura Engelstein pays particular attention to the Slavophiles and their heirs, whose aversion to the secular individualism of the West and embrace of an idealized version of the native past established a pattern of thinking that had an enduring impact on Russian political life.

    Imperial Russia did not lack for partisans of Western-style liberalism, but they were outnumbered, to the right and to the left, by those who favored illiberal options. In the book's rigorously argued chapters, Engelstein asks how Russia's identity as a cultural nation at the core of an imperial state came to be defined in terms of this antiliberal consensus. She examines debates on religion and secularism, on the role of culture and the law under a traditional regime presiding over a modernizing society, on the status of the empire's ethnic peripheries, and on the spirit needed to mobilize a multinational empire in times of war. These debates, she argues, did not predetermine the kind of system that emerged after 1917, but they foreshadowed elements of a political culture that are still in evidence today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5945-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: The Discordant Choir
    (pp. 1-12)

    The model of the nation that emerged in Europe after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars was founded on the principles of citizenship and civil rights. To be sure, the governments that replaced the old regime did not always realize their own professed ideals. They nevertheless redefined the nature of sovereignty, recognized the value of the individual person, and delegated some degree of power to society. Nor was this model universal. Not all European states were nations. Not all nations managed to forge a sense of cultural coherence to replace the traditions they left behind.¹ The terms in which...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Combined Underdevelopment Discipline and the Law in Imperial and Soviet Russia
    (pp. 13-32)

    As a political activist, Michel Foucault (1926–1984) spoke out against oppressive political regimes and allied himself, as in the case of Poland, with people who fought for political liberty and freedom of expression. Having insisted, in essays and interviews, that he appreciated the importance of the institutional context that distinguished so-called totalitarian systems from liberal states, he did not make that distinction the focus of his scholarly work but concentrated instead on the mechanisms of control characteristic of all governments in the modern era.¹ As Sheldon Wolin has written, invoking a contrast the philosopher himself would not have employed,...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Revolution and the Theater of Public Life The Triumph of Extremes
    (pp. 33-77)

    Russian intellectuals and statesmen of the second half of the nineteenth century associated Europe, for good or for ill, with the emerging future and Russia with a past that resisted forward movement. They were burdened still with that relic of pre-1789 Europe, an absolute monarchy, which limited their ability to shape the world in which they lived. They were surrounded with a vast peasantry mired in misery, bound by tradition, and largely unaffected by the advances of scientific knowledge.

    The Europe to which these Russians compared themselves had, of course, more than one face. The legacy of the French Revolution...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Dream of Civil Society The Law, the State, and Religious Toleration
    (pp. 78-98)

    The history of nineteenth-century Russia’s political movements demonstrates the paradoxical character of the autocratic regime. While the authorities lavishly exercised their power to prohibit, punish, and repress, their policies at the same time created new sources of resistance. The professions were useful, technology indispensable (hence the need for education and scientific knowledge), but the growing cultural elite demanded conditions of self-expression and self-regulation that challenged the principles of absolute rule. The official response to these demands proved self-defeating. The refusal to grant the rights that would have enabled power to operate outside the state undermined the support the state needed...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Holy Russia in Modern Times The Slavophile Quest for the Lost Faith
    (pp. 99-124)

    In arguing for the privatization of religious life, the most thorough-going of the liberals pursued a model of individual moral responsibility, and hence also of the morally accountable actor in civic affairs—the citizen. In that respect the argument for privatization was also a call for the reconstruction of public life. But conservatives also believed that Russian religious life needed renovation. They, too, rejected the instrumental use of religion as a state institution (although, as patriots, they were inconsistent on this point). They, too, believed that the substance of religious faith was endangered by the post-Petrine constellation. But instead of...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Orthodox Self-Reflection in a Modernizing Age The Case of Ivan and Natal'ia Kireevskii
    (pp. 125-150)

    In explaining the origins of modern individuality as it emerged in the West, Max Weber and Michel Foucault focus on the transformation of religious patterns of thought and behavior. Weber asserts that Protestant self-discipline laid the foundation for the habits of thrift and self-denial needed for commercial success. Foucault sees the practice of confession in the Catholic Church as a model adapted by the professional disciplines in monitoring personal conduct and imposing social norms. Both argue that the secular version substitutes worldly values (reason, success, personal autonomy) for spiritual values (faith, salvation, self-abnegation), while conserving the psychological structures and even...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Between Art and Icon Aleksandr Ivanov’s Russian Christ
    (pp. 151-191)

    Kireevskii wished to retrain himself. He tried to replace his worldly habits with those of a pious man, and he tried to provide this pious self with an Orthodox, rather than more generally Christian, inspiration. Despite his sense of frustration, he nevertheless succeeded. On the level of ideology, the Slavophile legacy imprinted itself on Russian political and cultural history, well beyond the conservative or church-oriented sphere. In personal terms, his failure to achieve private virtue injured the pride he determined to master. Yet pride itself was the problem. In falling short, he fulfilled the Christian injunction to strive continually toward...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The Old Slavophile Steed Failed Nationalism and the Philosophers’ Jewish Problem
    (pp. 192-232)

    As suggested by Tiutchev’s snide remark about the Rothschild family, noted in the previous chapter, the question of the Jews created difficulties for those espousing a Christian approach to Russian cultural identity. The “people” to whom Ivanov’s Christ was appearing were, after all, mostly Jews, and the painter expended his talent for realistic depiction on making them look the part. Those who turned toward Him at this historical moment, as on the massive canvas, were about to forsake their past. Those who turned away continued through the centuries to repeat their gesture in daily life a hundred times over. Crowded...

  13. Index
    (pp. 233-240)