Russian Messianism: Third Rome, Holy Revolution, Communism and After

Russian Messianism: Third Rome, Holy Revolution, Communism and After

Russian Messianism: Third Rome, Holy Revolution, Communism and After

Russian Messianism: Third Rome, Holy Revolution, Communism and After

Synopsis

This is the first book in English for half a century to examine the complexities of Russian messianism, both as a whole and in its interaction with Communism. Peter Duncan considers its Orthodox roots and focuses on Russia's geopolitical experience and situation to explain the endurance of this phenomenon.

Excerpt

The Khrushchev era

N.S. Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) from 1953 to 1964, attempted to reform the Communist system to make life easier for Soviet citizens. In Stalin’s last years a form of Russian messianism had become integrated into official thinking. Khrushchev did not renounce the idea of the Russian people as the elder brother of the other peoples of the USSR, but he did end the extreme Russian chauvinism which characterized the final period of the rule of his predecessor. While Russian national consciousness under Stalin was tightly controlled, Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization process, heralded by his “secret speech” denouncing the dictator at the XX Party Congress in 1956, allowed the appearance of some autonomous manifestations. The ending of Stalin’s terror produced the “Thaw” in Russian culture, and in the non-Russian republics gave confidence to the local ethnic political and cultural elites.

Literature and Russian national consciousness: early village prose, Solzhenitsyn and Novyi mir

In the 1950s, the new genre of literature which contributed most to the development of Russian national consciousness, and then of Russian nationalism, was that known as derevenskaia proza—village, or rural, prose. This began with a concern for the problems of the countryside, and particularly the desire to protect the peasants from the exploitation which they suffered on the collective farm (kolkhoz). It developed into a literature which advocated the protection of peasant morality and customs, the villages themselves, and the churches and other historical monuments of Russian culture. It became linked with the defence of the Russian natural environment against the predacity of technological progress. The practitioners of derevenskaia proza became known by the rather condescending term of derevenshchiki, which was acoustically close to a word denoting rural idiocy (derevenshchina). They themselves preferred the name pochvenniki, making the link with Dostoevsky’s ideas. Some of them went so far as to give a positive portrayal of the peasants’ traditional Russian Orthodox Christianity.

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