Portraits of Russian Personalities between Reform and Revolution

Portraits of Russian Personalities between Reform and Revolution

Portraits of Russian Personalities between Reform and Revolution

Portraits of Russian Personalities between Reform and Revolution

Excerpt

In my last book, Pioneers of Russian Social Thought, I drew attention to the neglected work of various original Russian personalities, born in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries, who did a lot to guide and shape the changing outlook of their compatriots, although they were neither professional revolutionaries nor contented adherents of the Russian state and status quo. Starting with the politically progressive but morally conservative ex-Guards officer, P. Chaadayev, and ending with the heretical but prophetic K. Leontiev, in turn surgeon, diplomat, journalist, and monk, I tried to convey a picture of the wide mental awakening and vigorous endeavour, which stirred educated Russians who matured during the peaceful quarter of a century following the Napoleonic wars.

To illustrate how independent, robust, and honest minds then reacted to the stream of thought and science flowing from the West, I confined my choice to a few individuals, who never sank to the level of passive camp-followers in the wake of organized political or religious movements. They also showed a surprising measure of agreement in the statement of their aims, although they disputed the most fruitful method of fulfilling them. Intelligent Slavophils and Westernizers alike struggled to the best of their ability against a sterile overgrown bureaucracy, and both favoured a discriminating Europeanization of their country, although Europe's ambiguity puzzled them.

The present volume is in part a chronological sequence, bringing my survey down to the October Revolution (1917). But the two volumes also overlap in time, because in both I have taken single human life-spans as the most natural and intelligible units of comparison, and sought in them illuminating focal points for diverse particles of a whole period in flux. Moreover, the individuals represented here belong to a wider background, for they include outstanding revolutionaries, thoughtful statesmen, internationally famous authors, influential religious thinkers . . .

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