Vekhi: Landmarks: a Collection of Articles about the Russian Intelligentsia

Vekhi: Landmarks: a Collection of Articles about the Russian Intelligentsia

Vekhi: Landmarks: a Collection of Articles about the Russian Intelligentsia

Vekhi: Landmarks: a Collection of Articles about the Russian Intelligentsia


A collection of essays first published in Moscow in 1909. Writing from various points of view, the authors reflect the diverse experiences of Russia's failed 1905 revolution. Condemned by Lenin and rediscoverd by dissidents, this translation has relevance for discussions on contemporary Russia.


Marc Raeff

An orthodoxy that has long held sway over the values and ideas of an intellectual elite will eventually wear itself out and lose its power to shape society's public life. This is especially the case when the society has undergone a rapid and profound transformation under the impact of such forces as scientific discoveries, new values and interests from abroad, changing aesthetic styles and spiritual needs, economic innovation, political upheaval. the resulting sense of dissatisfaction and unease will spur some among the intellectual leadership "to put on a new thinking cap," to quote Alfred North Whitehead. Such a change occurred in Western Europe and the United States after World War I and again in the 1960s; we are witnessing a similar development today in the former Soviet world.

A "new thinking cap" cannot be created ex nihilo, however. It has to make use of available fabrics and patterns, some of them drawn from older traditions. Even so, it may not be immediately and universally accepted; many will reject it as alien or subversive. in some instances the new ideas advanced by an intellectual avant-garde will be forced underground, only to be rediscovered and put to use by later generations. Such was the fate of the ideas and values propounded by the authors of Vekhi, or Landmarks, a collection of essays published in Moscow in 1909, during another time of intellectual crisis.

Why did some of the leading intellectuals in Russia feel the need for a new way of thinking in 1909? the informative introduction to this excellent translation of Vekhi byMarshall S. Shatz and Judith E. Zimmerman gives the essential facts of the collection's origins and reception. Here I would like to offer only a few general reflections.

At the turn of the present century the majority of Russia's intellectual elite --the intelligentsia--had failed to adjust its mentalité to the far-reaching social and economic changes brought about in the 1860s and 1870s by the Great Reforms of the reign of Alexander ii, in particular the emancipation of the serfs. Without venturing a critical assessment of the accomplishments, as well as the failures, of the Great Reforms, it may be said that, as a result, by 1900 Russian society had undergone a radical transformation, and its rapid momentum had not slowed down as yet. On the other hand, the intelli-

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