Academic journal article Kritika

Intellectual Constructs and Political Issues

Academic journal article Kritika

Intellectual Constructs and Political Issues

Article excerpt

The essays in this section introduce us to three authors of liberal persuasion whose works touch on Russia's political development and, at least by implication, on the meaning of citizenship in Russia. Politics, however, was not their central concern: for Vladimir Gessen, it was the law and legal theory; for Evgenii Trubetskoi, spiritual renewal; and for Boris Nolde, law and the functioning and history of the Russian state. One is struck by the diversity of their interests, subject matter, and temperament. Indeed, on the basis of these articles, it seems as if they are inhabiting different countries and intellectual worlds.

The question of citizenship is central only to the writings of Gessen. It is peripheral to the major themes elaborated by Trubetskoi and Nolde. Randall Poole's analysis of the thought of Evgenii Trubetskoi contains only one mention of the word "citizen," toward the end (233), where it has somewhat pejorative connotations. The evolution of Boris Nolde's political ideas, traced by Peter Holquist, reveals no special interest in the subject, though Holquist discusses the implications for citizenship of Nolde's ideas of human rights and federalism.

Nonetheless, all three articles reflect on the question of citizenship, if only by omission. Trubetskoi's progressive theology and Nolde's progressive statism overshadow the question of citizenship. They envision transformations in Russian institutions and political culture that might enable liberal norms to prevail, but questions of individual rights do not detain them. Both Gessen and Trubetskoi suggest a utopianism and reliance on philosophical schemes characteristic of the Russian intelligentsia, though both reject the violent solutions and positivism characteristic of the intelligentsia. Nolde advances the idealized conception of an enlightened bureaucracy that had motivated Russian reformers since the reign of Nicholas I (1825-55). All three viewpoints find grounds for hope in intellectual constructs that have little basis in the institutional realities of early 20th-century Russia, and it is this absence in the writings of thinkers of extraordinary intelligence and erudition that lends their thought both an evocative power and an air of pathos.

This pathos comes out with special force in Eric Lohr's article, "The Ideal Citizen and the Real Subject in Late Imperial Russia." Lohr begins by providing an astute and helpful discussion of the principal concepts of citizenship in recent historical writings on prerevolutionary Russia. The first of these--elaborated by Dov Iaroshevski, Mikhail Dolbilov, and Yanni Kotsonis--bases citizenship primarily on the obligations the citizen owes to the state and is expressed by the term grazhdanstvennost'. Liberals, in contrast, entertained a "vision of citizenship as universalized and extended rights and immunities from the state" (177), and this was the conception that Vladimir Gessen formulated in his work of 1909. But Gessen did not reject existing laws or institutions. He was "torn ... between seemingly antagonistic aims: the promotion of the rule of existing law, and the promotion of his idealistic variant of citizenship rights" (183).

Gessen's respect for the existing law derived from the works of positivist jurists, especially N. M. Korkunov, and their promotion of "the consistency of the law and the acceptance of the legal order by the subjects of the state" (183). The Russian state had evolved as a legal entity encouraging respect for the law, a view set forth in Gessen's Administrativnoe pravo, published in 1903. But Gessen and other liberals also criticized Korkunov's theory for its validation of the power of the autocrat over his subjects. He sought the basis for a critical legal posture in Kant's conception of the universal and transcendent grounds of natural rights. From the works of Leon Petrazycki, he derived the notion that citizens would develop an internal consciousness of natural right. …

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