Carlson, Maria, Canadian Slavonic Papers
Sergei Erlikh. Rossiia koldunov. Series: Mir: Zerkalo dlia Moldavy. St. Petersburg Kishinev: Vysshaia Antropologicheskaia Shkola, 2003. 497 pp.
Any book titled The Russia of the Sorcerers will attract a hopeful reading clientele. If you expect a book on folklore or the occult, however, go now to other reviews; this book is not for you. If you are interested in the new Russian paganism, you may want to dip carefully into Sergei Erlikh's book, if only to see how prevalent certain neo-pagan assumptions are becoming among the educated public. But if you are an intellectual historian following threads of post-collapse soul-searching ("transfiguration of Russia," "fate of the intelligentsia," and "what is to be done?"), then you may want to read this volume, which offers the reader one of the more eccentric suggestions conceived by the growing army of post-Soviet futurologists.
Sergei Erlikh needs an introduction, as his is not a household name. Born in Kishinev, Moldova, in 1961, Erlikh defended his kandidatskaia in historical studies at Kishinev University in 2001 on the subject of Alexander Herzen's creation of the "legend" of the Decembrists; this work figures prominently in Rossiia koldunov. Interested in intellectual history, mythology, and anthropology, Erlikh is director of "Nestor: A Partnership in the Name of History."
Rossiia koldunov is Erlikh's first major theoretical publication (I hesitate to identify this work's genre more precisely, as it combines philosophy and anthropology with publicism, and history with personal observations). Its four sections are of different weight, but more or less related: 1. Russia of the Sorcerers (the sacral nature of the intelligentsia); II. Worship of the Sorcerers (an attempt at dynamic structuralism); III. The History of Myth (Gertsen's Decembrist legend); and IV. Will History Become the "Teacher of Life"? (Technologies of Power-a project to revive history). Together they constitute Erlikh's "archeological excavation of the Russian soul," wherein he discovers that the oldest levels are the most compact and most tenacious (pp. 12-13), and that "russkost"' is embedded in early Slavic paganism.
Erlikh's historical "project" is breath-taking in scale. To demonstrate the dependence of the structures of the Russian and Soviet empires on the pagan world view of Rus', he harnesses his own vision to Georges Dumezil's (1898-1986) tripartite division of IndoEuropean cultures into spiritual/ritual, martial, and economic segments. Erlikh's pagan Rus' consists of volkhvy, warrior princes, and the narod; after Christianization, his model changes to Orthodox priests, the princes/tsars, and the narod; in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, his model adapts to the intelligentsia, the autocrat (tsar/gensek), and the narod. …