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Lecture 11

HIST 245 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: True History, Gambling, Vissarion Belinsky


Department
History
Course Code
HIST 245
Professor
Ana Siljak
Lecture
11

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HISTORY 245
IMPERIAL RUSSIA
Lecture 10: Slavophiles and Westernizers
I. Introduction
-After Napoleonic Wars, The Russians (elites/intellectuals) begin to question - what is
Russia, What is Russian Identity/Nationality, what does it mean to be Russian?, etc.
-Another consequence was the develop of reaction - first with Alexander then with
Nicholas
-Revolutions in Russia are distinctly tied to Napoleonic Wars
-This was the time period when all of the major questions of what Russia is and what
Russia future is are beginning to be asked
-Ideas were critical during this time period in Russian history - its an era that is difficult
for us to recapture - it was a time period when ideas mattered more than anything else
-They believed that ideas were very important in forming Russia as a whole
II. The Inspiration of Romanticism
-Romanticism is a philosophy that is the reaction to the Enlightenment among
intellectuals
-The Romantic movement had its origins around the same time as the Enlightenment
(late 18th C.)
-The Romantics were heirs to the Enlightenment philosophy, but they emerged out of
the Enlightenment philosophy as being deeply critical towards the enlightenment
emphasis on reason and rationality as the predominate mode of understanding the
world
-They were determined to show that Human being and their relationships had far more
to do with intangible and irrational forces that reasonable and Rational ones
-For the Romantics, life was about living in a mystical spiritual creative universe that
engaged all of the human factors - Emotion, Spirit and imagination (the words that
were important to the Romantics - more important then reason)
-The early fascination with science was seen as mechanistic and materialistic -
concerned too much with the material world
-Nature, for the Romantics, was not about dissection - it was about the organic
wholeness of life and human being could not just put nature on a dissecting table
and analysis it - had to develop a relationship with nature (that was a mixture of
both emotional and spiritual) - interested in the mysterious aspects of human beings
A. Romantic Literature and Poetry
-Romantic literature and art (especially Poetry) was suppose to full a person with
emotion, to give them emotional protection, sweep someone away, etc. - not meant to
teach someone
-The Romantic hero is very isolated from the rational world —> turns away from the
elite, saloon, republic of letters world - someone who is outside of the mainstream, not
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satisfied with simple explanations, but someone who wants to explore the deeper
emotions and mysteries of life
-turns to the source that they believe has been ignored throughout Western History -
the common knowledge of the peasants - it is in the Romantic era that we get the
obsession with the folklore, folk language, folk culture, etc.
-the notion that this is more real than any source of intellectual wisdom is a major
theme in Romantic poetry, art, literature (influences Russia in many different
ways)
-Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) - was a romantic, both in poetry and in life - born
into the Nobility, his mother side of the family was descended from an Ethiopian
prince (his African background got to an exotic core of him that he felt explained who
he was as a poet), was trained in the most elite educational institutions, the idea that
Russian do not know their own history was a scandal, was spared from taking part in
the Decembrist movement because he was already exiled by the secret police for his
poems
-His poems have similar themes to Shelley - the poet who dies too young, the
desire to pierce the ordinary and get to the extraordinary, etc.
-His most famous character was Eugene Onegin (1833) - he is a version of the
Romantic hero that is so familiar to the Europeans —> he is the man who is
alienated from the pleasures of life, lives a dark/gloomy, lonely existence outside the
social mainstream
-He is a product of the reforms of Peter the Great - he is the ideal form of the
Western Russian
-He is also a product of the Enlightenment and of Westernization - knows French
and Latin
-Like Pushkin, He is a partier, gambler, etc. —> however, what he fails to realize
that his life is completely empty, Westernization means nothing, it does not give
him substance, it does not give him rootedness —> it gives nothing (no ethnics,
no morals, no understanding of life) - he ruins the lives of many people
-He was the first example of the Russian Romantic hero
-Onegin is a criticism of Russian society, its superficialism and Westernization
-is a product of increasing Westernized nobility who had nothing to show for their
education
-The fail Decembrist movement was proof that the Nobility were wasting their
talents - noblemen take out their frustrations in a luxurious lifestyle or kill their
best friends in duels
A. Hegel – The Philosopher-Prophet
-The hottest thing to come out of Germany was Hegel at the turn of the century
-The fashion had turned away from the French philosophers and turned to the German
world
-People thought that he had really grasped human history
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