THE RUSSIA-WEST DILEMMA. TYPICAL ATTITUDES OF INTELLIGENTSIA TOWARDS PEASANTS IN THE 19th CENTURY
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The Russian intelligentsia of the 19th century emerged as a result of Russo-Western confrontation. Dilemmas connected with the process of self-identication, of Russia as a country and of the intelligentsia as a new social group, focused in the intelligentsia's attitude towards peasants. The Decembrists wanted to give the way to the values that later were defined by Peter Chaadaev as fundamental for the Western culture: law, justice, obligation and order. Their heritage included an important question: how to make a peasant free avoiding bloodshed. In the occidentalists' thought masses were used as a tool in the process of individuation, understood as breaking the traditional, collective and, at the same time, patriarchal social model. Herzen's theory of 'Russian socialism' was an answer to the question posed by decembrism. The theory included the most clandestine dreams of the Russian intelligentsia: the desire to be free, the wish to regain roots and to find justification for undertaking the mission 'to save' Europe. Slavophiles created a utopia to prove that it was possible to combine freedom with the mentality of the Russian peasant. Besides, the thinkers portrayed the masses as a storehouse for Christian virtues and used it as a tool to negatively define the West. In the second half of the 19th century the intelligentsia differentiated. The most powerful utopia about the Russian peasant was created by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The writer-prophet portrayed the peasants as the opposite to the revolutionary intelligentsia. He did not notice, however, that they both were two sides of the same coin - a force forwarded against the stratum of nobility as the land owners and cultivators of culture. Moreover, they were characterized by the same features: hatred of European culture, inability to create real welfare, justice conceived as the collective sharing of goods, and lack of responsibility. The revolutions of 1905 and 1917 were the end of the intelligentsia which reflected the 'split' in its own Russian culture. In an effort to absorb both its own and foreign cultural elements it existed on the border of two systems and did not belong to neither of them.
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