IS RUSSIA A TRUE NATION? ROMANTIC DISPUTES OVER INTERPRETING THE RUSSIAN IDEA OF NATION AND STATE
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In the first half of the 19th century, one can distinguish two main topics in the wealth of reflections on the Russian idea of nation and state. The first topic refers to an earlier period and concerns the origins of Russians, discussing whether they are Slav or Asiatic. Some Romantic writers believed that Russians had Asiatic roots in their character and civilization. They saw Russia always in Asia, and separated it from Europe, to which it apparently constituted a permanent threat. For some others, Russia belonged to the Slav community, and - despite a distinct system of rule and values - no one could doubt that Russia's place was always in Europe. The second topic refers to a debate over whether Russia was a nation in the Romantic sense (as a moral community of thought, feelings, purpose), or was just an artificial creation. Here opinions also differed. One can distinguish two main approaches, with a couple of derivative, slightly distinct varieties. Accordingly, the first view was that Russia was not a nation, but an artificial conglomerate, ruled by despotic sovereigns, and without any dominant idea. On the contrary, the other interpretation holds that Russia is a nation, although still dormant, or that it differs from other European communities in that it once accepted despotic rule and thus developed in a different way.
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