Between Eurasianism and Nationalism – Reshaping Russian identity in the Soviet intellectual milieu of the 1980s


RACYN Michal

Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Vadim Valerianovich Kozhinov (1930–2001) belongs among well-known scholars of soviet literary theory and criticism. Yet Kozhinov also stood at the forefront of the new wave of Russian nationalist movement, which took shape in the mid-1950s. In the following decades, this movement attracted some prominent soviet intellectuals and gained significant attention from the official regime. As an academician, Kozhinov itself participated in the movement since the 1960s. However, in the early 1980s, he focused his attention on more elaborated publicist writing in which he issued questions of Russian ethnic nationalism in a much broader political and cultural context. Lev Nikolayevich Gumilev (1912–1992) is a well-known soviet historian and ethnologist. Although his official academic career began only in the late 1950s and his texts remained mainly unnoticed for several decades, by the end of the 1980s, Gumilev quickly gained the position of an established academician who resurrected the ideology of the inter-war Eurasianist movement for the new generation of Soviet and post-soviet intellectuals. This paper analyzes V. V. Kozhinov's and L. N. Gumilev's thoughts related to Russian ethnic nationalism and Eurasianism published during the 1980s. In the case of Kozhinov, primary attention is focused on his publicist text ? ??????? ???? ???? ????? ? ??? ????... where he presented his revision of Russian national identity and reflected Gumilev's alleged Eurasianist concepts initially published in 1980 on the 600th anniversary of the Kulikovo battle. Mentioned primary texts are supplemented by the archival documents located in Prague (Slavonic Library) and Saint Petersburg (Anna Akhmatova Museum). These materials are represented by personal correspondence between L. N. Gumilev and two leading figures of inter-war Eurasianism: geographer P. N. Savitsky and historian G. V. Vernadsky. I argue that in the case of L. N. Gumilev's writings, there was a significant radicalization of some fundamental concepts of the original inter-war Eurasianism. Moreover, by reflecting Gumilev's historiographical revisions, V. V. Kozhinov intentionally narrowed these ideas to recontextualize Russian ethnic nationalism in a realm of the official soviet regime. This new attempt to reshape the foundation of Russian identity and ethnicity soon gained many ambivalent reactions. Indeed, on the one side, Kozhinov's nationalism combined with alleged Eurasianist concepts represented a possible way out of the problematic and non-functional soviet multinational approach. On the other side, these ideas could also potentially jeopardize Russian identity and threaten its core values. Despite all the ambiguity, mentioned discussions eventually led to several significant outcomes. Firstly, it helped anchor misleading artificial continuity between inter-war Eurasianism and L. N. Gumilev's thoughts. Secondly, it further blurred the already abstruse line between Eurasianism and Russian ethnic nationalism. Moreover, this recontextualization and subsequent rapprochement of Eurasianism and nationalism escalated in parallel with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Consequently, it also significantly affected the following academic research on this topic.
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