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Irresolute Reformers ? Westernizers under Nicholaevan Regime (1825-1855) A Case Study on I. S. Turgenev (1818-1883

This paper aims to reconsider the concept of Narodnost’ (1) and re-interpret its effects on Russian aristocratic society since this concept affects not only the issue of serfdom in Imperial Russia, but also the issue of Slavic unity or concept of Slavdom, which may have a prominent influence on the development of Russianness and even the ideology of USSR.

Under Russian Empire, Aristocrats in general had two parallel identities— identity of serving as officials and of serving as landed intellectuals.

Since efforts on modernization by Peter the Great, aristocracy in Russia was also described as an incorporated unity, serving the Russian Empire and consolidating connections between the Empire and serfdom. Nevertheless, this condition was challenged by the foreign conception of anti-autocratic reforms emanated from French Revolution of 1789.

Concept of nationality, one of its prominent effects, had been fermenting all over the Empire and accidentally contributed to the aristocratic revolt, Decembrist Revolt of 1825. An incessant debate had been strengthened and unveiled within aristocracy—where shall Russia go, East or West ?

During 1830s, some young intellectuals of upper class, who could generally termed as Westernizers, went abroad and studied「progressive」thoughts from Western Europe, including Hegelian philosophy or philosophical thoughts by Ludwig Feuerbach or by other young Hegelians. In the meantime, another group of young intellectuals, notably known as Slavophiles, gradually realized the importance of vernacular (Russian) culture.

There were subtle relationships between both sides, Westernizers and Slavophiles, since they were neither real opponents nor genuine compatriots. In addition, there were many different literary circles between them, advocating variant literary or philosophical thoughts.

During 1840s, as these aristocrats grew elder, these intellectuals further developed the concept of Narodnost’, which seemed to be different from the governmental ideology, official nationality by Count Sergey Uvarov implemented since 1833.

Briefly speaking, reactions towards the concept of nationality varied from aristocrats to aristocrats. Westernizers inclined to re-interpret nationality as a sign of modernity ; but Slavophiles mainly re-interpreted it as a rise of indigenous Russian-ness. In addition, reactions from aristocratic officials could be in another interpretation.

Thus it is my intention to focus on an aristocrat, I. Turgenev, who was partial to Westernism and who was also well-known in that period of time all over the Europe. Through analyzing his relationships with other aristocrats and officials, it is my aim to further interweave the complicacy of concepts of both nationality and Narodnost’ within aristocracy under Nicholaevan Regime.

1 Narodnost’ can roughly translated into nationality ; however, I am using Narodnost’ emphasizing nationality in the context of Russian culture

 
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