Studies in East European Thought 62 (3-4):315-329 (2010)

This article examines the development of the concept of a "special path " in societies that have experienced problems with their self-identity. Western European intellectuals who needed an "other" in the construction and definition of their own cultural and geographical space in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries played an important role in shaping the understanding of a Russian "special path." The "Russian chaos" they postulated was contrasted to "Western" rationalism and order and Eastern "slavery" was seen as a counter position to the "Western" demands regarding human dignity. With the coming of an era of nationalism in Russia, many of these ideas were adopted by Russian intellectuals and laid a foundation for their own work toward the formation of a national identity. Orthodoxy, autocracy, Narodnosf and communal traditionalism were seen as the only alternatives to the modern West. The Russian " Westernizers " were captivated by the idea of a "special path " as much as the " Slavophiles " and saw this path through the prism of uniquely refracted concepts of "Orthodoxy, autocracy and Narodnosf". The author considers the concept of the 'special path ' not only as a means of forming group identity, but also as a type of social search within the boundaries of the dominant paradigm. Russian intellectuals claiming Russian 'uniqueness' today, as two centuries ago, are doing so, to a very considerable degree, as a result of western intellectualism.
Keywords Nationalism  “Special path”  Messianism  The Other  Industrial society  Westernizers and Slavophiles  Romanticism  Enlightenment
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DOI 10.1007/s11212-010-9118-7
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