Russia and the Realist Response: Turgenev
The Russian Realists, no less than their western counterparts, acknowledged society as a regnant shaping influence in a determinist world. Those who travelled in the West not only saw social change in full spate, but had daily proof, exhilarating, saddening or amusing, that the ethos of western society was very different from that of Russia. Few could doubt the familiar commonplace that different societies fashioned different men. The ‘Westerners’ among them, however, such as Turgenev, believed that Russia’s destiny lay precisely in this shifting foreign terrain that was being laid bare of belief by the secular West wind of rationalist thought and material progress. And although part of Turgenev’s sensibilities felt a nostalgic regret that this was so, he and his colleagues regarded the change as not only inevitable but desirable. The Slavophils, on the other hand, both feared and despised the growing materialism of western culture, and hoped that Russia could fashion her own future along the lines that her traditions had already established. Like Balzac in the 1840s, they looked to the old cohesive forces of an established religion and a deep-rooted paternalistic monarchy.
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