The Role of “Europe” in Russian Nationalism: Reinterpreting the Relationship between Russia and the West in Slavophile Thought

  • Susanna Rabow-Edling


Western analysts have commonly found Russia to be exceptional and unlike the West. In fact, their arguments are quite similar to Russian nationalists’ claims for national uniqueness. Both find the explanation for Russia’s otherness in her own distinctive culture that has been formed in separation from the development of Western culture. In the standard account, there are primarily two historical factors that justify Russia’s specific development: the reception of Christianity from Byzantium and the Mongol invasion. The impact of these events led Russia away from Western individualism toward an acceptance of Eastern absolutism. Samuel Huntington presents the most provocative argument for cultural difference based on religion. He argues that Russia is the core country of a separate civilization, “carrying and protecting a culture of Eastern Orthodoxy” and that “Europe ends where Western Christianity ends and … Orthodoxy begin[s].”1 Rchard Pipes employs a political argument for Russia’s difference. He claims that what distinguishes Western types of government from non-Western ones, is the existence of a distinction between political power and private property. In Russia, these institutions were never clearly separated, something he claims accounts for the difficulties in restraining absolutism there.2


Western Culture National Culture European Culture Russian Philosophy Russian Culture 
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© Susan P. McCaffray and Michael Melancon 2005

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  • Susanna Rabow-Edling

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