Seminar theme

For those following Western media coverage, Russia might seem to be both a strange and dangerous neighbour. Russian culture, the people and its leaders are portrayed simplistically in reports offering little insight. An awareness of Russian history, politics and mentality is often absent. This issue of «Arr: The Norwegian Journal of the History of Ideas» is an attempt to nuance shallow caricatures and to understand Russia better. Our aim is to collect articles on Russian history of ideas that shed light on the historic relations between Russia and the West, or that analyse today’s Russian self-understanding and patterns of conduct.

Russia has a rich history, but one that many of us and our readers know embarrassingly little about. Vikings travelled East in the 9th century, and there has been contact over the Northern Cap for centuries. The grand princes of Moscow picked up the Tsar-title after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Peter the Great moved his capitol to the Baltic Sea and modernized Russia, inspired by the West. We seek background articles on Russia’s Pre-Soviet history.

From the Russian revolution to the end of the Cold war; for decades the Soviet Union was both a military antagonist and inspiration for those dreaming of a different political future for the West. Of interest for this issue are analyses within the history of ideas of topics such as the Soviet Union, Soviet inspired groups in the West, the geopolitical dynamics of the Cold War and the parties’ conceptions of each other.

In the 1990s one could easily get the impression that the Western, liberal model of society had won once and for all, and that Russia would gravitate steadily towards the West. Today, however, Russia appears to be creating its own model of society, one with what we would call illiberal features. There is a new alliance with the Russian orthodox church, and there are early attempts at shaping a new Eurasian ideology. We are curious as to how such changes should be interpreted and understood, and how they in fact are politically, culturally and ideologically legitimized. What is the Russian project of today, and what popular ideas underpin it?