(Russian ) Intelligentsia (俄羅斯知識人)
The intelligentsia were a social stratum consisting of people professionally engaged in intellectual work and in the development and spread of culture.
The term intelligentsia was introduced into the Russian language by the minor writer Boborykin in the 1860s and it soon became widely used. According to Martin Malia, the word intelligentsia has had two primary overlapping uses: either all people who think independently, whom the Russian literary critic Dmitry Pisarev called "critically thinking realists," or the more narrow meaning, "the intellectuals of the opposition, whether revolutionary or not." However, the second definition, which is often found in historical literature, is too narrow and unjustifiably excludes important thinkers, philosophers, writers, public figures, and political rulers. For example, the famous Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdiaev called Tsar Alexander I "a Russian intelligent on the throne." Thus one may consider as intelligentsia well-educated and critical-thinking people of all political spectrums of society, not just radicals and liberals.
The Intelligentsia in the Russian Empire
Historians have different opinions about the time of the appearance of the Russian intelligentsia as a historical phenomenon. Some of them consider people who were opposed to the Russian political regime since the end of the eighteenth century as intelligentsia. According to this chronology the first representatives of Russian intelligentsia were writers Alexander Radischev and Nikolai Novikov, who protested against serfdom and the existing regime, as well as the first Russian revolutionaries, the Decembrists. They were either separated individuals or small groups of people without significant influence on Russian society. Their ideas foreshadowed important future intellectual trends. Because of this, most historians considered them as a protointelligentsia.
In the 1830s - 1850s philosophical debates largely divided Russian intellectuals into Westernizers and Slavophiles, in line with their opinion about how Russian society should develop. Westernizers advocated a West European way for the development of Russia, while Slavophiles insisted on Russian historical uniqueness. Both these groups of Russian proto-intelligentsia had their distinguished representatives. The most famous Slavophiles were the writers Ivan and Konstantine Aksakov and the thinkers Ivan Kiryevsky and Alexsei Khomiyakov. The most distinguished Westernizers of this time were Peter Chaadayev and writer and radical publicist Alexander Herzen. Since there was strict censorship in Russia, Herzen established the Russian publishing house "Free Russian Press" in London in 1852, where he published the journal Kolokol (The Bell).
The most radical faction of Russian intellectuals began to adopt Western socialist ideas at this time. Among the famous radical intelligentsia were publicist Vissarion Belinsky, anarchist Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin, and the radical Mikhail Petrashevsky's circle, which discussed the necessity of the abolition of serfdom in Russia and reform of the Russian monarchy in a democratic, federal republic.
The circle of Russian intellectuals remained very small before the 1860s. Higher education was available only to the noble elite of society; consequently most of the Russian proto-intelligentsia was from the gentry.
The majority of western historians agree that the Russian intelligentsia appeared as an actual social stratum in the 1860s. There were several reasons for its appearance, among them the period of Great Reforms in Russia under Tsar Alexander II with the liquidation of serfdom, liberalization of society, and awakening of public opinion. Also, the development of capitalism in Russia and the beginning of industrialization demanded more educated people. At this time the technical intelligentsia appeared in Russia, while education became more widespread among the population.
In the 1860s there appeared a current among Russian intelligentsia called "nihilism" (from the Latin nihil meaning reject). Some historians believe that nihilism was a reaction of part of Russian society to the failure of the government in the Crimean War. The term nihilism was popularized by the Russian author Ivan Turgenev in his novel Fathers and Sons in 1862, where he described the conflict between two generations. Historian Philip Pomper wrote: the "Nihilist denied not only traditional roles of women but also the family, private property, religion, art - in a word, all traditional aspects of culture and society."
According to Pomper the doctrinal bases of Russian nihilism were materialism, utilitarianism, and scientism. The most famous writers and literary critics, who more or less shared nihilistic ideas, were Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Nikolai Dobrolubov, and Dmitry Pisarev.
Populism became the ideology of a large segment of the Russian intelligentsia in the 1870s - 1880s. This was a reaction to the nihilist's rationalistic elitism on one side, and the continuation of the ideas of the Slavophiles on the other. Populists had great sympathy for the suffering peasant masses and, like Slavophiles, they believed in the uniqueness of the Russian peasant commune and saw in it the germ of the future socialist society. They created the movement "Going to the people." The many admirers of this movement lived among peasants, attempting to educate them and spread their ideas about a future just society. Peasants usually looked suspiciously at these intelligent agitators from the cities and sometimes physically attacked them.
When "Going to the people" failed, Russian populists rejected this tactic and instead created several secret societies to struggle against the government. One of these groups of Russian radical intelligentsia, Zemlya i Volya, was established in Petersburg in 1876. In 1878 this organization split into two parts. Extreme members founded the new group Narodnaya Volya that chose political terror as their primary tactic. In 1881 members of Narodnaya Volya assassinated Tsar Alexander II. Moderate members of Zemlya i Volya founded Chernyi Peredel, which continued anti-government agitation. The most noted member of Chernyi Peredel was the future Marxist Georgy Plekhanov.
Marxism and other socialist movements became popular in Russia in the 1890s with the development of industry and the rise in the number of industrial workers. The first Marxist and socialist groups in Russia were composed almost entirely of intellectuals. The writings of Karl Marx and the other ideologists of socialism were too complicated for comprehension by barely literate workers. The Russian radical intelligentsia took on the mission of spreading these socialist ideas among the proletariat. Their motivation was similar to their radical predecessors of the 1860s: the search for social justice and dreams about equality for all members of society. But unlike in earlier times, these political groups transformed into large political parties with well-formed programs of political struggle against the government. Among these political parties were the Russian Social-Democratic Party that split in 1903 into the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries, various anarchist groups, etc. These political parties used a variety of methods to struggle against the government: from political agitation and propaganda to terror, organization of political strikes, and attempts to overthrow the government. Members of these parties were from disparate sections of society, but Russian radical intelligentsia led all of these groups.
These political movements had support in their struggle with the existing regime from the movements of national minorities in the Russian empire. The best representatives of the Ukrainian and Polish intelligentsia were persecuted by the tsarist regime for expression of their national feelings and calling for the independence of their nations. Thus the celebrated Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko was sent by order of Tsar Nicolas I to a ten-year term in a labor battalion in Siberia "under the strictest supervision" and was forbidden to write and sketch. Use of the Ukrainian language was forbidden several times in the Russian empire. Russian governments severely suppressed Polish uprisings and sent thousands of people who participated in them to exile in Siberia.
Jews were the most oppressed group in the Russian empire. Their restriction to the Pale of Settlement, the "percentage norm" (i.e., limitation on numbers admitted) in Russian universities and gymnasiums for Jewish students, and the policy of state anti-Semitism made the life of the Jewish intelligentsia miserable in the empire. Revolutionary and nationalist moods were widely spread among the Jewish intelligentsia. Thus Jews comprised a percentage of revolutionaries far higher than the proportion of Jews in the Russian population.
Conservatives in the Russian intelligentsia always opposed Russian radicals and revolutionaries. Russian conservatives did not create their political parties until the beginning of the twentieth century. They usually supported the Russian monarchy and government, and expressed their ideas in philosophical and literary works, and in the Russian conservative press. Among them were famous thinkers (Konstantin Leontiev), writers (Feodor Dostoyevsky), and publicists (Mikhail Katkov, Vasily Shulgin). All of them warned Russian society about the danger of the socialists' ideas and the impending revolution. Their ideas were shared by a significant part of the Russian intelligentsia.
After the first Russian revolution in 1905 the volume of essays Vekhi (Landmarks, 1909) argued against the revolutionary inclinations of the Russian intelligentsia. Among the authors was a group of famous Russian religious philosophers and publicists (philosophers Nicolai Berdiaev, Sergei Bulgakov, publicist Peter Struve, and others). Some of the authors of this book were former socialists and Marxists who were greatly disillusioned after the first Russian revolution. Vekhi was one of the most famous books in Russia in the early 1900s, it was reprinted five times during its first year.
The Liberal movement appeared comparatively late among the Russian intelligentsia, on the eve of the First Russian Revolution of 1905. During the First Russian Revolution, Russian liberals created the Constitutional Democratic Party (Cadets), with the goal of transforming the absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. The ideas of liberalism were not widely spread among the Russian population; thus the Constitutional Democratic Party never had a large influence on political events in the country. The Constitutional Democratic Party was often called the party of Russian intelligentsia, because they dominated the party, although intelligentsia led most political parties and movements in Russia.
The Russian intelligentsia was responsible for what is arguably the greatest achievement of Russian culture: Russian literature. The majority of Russian writers, artists, scholars, and scientists lived a quiet everyday life and pursued their aesthetic, scholarly, and scientific tasks. The apolitical Russian intelligentsia believed that literature and art should have only aesthetic goals. These ideas were shared by many celebrated writers, poets, and artists of the Silver Age of the Russian culture (at the beginning of the twentieth century).
A large part of the intelligentsia greeted the February revolution as an attempt at the liberalization of the country. Many of them favored the provisional government. However, at the time of the October revolution only an insignificant minority of the Russian intelligentsia supported the Bolsheviks.
The Intelligentsia in the Soviet Union
The Russian intelligentsia felt responsible for the future of the country, and some of them had the naïve illusion that they could persuade the Bolshevik leaders to stop terror. However, such attempts by the Russian writers Maxim Gorky and Vladimir Korolenko, who appealed personally to the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, were unsuccessful. Bolsheviks did not forgive the counter-revolutionary mood of the intelligentsia and soon began repression against it. One of the first victims was the famous poet of the Silver Age of Russian culture Nikolai Gumilev. In 1921 he was accused of conspiracy against the Soviet regime and was executed. Many of the intelligentsia emigrated from Russia after the October revolution. The elite of the Russian intelligentsia, including famous philosophers (among them was an author of Vekhi, Nicolai Berdiaev) and writers, were expelled from the country by the order of the Bolshevik leaders in the fall of 1922.
The Bolsheviks attempted to spread Marxist ideology among the entire population and to control the development of culture in the Soviet Union. They declared war on illiteracy. Thousands of new schools were opened in the Soviet Union, and education became obligatory. The children of peasants and workers received the right to enter technical schools and universities. In contrast members of formerly rich bourgeois families were deprived of many rights, and the Soviet universities were very reluctant to accept them. The educational system in the Soviet Union was under the absolute control of the Communist Party, and communist ideology was the core of the educational curriculum.
The majority of the new Soviet intelligentsia consisted of technically trained personnel who, according to Richard Pipes, had " mere nodding acquaintance with the liberal arts, once considered the essence of a higher education." Thus Pipes characterized these people as semi-intelligentsia or "white collar." However, people educated in this way were most devoted to the political system. They did not know any other ideology beside the Communist. The Soviet government exterminated all other sources of knowledge except the apolitical and pro-Soviet. Many authors and books, and all press except the Bolsheviks', were forbidden in the Soviet Union. All publications appeared only after approval under strict Soviet censorship. In literature, the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), with its dogmatic party approach controlled all works of Soviet writers. The communications of Soviet citizens with foreigners was severely restricted. Thus was created the Soviet intelligentsia, completely devoted to the communist regime.
Soviet propaganda even influenced the minds of some Russian emigrants. Among the Russian emigrant intelligentsia there appeared a movement called "left-wing Smenovekhism." Members of this movement criticized the authors of Vekhi for " their inability to accept the great Russian Revolution." The authors of the volume of essays Smena Vekh (Change Landmarks) proclaimed their pro-Soviet position.
During Josef Stalin's regime many thousands of intelligentsia became the innocent victims of political repression. Only a small percentage of them dared to resist the regime. Most of the repressed intelligentsia were loyal to the Soviet system. Among them were talented writers (Boris Pil'niak, Isaac Babel), poets (Osip Mandelshtam), scientists, and scholars. Others, such as the poet Marina Tsvetaeva, were pushed to commit suicide.
Nevertheless, the Communist government needed the creators of weapons and ideologies, as well as musicians and artists. Thus in the Soviet Union there always existed an intellectual elite that made distinguished achievements in many areas of scientific and scholarly life, and in art and culture. The other part of the Soviet intelligentsia actively collaborated with the state in the hope of promoting their careers, with the expectation of receiving some state privileges. Thus at the same time, when some Soviet writers, poets, artists, and musicians created masterpieces, others created works devoted to the Soviet political leaders. Huge portraits of Stalin and Lenin decorated every state office and their statues were erected in each city.
Some change in the political climate appeared after the secret speech of Nikita Khrushchev to the twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1956) about the crimes of Stalin's regime. The time from this speech through the first part of the 1960s was called the period of cultural "Thaw." At that time political executions were stopped, and the intelligentsia felt freer to express their ideas and feelings. During this period many political prisoners were released, including many intellectuals. The Thaw brought a new approach to culture and art, which became more humane. During these years many masterpieces of Russian literature were published, many of them devoted to the recent past: Stalin's repression and World WarII. Among these works was One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the poetry of Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak, and Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. However, the treatment of Pasternak in the Soviet Union was appalling and hastened his death. Thus Khrushchev's cultural policy was contradictory: he united some cultural liberalization with the continuation of some repression. During the cultural Thaw the Communist Party did not release culture from ideological control, but only extended the limits on the creativity of the intelligentsia.
The period of Leonid Brezhnev's leadership (1964 - 1982) was a time of political and cultural stagnation. Stalin and his policies were somewhat rehabilitated, which led to increased repression against the intelligentsia. In 1965 two writers, Andrey Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, were arrested for publishing satirical works in the West. But the Soviet intelligentsia were not completely silent as in the past. Prominent intellectuals protested against the arrest of Sinyavsky and Daniel. The period of Thaw, with the humanization of the society and the rethinking of the recent historical past, changed the social atmosphere in the Soviet Union. Soviet intellectuals began the dissident and "human rights" movements. They avoided state censorship by samizdat (self-publishing) printings that gave freedom of self-expression to their authors. The Soviet regime did not surrender its ideological positions and continued the persecution of nonconformist intellectuals. In 1974 the famous writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was forcibly deported from the Soviet Union. In 1980 the hydrogen bomb physicist and progressive thinker Andrei Sakharov was sent to internal exile to Gorky. These people who participated in the dissident and Human rights movements were the forerunners of glasnost and the transformation of the communist regime into a democratic society.
Mikhail Gorbachev began his leadership in 1985 with an initiative for "democratization of social and economic life." He did not want to under-mine the communist regime, but intended to improve it and make it more effective. However, the liberalization of society and diminishing of the censorship opened the press and mass media for political discussions and public exposure of historical reality. In a short time this changed public opinion, social values, and the attitude of the majority of the society against the communist regime. After a long break the intelligentsia had revived their influence on public opinion. The former dissidents Andrey Sakharov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and hundreds of others returned from emigration, exile, and prisons to lead movements opposing the communists. All these processes, combined with the economic crisis, undermined the communist government. The Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991 with the intelligentsia playing an important role in the destruction of the Soviet empire.
The post-Soviet years, however, have not become years of the flourishing of arts and sciences in the former Soviet states. In most of the new countries the intelligentsia have received freedom of expression, but have lost almost all government financial support. The new post-Soviet states are unable to adequately finance scientific projects and development of culture and art. Many intellectuals have lost their jobs, and some emigrated from the former Soviet states to the West in the 1990s. The future of the intelligentsia in the post-Soviet countries depends entirely upon political and economic developments.
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