This session from Academia Rossica’s SLOVO Festival attracted me with the promise of a new interpretation of history through literature.
In fact, it was more philosophy than literature that was pressed into service, and the main points as I understood them were something like the following:
i) Russian history is dominated by the idea of Russia as the last kingdom (third Rome), after which the world will come to an end;
ii) the idea, attributed to Nikolai Krylov, that if Jesus is not going to come again men will have to remake themselves;
iii) the need to recreate people who had already been, instead of breeding new ones;
iv) the Russian Revolution was entirely Russian, even though other nationalities provided wood to heat the Russian stove;
v) the Russian Revolution was a commentary on the Flood;
vi) the history of the Biblical nations is a commentary on the Bible, refracted through their national consciousness;
vii) in the case of Russia, this consciousness was formed in a period when peasants lived in small settlements of two or three households in the trackless pagan forest and when the priest visited at most every few years; this led to the extremism–in particular, extreme loneliness–of the Russian character;
viii) the schism in the Russian church in the 17th century had a fatal effect, as follows:
a) the bogolyubtsy felt that in a time when people were attending continued church services lasting days and nights and consuming only communion bread and wine, there was a possibility of complete purification and hence the Second Coming;
b) in fact, the teachings of the Old Believers about the state of removal from grace of church and Tsardom penetrated popular consciousness so that in the Civil War the military professionals of the White Army had been unable to prevail over the Bolsheviks.
All of which sounds like Hegelianism in one country to me.