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October 26, 2004 by AK

Landmarks

Two years after the end of the first, failed Russian revolution, a group of Russian intellectuals published a collection of articles under the title Vekhi (Landmarks), which focused primarily on the Russian intelligentsia’s part in the 1905–1907 Revolution, the Russian revolutionary movement and Russian society in general. Of the contributors, Sergei Bulgakov (who was probably the first to point out Marx’s status as a religious figure), Semyon Frank and Nikolai Berdyaev were to become philosophers par excellence; Mikhail Gershenzon (Herschensohn?) was a major literary critic. However, the intelligentsia met Vekhi with irritation and preferred to brush it off: a group of disgruntled intelligenty published a somewhat insipid response, The Intelligentsia and the Revolution.

I first read some of the Vekhi articles between ten and fifteen years ago, but it was only while rereading the collection last summer that its prescience struck me — as well as its relevance to our time. The smartest dissectors of extremism and pro-extremism liberalism, like Lee Harris, would probably find some of their dearest conclusions forestalled. I’d especially like to quote The Ethics of Nihilism by Frank — just not now.


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