The Russia Program at GW Online Papers, no. 9, october 2023

The “Special Path”

of Russian State-Civilization:

The Genealogy of Vladimir Putin’s Geopolitical Metaphor

Igor Torbakov


It has long been noted that when public figures and politicians start talking obsessively about their country’s great “originality,” “special path,” or “unique mission in the world,” it is a sure sign they are facing mounting problems with forging a modern democratic polity, civic nation, and respectable international identity. Contemporary Russia is a case in point. Its new foreign policy doctrine, signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on March 31, 2023, is a truly remarkable document, as it has for the first time declared at the highest official level Russia’s civilizational uniqueness.

Extolling Russia’s glorious “1,000-year-long history,” the strategic blueprint claims for Moscow a “historically unique mission” of “maintaining the global balance of power” and defines “Russia’s special position [in the world] as a unique state-civilization…that brings together the Russian people and other peoples belonging to the cultural and civilizational community of the Russian World.”1 Never before had the Russian leadership officially stated that Russia is a sui generis civilization. True, Catherine the Great, known for her occasional arrogance, was reported to have once said that “Russia itself is the [whole] universe and it doesn’t need anyone,” though the empress was quick to qualify her statement, adding that “Russia is a European country.” However, these days the Russian elites appear ready to cut their country loose from its European moorings. “The old strategy, beginning with Peter the Great, to Europeanize the country and take its place in that world, is no longer relevant,” contends Dmitri Trenin, one of Russia’s leading foreign policy experts.2

This radical “civilizational” reorientation is of course the direct result of the war Russia unleashed against Ukraine and of the Western democracies’ resolute and united response to that war. Yet Russia’s military aggression, driven by the Kremlin’s nationalistic obsession with Ukraine, is in itself a manifestation of post-imperial Russia’s deep identity crisis. More the 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, four key issues remain unresolved: where do the boundaries of the Russian political nation lie? Are Russians capable of building a truly democratic polity, or are they “historically” destined to be ruled by authoritarian leaders? Is Russia a federation (as it is characterized in its Constitution) or is it a quasi-imperial entity? What is the ultimate objective of Russia’s historical development?

The Kremlin leadership will not give clear and straightforward answers to these questions. Instead, it obfuscates the real problems, setting forth the ideas about Russia’s “unique civilization” and “special path” while claiming that the “West” is in terminal decline and on its last legs. The political implication of this rhetorical maneuver is not hard to fathom: there is no need for Russia to follow the “advanced” Western nations, as the latter are not out ahead of Russia but, on the contrary, have lost their way and found themselves at a “historical dead end.”

Yet the notion of a “special path” (or Sonderweg), like the trope of the West’s decline, has a long intellectual pedigree.
Looking at the similarities and dissimilarities between Deutscher Sonderweg and Russkii osoby put’ (special path) is instructive. The Germans who coined the term managed to reinterpret their complex historical experience, turning Sonderweg into a research method
– a useful historiographical tool that proved especially handy in the field of comparative studies. Most Russians, however, continue to view their historical experience as “unique,” eagerly embracing the idea of a “special path” as the basis for self-identification and self-understanding.3
Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan by Ilya Repin, Tretyakov Gallery (1885).
Source: Wiki Commons
Romantic Nationalism and the Birth of the Sonderweg Idea

In his last letter to Pyotr Chaadaev from October 19, 1836, Alexander Pushkin, while critiquing his friend’s idiosyncratic view of Russia’s past, posed an intriguing question about how a “future historian” would see 19th century Russia: croyez-vous qu’il nous mettra hors l’Europe? (do you think that he will place us outside Europe?).4 Pushkin, a consummate European who corresponded with Chaadaev exclusively in French, appeared to have been somewhat apprehensive about future historians characterizing Russia as a non-European country. Little did he know that statements advancing the thesis of Russia’s “special path” and proclaiming Europe “rotten,” “decrepit” and even “dying” would come from much closer quarters. Mortally wounded in a fateful duel in 1837, Pushkin did not witness the beginning of the grand debate on Russia’s identity, the distinctive features of its historical development, and its relation to Europe that was unleashed by the publication of Chaadaev’s first “Philosophical Letter” – a debate that is still ongoing. It was not a future historian but another great 19th-century Russian poet, Fyodor Tyutchev, four years Pushkin’s junior, who coined a paradigmatic formulation about Russia’s samobytnost’ (originality): “no ordinary yardstick can span her greatness: she stands alone, unique…”5

But how original were Tyutchev’s historiosophical musings about Russia’s originality? As a Russian diplomat, Tyutchev spent more than 20 years abroad, mostly in Germany (at the Bavarian court in Munich), where he came under the strong influence of the German Romantic movement – a cultural phenomenon that was instrumental for the emergence of the idea of Germany’s Sonderweg. In the course of the wars of liberation against Napoleon, German national consciousness and collective identity took shape, in contradistinction to those of the French.

In parallel, a number of influential German intellectuals put forth an idea about Germany’s (Germany was at that time an assemblage of the scores of German states) special socio-political development being distinct from other (Western) European countries such as England and France. According to Leopold von Ranke, German history is unique: “each nation has a particular spirit, breathed in [into it] by God, through which it is what it is and which its duty is to develop.” Moreover, not only is German history unique but it “is the most important” because the German nation was “the mother” of the rest.6 Enthused about the founding of the new Reich in 1871 and proud of Imperial Germany’s economic power, many German historians and political thinkers came to believe that there did exist a “positive German way.” They would readily contrast Germany’s strong bureaucratic state, reform from above, public service ethos, and famed Kultur to the “Western” laissez-faire, revolution, parliamentarianism, plutocracy, and Zivilisation.

Not unlike their German counterparts, Tyutchev and other young Russian nobles (who would soon become known by the initially mocking moniker of Slavophiles) saw a huge upsurge of Russian national feeling following Russia’s victory over Napoleonic France. “National reaction was quickly turning into reactionary nationalism,” as Alexandre Koyré aptly put it.7 Against the backdrop of the epic battles of 1812-1815, the representatives of early Russian Romanticism found exceptionally appealing the idea elaborated by their German intellectual gurus – Herder, Fichte and the Schlegel brothers – that German exceptionalism and originality were based on a special type of culture, which could not be conquered by brute force. The triumphal entry of Russian troops into Paris seemed to have upended the customary cultural hierarchy. It was the defeated French who proved to be the true “barbarians,” while the Russians came out victorious due to their superior “national spirit,” rooted in the Russian language, historical traditions, and religious (Eastern Christian) values.

A Perennial Russian Debate

When the grand debate triggered by Chaadaev’s controversial publication kicked off in the late 1830s, it zeroed in on the two principal questions: should Russia be compared with Western nations or is it following its own unique historical trajectory and destined to fulfill a special mission in the world? Are Russian ways superior or inferior to Western ones? Notably, both representatives of Russian “official nationalism” and Russian Westernizers shared the view that Russia and Europe’s trajectories were basically identical. However, they sharply disagreed over the question of who was out in front of whom: St. Petersburg bureaucrats insisted on Russia’s superiority, while Westernizers argued that Russia was underdeveloped and lagging Europe. It was only the faithful disciples of German Romantic thinkers – Russian Slavophiles – who spoke in favor of Russian exceptionalism and produced what might be called the first interpretation of positive Russian Sonderweg.

Born in the heated discussions of the 1840s-1850s, the school of thought, which exalted Russia’s divergence from “Europe”/the “West,” has never disappeared from the country’s intellectual life. Based on cultural oppositions between Russia and the “West” – idealism vs. materialism, sobornost’ vs. individualism, selfless collective work vs. profit-obsessed capitalism, deep religious feeling vs. amoral cynicism – Slavophiles’ core ideas were developed by Neo-Slavophiles/Pan-Slavists in the 1870s-1880s (in particular, in Nikolai Danilevsky’s theory of “cultural-historical types”) and finally brought to fruition in the 1920s-1930s in the writings of Eurasianists. The latter, drawing on a plethora of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, built a complex theory at the heart of which was the vision of “Russia-Eurasia” as a unique world onto itself.

Two key aspects of Eurasianist political philosophy are especially noteworthy, as they appear to exert a strong influence on the political imagination of the present-day Kremlin. First, Eurasianists resolutely rejected the nation-state model, arguing that “Eurasia” is a geopolitical space destined for imperial rule: a Russian/Eurasian empire is a “historical necessity.” Second, Eurasianists contended that Western-style parliamentary democracy was an alien institution, since it was “culturally incompatible” with Russian/Eurasian political folkways. By contrast, they argued, the Eurasian political model is an “ideocracy” – an authoritarian, one-party state ruled by a tightknit, ideologically driven elite.

While Eurasianists were formulating their extravagant theories, they kept a close eye on events in the Soviet Union. There is no denying that Soviet policies and practices strongly influenced Eurasianist theorizing. So, what about Soviet communism? Should it not be analyzed through the Russian Sonderweg paradigm? What is the historical significance of the Soviet period (1917-1991) if we define it both in relation to European political practice and in relation to pre-revolutionary Russian political development? Soviet exceptionalism appears to be a tricky case. On the one hand, as Martin Malia perceptively noted, it “represents both maximal divergence from European norms and the great aberration in Russia’s own development.”8
Yet while departing from European ways in terms of practices and institutions, the Soviet Union was very much European in terms of ideology.
The combination of Marxist precepts and Russia’s peculiar socio-economic conditions (“backwardness”) was what ultimately shaped the Soviet experiment. Paradoxically, these European Far-Left ideological foundations of the Soviet state, some Russian émigré thinkers suggested, might even force dyed-in-the-wool Russian conservative nationalists – the champions of “Holy Russia” and critics of Western “godless materialism” – to reevaluate their anti-Western attitudes and embrace the “West” they were living in.

After the 1917 Revolution, the witty Georgy Adamovich noted that “the West and Russia seemed to have changed roles” – the renewed (communist) Russia “suddenly bypassed the West on the left,” abandoning its Christian vocation, whereas the West came to represent Christianity and Christian culture. “Very soon,” Adamovich wrote sarcastically, “we, with our Russian inclination toward extremes, would probably hear [Russian émigrés talking] about ‘West the God-bearer.’”9 Within the Soviet Union, however, the official position was that it represented a higher stage of universalcivilization, much superior to the “capitalist West.”

What is interesting is that even in the supposedly ideologically monolithic communist system, the old debate on Russia’s “uniqueness” and its relation to “Europe”/the “West” did not die out. After a series of earlier iterations – Slavophiles vs. Westernizers, Populists vs. Marxists, Eurasianists vs. Europeanists – it reemerged in the form of a vibrant discussion between those who supported the idea of “building socialism in one country” and the champions of “communist internationalism.” This discussion produced an intriguing paradox. Mikhail Pokrovsky, a leading Marxist historian, backed Stalin’s vision of “socialism with Soviet characteristics,” while Lev Trotsky called attention to the need to de-emphasize the idea of Russian historical peculiarity. The irony here was that when Pokrovsky was formulating his theory of merchant capitalism in the early 1910s, he was a staunch opponent of “Russian exceptionalism,” denying not only the existence of any significant Russian socio-economic samobytnost’ but even that of Russia’s backwardness vis-à-vis European nations. Trotsky, for his part, in his “German articles” in 1908-1909, emerged as a strong supporter of “Russian exceptionalism,” emphasizing Russia’s divergence from “Western” ways.

Evolution of the German Sonderweg Idea

At this point, it stands to look at what happened to the German Sonderweg in the 20th century. A positive variant of the Sonderweg thesis that had reached its mature form in the late 19th century managed to survive the upheavals of World War I and the collapse of the Second Reich and was still relatively popular during the short-lived Weimar era. However, it could not survive what Friedrich Meinecke famously called “die Deutsche Katastrophe” – the degeneration of the German state under Hitler. After 1945, a negative Sonderweg thesis was formulated by the new generation of German historians who set out to write the “biography” of an “unfortunate (unglückliche) nation” in order to answer the major, dramatic question of modern German history: “how was this… perhaps the deepest regression… into barbarism possible in a civilized society of the 20th century?”10 Focusing on the specific features of Germany’s social structure, nation- and state-building, political culture, and group interests, the new Sonderweg historiography sought to delineate the key problems and processes that had long prevented the development of liberal democracy in Germany and thus contributed to the rise of Nazism.

In the course of heated scholarly debates in the 1960s-1980s,
Sonderweg was transformed from a murky historiosophical notion into a methodological technique of a new historical sociology.
It was, German historians argued, a good example of successfully learning from defeat. Yet after 1989 – with the end of East Germany’s negative Sonderweg of communist authoritarianism, and with unified Germany firmly anchored in the European Union – the Sonderweg hypothesis appeared to have become passé. “No more Sonderwegs” – such was the call from Jürgen Kocka, a major figure in German postwar Sonderweg historiography. No longer “unique,” the German “way” is seen now as one of many different Sonderwege within the larger structure of European modernity.11
Eternal Russia by Ilya Glazunov (1988). Source: Wiki Commons
Russian Thinkers Grapple with the Issue of “Uniqueness”

The end of Soviet exceptionalism, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, seemed to have provided the opportunity for post-Soviet Russia to demystify its homegrown Sonderweg thesis and return – as the catchphrase that was popular among both the government and the governed in the early 1990s went – to “the family of civilized nations.” It is noteworthy that even Richard Pipes, who in all his scholarly work put a special premium on Russia’s “un-Western” traits, appeared to be convinced that, after the demise of communism, Sonderweg had come to an end for Russia. “I think that now Russia has only one option left – to turn West,” Pipes argued in a short essay he wrote for European Herald, a liberal Moscow journal, in 2001, adding that by “West” he meant primarily a political community that comprises, besides the United States and the European Union, such “Eastern” nations as Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore. “Nowadays, it seems to me that for Russia a ‘special path’ makes no sense,” Pipes concluded. “I don’t even know what it actually means.”12

And yet, 20 years on, the idea of Russia’s “uniqueness,” as well as the demonization of the “collective West,” is all the rage in Putin’s Russia. Why is this so? The reason, I think, is twofold. First, unlike in 1960s-1970s Germany, post-Soviet Russia did not see a vigorous nationwide debate among the country’s historians on the fundamental issues of Russia’s historical development. Some promising discussions that began during the twilight years of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika did not bear much fruit and petered out in the chaotic early 1990s. Second, as the political regime in Russia grew increasingly authoritarian under Putin, the Kremlin has come to believe it is politically expedient to deploy the notion of Russian exceptionalism to buttress its position both domestically and internationally. Ukraine’s resolute choice in favor of “Europe” – the choice that ultimately led to war with Russia – left Putin’s regime with no other option but to rethink its international identity.

By the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse, all the intellectual groundwork had already been laid for deconstructing the idea of Russia’s “uniqueness.” Several generations of pre-revolutionary Russian, émigré, Soviet, and international scholars amply demonstrated that Russia is no more “unique” than any other country. Russia’s historical process, its social structure, state-society relations, and (political) culture are indeed marked by sundry peculiarities, though they stem not from its imaginary “uniqueness” but from Russia’s “geopolitical” position on the periphery of “Europe:” it sits on the eastern edges of the European cultural sphere and extends all the way to the border with China and the Pacific Ocean. Like many other countries, Russia borrowed its high culture from elsewhere, and did so twice: first, from Byzantine Constantinople and then, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, from more advanced Western European cultural models.

In both cases, cultural norms, values, and practices were coming from outside. Under these circumstances, Russian cultural development is understood as the process of mastering “foreign” experience. The fact of cultural borrowing does not mean, however, that Russian culture lacks a creative element. As Russia adopted certain aspects of another (Western) culture, the borrowed cultural models would find themselves in a completely different context, which reshaped them into something new. These new cultural phenomena would differ from both the original Western models and “old” Russian cultural patterns. Herein lies a paradox that has been noted by some more perceptive Russian scholars like Boris Uspensky and Mikhail Gasparov:
It is precisely the orientation toward a “foreign” culture that contributes to the originality of Russian culture.13
Yet such orientation contains in itself a significant tension: the gravitation toward a “foreign” culture is dialectically – and antithetically – linked with a desire to protect one’s own “authenticity” and “shield” oneself from foreign cultural influences. A dynamic ensues whereby the emerging inferiority complex gives rise to prickly nationalism, a search for a “special path,” the mythologization of history, messianism, and the assertion of one’s special mission in the world. There is another paradox here also noted by Uspensky: it is precisely this nationalist backlash against a “foreign” cultural tradition that is usually the least national and traditional. Craving for “authenticity” and “national roots” is most often the result of foreign influences – in the Russian case, the influences of “Western” culture that Russian intellectuals sought to repudiate. This is what puts early Slavophiles and German Romantics on the same page: the Germans felt they were culturally “colonized” by the French and rebelled; the Russians borrowed the philosophical language of German Romanticism and applied it to their own situation. In both cases, this was a starting point for German and Russian Sonderwege.

But if we reject the existence of a sharp dividing line between “West” and “East” or between “Europe” and “Russia” (all these notions being of course social constructs that were understood differently in different historical periods and in different contexts), what would be a more suitable model to explain the similarities and dissimilarities between national trajectories across the Eurasian continent? One useful concept is the notion of the West-East “cultural gradient” – the understanding that there is a soft gradation as one moves from Europe’s Atlantic coast eastwards, all the way into the depth of Eurasia.14 The idea of the European “cultural gradient” first emerged in Pavel Miliukov’s later writings, in particular in his multivolume Essays on the History of Russian Culture that he thoroughly reworked in the 1920s-1930s in his Parisian exile. Conceptually, the Essays were based on two main theoretical principles. First, Russia’s historical evolution repeated the same stages through which other “cultured peoples of Europe” had passed. Second, the process of this development was slower than in other parts of Europe – “not only in Western but also in Central Europe.” Miliukov’s bottom line was that there was nothing particularly “peculiar” or “unique” about Russia in this respect. “Peculiarity is not an exclusive feature of Russia. It shows up in the same manner in Europe itself, in a growing progression as we move from the Loire and the Seine to the Rhine, from the Rhine to the Vistula, from the Vistula to the Dnieper, and from the Dnieper to the Oka and the Volga…”15

Miliukov’s ideas were further developed by the outstanding émigré economist Alexander Gerschenkron, who placed the “European gradient” concept at the core of his highly influential model of industrial development. Gerschenkron’s thesis is that “the farther east one goes in Europe the greater becomes the role of banks and of the state in fostering industrialization, a pattern complemented by the prevalence in backward areas of socialist or nationalist ideologies.”16 Gerschenkron exerted a powerful intellectual influence on Richard Pipes’ lifelong opponent Martin Malia – a prominent Berkeley historian who perfected the concept of the West-East gradient. The latter became the essence of Malia’s exposition of the process of Russia’s social, intellectual, and cultural development. “[T]he farther east one goes,” Malia contended, “the more absolute, centralized and bureaucratic do governments become, the greater the pressure of the state on the individual, the more serious the obstacle to his independence, the more sweeping, general, and abstract are ideologies of protest or of compensation…”17 Malia understood “Europe” as a more or less coherent cultural sphere with Russia being part of it. However, on this West-East continuum, “Russia is the eastern extreme… she is the backward rear guard of Europe at the bottom of the slope of the West-East cultural gradient.”18

Another useful concept is the idea of “relative synchronicity within a longue durée development” advanced by Maria Todorova. Struggling to come up with a conceptual antidote to the discourse of backwardness, Todorova argues for the relative synchronicity of Western and Eastern Europe within a long-term framework. By analyzing various European nationalisms within the unified structure of modernity, she redefines the “East” – Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Russia – as part of a common European space.19

Since the end of the 1980s, conceptualizing Russia within the pan-European context became mainstream among governing elites in Moscow. One of the key aspects of Mikhail Gorbachev’s “new thinking” was the idea of a “common European home.” Boris Yeltsin talked of the need to “rejoin European civilization.” Remarkably, as late as 2005, in his “state of the nation” address, Putin contended that Russia is “a major European power,” which for the past three centuries has been evolving and transforming itself ‘hand in hand’ and ‘together with other European nations.’” Two problems, however, militated against Russia’s frictionless identification with Europe. One was the age-old quest for status – Russia’s self-understanding as a derzhava (great power). The awareness of the derivative nature of Russia’s modern culture and of its “civilizational” dependence on Europe clashed with the grand idea of Russian greatness. As Russia grew richer and stronger during the 2000s, the Kremlin found it increasingly difficult to perceive itself as “learners” going to school with Europe. “Great Powers do not go to school,” Iver Neumann once quipped. “On the contrary, they lay down the line and teach others.”20

Another problem is a relatively new one. It concerns the issue of how “Europe” is constructed. In the late 19thcentury, the autocratic Russian Empire, even when it was looked down on by the liberal elites of Great Britain and France, could still be regarded as perfectly “European” in the company of other Old Regimes, being part of the Dreikaizerbund (League of the Three Emperors) together with Wilhelmine Germany and Habsburg Austria-Hungary. Yet in the late 20thand early 21st centuries the situation changed drastically. The emergence of the European Union and its expansion eastward, together with the parallel expansion of another “Euro-Atlantic institution” – NATO – meant that institutionally Russia was being set apart from what came to be understood as “Europe.”
This process of the institutionalization of “Europe” presented Russia with a tough dilemma: either to join this “European bloc” or revisit the issue of self-identification.
The issue has been exacerbated by Moscow’s tense relations with its ex-Soviet neighbors – above all with Ukraine – who were seeking association with (and ultimately membership in) the EU. A tough question haunted Kremlin strategists: if a European orientation is fully compatible with Russian identity, then on what grounds is Moscow preventing other post-Soviet nations from joining the EU? A number of conservative political thinkers called Russia’s politics of identity “deeply flawed” and clamored for an urgent conceptual rethink. Predictably, the suggested solution was to proclaim Russia and Europe to be distinct civilizations, each producing a gravitational pull and possessing its own sphere of influence.21 This is precisely what Russia’s new foreign policy doctrine has done.


But if Russia is not “European,” what is it then? It is following its “special path” as a unique “Russian civilization,” the Kremlin and its spin doctors tell us. However, it is not clear, as the late Richard Pipes noted, what that actually means. Remarkably, Kremlin-friendly political thinkers promoting the idea of Russia’s “uniqueness” appear to be confused about this issue themselves. At the discussion held in late April 2023 on the eve of the 31st Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, an elite group of Russia’s top security analysts, speakers acknowledged that Russia’s departure from its European self-identification and the former foreign policy tradition occurred “partly by her own will, partly because of unfavorable external circumstances.” It was stated that, although Russia is a country “marked by originality,” it is “premature to assert that a Russian civilizational basis has already been formed.”
Revealingly, some analysts argued that “Russia does not yet know exactly what it wants, its goals and desires are yet to be formulated.” To fulfill this difficult task, “there is an urgent need to turn to the Russian intellectual legacy of the 19th and 20th centuries,” specifically to the works of Russian anti-Western and nationalist thinkers such as Fyodor Tyutchev, Nikolai Danilevsky, Konstantin Leont’ev, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Lev Gumilyov, and Vadim Tsymbursky.22

Thus, we appear to be back at square one. Like in the mid-19th century, the current calls for a Russian Sonderwegremain a rhetorical figure – a metaphor meant to conceal Russia’s perennial inability to transform itself and finally come to terms with (European) modernity. Yet there is hope. In his 1930 lecture delivered in Berlin, at the time of Stalin’s “Great Break,” Pavel Miliukov presciently noted: “the Russian historical process is not ending; it is only being interrupted at this point… Despite [social] earthquakes and eruptions, and most often with their assistance, history continues.”23
[1] Kontseptsiia vneshnei politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii,

[2] Dmitri Trenin, “Why Building a New Order Is Now Existential Issue for Russia,” Russia Today, February 3, 2023,

[3] For a perceptive discussion of the Russian Sonderweg thesis, including in comparative perspective, see Mikhail Velizhev, Timur Atnashev, and Andrei Zorin, ‘Osoby put’: Ot ideologii k metodu (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2019); Dmitri Travin, ‘Osoby put’ Rossii: Ot Dostoevskogo do Konchalovskogo (St. Petersburg: Izd. St. Peterburgskogo universiteta, 2018); Andrei Zaostrovtsev, ed., Rossiia 1917-2017: Evropeiskaia modernizatsiia ili ‘osoby put’ (St. Petersburg: Leont’evskii Tsentr, 2017); Emil Pain, ed., Ideologiia ‘osobogo puti’ v Rossii i Germanii: istoki, soderzhanie, posledstviia (Moscow: Tri kvadrata, 2010).

[4] A.S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 6 vols, ed. M.A. Tsiavlovskii (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1938) 4: 432.

[5] F.I. Tyutchev, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 6 vols. (Moscow: IMLI, 2003) 2: 165

[6] Leonard Krieger, Ranke: The Meaning of History (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1977).

[7] Alexandre Koyré, La philosophie et le problème national en Russie au début du XIXe siècle (Paris: Champion, 1929).

[8] Martin Malia, Russia under Western Eyes: From the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1999), 12.

[9] Georgii Adamovich, Kommentarii (St. Petersburg: Aleteia, 2000), 184-185.

[10] Norbert Elias, Studien über die Deutschen (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1989), 368, 394, 401.

[11] See Jürgen Kocka, “German History before Hitler: The Debate about the German Sonderweg,” Journal of Contemporary History 23, no. 1(1988), 3-16; Stephen Kalberg, “The German Sonderweg De-Mystified: A Sociological Biography of a Nation,” Theory, Culture & Society 9 (1992), 111-124; Peter Bergmann, “American Exceptionalism and German Sonderweg in Tandem,” The International History Review 23, no. 3 (2001), 505-534.

[12] Richard Pipes, “Osoby put’ dlia Rossii: chto konkretno eto znachit?” Vestnik Evropy, no. 1 (2001),

[13] See excellent essays by B.A. Uspensky and M.L. Gasparov in the collection Russkaia intelligentsiia i zapadny intellektualizm: istoriia i tipologiia, ed. B.A. Uspensky (Moscow: O.G.I., 1999).

[14] See Catherine Evtuhov and Steven Kotkin, eds., The Cultural Gradient: The Transmission of Ideas in Europe, 1789-1991 (New York; Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003).

[15] Pavel N. Miliukov, “Sotsiologicheskie osnovy russkogo istoricheskogo protsessa [1930],” Rossiiskaia istoriia, no. 1 (2008), 160.

[16] Martin Malia, Russia under Western Eyes, 440; Alexander Gerschenkron, Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1962).

[17] Martin Malia, “Schiller and the Early Russian Left,” Harvard Slavic Studies IV (1957), 169-200.

[18] Martin Malia, The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991 (New York: The Free Press, 1994), 55.

[19] Maria Todorova, “The Trap of Backwardness: Modernity, Temporality, and the Study of East European Nationalism,” Slavic Review 64, no. 1 (2005): 140-164.

[20] Iver B. Neumann, “Russia’s Europe: Inferiority to Superiority,” International Affairs 92, no. 6 (2016), 1397.

[21] Boris Mezhuyev, “‘Ostrov Rossiia’ i rossiiskaia politika identichnosti,” Rossiia v global’noi politike, Spetsvypusk: Konservatizm vo vneshnei politike: XXI vek (May 2017), 108-109.

[22] Evgeniia Kulman, “Rossiia kak tsivilizatsiia tsivilizatsii: Krugly stol v preddverii XXXI Assamblei SVOP,” Rossiia v global’noi politike, April 24, 2023,

[23] Miliukov, “Sotsiologicheskie osnovy russkogo istoricheskogo protsessa,” 164.
  • Igor Torbakov
    Uppsala University, Sweden
More articles
Subscribe to our newsletter
You will receive our biweekly newsletter with the most relevant Russia-related research news.