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Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment$
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Laurence Brockliss and Ritchie Robertson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198783930

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198783930.001.0001

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Isaiah Berlin and the Russian Intelligentsia

Isaiah Berlin and the Russian Intelligentsia

(p.187) 14 Isaiah Berlin and the Russian Intelligentsia
Isaiah Berlin and the Enlightenment

Derek Offord

Oxford University Press

While Berlin’s extensive work on Russian thought has greatly increased western understanding of Russian culture, it has also conveyed an unduly uncritical impression of the intelligentsia’s role. Having identified the writers on whom Berlin concentrated, the chapter considers his reverential portrayal of Alexander Herzen, pointing out some of the elements of Herzen’s thought that have only a marginal place, if any, in Berlin’s account of it. Finally, it takes issue with Berlin’s explicitly heroic view of the Russian intelligentsia, questioning whether the generally romantic critique of urban, industrial modernity offered by Russian thinkers across the political spectrum had wholly beneficial effects in Russia in the age with which Berlin is concerned, or in the longer term.

Keywords:   Russia, Herzen, Belinsky, violence, intelligentsia

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