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Chapter 1 deals with those pre-twentieth-century Russian thinkers who developed their views of personhood and of freedom in dialogue with Western philosophy, and articulated the broad framework for later liberalisms. With the exception of Boris Chicherin, the men discussed in this chapter did not self-identify readily as liberals, but their engagement with both the value of negative freedom enshrined in law, and the idea of a social, ethical project, provided a powerful legacy on which their successors drew. While the possibilities for political participation increased towards the end of the century, the engagement with liberalism during this period was largely an intellectual endeavour.
The practice of literary criticism came to Russia in the eighteenth century as a part of the Westernizing reforms of Emperor Peter the Great and, Empress Catherine the Great. In the 1830s and 1840s, as literary criticism became a profession, literary discussion directed at a newly emerging reading public crucially contributed to a debate about national identity, which became known as the debate between the Westernizers and the Slavophiles. Westernizers such as Ivan Turgenev, the critic Vissarion Belinsky and the reformist thinker Aleksandr Herzen wanted to follow the European trajectory laid out by Peter the Great towards a Europeanized, secular culture. The account of Russian literary criticism differs from Soviet-era accounts in its vocabulary and in its greater emphasis on cultural and intellectual networks of people and ideas. Belinsky's view of literature as the bearer of enlightened social consciousness intensified throughout the 1840s, after his break with conservative Hegelianism in 1841.
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