The Last Shall Be First: The Genealogy of Russian Historical Exceptionalism and the Road to Revolution, 1830-1917

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2023-04-22

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Abstract

The legitimacy of Russia’s October Revolution of 1917 is widely debated due to its divergences from a western-centric Marxist view of historical progression. In particular, socialism was hastily declared amid underdeveloped economic conditions while being executed via authoritarian means. Scholars have long sought to either critique or justify such conspicuous departures from Marxist Orthodoxy and Occidental normativity. This thesis looks past the Marxist and western-centric parameters of discussion to instead investigate the indigenous intellectual traditions which prefigured, influenced, and shaped these peculiar characteristics of the Russian Revolution. Contrary to the dominant view that the Russian revolutionary tradition was essentially unilaterally defined by a ‘Westernizing’ worldview, this thesis discloses alternative roots of revolution in an anti-western philosophy that diametrically opposed the former ethos. To draw this connection across eight decades, this study uncovers ideological continuities across multiple movements, otherwise thought to be mutually-hostile, ultimately identifying and organizing a novel genealogy of ideas. This investigation finds that the non-western ‘aberrations’ of the Russian Revolution were rather a logical continuation of an intellectual heritage which precisely sought to bulk Western precedents for a historically-exceptional road of the nation’s own.

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Duan, Patrick (2023). The Last Shall Be First: The Genealogy of Russian Historical Exceptionalism and the Road to Revolution, 1830-1917. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27327.


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