Народники как незамеченный этап на пути к русской модерной политической нации. Рецензия на книгу: Гефтер М.Я. (2020) Антология народничества. СПб.: Нестор-История.
This review discusses a collection of documentary materials on the nineteenth-century Narodnik movement. The collection was compiled by the Soviet historian Mikhail Gefter and his associates in the second half of the 1970s. It was an attempt at a “new reading” of the (pre)history of the Russian Revolution and an alternative to the official historiography. In doing so, Gefter, who was at that time close to the dissident and human rights movement, conceptually drew upon post-Stalinist studies in social and political history. This was a departure from the official state paradigm on history, within which Gefter had worked previously and from which he distanced himself when working on his Narodnik Anthology. The making of this collection became his way to problematize the relationship between the ends and the means of (ir)responsible political action, the cost of moral rigor for revolutionaries, and the general unreadiness of imperial power for dialogue with a modernizing Russian society. This problem, framed in the context of the incomplete social and economic reforms in the late Soviet Union, allowed Gefter to pose the question of the ideological origins and the institutional causes of Russia’s twentieth-century dead ends and historical disasters. The review opens with a brief outline of Gefter’s career. He had come a long way in his understanding of the subject of this collection, from one of the many orthodox historians of the Soviet Communist Party to an independent researcher seeking more complex models explaining historical process in Russia. It then reconstructs his research program, which guided his selection of heterogeneous documentary materials. It demonstrates Gefter’s methodologically ambitious plan that aimed not simply to immerse the modern reader into the historical environment at end of the 19th century, but to create a communicative space for historically distanced engagement with the actors of another age. The review also notes the affinity of Gefter’s conceptual framework to the philosophy of history produced by the late-Soviet intelligentsia, i.e., a philosophy that blocks any structural interpretation of the fin de siècle Russian modernization drama today. The concluding section points to the significant heuristic potential of the anthology. It can be used for the reconstruction of the Russian path to a modern political nation. In this case, the Narodniki unexpectedly appear to be the first significant experience of radical political democratization in Russian history. Finally, The review proposes a framework that, with an appropriate change in research view, allows the relating of Russian Narodniki to the socio-political phenomena of modernity in other countries as part of a comparative historical sociology and political anthropology.