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Working paper

A published answer to Petr Chaadaev's first "Philosophical letter": a comment on Russian political language of the 1830s

This paper is aimed at exploring the rhetorical conventions of political polemics in 19th century Russia. We will compare two texts published in the 1830s – a classic “First Philosophical Letter” by Petr Chaadaev and a less known reply to it written by young Andrej Krayevsky – “Thoughts on Russia”. First we plan to focus on their stated ideas, and then to consider the political language of the opponents. As we will see, if their ideas were completely different, Chaadaev and Krayevsky shared the same political idiom – the language of official national ideology. We will try to demonstrate that it was possible to use the language of the official ideology not only to establish that ideology but paradoxically also to start an open debate with it.