Russophobia and National Nihilism in the Russian Intellectual Debate at the End of the Nineteenth Century
Russophobia is one of the most interesting and complex manifestations in contemporary Russian literature. It is widely recognised that Russophobia is a western cultural conceptualization, with an attestation in written literature in the first half of the nineteenth century, when Astolphe de Custine composed La Russie en 1839 (1843) and Donoso Cortés published the Discurso sobre la dictatura (1849). We can presume that western Russophobia was exploited to contain and destabilize Russian Empire spheres of influence, and in the case of nineteenth century Russian literature, it was partially involved in the dispute between the Slavophiles and the Westernizers. In 1836, the first Philosophical letter of P. Chaadaev showed the existence of Russophobia among Russian thinkers, however the term ‘Russophobia’ was first coined by the poet and career diplomat F. Tyutchev in 1867. Avoiding the common western opinions about Russophobia and the traditional approach of the most important nineteenth century Russian schools of thought, the main aim of this work is to put in evidence the complexity of a controversial debate in the last three decades of the twentieth century, among such Russian writers as Sinyavsky, Solzhenitsyn, Pomerants, Shafarevich and Stratanovsky. In Rusofobiya (1983) Shafarevich borrows A. Cochin’s expression ‘Petit peuple’ in order to indicate a minority inside Russia, which actively contributes to its detriment. Amongst those who have criticised Shafarevich’s theory, A. Sinyavsky and S. Stratanovsky, with his essay Chto zhe takoe rusofobiya? (1990), have contributed to a deeper understanding of what Russophobia means in our contemporary world.