The issue of the Russian national idea is academic par excellence. It occupies an important and notable place in the history of Russian philosophic and sociopolitical thought. The polemic around the issue that came to be known as the "Russian idea" continued throughout most of the past and present century and had a variety of outcomes. After the ban on the study of certain aspects of Russian philosophy was lifted, interest in this subject has revived. Originally, it manifested itself in re-editions of works and commentaries published earlier. An example is the collection The Russian Idea edited by M. Maslin, which came out in 1992. There also appeared a number of modern works on the same subject; the best one among these is, in my view, V. Sagatovsky's The Russian Idea: Will We Continue on Our Interrupted Way? (St. Petersburg, 1994). No one seems to doubt that this issue needs to be re-examined in terms of history and philosophy.
It is another thing when this question is put in relation to modern Russia. After the President's well-known appeal to the intellectuals to come up with such an idea, it shifted from academic to political context and acquired political urgency. As such, it gives rise to controversial opinions, some of them very negative. Here is an example. Academician Likhachev's letter to a Yabloko faction meeting says: "The national idea as a panacea against all evils is not just idiocy but very dangerous idiocy." Several other workers in culture and politics, especially people belonging to the liberal-democratic wing, have expressed themselves in the same vein. As far as they are concerned, the national idea is almost a synonym of nascent Russian nationalism, which is fraught with a confrontation between Russia and other countries, first of all, with the West.
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