The 1917 Russian revolution and eastern orthodox Christian utopianism

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Abstract

This article attempts to open an alternative perspective in thinking about the role Eastern Orthodox Christianity played in the 1917 Russian revolution by challenging the prevailing paradigm that it was a conservative cultural element resisting social change. Weber claimed that Calvinism managed to turn a particular conception of the world into a corresponding practical norm that aided the development of capitalism. This article proposes a similar thesis regarding the Russian revolution, but utilizing as its theoretical framework Gramsci’s ideas on cultural hegemony and Bloch’s view about the role of utopian thinking. It argues that Orthodox Christianity was the source of hegemonic cultural values and as such was the familiar semantic background against which the majority of Russians interpreted, accepted, and fought for the socialist ideals of the revolution. In constructing its argument the article provides a critique and a corrective of Gramsci’s understanding of cultural hegemony in Russia, analyzes the Orthodox idea of podvig as an enduring perpetual push from the immanent and the imminent of the historical toward the transcendent and the eternal of the utopian divine, and finally, discusses the implications of podvig’s theological connotations as a cultural value and a “subjective force” in sustaining the revolutionary efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-285
Number of pages18
JournalUtopian Studies
Volume28
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • cultural hegemony
  • religious utopianism
  • Russian revolution

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