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It is impossible to overestimate the impact of the westernizer–Slavophile controversy on the future intellectual and political history of Russia. Many of the later disputes and divisions between different factions, schools of thought, and political parties in Russia can be analyzed in terms of two camps. One camp saw Western orientation as a single solution to Russian problems, whereas the other professed its belief in Russia’s distinct path of development.  

In the final decade of the twentieth century, as the country entered a period of radical transformation of existing social relations, political structures, and ideological doctrines, the interest in the debate was rekindled with new intensity. The adherents of the liberal school of westernizers hailed the collapse of the Soviet Union as an absolute triumph of their ideas and as the final proof that there were no alternatives to the pro-Western orientation. The new political forces that took control in Russia in the early 1990s launched the reforms under the banner of the liberal westernizing ideology and pursued its precepts doggedly and uncritically. The results of the reforms have been mixed and have provoked an anti-Western and nationalist backlash in many sectors.

The social and political divisions that tore Russian society in the 1990s have revealed the traditional cultural schism. The invisible line continues to divide Russian society into those who lean toward Western values and way of life and think that Russia’s troubles are caused by the insufficient emulation of these values and those who consciously or unconsciously oppose Western influences. The debate about the correlation between national and “adopted” elements within Russian civilization is unlikely to subside in the foreseeable future.

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Russian Political Culture

 

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