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Professional intellectual and zealous heliotrope: a study of the role and perception of Vladimir Solov′ev in Russian society

by Pauline Schrooyen

Introduction

Many Russian intellectuals of the nineteenth and early twentieth century have been qualified by their contemporaries as Einzelgänger: Aleksandr Herzen, Pëtr Chaadaev, Ivan Kireevskii, Nikolai Strakhov, Konstantin Leont′ev, Vladimir Solov′ëv, Boris Chicherin and the Vekhi-authors, to mention just a few key figures in Russian thought. The frequent use of this characterization, which has come to be a persistent image of the Russian intellectual, prompts the question: how can an intellectual be isolated, misunderstood and seen to lack soulmates, and yet, at the same time, be an obshchestvennyi deiatel′, belong to a partiia, adhere to the editorial board of a newspaper or journal, and be a member of a society or circle? In other words, how might we characterize, or understand perceptions of, an individual who seemingly forms part of an intellectual network, but is nevertheless stigmatized, during his lifetime or later, as a loner? What did this isolated position signify exactly, and how was it created? Were these intellectuals misunderstood, ignored and not taken seriously? Was their work or were they themselves particularly inaccessible? Did they wish to be understood by their contemporaries and included in society to begin with? Did the stigma of Einzelgänger signify a ‘tragic reality’ or did it constitute one element of a self-chosen style or image?

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