The Philosopher & The News

Josephine von Zitzewitz & The Myth of the Russian Soul

March 11, 2023 Episode 37
The Philosopher & The News
Josephine von Zitzewitz & The Myth of the Russian Soul
Show Notes

February 24th marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some still blame the expansion of NATO in Russia’s neighbourhood as the deeper cause of this war.  Others see it as Putin’s mad personal plan to go down in the history books. But some are pointing the finger to something much deeper than any of that: the Russian soul. 

A concept that originated in Russia’s literary tradition of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and other great authors, is seen as animating today’s national exceptionalism, fuelling Putin’s speeches. 

But how straightforward is it draw a causal link between a country’s cultural past, and the politics of today? Is it really ideas than animate history, or should we look to material conditions for a better explanation of events?

Josephine von Zitzewitz is a Lecturer in Russian at the University of Oxford, and recently wrote an article entitled The Uses and Abuses of the Russian Soul: The weaponization of Russian Identity, in which she explores the limits of the idea that Russian culture and literature have a role to play in the war against Ukraine.

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This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal. Check out the spring issue of the philosopher, and its spring online lecture series:

Artwork by Nick Halliday

Music by Rowan Mcilvride