Enlightenment in Russia
In the Middle Ages the word просвеще́ние (Enlightenment) was already used to denote divine inspiration. In the second half of the eighteenth century it came to have new meanings. In general terms it now meant "education", "acquisition of knowledge" and "civilisation", "Europeanisation" and "Westernisation", the excercise of the faculties of reason and striving for human self-perfection. In a more narrow sense it also denoted Russia's participation in the emancipation movement of the "Siècle des Lumières". Within the scope of this project, the aim is to focus on the reign of Catherine the Great and investigate how the thinking of "Latin Europe" was received against the background of the conditions and requirements of this Eurasian state.
This will be the first comprehensive survey written in German to place the Enlightenment in Russia in the social historic context of an autocratic system still dominated by serfdom (крепостни́чество). An examination of the history of institutions and individuals will look at how the state provided for the establishment of new organisations for education and research following West and Central European models and how, increasingly, private groups of aristocrats and representatives of other estates were formed. The most important debates of the Russian Enlightenment will be viewed in their interchange with the discourses of the European "République des lettres".
Short biographies and annotated bibliographies will be supplied in order to identify important representatives of the Enlightenment who were active in Russia, but also more minor figures about whom so far little has been known.
Funded by: Fritz Thyssen Stiftung