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uni'wissen 02-2013_ENG

Speaking of untamed: The French diplomat Louis-Philippe de Ségur writes in the 18th cen- tury that the inhabitants of St. Petersburg re- minded him of “semi-barbarian human beings.” The question the Slavicists are really interested in answering, however, is how Russian women and men responded to these stereotypes. At first they are outraged, because they see them- selves as a Christian nation on an equal footing with the West, not as its colony. But in the 19th century this changes. The emergent intelligen- tsia reinterprets the Western image of Russians and gives Russian identity a new shape. The writer and music theorist Vladimir Odoyevsky and the novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky both con- demn Western Europe for lapsing into a blind fe- tishism of reason. They and others go as far as to claim that only Russia can save the “rotten West” from collapsing under the weight of its own ideas. The victory over Napoleon plays an important role in this sudden change of identity, explain the Slavicists: Russia defeats the power-hungry French military in 1812. “The supposedly under- developed nation that lags behind France and Germany advances to the status of Europe’s sav- ior,” says Nohejl. Strengthened by this newfound self-confidence, the Russians no longer find it difficult to accept the long described and ex- tolled cliché of the Slavic soul. On the contrary, it forms the foundation of the Russians’ newly at- tained sense of superiority. After all, the emo- tional and mystical are precisely the qualities the West lacks. Macho and Mother Figure In 1813, Tsar Alexander I announces an archi- tectural competition: A monumental church is to be built in Moscow in proud memory of the vic- Pussy Riot power: The musi- cians’ performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow was an attack on the principles of the Russian state model. Illustration: Svenja Kirsch 30