On Russia (2008)

The Engelsberg Seminar 2008

June 12th to 14th 2008 at Avesta Manor, Sweden

European and Russian history have long been intertwined. Over the centuries the Russian Tsars tried to turn the Russian people towards European culture. Peter the Great opened a gateway to the West by creating St Petersburg (on what was then Swedish soil). Catherine the Great was absorbed by the ideas of the Enlightenment. Yet there also linger long term, perhaps deeper, divergences. The influence of the Enlightenment was fairly superficial in Russia, compared to other European countries. The move to industrialisation was less of a development than a leap – made first during the 19th century, a phase that was interrupted by the First World War, and then later forced through by Stalin. Could Russia have become part of a similar development that took place in other parts of what we now call the West? On what does the alleged Russian sonderweg actually depend – geographical factors, language, religion, or cultural differences? Russia has not been asked to join the European Union, nor have the Russians themselves shown an interest in joining. Some argue that it depends upon geopolitical factors, or that Russia is too large to become a member, bordering Norway in the west and North Korea in the east, covering eleven time-zones. After the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, so-called shock therapy was applied in Russia in order to rid its people of the communist joke for good. But did the West have the right response? Did relief at the end of the Cold War blind it to potential risks? One might ask if the legacy of Russian history doomed its post-communist experiments, and also what the long-term influence of the Orthodox Church has been on Russia’s relationship to the West at a cultural level. Today, many observers are alarmed by recent developments. From a Western perspective, things appear to be moving in the wrong direction: away from democracy, free media and the rule of law. Questions abound as to how Russian society may be developing. In this conference we will address such issues, focusing on the following broad themes: continuity and change in Russian history and the Russian self-image, recent economic developments, the “near-abroad,” and the implications of the resurgence of the strong Russian state.


Continuity and Change in Russian History

Dominic Lieven
Professor of Russian Government, LSE
Lecture: Russia as Empire and Periphery

Geoffrey Hosking
Emeritus Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic & East European Studies, University College London
Lecture: Power and the People in Russian History

Catherine Merridale
Professor of Russian History, Queen Mary College, London University
Lecture: A View from the Kremlin


Russia’s Self-Image

Andrei Zorin
Professor of Russian Literature, University of Oxford
Lecture: Westernisers, Slavophiles & Russian Literature

Per-Arne Bodin
Professor of Slavic Languages, Stockholm University
Lecture: The Influence of the Russian Orthodox Tradition


How the Present Addresses the Past

Arkady Ostrovsky
Moscow Bureau Chief, The Economist
Lecture: Teaching Soviet History

Anne Applebaum
Journalist and Columnist
Lecture: The Ideology of Putinism


The Resurgence of the Russian State

Vladimir Ryzhkov
Independent Russian Politician, Deputy in Russian Duma until 1997
Lecture: Risks of the New Authoritarianism

Andrei Melville
Professor of Political Science, Vice-Rector of MGIMO-University of the MFA of Russia
Lecture: Russia in 2020

Philip Hanson
Associate Fellow, the Royal Institute of International Affairs
Lecture: The Political Economy of Russian Statism


Economic Developments in Russia

Erik Berglöf
Chief Economist, EBRD
Lecture: (Re-)Building Democracy and Markets in Russia

Konstantin Sonin
Assistant Professor at NES and Columnist for Vedomosti/The Moscow Times
Lecture: Is Russia a Typical Oil Exporter? The Political Economics of the Resource Curse

Yegor Gaidar
Former Prime Minister of Russia
Lecture: Key Risk for the Stable Growth of the Russian Economy


Russia’s Borderlands

Kadri Liik
Director of the International Centre for Defence Studies, Talinn
Lecture: On the Baltic States

Ekaterina Sokirianskaia
Executive Director, Memorial Human Rights Centre (North Caucasus)
Lecture: On the Caucasus

Fyodor Lukyanov
Editor of Russia in Global Affairs, Moscow
Lecture: On Russian Responses


Strategic Relations between Russia and the West

Rodric Braithwaite
Former British Ambassador to Moscow
Lecture: No Cold War

Igor Ivanov
Former Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation (1998-2004) and Head of the Security Council of Russia
Lecture: Russia & the West: For a Common Agenda

Thérèse Delpeche
Director for Strategic Studies at the Atomic Energy Commission of France and Senior Research Fellow at CERI
Lecture: Options in the Strategic Relations Between Russia & the West

Dmitri Trenin
Deputy Director, Senior Associate, Foreign and Security Policy, Carnegie Institute, Moscow
Lecture: Smart Engagement

Rolf Ekéus
Chairman of SIPRI
Lecture: Engaging Russia