Vekhi is a collection of seven essays published in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 in 1909. It was distributed in five editions and elicited over two hundred published rejoinders in two years. The volume reappraising the Russian intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

 was a brainchild of the literary historian Mikhail Gershenzon
Mikhail Gershenzon
Mikhail Osipovich Gershenzon was a Russian scholar, essayist and editor. He studied history, philosophy, and political science at Moscow University, graduating in 1894. From graduation until the Bolshevik revolution he was unable to obtain an official academic position because he was Jewish...

, who edited it and wrote the introduction.

Founding of Symposium

Pyotr Struve selected the contributors, five of whom had previously contributed to a 1902 volume, Problems of Idealism, and had attended the 1903 Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen is a city in northern Switzerland and the capital of the canton of the same name; it has an estimated population of 34,587 ....

 Conference that laid the foundation for the Union of Liberation
Union of Liberation
The Union of Liberation was a liberal political group founded in St. Petersburg, Russia in January 1904. Its goal was originally the replacement of the absolutism of the Tsar with a constitutional monarchy...

. A founder of the Constitutional Democratic (Cadet) Party
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

 in 1905, Struve had served in the Second Duma
A Duma is any of various representative assemblies in modern Russia and Russian history. The State Duma in the Russian Empire and Russian Federation corresponds to the lower house of the parliament. Simply it is a form of Russian governmental institution, that was formed during the reign of the...

 in 1907, then went on to edit the journal Russian Thought. In his essay he argued that the intelligentsia, because it had coalesced in the 1840s under the impact of atheistic socialism, owed its identity to standing apart from the government. Thus, when the government agreed to restructure along constitutional lines in 1905, the intelligentsia proved incapable of acting constructively toward the masses within the new framework.

Social criticism

Bogdan Kistyakovsky discussed the intelligentsia's failure to develop a legal consciousness. Their insufficient respect for law as an ordering force kept courts of law from attaining the respect required in a modern society. Alexander Izgoyev (who, like Gershenzon, had not contributed to the 1902 anti-positivist volume) depicted contemporary university students as morally relativist, content merely to embrace the interests of the long-suffering people. Russian students compared very unfavorably to their French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 counterparts, lacking application and even a sense of fair play.

Philosophical positions

Nikolai Berdyayev, considering the intelligentsia's philosophical position, found utilitarian values had crowded out any interest in pursuing truth. Sergei Bulgakov
Sergei Bulgakov
Fr. Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov was a Russian Orthodox Christian theologian, philosopher and economist. Until 1922 he worked in Russia; afterwards in Paris.-Early life:...

 showed how the intelligentsia had undertaken a heroic struggle for socialism and progress but lost sight of post-Reformation Europe's gains with respect to individual rights and personal freedom.

N. O. Lossky father of Vladimir Lossky
Vladimir Lossky
Vladimir Nikolayevich Lossky was an influential Eastern Orthodox theologian in exile from Russia. He emphasized theosis as the main principle of Orthodox Christianity....

 also made periodic contributions to Vekhi. For Semen Frank, as for Gershenzon and Struve, the intelligentsia's failure of leadership in the 1905 revolution warranted a reappraisal of their fundamental assumptions. His essay emphasized the nihilistic sources of the intelligentsia's utilitarianism: material progress, national education, always viewed as a means to another end. Moreover, he saw Russian Marxists as obsessed by a populist drive to perfect society through redistribution and faulted them for their penchant for dividing all humanity into friends and enemies. Gershenzon asserted, in the book's most controversial sentence, that "so far from dreaming of union with the people we ought to fear the people and bless this government which, with its prisons and bayonets, still protects us from the people's fury."

The essays suggested Russia had reached a milestone and was ready for turning. Five of the contributors had earlier abandoned Marxism under the influence of neo-Kantian concerns over personal freedom and morality. They had participated in the establishment of a liberal political party, but now recoiled at the Cadet Party's recklessness and ineffectiveness in parliamentary politics. A modernist
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 document, Vekhi called for a rethinking of the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 project of acculturation and proposed exploration of the depths of the self as an alternative to populist
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

 and nihilist
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value...

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