The idea of the Novgorod Republic and European influence on 18th century Russian historians
The lecture will introduce some outcomes of the research project investigating the very first steps of the classical republican discourse on Russian soil. During the 18th century Russian intellectuals were gradually becoming familiar with different patterns of republicanism. They learned key points of republican theory, such as liberty, virtues, the necessity to stand up for rights and for the republic, and against the danger of corruption. Having completed a thorough reading of Greco-Roman texts, Russian historians, political thinkers and litterateurs in the second half of the 18th century were able to apply classical plots and patterns to the Russian past and present. They considered different episodes of Russian history as a struggle between republicans and monarchists and started to recognized Novgorod and Pskov as two powerful ancient republics. Until the 1790s, none of the intellectuals sympathized openly with republican ideology, they all argued for the monarchy. Nevertheless, they were attracted by the republican discourse.
Along with the philosophy of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, such republican discourse served as a springboard for Alexander Radishchev and some of the Decembrists as they put forward a genuine republican ideology in the last decade of the 18th and the opening years of the 19th century. These new thinkers considered the monarchy weak and imagined Novgorod as a good example of a powerful and virtuous republic, whose existence gave added impetus to the possibility of republican government in the not too distant future.