Dr. Alexander Burak, an assistant professor of Russian Studies in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Florida, used his Rothman Summer Faculty Fellowship to begin organizing, translating, and editing an anthology of previously untranslated works of cutting-edge Russian cultural and social thinkers. Although Russia’s political ideologies are often portrayed as dominated by the authoritarian regime of Putin, there have been, nonetheless, critical ideological and social debates about Russian identity stimulated by figures as diverse as Aleksandr G. Dugin, Vladimir Pozner, and the rock band Pussy Riot. These debates are seldom, if ever, reflected in American media discussions of Russia, in no small part because they frequently take the form of audio-or audio-visual-only files without accompanying transcripts or translations. And, while the number of Internet materials in Russian debates is exponentially increasing, the number of individuals in the U.S. who are linguistically and culturally proficient enough to understand these materials has shrunk since the days of the Cold War. Thus, it is vitally important to have an English-language version of important texts that reveal the complex nature of Russian identity today.
With the support of the Rothman Faculty Fellowship in summer 2014, Burak was able to begin translating into English some of the writings of Aleksandr G. Dugin, a sociologist and public intellectual. Dugin has argued that democracy is incompatible with American-style liberalism, because democracy embodies collective identity and the public good while liberalism celebrates the primacy of the individual, protects the rights of minorities, and encourages the drive for profit. In Dugin’s work, liberalism is transhumanism, an ideology that violates the natural human need for collective, political identity. Burak notes that Dugin’s arguments are not necessarily anti-Western, because the distinction between liberalism and democracy is based largely on the old Greek philosophical conceptions of the polis and the thought of the German philosopher, G.W. F. Hegel. In Russia, these Western philosophical tools are utilized to mount an attack against Enlightenment liberalism and its historical antecedents. Dugin has influenced the domestic policy of the Kremlin by assisting in the promulgation of anti-liberal policies and working as an adviser to some members of the Russian Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament). In other words, Dugin is a prominent intellectual in Russia with clear connections to the highest levels of Russian government. It is thus crucially important to have a thorough understanding of his thoughts in order to understand the formation of contemporary Russian political and social policy.
Other important additions to the anthology will follow in the future, and they will trace a variety of social and cultural issues in Russia. Overall, this novel translation project will address the historical aftermath of the Cold War in Russia, which still weighs upon U.S. and Russian relations. Finding ways to understand the complexities and nuances of political debate in Russia could help to address long standing iciness and distrust between the two nations.
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