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Backwardness Reconsidered: Europe in Russian Perspective
Traditionally Russian prerevolutionary, "liberal" historiography conceived the general relationship between historical processes in Russia and (Western) Europe in terms of backwardness. As is well known, this concept has been criticized and refuted for decades – the main reproach having been that it is biased and tacitly or explicitly teleological. It has been criticized as too general, comprising everything and nothing, and as just the reverse of the equally flawed concept of modernization. Though this criticism mostly is justified, the problem remains unsolved how to replace it. My talk will (1) present some arguments for :rescuing" the concept as such (stripped of norms and values, as far as this is possible), and (2) try to break it down according to major aspects of historical reality (economy, public hygiene, state and social administration, culture) that largely coincide with specific time periods, thereby integrating it into the more general approach of histoires croisées (entangled histories).
Manfred Hildermeier is Professor of East European History at the University of Göttingen; he was Fellow of the Historische Kolleg in Munich and the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin and Chairman of the Association of German Historians (2000-2004); his writings on Russian and Soviet history include Die Russische Revolution 1905-1920 (1989), Geschichte der Sowjetunion 1917-1991: Aufstieg und Niedergang des ersten sozialistischen Staates (1998), Die Sowjetunion 1917-1991 (2001), Die Russische Revolution (2004), Geschichte Russlands. Von den Anfängen bis 1917. (2013, 3rd ed. 2016), and the edited volumes Europäische Zivilgesellschaft in Ost und West: Begriff, Geschichte, Chancen (2000) and Stalinismus vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg: Neue Wege der Forschung (1998, 2nd ed. 2017). Professor Hildermeier is currently Visiting Professor at Stanford University.