Siletskaya Olga

Moscow State University Faculty of Journalism PhD

Russian emigration itself had its own characteristics, and it would be a great omission not to consider it’s influence as to the European cultural life, so as to Russian self-consciousness. After the it was like “fashionably” to think, that “Russia has lost it’s best sons” and all the modern problems of politics and culture in Russia have their background in expatriation in 1922. Were the thoughts and creations of the emigrants of “Philosophy Steamers” and others so significant, or it is only a kind of Russian Myth?

Ключевые слова: Ключевые слова: “Philosophy Steamers”,emigration,inter-cultural interactions,intellectuals

Библиографическое описание: Библиографическое описание:

According to some reports, only in the period of 1918-1924 five million people emigrated from Russia. Mostly these were mostly representatives of well-educated and upper classes, who were not ready to find themselves in a new life. They were not the first, who went to Europe or USA from Russia. Some years before them, lots of Jews left the same country, because of the fear and some migrant workers did this also because of the economic inefficiency of Czarist Russia. This process which was started in the 10-20th years of 20-th century, reached its culmination in the autumn of 1922, when about 200 intellectuals (philosophers, teachers, economists, physicians, writers, journalists, scientists) were deported form Russia by two German steamers, the “Oberbürgermeister Haken” and the “Preussen”. This happening (which was called as “Philosophy Steamers” by the journalists) became the basement of the whole number of the phenomenon of contiguity and community of different cultures, mindsets and philosophies. It can be considered as a beginning of “Russian-speaking no more Russian community”, which gave a new aspect to European and American culture.

The expatriation was not a communist invention, it practiced since ancient times. The classic example is Socrates. Before revolution of 1917 hundreds of opposition-minded intellectuals, especially liberals and social democrats of various streams, including Lenin himself, were living abroad, mainly in Western Europe. Expatriation is one of the mildest forms of confrontation between the authorities and ideological opposition. In fact, in history of any country there were examples, when the government did not support some community because of its ideological and political legitimacy. This government was ready to use force and other means to neutralize such community. Sometimes it happened in a rough way (as with McCarthyism in the USA), sometimes more gentle, by persecution in the press or in parliament, inspirited by the authorities. In Soviet Russia, in 1922, when civil war had just ended, and the economic and social contradictions were particularly significant, the desire of the authorities to confront with their most serious ideological opponents was “the must” to appear. For the great luck of the passengers of “Philosophy Steamers”, in those times it was still not possible to “confront” by Stalin’s way, when a sentence to be shot was the only form of dialog with opposition.

So the expatriation of dissident intellectuals in 1922 was a logical step of domestic soviet policy. Its main reason was in a government attempt of establishing of the strong ideological control, for which the country's intellectual elite was removed. Namely those people who could think freely and independently, analyze the situation and express their ideas, and often criticize the current regime ... The relationship between them and the communist authorities can be expressed in one word - mismatch. In what? In a different respect for the Free Word and Free Speech.

We have to say that Russian communist party was even glad, that part of the nation got off from the country with their suitcases and became the nomadic people, which did not have their own state as Gypsies or Jews. It is one of the reasons probably, why revolution has not been ended after “Krasnaya Presnya” in 1905 and coup d'état in 1917. What is such “state” that wants to lose (and loses indeed!) its intellectual elite? Today we (who are descendants of as revolutionists as well as their opponents) can feel that the revolution is a long-termed process, in which our country entered in beginning of 20th century and from which still can not drop out. That happened because there were no completed and confirmed forms of statehood, no intelligible purposes and in 1991 this constriction collapsed into pieces, that now seems to be very logical.

It is fair to say that a lot of cliché information about phenomena of “Philosophy Steamers” is not entirely true. The most common view of it is like a total forcible action. Of course the order of the expatriation itself was forcible, and that was a real personal tragedy for those, who found themselves in “expatriation lists”. But in the event itself we can find the only coincidence of the interests of authorities and intellectuals: each side wanted make this happen, and as soon as possible. From the memoirs of expatriates it can be seen, that the government encouraged the creation of social groups for departure. They gave the transport for representatives, information for obtaining visas and foreign passports, exchanged rubles for foreign currency, etc. This facts can be found only now, in the beginning of 21century, because in 2001 in the "Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences" were firstly published archival materials about “Philosophy Steamers” under the title “No place for intellectuals in Soviet Russia. Archival documents of 1922”.

There were representatives of different professions and ideological views, a variety of famous and not-known people among the deportees. Their future fate settled in various ways: some of them stayed in Prague, Berlin, London, Sofia, Paris. Others choose the Baltic, which was more close to Russia. They started to play a significant role in improvement of the educational standards of this region. For example, Professor Lev Karsavin had a chair of the history of Kaunas University, but his further life turned into tragedy. After World War II, he was arrested again and died in a concentration camp Abez in the Komi Republic. Some others, which were deported in 1922 and stayed in Baltic, were deported iteratively, for example this happened in 1947 with Alexander Ugrimov, agronomist.

However, if we look carefully, we can still find at least something common between all passengers of “Philosophy Steamers”. Almost all of them (but in different extents) were admirer of the idea of socialism. Nikolay Berdyaev, one of the passengers of “Philosophy Steamers” said about the revolutionary era of the early twentieth century: "That was Russia of the past, Russia of merchants and middle-class, which was supported by the Empire, which clashed with the intellectual Russia, revolutionary in spiritual and social spheres”. [Berdyaev N. Sources and sense of Russian communism].

Before the revolution of 1917 the intelligent elite was not able to realize their extremely vague social and political ideals, and after the fall of the autocracy, it was not able (because of various reasons), to keep power, which practically fell into hands.

Indeed, Russian revolution was in its large part prepared by these intellectuals, which were departed from motherland 5 years later. What a dramatic detail of history! Most of the members of “Philosophy Steamers”, which were interrogated by State Political Administration (GPU), declared their loyalty to the Soviet regime.

The country was plagued by civil war, and its inhabitants were satisfied by the fact that a stable government appeared at last, in spite of this government is Bolshevist. In materials of interrogation of Nikolay Losskiy, published recently, we can find his words: “The authorities of Russian Soviet Republic are genuine authorities. I prefer state order instead of anarchy and in the performance of my duty as a citizen, I have to be loyal and discharge all the decrees”.

Of course we have to suppose, that such law-abiding words were said because of the fear, but there are some details, which can expand our ideas about forms of conducting of interrogations with future members of “Philosophy Steamers”. For example now we can read a transcription of interrogation, which was made during one of the conversations of Nikolai Berdyaev with Felix Dzerjinskiy, and it doesn’t seems that N.Berdyaev was afraid of something more serious, then the fact of arrest itself (that was unpleasant, but rather predictable).

If that is so, we can suppose that the dialog of the authorities and future members of “Philosophy Steamers” started but was not successful. The form of that dialogue, selected by authorities, did not involve collaboration. It’s a bit difficult to co-work for prisoner with jailers. Generally, we can say, that the dialog failed because of the lack of the common method in mutually acceptable social guidelines. Humanities prepared ground for revolution seeds, but were not ready for aggressiveness of the “fruits” of their labour. Intellectual elite decided that the oral manifest about loyalty to the new authorities was enough and that was the invisible border, after which they had to fit on themselves a new role – role of emigrants.



1. Lesley Chamberlain, Lenin's Private War: The Voyage of the Philosophy Steamer and the Exile of the Intelligentsia, - New York, St Martin's Press, 2007

2. Glavazkiy M.G. “Philosophy Steamer”: the year 1922. Historiographical studies. – Ekaterinburg, 2007.

3. Makarov V.G., Christophorov V.S. The passengers of the “Philosophy Steamer” (the fates of intelligentsia, subjected to repressions in summer-autumn 1922) // Studies on Philosophy. - №7 (600), - Moscow, 2003 – pp. 113-137.



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