Reviews

This article explores the life of Petr N. Savitsky (1895-1968) and investigates how his biography, his teachings, and his politics were linked together in a web of imperial dreams and projects.  S. Glebov’s analysis centres on a specific issue, namely, the emergence in interwar Europe of the Structuralist programme to renovate the humanities and social sciences.  In the case of the Eurasianists, the openness of Russian science to Structuralism was linked to a specific national epistemological tradition.  The author shows how the Eurasianist movement was in fact part of a systemic approach that exceeded the bounds of the nineteenth-century holistic geographical tradition.  This approach formed a specific “Russian science” distinct from its West European counterpart, and which borrowed from the theories of chemist D. I. Mendeleev, and those of geoscientists V. V. Dokuchaev and V. I. Vernadsky.  Similar to the German tradition of Naturphilosophie, the Eurasianist conception of territory is not that of a separate entity but of a complex that includes natural conditions and the anthropogenic landscape.  Further, the Structuralist aspect of the Eurasian territory involves a political and cultural correlate, since its conception of geography and its corresponding historical schema undermine the historical paradigm of the Enlightenment.  Savitsky thus propounded a theory describing regularities in the territorial structure of Eurasia such that the border between Europe and Eurasia became enshrined in the data of physical geography.  The Eurasianist discourse not only separated Eurasia from the impact of standardising modernity of Europe; it also sought to efface differences within Eurasia itself in a bid to justify the a priori existence of Eurasia as embodied by the Russian Empire.  The approach developed by S. Glebov allows him to reveal unexpected links between a doctrine of empire and the birth of Structuralist thought.

Marlène Laruelle, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC
CER: I-1.2.B-58