Cover Osteuropa 4/2009

In Osteuropa 4/2009

The State and the Individual
Antagonisms in the History of Ideas in Russia

Nikolaj Plotnikov

Deutsche Fassung


The state and the individual are understood in Russia as opposites. This antagonistic idea is frequently traced back to a Byzantine tradition. It is in fact, however, the legacy of a specific reception of western theories of the state and concepts of personality. With their help, unlimited state power – which can form society (understood as tabula rasa) in the name of the “public weal” – is legitimised. In this way of thinking, the individual cannot be understood as a legal entity but only as an exception, as artistic genius or isolated figure on the periphery. This radical antagonism of state and individual – which is based on the history of ideas – encumbers the establishment of a state founded on rule of law that makes human rights the principle of its legitimacy.

(Osteuropa 4/2009, pp. 3–16)