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The Gumilev MystiqueBiopolitics, Eurasianism, and the Construction of Community in Modern Russia$
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Mark Bassin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780801445941

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801445941.001.0001

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Soviet Visions of Society and Nature

Soviet Visions of Society and Nature

(p.117) 5 Soviet Visions of Society and Nature
The Gumilev Mystique

Mark Bassin

Cornell University Press

This chapter considers Gumilev's position on post-Stalinist debates about the society-nature relationship. It argues that despite the iconoclastic ecological and holistic tone of his work, in important ways he sided with the neo-Stalinist establishment and against the revisionists. The basis for his position derived from his view of the nature of ethnicity. Gumilev's naturalization of ethnicity came at the expense of divorcing it ontologically from all aspects of social existence. Gumilev insisted on the radical and absolute differentiation between ethnic and social being, between the ethnosphere and the sociosphere. The ethnos stood completely outside of any social category and operated on an entirely different basis. This principled disassociation had two immediate implications. On the one hand, it made it possible to identity the ethnos explicitly as a biological-ecological entity and an organic part of the natural world. At the same time, however, the differentiation of etnos and obshchestvo meant that society itself remained in principle entirely separate from the natural world. The quirky upshot was that at the same time that Gumilev was flouting Stalinist orthodoxy in the most radical fashion with an elaborate naturalistic description of ethnic being, he was also simultaneously confirming and endorsing the essential Stalinist severance of the social from the natural. This ambivalence was reflected precisely in his schizophrenic attempts to correlate his theories to Soviet-Marxist doctrines.

Keywords:   Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev, Soviet Union, Stalin, society, nature, ethnicity, Marxism

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