A Champion for the Bourgeoisie

A Champion for the Bourgeoisie

Mini Teaser: A fictional 19th-century detective disdains Russia's intelligentsia and preaches a bourgeois sermon on virtue and responsible citizenship to Russia's nascent middle class.

by Author(s): Leon Aron

According to the polls conducted since 1990 every four years by the Center for the Study of Social and Cultural Changes of the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, between 1990 and 2002 the share of Russian citizens who say that they rely on themselves and not the state has grown from 43 percent to 78 percent. The share of those who preferred work for privately owned businesses (and not in the state sector) has increased from 20 percent to 85 percent. Despite the hardships, disappointments and dislocation of the last twelve years, pluralities or majorities continued to support liberty, independence and private initiative. Liberty, in particular, has been among the most consistently supported values of the past ten years. When asked to choose between "democracy that guarantees freedom and strict state control that guarantees security", 50 percent opted for the former and 30 percent for the latter.

May we, years or decades from now, look back at the popularity of the Fandorin cycle as a signal that, in choosing between the "intelligentsia tradition"--of solemn dreams and sordid reality, of relentless étatism, all-or-nothing politics, shoddy work and sterile castigation of all but themselves for everything that is wrong with the country--and the Chekhov-Vekhi-Fandorin liberal vision of progress founded on self-improvement, personal responsibility, gradualism, patience and quotidian hard work, post-Soviet Russia has given the latter at least a sporting chance?

Essay Types: Book Review