TITLE: George Kennan and the Russian Nihilists: A Sojourn into the Dialectics of Friendship
SPEAKER: Andrew Gentes
EVENT DATE: 2010/08/05
FORMAT: Video + Captions
RUNNING TIME: 72 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)
In 1885 George Kennan travelled to Russia as a reporter for "The Century" to investigate and write about the so-called Nihilists. Hundreds of political dissidents had been exiled to Siberia since the mid-1870s, and in 1881 Russia's most violent revolutionaries attracted international attention with the assassination of Alexander II. "The Century" hoped to capitalize upon a prurient interest in "bomb-throwing fanatics." However, what Kennan met instead in Siberia were dozens of earnest and rational young men and women who told of a cruel and despotic regime and proved to be cultured individuals sharing Americans' love of freedom and democracy. This talk draws upon philosophical inquiries into the nature of friendship to explore several of Kennan's relationships with revolutionaries during a pivotal time in both American and Russian history. It shows the extent to which the private and the political spheres overlap, and suggests that because friendship is historically conditioned and therefore not what it once was, so too has politics changed.
Speaker Biography: Andrew Gentes is a historian and professor at the University of Queensland, Australia.