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A purified definition of nihilism is reduction to that which is ineluctable, which is a short way of saying that nihilism is about dealing with those elements and facts that cannot be avoided, vitiated or abrogated, while accepting that all else is shades of illusion. – Freydis

— Freydis

A purified definition of nihilism is reduction to that which is ineluctable, which is a short way of saying that nihilism is about dealing with those elements and facts that cannot be avoided, vitiated or abrogated, while accepting that all else is shades of illusion. – Freydis

The Russian Revolutionaries

Although nihilism is often thought of as a vague concept relegated to the arena of philosophy, or perhaps as the unavoidable conclusion to post-modernist thought, nihilism does have a strong historical background that deserves greater recognition. The most significant manifestation of nihilism in recent history also coincides with its most active and organized expression, that of the Russian nihilist revolutionaries who rose to prominence in the 1860s.

The Russian nihilists (the Russian word for nihilist is nigilist) tend to be associated with violence, revolution, and terrorist acts such as the assassination of Czar Alexander II by the ‘Will of the People’ group. But although violent acts get recorded in the history books often the lasting impact is carried through non-violent ideas and identities. The Russian Nihilists were intriguing in this regard for their history is like that of an iceberg – only a small portion of their total character is readily visible. Indeed, much of the violent acts associated with the attempted overthrow of the monarchy occurred under the auspices of other groups such as anarchists, Marxists and narodnichestvo populists in the 1870s, rather than those directly associated with the Nihilists themselves who were much more complex than the over-simplified ‘terrorist’ label attached to them by autocratic authorities.

Nihilism was not so much a corpus of formal beliefs and programs (like populism, liberalism, Marxism) as it was a cluster of attitudes and social values and a set of behavioral affects—manners, dress, friendship patterns. In short, it was an ethos. [2]

Historical Context

In order to understand who the Russian Nihilists were we first have to understand what they fought against and why. Europe in the 19th century was a time of dramatic changes — political, economic, and social. Industrialization created fantastic wealth disparities and entirely new classes of people as the old aristocratic power system transformed into a plutocratic one. Cities grew rapidly and traditional agrarian lifestyles were decimated in favor of the cramped urban life of wage slavery. Imperial Russia experienced many of these difficult changes but events often took on a more extreme character than that of Western Europe and social development for Russia has always been both painful and slow.

All of the wiser Russian monarchs realized that their system of serfdom, with a social structure of the very few existing on the backs of the very many, was not sustainable and would end in bloody rebellion sooner or later. The problem was implementing reforms that were both effective and politically realistic. By the middle of the 19th century the forces of state repression coupled with the longevity of the problem had already created such an intolerable situation that fixing the system through reform was essentially impossible. The only reasonable answer to this kind of situation is nihilism; the only way to live is to destroy. Russia had become a stifling, backwards country run by a ruling elite grown fabulously wealthy through rampant natural resource extraction. The Russian government had become completely disconnected from its subjects and new information and new ideas were impossible to prevent from seeping into the country from the heated and bubbling social scene in Western Europe. Even a brutal and violent police-state could not stop the Nihilists, other dedicated revolutionaries, or the inevitable outcome of the conflict.

Historical Context…please continue on http://www.counterorder.com/history.html

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