A concept that has become widespread in post-Soviet historiography
holds that Russia’s development is cyclic, pendulum-like, or inverted.
According to that concept, Russia, unlike the West, develops not progressively, but in a convulsive, pendulum-like way: It moves forward and then backtracks; progress is followed by reaction, such that movement is in a vicious circle. This article identifies four versions of the concept and draws conclusions about its weaknesses and strengths. The concept has three flaws. The first is anti-historicism: It ignores the vast changes that were taking place in Russian society, which runs counter to the principle of historicism. The second flaw is Eurocentrism: The West is idealized and regarded as the ighest
manifestation of civilization and a model for emulation and comparison, while
deviations from this model and reforms that do not lead to Westernization
are condemned. The third flaw is apriorism, poor empirical grounding, with
explanations more often than not based on hypotheses and even guesswork.
The main methodological tools are comparison, analogies, good examples,
and deduction as selective ordering of facts in support of a certain hypothesis. Historians usually consider this an unreliable toolkit that opens up opportunities for making a plethora of weakly substantiated hypotheses. Even so, the concept in question objectively captures some characteristic features of the Russian historical process: the existence of cycles in political, social and economic development; the pulsating character of reforms; the prevalence of the authoritarian style of governance; the low level of culture of the population; the big role of traditional institutions, folk political culture and peculiar cognitive practices; and great historical inertia, i.e., an attachment to the past anchored in civilizational stereotypes. However, the shortcomings and weaknesses of Russian society tend to be exaggerated, while its achievements and strengths are belittled. The advocates of cyclism share a negative attitude toward power of all levels – an attitude widespread in Russian historiography. The imbalance creates a bias that distorts the course of Russian history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-132
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

ID: 114754576