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Signposts Movement

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E058-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

The symposium Signposts (Vekhi, sometimes translated Landmarks), published in 1909, was a succès de scandale which provoked a long debate of extraordinary intensity and scope on the nature and outlook of the Russian intelligentsia. The discussion continued after the 1917 Revolution among intellectuals in exile, and was resumed in Russia with the republication of the volume in the Gorbachev era.

The contributors to Signposts were the philosophers N.A. Berdiaev (1874–1948), S.N. Bulgakov (1871–1944) and S.L. Frank (1877–1950); M.O. Gershenzon (1869–1925), a well-known critic and historian of literature; A.S. Izgoev (pseudonym of A.S. Lande, 1872–1935), a journalist active in the liberal Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party; B.A. Kistiakovskii (1868–1920), a specialist in constitutional law; and P.B. Struve (1870–1944), an eminent economist and editor, and a member of the Kadet Party’s Central Committee. They argued that the 1905 Revolution had revealed the despotic potential in the intelligentsia’s traditional materialist faith, and urged it to re-examine its values, which were based on a misunderstanding of human nature and threatened the existence of Russian culture.

The shock caused by the volume owed much to the fact that, unlike most of the intelligentsia’s critics, the authors were not of the political right. The majority were former Marxists who had moved to forms of liberalism based on idealist positions in philosophy. But although many intelligentsia groups were also reassessing their values in the wake of the 1905 Revolution, for political reasons liberals closed ranks with the left in an overwhelming condemnation of Signposts as a betrayal of the cause of freedom. The famous Signposts debate (which was pursued in exile after 1917 as a discussion on the meaning of the Russian Revolution) was not a dialogue, but rather a succession of dogmatic professions of faith by mutually hostile political groups. Western historians have commonly stressed the symposium’s significance as a prophetic indictment of Russian radical messianism from the standpoint of liberal pragmatism. But Signposts was not an ideological unity: as well as its dominant liberal Westernism it contained a strong strand of nationalistic messianism which had affinities with traditions on both the Russian left and the right. In this respect the volume reflects a fundamental tension in Russian thought between dogmatic utopianism and radical humanism.

Citing this article:
Kelly, Aileen. Signposts Movement, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E058-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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