Russia happens to be lie in-between Europe and Asia (one third in Europe, and two thirds in Asia). A combination of geographic, historical, demographic, cultural factors helped forge a unique multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. The Russian nation bonded with other eastern Slavic groups, with peoples of the Uralic language family, and the Finno-Ugric group in particular, with ethnicities of the Altaic, Turkic, Caucasian and other language families of West, Central and East Asia, and Asia-Pacific.
In terms of religion, Russian Orthodox believers had to deal with Catholic and Protestant movements to the west and Islam, Buddhism and Lamaism to the east, as well as paganism and multiple local cults of Arctic groups. This interaction has shaped Russia as a unique independent Eurasian civilization.
Over many decades, Russian intellectuals sparred over two competing concepts, the so called Slavophiles and Westerners. Epochs and names changed but the nature of the at time heated debates has remained the same. Widely acclaimed academician Dmitry Likhachyov was deeply convinced that Russia is a part of Europe.
The Eurasianism banner was first raised by exiled intellectuals following the 1917 Revolution.
Simply put, our statehood rests on a marriage of Islamic and Orthodox elements.
This movement was led by Prince Nikolai Trubetskoy and Pyotr Savitsky. Russia’s outstanding scholar Lev Gumilev proclaimed himself to be ‘the last of the Eurasianists’.
The ideas of these brilliant philosophers have been gaining ground recently but I would like to mention another well-known scholar and educator, Ismail Gasprinsky, an authority on Islamic studies in early 20th century, the person who ‘awakened up the entire Turkic world’, as he used to be called back then.
(to be continued)