James Billington in his book the icon and the axe, interpretive history of the Russian Culture provides comparative information on the ideologies of the old believers and that of the current populist. He emphasizes that the central notion or conception that haunted artists of the populist Russian era were the fact that the entire Russian life was materially portrayed or transformed through modernization of the forces emerging from the west. It is an act that affected the cultural practices and against the beliefs of the old populist who embraced and defended the old cultural practices. In his assertion, the changes began during the early periods of Alexander II crossing to the time of Catherine characterized by westernized aristocratic thoughts and the era of Peter characterized by technological changes.
The motive of the Russian populist was to defend the old patterns of life and culture. Comparatively, the old believers and the populist were aimed at defending a partly imagined and past that was idealized in conjunction with real forms, practices and the cultural aspects of the old Russian life which was peaceful and having non-revolutionary movements.
Russia after the failure of the old defendants was aimed to produce a new form of society hence the emergence of the socialist including the new Christianity that had an objective of rescuing the society from aristocratic century. Among the early populist including Khodiakov, Tkachew and Garshin among others went insane before death resulting in confusing of dreams. Nervous tics, epileptic fits, aimless wandering and alcohol addiction were common among the society members as cases of suicide were also recorded. The conception of Christianity melted making its basic beliefs to be considered animistic.
At the time when challenges hit the populist in the rural, the urban intellectuals sought to search simple individuals at the point when they discovered they were truly losing the sense of purpose and identity. The confusion of the peasantry resulted in loss of confidence both in church and the entire cosmology defining the life of the entire Russian rulers.
The mentality of the Russian Intelligentsia wedded the plights and confusions of the masses making them feel with precision the waning superstitious and the ennobling beliefs. The vague belief and pantheism held by the peasants became easier to acquire and believe as it was easier to the desired image of the populist.
The fundamental cause of madness among the populist remained and resulted in unresolved disagreement and conflicts that persisted within the intelligentsia due to their inability to accept things as they are and the attempt to better them. It is what Billington considered the conflict between the high ideals and harsh facts.
Later on, the ideas and facts were viewed to be the critical aspects of truth and which had originally resulted in conflict. Furthermore, the populist were followers of Mikhsilovsky holding that subjective and objective truth was held in Russian word Pravda and which was to be realized by its followers. Notably, despite the existing ideologies and fact that were not understood, the Comtian belief of having no contradiction between the truths of science and that of morality placed difficulties making it hard to hold in Russia.
In conclusion, the populist art emerged from its unique confusion and tension between things as they were and how they ought to become. A deepened illustration is between the muddled moralism of religious tracts and the limpid realism in the Tolsoys novels.
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