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Encounters with Isaiah Berlin

Story of an Intellectual Friendship

Series:

Andrzej Walicki

The volume contains Isaiah Berlin’s letters to his Polish friend, Andrzej Walicki, and Walicki’s detailed account of Berlin’s role in his life. Berlin actively promoted Walicki’s books on Russian intellectual history not only because of his own interest in the subject. Above all he wanted to promote Russian intellectual history as a separate, internationally recognized field of study and, therefore, warmly welcomed Walicki’s firm intention to study it in a systematic way, with the aim of providing a comprehensive synthesis of all important currents in pre-Revolutionary Russian thought. Already at their meeting Berlin discovered in Walicki a promising candidate to help him in laying foundations for Russian intellectual history as a legitimate part of the universal history of ideas; as a discipline rewarding in itself and particularly relevant for rediscovering the great traditions of the Russian intelligentsia and setting them against the stifling dogmas of Soviet totalitarianism.

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Appendix 213

Extract

Appendix The letters of Isaiah Berlin, which I decided to publish in this volume, contain a moving story of his unfailing moral and intellectual support for my work, as well as his repeated efforts to assist me in my academic career in the West. He actively promoted my books on Russian intellectual history not only because of his agree- ment with my ideas and interpretations; after all, our agreement on the essentials did not exclude differences, or friendly disagreements, in particular questions. He wanted above all to promote Russian intellectual history as a separate, interna- tionally recognized field of study and, therefore, warmly welcomed my devotion to this field, my firm intention to study it in a systematic way, with the aim of of- fering a comprehensive synthesis of all important currents in pre-Revolutionary Russian thought. He was impressed by my genuine enthusiasm for the subject and the sense of mission with which I endowed my work. He shared my view that the Poles could understand the Russians better than the Westerners and, therefore, should do their best to play a positive, constructive role in the intellectual libera- tion and moral renewal of the Soviet Russia. Hence he saw me as a promising candidate to help him in laying foundations for Russian intellectual history as a legitimate part of the universal history of ideas; as a discipline rewarding in itself and, at the same time, particularly relevant for the noble cause of rediscovering the great traditions of the Russian intelligentsia...

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