08.12. – 09.12.

Philosophical Steamboat 1922–2022: On the Centenary of the Exile of Intellectuals

Internal Workshop

Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities Essen (KWI), Gartensaal, Goethestr. 31, 45128 Essen

In May 1922, Lenin proposed replacing the death penalty for those actively opposed to Soviet rule with exile abroad. Many intellectuals – economists, sociologists, doctors, and philosophers – were expelled from Soviet Russia on steamboats and trains from Odessa, Moscow, Petrograd, and other cities.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the works of these thinkers in exile were very actively studied, and Russian religious philosophers became an important part of the philosophical discipline in various post-Soviet countries, including Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Preparing for the centenary of the “philosophical steamboat” in 2022, scholars could never have imagined that the Russian army would launch military operations in Ukraine, and that they or their colleagues would be exiled. Philosophers in Ukraine are now forced to work under shelling and bombing, or to seek safety in other countries. Many Russian academics have been denounced for their anti-war activities, and many have been fired and pushed out of the country.

Exactly one hundred years later, the “philosophical steamboat” is back again in a new form. It is necessary to compare these different phenomena, which are united by the common intention of getting rid of unwanted intellectuals representing “Western thought,” and to consider how émigré philosophy is being expropriated as a philosophical basis for Russia in 2022. The workshop will analyze the ideological and political context of the expulsions of 1922 and 2022, as well as the geographical localization of the exiles and their impact on local communities in Europe and beyond. There is also a need to explore biographies through a decolonial and gendered lens in order to show how the history of a hundred years ago can be interpreted today.

Presentation topics include but are not limited to the following titles:

  • Ukrainian Discourses of the “Philosophical Steamboat” Anno Domini 2022
  • Tatiana Sergeevna Frank as a Passenger on the Philosophical Steamboat
  • Мaxim Gorky in the Eyes of the Italian Intelligence Service (From a Secret Archive) 1923–1933
  • Political Identity of David B. Zilberman: A Story of Political Self-Determination of an Emigrant in the 1970s