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Freedom for the Philosopher: Lina Tumanova’s Scholarship and Human Rights Activism in the Late USSR

Part of the series "Women’s agency during wars and social conflicts: new sources and a fresh look at Eurasian history"

Tatiana Levina (KWI)

University of Turku, Arcanum, A229

Lina Tumanova (1936 – 1985) was a philosopher, human rights activist, translator of Alfred North Whitehead, researcher of Hegel’s logic, Leibniz’s and Spinoza’s philosophy, and colleague of Vladimir S. Bibler at the “Dialogue of Cultures” seminar. A samizdat writer, she contributed to “Bulletin V“, the Fund for the Support of Political Prisoners, and also spoke in defense of those persecuted for political reasons. Detained in the KGB’s Lefortovo pre-trial detention unit in 1984, she was released as being hopelessly ill after a short (two-month) stay in Lefortovo prison.

The book “Freedom and Reason. Selected Philosophical Works” was published by Lina’s colleagues in 2010. Svetlana Neretina, a friend, writes about the two modes of her life: “A quiet philosophising, as if not looking back at the political situation, and a rigid commitment to ethical principles, which forced her to get involved in the political situation”. Unfortunately, Tumanova’s work has hardly been discussed either in the context of philosophy or in the context of dissident practice.

In her talk, Tatiana Levina will examine Tumanova’s philosophical path, her research work, and her involvement in the practices of the “Dialogues of Culture” seminar, which focused on the themes of freedom and rationality. In the second part,  Tumanova’s human rights activism, which developed after the Prague Spring of 1968 will be considered. Finally, Levina will comment on her defense of Ukrainian political prisoners: Dmitry Mazur, Vasily Ovsienko, Stepan Sapelyak, and analyze her open letters in defense of Ivan Kovalev, Anatoly Marchenko, Alexey Smirnov.

At the end of her talk, Levina will sketch the research on women dissidents and how the practices of their memorisation took place in Russia before 2022 and elsewhere.