The humiliation suffered in the Crimean War compelled the tsar Alexander II to put at the top of his agenda the abolition of serfdom and the task of reforming his immense country. For Russian cultivated society it became imperative to confront the problem of backwardness and its remedies. A new generation of progressive intelligenty came of age in the cultural climate created by the launch of the Great Reforms.
Nurtured in a peculiar blend of Populism, Occidentalism and Positivism, and inspired by a firm educational commitment and an unshakable faith in the power of historical and sociological knowledge, they enthusiastically devoted themselves to the mission of reducing the gap between Russia and the West and preparing the ground for the final convergence of their historic developments.

Giovanna Cigliano is Associate Professor at the University Federico II of Naples, Department of Humanities, where she teaches Contemporary History and History of Eastern Europe. Her research activity focuses on the political and intellectual history of late imperial Russia. Among her works: Liberalismo e rivoluzione in Russia. Il 1905 nell’esperienza di M.M. Kovalevskij (Naples 2002), La Russia contemporanea. Un profilo storico. Nuova edizione (Rome 2013), Identità nazionale e periferie imperiali. Il dibattito politico e intellettuale sulla questione ucraina nella Russia zarista. Volume I, 1905-1914 (Florence 2013).