May 01, 2006

The Original Slavophiles

In many ways, the upbringing of the brothers Ivan and Peter Kireyevsky was typical for children of the Russian nobility during the early 19th century, but since they were both born with exceptional abilities and grew up among people for whom poetry, philosophy and history were as essential as oxygen, the boys received a truly remarkable education.

Like most young nobles, the brothers were fluent in French, but they also spoke many other languages, both modern and ancient. They spent most of their time reading and thinking, and few saw anything unusual in this.

The brilliantly educated young men could have chosen any of a number of prestigious careers in the Foreign Ministry, where they undoubtedly would have held top positions, perhaps becoming ambassadors or ministers. But they chose another path.

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