1998 Balzan Prize for the Cultural and Social History of the Slavonic World
Historian and philosopher, Professor Walicki (1930 – 2020) is to be placed amongst the maximum experts dealing with the intellectual and social history of 19th century Russia and Poland. The scientific community was quick to appreciate his profound scholarly attributes, as well as the vast range of his analytical research, sparked on by an untiring curiosity. His unique approach to cultural history encompasses many topics and fields, and, for him, the subject of History itself represents social, religious, and economic history, as is also the case for the science of thought and philosophy. lt is this poly-historic method, sustained by a vast culture and, more importantly, by a perfect knowledge of the Slavonic, as well as Germanic world that has allowed Professor Walicki to create a substantial body of work which stands as a monumental contribution to the history of European culture. This accomplishment is well evidenced through his written works, comprising more than twenty books and numerous articles. From the very beginnings of his activity, Professor Walicki has shown us that he possesses a complete vision of the cultural history of the Slavonic peoples. In 1969, in one of his first works dedicated to the social philosophy of the Russian populists, he made a most important contribution to the study of populist thought. In so doing, he was also able to shed light on the ties between Marxism and Populism, helping us to understand how the latter paved the way fo Marxist thought. We must here acknowledge our debt to this outstanding historian for giving us extraordinary portraits of the great though lesser well-known intellectuals of revolutionary Russia such as Mikhailovski.
Professor Walicki has done much to demonstrate how the philosophy ot the Enlightenment was embraced by the Slavonic world – Russia and Poland – and how the culture of these European countries was principally Romantic, Utopian, and Messianic; all this occurring at the same historical moment when the Raison held power over the heart of Occidental Europe. The Slavophile Controversy, published in Polish in 1964, and re-issued for twenty years in Great Britain and the United States, still remains the fundamental text for understanding Russian culture and its evolution, A History of Russian Thought from the Enhightenment to Marxism, published in Polish a quarter of a century ago, and now also available in English, elegantly unifies the thoughts of Russian intellectuals and the general history of Russian development. Liberalism in Russia and the development of the national identity of Poland are the other topics given major attention in the original works of Professor Walicki. Based upon this important contribution, we arrive at the conclusion that the culture of Europe is inseparable from its history. We come to understand that one cannot write the history of a people only in relation to the historical events that befall them. In the end, it is these events which form the cultural structures which, in their turn, give a people their identity.
As a historian of the 19th century, Professor Walicki has also shed light upon the movements and conflicts that influence the peoples of Europe at this turn of the century.
Today, as in the preceding century, the debate between Liberalism and Socialism is at the heart of all decisions taken in Europe.