Carl Schmitt and the Russian Revolution

Interpretation, Reception and Transfer (1917–2017)

Date: 1 September 2017, 09:00–12:00

Venue: Corvinus University, Fővám tér 8, room 395



The prominent as well as contradictionous German constitutionalist and government counsellor Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) described the political and cultural existence of Europe in his famous essay Der Begriff des Politischen (1927/32) as being »sous l‘oeil des Russes«, literally beneath the eyes of the Russians. Schmitt referred not only to the historical significance of the Russian Tsardom in Europe till the end of the 19th Century but, particularly, to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Soviet Union founded in 1922. As mayor cultural and political phenomena, both made up the intellectual background that influenced Schmitt’s political writings after the habilitation at Strassbourg, especially determining his important writings after the First World War Politische Romantik (1919), Die Diktatur (1921) and Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus (1923). Along with the fascist Italy, the Soviet totalitarianism had an essential impact not only on Schmitt‘s critique of the European liberalism and Western democracies before 1933 but on his political and historical concepts after the Second World War as well.

The panel sheds light on the transfer of Schmitt’s political key concepts and considerations on the Russian Revolution into the different (trans)national discourses throughout Europe by investigating five case-studies from interdisciplinary perspective which cover historical analysis and political science. The panel-coordinators argue that Schmitt’s view of the Russian Revolution and his interpretation of the Soviet totalitarianism circulated not only in the German-speaking Europe but also to Spain, Italy and to Eastern Europe, particularly to Poland and Russia itself.

By using the approaches of transfers culturels (Michel Espagne & Michael Werner) as well as of circulation des idees (Pierre Bourdieu), the panel participants try to investigate the resemantisation effects from recent methodological innovations shaped as logical constitutive cultural transfer (Carl Antonius Lemke Duque & Zaur Gasimov). In the framework of this interdisciplinary methodology, the panel targets at a recontextualised analysis of the essential antagonisms between conservative and radical-democratic receptions of Schmitt in Europe after 1945.



Zaur Gasimov (Orient Institut Istanbul / Max Weber Foundation Bonn)

Carl Antonius Lemke Duque (University of Deusto / German Historical Institute Rome)


Joaquín Abellán (Complutense University of Madrid)


Montserrat Herrero (University of Navarra) 


Carl Antonius Lemke Duque (University of Deusto / German Historical Institute Rome)

Geminello Preterossi (University of Salerno)

Kálmán Pócza (Pázmány Péter Catholic University)

Marek Aleksander Cichocki (European College Natolin Warsaw)

Zaur Gasimov (Orient Institut Istanbul / Max Weber Foundation Bonn)



Carl Antonius Lemke Duque: Infinite resemantization: Schmitt as a key to political discourse in Spain since 1931

The paper delves into the cultural transfer of Carl Schmitts political philosophy and his view of the Russian October Revolution and the Sowjet Totalitarism to Spain by comparing two different socio-political contexts of Spanish History in 20th Century: (A) the Second Spanish Republic 1931-1936 and (B) Francoism 1939-1975. The first focus of the paper mainly examines the reception of Schmitt through the circle of intelectuals of the famous cultural journal Revista de Occidente founded in 1923 by José Ortega y Gasset (1885-1955). Being one of the most influential Spanish political thinkers, Ortega as well as his disciples and colleagues participated in a decisive manner not only during the debate on the Republican Constitution in 1930/31 but also in republican political discourses till the outbreack of the Civil War. The second focus of the paper investigates the reception of Schmitt through the political elite of Francoism, particularly the Revista de Estudios Políticos and the catholic journal Arbor till the final stage of Francoist dictatorship at the end of the 1960ies. Lastly, the present paper concludes by sketching Schmitt as a key to political discourse in Spain discussing the range of his implicit presence since the democratic “transición“ during the 1970ies till the present day. Methodically the paper applies discourse and cultural transfer analysis using a logical-constitutive approach.

Geminello Preterossi: State and political space: Schmitt in Italy after 1945

The first Schmitt’s Italian reception was mostly legal (during the years of Fascism, the most important reading iscertainly that of Costantino Mortati, one of the fathers of Republican Constitution of 1948). Really considerable are also the relationships with Schmitt's thought of two very different figures, who had both a significant weight in the culture of the Italian Left: Delio Cantimori and Norberto Bobbio. The publication in 1972 of the Schmittian essays collection The categories of political (ed. by Gianfranco Miglio and Pierangelo Schiera) represents a turning point. The cultural project set up by Miglio, a political scientist of great stature, that united Catholic conservatism and “Jacobin” radicalism, opens a new season of the reception and influence of Schmitt in Italian culture. Carl Schmitt is fully cleared through customs on the Left, in the “heretical” currents of the Italian Marxism, that are interested to innovate its theoretical system, including through the claim of the autonomy of the “political” (Tronti, Cacciari, Marramao, Bolaffi, De Giovanni). Closed this parable, essentially political and ideological nature, the approach to Schmitt became more detached: this made it possible to fully grasp his contribution ad last and more radical interpreter of the jus publicum europaeum and its crisis, as well as a forerunner, with its reflection on the Nomos of the Earth, of the aporias of globalization.

Kálmán Pócza: (De)politicization of law and politics: Carl Schmitt in Hungary

Carl Schmitt visited Hungary two times during the WWII and his public lectures, presented at the Faculty of Law of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University Budapest (4 May 1942) and at the German Scientific Institute (9 November 1943), served several aims at the same time: they promoted the agenda of the Third Reich in general, strengthened the German scientific influence and contributed to special issues of international law. The reception of his works started well before these visits and, astonishingly enough, Schmitt’ influence on Hungarian scientific community was palpable even after the Soviet occupation of Hungary. Certainly, his works recalled almost completely negative echoes after 1945, principally due to the Schmitt reception of György Lukács (George Lukacs) in his book The Destruction of Reason (1954). Although Schmitt was forgotten for a while, in the late 80s scholarly attention has been renewed in his works. This renewal was more balanced than the Schmitt reception of Lukács and certainly contributed to a distinct revival of Schmitt’s work after the democratic transformation process. In my lecture, I will delineate shortly the history of Schmitt reception in Hungary after the democratic transformation and put the question how his concept of political influenced the political thinking and political action in Hungary. His concept of depoliticization (combined with the idea of political realism quite widespread in the Angloshpere) seems to be a heuristic starting point for the interpretation of political processes directly after the democratic transformation while the concept of the political and of political realism fit for the interpretation of politics in Hungary after 2010, the landslide victory of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz in general elections.

Marek Aleksander Cichocki: Constitution and beyond:  The reception of Schmitt in Poland

Reception of Schmitt's thought has a long tradition in Poland tracing back to the period befor the Second World War (Konstanty Grzybowski). The high of the interest on Schmitt in Poland is however placed in the last decade of the 20th Century in the context of the postcommunist transformation. Hance it was mainly focused on the Schmitt's critique of liberalism. Now the conflict around the Polish constitutional order and the Role of the Constitutional Court coincides with the Polish edition of Schmitt's Verfassungslehre (2015). The paper aims at analysing the significance and the role of Schmitt's stance to the nature of the constitutional order for the current debate in Poland caused by the constitutional crisis.

Zaur Gasimov: Longing for space and condemning liberalism: Schmitt’s adventures in post-Soviet Russia and Turkey

In 2014, the leading Russian academic journal on philosophy Voprosy filosofii published an article of Valerii A. Senderov (1945-2014) Totalitarian Thought in Russia and Carl Schmitt. Senderov tried to explain the unprecedented success of Schmittian ideas in the post-Communist Russia by portraying the evolution of the Russian totalitarianism since the late-Soviet period. Schmitt and his approaches fit best to the ideological reactions among Russian neoconservative and right-wing intellectuals after the collapse of the Soviet Union and failed democratization during the early 1990s. While Alexander Dugin, a Russian protagonist of Eurasianism and geopolitical thinking in the politics, introduced Schmitt to the Russian audience in 1992, the majority of Schmitt’s writings have been translated, published and republished in Russia during the last decade. A number of Russian neo-conservative intellectuals united under the auspices of Izborgskii klub (2012) invocated Schmitt to the best explanation of the alleged contemporary crisis of parliamentarian democracy, European idea etc. After the Russian occupation of the Crimea, even the comparisons between Putin and Schmitt emerged in the Russian public discourses. Schmitt has been invoked for explanation and the ‘self-analysis’ of Russia’s state behavior ‘after decades of degradation and humiliation’.  In Turkey, translations of Schmitt's works have been booming since two decades. The process of steadious authoritarianism goes hand in hand with increased interest on Schmittian ideas.The contribution aims at the comparative investigation of the late reception of Schmitt in post-Communist Russia and in Turkey in the context of current the rise of neo-conservatism and rightist discourses all over Europe.

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