Artemyeva, Tatiana: Encyclopedism of the Russian Enlightenment in the Context of the History of Ideas.

The history of encyclopedism is an important part of intellectual history and helps to understand basic principles of research and thinking. The encyclopedic look at the world was an outcome of new epistemological principles and the separation of science into a specific sphere of knowledge. Initial attempts to systemize knowledge in Russia were represented through linguistic dictionaries which acted as a substitute for universal encyclopedias in the period of Enlightenment. Russian scholars however, did not follow famous examples like Zedler’s Universal‐Lexicon, Encyclopaedia Britannica and even Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des métiers despite the fact that many texts from the Encyclopédie were translated into Russian and the authors were supported by many outstanding Russian aristocrats, including Empress Catherine the Great herself. French philosophers like Voltaire, Diderot, D’Alembert, Rousseau, Montesquieu, were never studied systematically in connection with the specificity of the encyclopedic discourse. The birth of the phenomena of encyclopedism as an epistemological ideal or form of universal knowledge in the epoch of Enlightenment signaled the emergence of an encyclopedic thinker like Christian Wolff. Wolff’s philosophical method was adequately grasped by Russian thinkers and used by them in the process of assimilation and classification of new knowledge. His method proved to be most valuable for natural sciences, because it allowed the segregation of physical, chemical, mathematical and other researches from socio‐political and ideological problems, thus separating philosophy and science. His method formed a whole generation of Russian scholars and formulated scientific thinking in Russia creating a system of encyclopedia principles which developed later into a new type of rationality that gradually seized science, philosophy, history, philology, political and economic theories. This ‘encyclopedic’ look at the world emphasised the universality of method that permitted to work out new knowledge when required and to bring it into correlation with other branches of knowledge. However, Wolffianism was interpreted and modified to fit the requirements of the Russian Enlightenment.