The Intellectual Adventures of a Russian Anti-Federalist: Radishchev, Condorcet, and the American Constitution

Keywords: A. N. Radishchev, anti-Federalism, Condorcet, Enlightenment, constitutionalism, history of political thought


This article suggests a new understanding of a shift in Radishchev’s perception of American democracy from the early version of Ode to Liberty to the final text of A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow. The historical and political theories present in Ode to Liberty are interpreted not as an abstract social utopia but as a reaction to the revolution in British colonies and an attempt at establishing a new society based on the ideals of equality and freedom. The adoption of the American constitution was the main reason for Radishchev’s disappointment in the USA. The evolution of Radishchev’s views is analysed within the context of the American debate between the Federalists and the Antifederalists and the discussions about the New World in France, especially the political philosophy of Nicola Condorcet and the debates on the representation of the slave-owning colony of Santo Domingo in the Assemblée nationale. The article studies the key sources of information that may have influenced Radishchev’s opinion and analyses the common features of Radishchev’s ideas about the US Constitution and his critical approach to the “abolitionist” wing of the Antifederalists. His disappointment in the American experience had a decisive impact on Radishchev’s political philosophy: the adoption of a federalist constitution and the preservation of slavery meant for him the collapse of all hopes for reshaping society on more humane and just grounds. This led to the adoption of apocalyptic tones in the final version of Ode to Liberty, as the author’s hopes for a better future now depended not upon any political activity, but upon the intervention of providential forces.

Author Biography

Andrey Zorin

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, University of Oxford; Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences.

Oxford, OX1 2JD, UK.

bldg. 1, 3–5, Gazetny Lane, 125009, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0001-9804-229X


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How to Cite
Zorin, A. (2021). The Intellectual Adventures of a Russian Anti-Federalist: Radishchev, Condorcet, and the American Constitution. Quaestio Rossica, 9(2), 679–701.