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Regular version of the site

The HSE’s French Anniversary

December 5-6, 2013 HSE held an international conference “Diderot, Encyclopaedia, Enlightenment”, which was organised jointly by the Philosophy, History and Philology faculties. Russian academics and French researchers from the universities of Caen, Reims, Paris Ouest and Paris Sorbonne all took part in the forum.


The HSE’s French Anniversary This year the Higher School of Economics has been celebrating 20 years of cooperation with French universities and government and non-government organisations. Since 1993 the HSE has developed partnerships with almost 30 universities and research institutes in France and other francophone countries. To mark the occasion, special pages have been created on the HSE website and the HSE French Centre has prepared a booklet A Twenty year Partnership.


Elena Penskaya, Alexey Rutkevich, Anastasia Yastrebtseva
Elena Penskaya, Alexey Rutkevich, Anastasia Yastrebtseva
It was no accident that three faculties were involved in organising the conference to mark the 300th birthday of Denis Diderot. As a philosopher, teacher, writer, dramatist and literary critic and a representative of the epoch of the Enlightenment both in Europe and in Russia, Diderot fascinates philologists, philosophers and historians alike.

Elena Penskaya, Dean of the Philology Faculty said that we find the precursors to all modern ideas in Diderot’s philosophical writings. “A passionate truth seeker, trying to change the world through reason, - that’s Diderot. It’s interesting to follow how the intellectual reference points of that time correspond to those of the 20th and 21st centuries”, she remarked.

There were papers by Alexey Rutkevich, Dean of the Philosophy Faculty and Alexander Kamenskii, Dean of the History Faculty, and from other experts too. Alexander Kamenskii is a specialist on Catherine the Great and it was on her invitation that Diderot came to St Petersburg. Their long conversations however did not persuade Catherine to do away with the luxuries of court life or introduce free education for all. Alexey Rutkevich spoke about how we can still see the relevance of Diderot’s work today, “if we look at the world around us, we see that the Age of the Enlightenment is not over because the faith of the modern world is in human rights and Diderot wrote a great deal on the subject, particularly in his article on Natural Rights in the 5th volume of the Encyclopedia”.

Deputy Dean of the Philosophy Faculty Anastasia Yastrebtseva talked in more detail about the way the HSE and the universities of Cannes and Reims work together. The cooperation includes student exchanges, internships for teachers and staff and lecture programmes in France and Russia. For example HSE specialists give lectures at Caen University’s annual seminar on Russian philosophy and the Centre for Basic Research also supports joint projects there.

Reporting by Olga Bulycheva, specially for the HSE news website

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