‘Well then, eliminate the people, curtail them, force them to be silent. Because the European Enlightenment is more important than people.’
– Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notebooks for The Brothers Karamazov, translated from the Russian by Edward Wasiolek
This is a quotation from a notebook Dostoevsky kept while writing The Brothers Karamazov. The novel explores the origins of the love–hate relationship that people sometimes have with Europe when they – like me – come from countries located at its peripheries that never quite manage to be European. There are many intellectuals living on the fringes of Europe who yearn for European values like democracy, equality, secularism, modernity, freedom and women’s rights, and who would like to see these implemented in their own countries. But most of their countrymen do not share these liberal intellectuals’ enthusiasm for the same values. So in countries like mine, intellectuals in pursuit of a dream of Europe will sometimes try to force the adoption of European values ‘from above’, enlisting the help of armies, tsars, shahs and sultans, or working through the machinery of the state.