An Outline of Alexander Petrov’s Interview with Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress, 
29 August 2001.

Petrov: What is the idea behind this project ”Meeting of Frontiers?
How did it develop, and where do you see it headed?

Billington: Actually, the project consists of two stages.  The first goes back to my early research, and in particular my book The Icon and the Axe. I’ve always been interested in the parallels between Russia and America, particularly starting with the period of the 16th-17th centuries.  I would like to mention the fact that Russian colonization has developed in stages, and has certain steps.  From this time to now, I believe Russia’s history has been part of European history.  Many things were happening in Russia at the same time.  For example, exploration of the East coincided with very tumultuous periods in Russian history, for example the Time of Troubles and the split in the Orthodox Church, together with the exodus of the Old Believers to Siberia. The idea of the frontier was developed not only in America, but also in Russia.  In Russia, the frontier was not just in the East, but in the North also.  The frontier was in the mind of the people, but was geographical and political as well.  Russian, as well as American history, could be understood as the adoption of some European technological and political innovations in all spheres.  For example, Peter the Great adopted the Swedish model of government institutions, while Russian industry was based mainly on the German model, as well as in America where the governmental institutions were based on the advances of the Enlightenment and are based deeply on European tradition. I would also like to mention the role of the Russian North in the development in the exploration and development of Siberia.  So that people from Vologda, for example, can find out more about the parallel processes happening in Siberia and other northern places such as Novgorod. I feel further research should be done on this matter.
So the second step is to put these ideas of parallel history together.  The idea has been always to present a fresh approach to both Russian and American history, thereby transcending boundaries.  This notion came about during the spread of the internet, an innovation I believe is replacing the book culture.  The internet is in itself another frontier.  I discussed this project with Senator Ted Stevens, because it was Alaska where the Russian and American frontiers first met, and met with great interest in his part.  The approach was for the project to address different areas of the humanities.  The idea is for anyone to be able to ask a question in an area of interest, to be able to zoom in as it were, but also for those generally interested in the topic, to ‘zoom out’, in schools, for example.  Its primary use is as a powerful educational tool.

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