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Nikolai Berdyaev

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Nikolai Berdyaev

Nikolai Berdyaev
Born March 18, 1874
Kiev, Russian Empire
Died March 24, 1948(1948-03-24) (aged 74)
Clamart, France
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Russian philosophy
School Christian existentialism
Main interests
Creativity, morality, freedom
Nikolai Berdyaev.
Berdyaev's grave, Clamart (France).

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (;[1] Russian: Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Бердя́ев; March 18 [O.S. March 6] 1874 – March 24, 1948) was a Russian religious and political philosopher.

Contents

  • Biography 1
  • Philosophy 2
  • Works 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Works cited 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Biography

Berdyaev was born near Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Kant when only fourteen years old and excelled at languages.

Berdyaev decided on an intellectual career and entered the Kiev University in 1894. This was a time of revolutionary fervor among the students and the intelligentsia. Berdyaev became a Marxist and in 1898 was arrested in a student demonstration and expelled from the University. His involvement in illegal activities led in 1897 to three years of internal exile in Vologda[3]:28 in northern Russia—a mild sentence compared to that faced by many other revolutionaries.

In 1904 Berdyaev married Lydia Trusheff and the couple moved to Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital and center of intellectual and revolutionary activity. Berdyaev participated fully in intellectual and spiritual debate, eventually departing from radical Marxism to focus his attention on philosophy and Christian spirituality. In Christianity and Social Reality he tells about his journey from Marx to Christ, and he tells his disillusionment with both the revolutionaries and the Church.

A fiery 1913 article criticising the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church caused him to be charged with the crime of blasphemy, the punishment for which was exile to Siberia for life. The World War and the Bolshevik Revolution prevented the matter coming to trial. After the October Revolution of 1917 Berdyaev fell out with the Bolshevik régime because of its totalitarianism and the domination of the state over the freedom of the individual. Nonetheless, he was permitted for the time being to continue to lecture and write.

His disaffection culminated in 1919 with the foundation of his own private academy, the "Free Academy of Spiritual Culture". This was primarily a forum for him to lecture on the hot topics of the day, trying to present them from a Christian point of view. Berdyaev also presented his opinions in public lectures, and every Tuesday he hosted a meeting at his home because official Soviet anti-religious activity was intense at the time, and the official policy of the Bolshevik government, with its Soviet anti-religious legislation, strongly promoted State atheism.[3]

In 1920, Berdiaev became professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow, although he had no academic credentials. In the same year, he was accused of participating in a conspiracy against the government; he was arrested and jailed. It seems that the feared head of the Cheka, Felix Dzerzhinsky, came in person to interrogate him, and that Berdyaev gave his interrogator a solid dressing-down on the problems with Bolshevism. Berdyaev's prior record of revolutionary activity seems to have saved him from prolonged detention, as his friend Lev Kamenev was present at the interrogation.[3]:32

Novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his book The Gulag Archipelago (published in 1973) recounts the incident as follows:

[Berdyaev] was arrested twice; he was taken in 1922 for a midnight interrogation with Dzerjinsky; Kamenev was also there. [...] But Berdyaev did not humiliate himself, he did not beg, he firmly professed the moral and religious principles by virtue of which he did not adhere to the party in power; and not only did they judge that there was no point in putting him on trial, but he was freed. Now there is a man who had a "point of view"![4]

The Soviet authorities eventually expelled Berdyaev from the RSFSR in September 1922. He became one of a carefully selected group of some 160 prominent writers, scholars, and intellectuals whose ideas the Bolshevik government found objectionable, and who were sent into exile on the so-called "philosophers' ship". Overall, these expellees supported neither the Czarist régime nor the Bolsheviks, preferring less autocratic forms of government. They included those who argued for personal liberty, spiritual development, Christian ethics, and a pathway informed by reason and guided by faith.

At first Berdyaev and other émigrés went to Berlin, where Berdyaev founded an academy of philosophy and religion. But economic and political conditions in Weimar Germany caused him and his wife to move to Paris in 1923. He transferred his academy there, and taught, lectured, and wrote, working for an exchange of ideas with the French intellectual community.

During the German occupation of France, Berdyaev continued to write books that were published after the war—some of them after his death. In the years that he spent in France, Berdyaev wrote fifteen books, including most of his most important works. He died at his writing desk in his home in Clamart, near Paris, in March 1948.

Philosophy

Berdyaev's philosophy has been characterized as Christian existentialist. He was preoccupied with creativity and in particular with freedom from anything that inhibited creativity, whence his opposition to a "collectivized and mechanized society".

According to Marko Markovic, "He was an ardent man, rebellious to all authority, an independent and "negative" spirit. He could assert himself only in negation and could not hear any assertion without immediately negating it, to such an extent that he would even be able to contradict himself and to attack people who shared his own prior opinions."[3]

He also published works about Russian history and the Russian national character. In particular, he wrote about Russian nationalism that:[5]

He was a practising member of the Russian Orthodox Church, but was often critical of the institutional policies and un-Christian behavior within it. He was a Christian universalist,[6][7] and he believed that Orthodox Christianity was the true vehicle for that teaching.

The greater part of Eastern teachers of the Church, from [8]

Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed his regional governors to read, among other philosophers, Berdyaev's The Philosophy of Inequality,[9][10] in 2015 finally available in English translation.

Works

The first date is of the Russian edition, the second date is of the first English edition

  • The New Religious Consciousness and Society (1907) (Russian: Новое религиозное сознание и общественность, Novoe religioznoe coznanie i obschestvennost, includes chapter VI "The Metaphysics of Sex and Love")[11]
  • Landmarks (1909)[12]
  • The Spiritual Crisis of the Intelligentsia (1910; 2014) ISBN 978-0-9963992-1-0
  • The Meaning of the Creative Act (1916; 1955) ISBN 978-15973126-2-2
  • Dostoevsky: An Interpretation (1921; 1934) ISBN 978-15973126-1-5
  • The Meaning of History (1923; 1936) ISBN 978-14128049-7-4
  • The Philosophy of Inequality (1923; 2015) ISBN 978-0-9963992-0-3
  • The End of Our Time [a.k.a. The New Middle Ages] (1924; 1933) ISBN 978-15973126-5-3
  • Leontiev (1926; 1940)
  • Freedom and the Spirit (1927–8; 1935) ISBN 978-15973126-0-8
  • The Russian Revolution (1931; anthology)
  • The Destiny of Man (1931; 1937) ISBN 978-15973125-6-1
  • Lev Shestov and Kierkegaard N. A. Beryaev 1936
  • Christianity and Class War (1931; 1933)
  • The Fate of Man in the Modern World (1934; 1935)
  • Solitude and Society (1934; 1938) ISBN 978-15973125-5-4
  • The Bourgeois Mind (1934; anthology)
  • The Origin of Russian Communism (1937; 1955)
  • Christianity and Anti-semitism (1938; 1952)
  • Slavery and Freedom (1939) ISBN 978-15973126-6-0
  • The Russian Idea (1946; 1947)
  • Spirit and Reality (1946; 1957) ISBN 978-15973125-4-7
  • The Beginning and the End (1947; 1952) ISBN 978-15973126-4-6
  • Towards a New Epoch" (1949; anthology)
  • Dream and Reality: An Essay in Autobiography (1949; 1950) alternate title: Self-Knowledge: An Essay in Autobiography ISBN 978-15973125-8-5
  • The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar (1949; 1952)
  • Divine and the Human (1949; 1952) ISBN 978-15973125-9-2
  • Truth and Revelation (n.p.; 1953)
Sources
  • '"Bibliographie des Oeuvres de Nicolas Berdiaev" établie par Tamara Klépinine' published by the Institut d'études Slaves, Paris 1978
  • on www.cherbucto.netBerdyaev Bibliography

See also

References

  1. ^ "Berdyaev". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d Marko Marković, La Philosophie de l'inégalité et les idées politiques de Nicolas Berdiaev (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1978).
  4. ^ Cited by Markovic, op. cit., p.33, footnote 36.
  5. ^ Quoted from book by Benedikt Sarnov,Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., pages 446-447. Moscow: 2002, ISBN 5-85646-059-6 (Наш советский новояз. Маленькая энциклопедия реального социализма.)
  6. ^ Apokatastasis at Theandros, The Online Journal of Orthodox Christian Theology and Philosophy. Accessed Aug. 12, 2007
  7. ^ Sergeev, Mikhail."Post-Modern themes in the philosophy of Nicolas Berdyaev". Religion in Eastern Europe. Accessed Aug. 12, 2007
  8. ^ Berdyaev, Nikolai. "The Truth of Orthodoxy". Accessed Aug. 12, 2007.
  9. ^ From Philosophy Now, issue 101, article at the bottom of the page, here (link), accessed March 2014.
  10. ^ http://www.pdcnet.org/pdc/bvdb.nsf/purchase?openform&fp=philnow&id=philnow_2014_0101_0005_0005
  11. ^ The book is not available in English. For secondary literature in English, see:
  12. ^ WSJ

Works cited

  • M. A. Vallon. An apostle of freedom: Life and teachings of Nicolas Berdyaev. Philosophical Library, New York, 1960.
  • Lesley Chamberlain. Lenin's Private War: The Voyage of the Philosophy Steamer and the Exile of the Intelligentsia. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2007.
  • Marko Marković, La Philosophie de l'inégalité et les idées politiques de Nicolas Berdiaev (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1978).

Further reading

External links

  • Works by or about Nikolai Berdyaev at Internet Archive
  • Works by Nikolai Berdyaev, at Unz.org
  • Berdyaev Online Library and Index
  • Philosopher of Freedom
  • ISFP Gallery of Russian Thinkers: Nikolay Berdyaev
  • Nikolai Berdiaev and Spiritual Freedom
  • Nicolas Berdyaev And Modern Anti-Modernism
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