Nikolai Berdyaev and ‘the Russian idea’

He lived from 1874 – 1948. A Marxist early in life but later moved towards philosophy and embraced a ‘Christian existentialist’ worldview. Protested both the Tsar and the Bolsheviks. In 1922 had a midnight interview with Dzerzhinsky and instead of sniveling he stood up to him and gave him a dressing down about the totalitarian tendencies of the new Bolsheviks. Dzerzhinsky let him go (Solzhenitsyn later eulogized this moment in his writing).

In 1922 exiled from Russia, goes to Berlin but not long after moves permanently to France where he was a thinker/writer/philosopher.

Berdyaev is famous for formulating his conception of ‘the Russian idea.’ He builds upon Solov’ev’s notion of Russia as the Third Rome, arguing that this failed, but that it, as it were, was sublimated into the “Third Internationale.” Here is the quote: 

The Russian people did not achieve their ancient dream of Moscow, the Third Rome. The ecclesiastical schism of the seventeenth century revealed that the muscovite tsardom is not the third Rome. The messianic idea of the Russian people assumed either an apocalyptic form or a revolutionary; and then there occurred an amazing event in the destiny of the Russian people. Instead of the Third Rome in Russia, the Third International was achieved, and many of the features of the Third Rome pass over to the Third International. The Third International is also a Holy Empire, and it also is founded on an Orthodox faith. The Third International is not international, but a Russian national idea.


One thought on “Nikolai Berdyaev and ‘the Russian idea’

  1. On Eurasianism vs. Byzantism:

    Gumilev’s contribution to Neo-Eurasianism lies in the conclusions he reaches from applying his theory of ethnogenesis: that the Mongol occupation of 1240–1480 AD (known as the “Mongol yoke”) had shielded the emergent Russian ethnos from the aggressive neighbor to the West, allowing it to gain time to achieve maturity. The idea of Eurasianism contrasts with Konstantin Leontyev’s Byzantism, which is similar in its rejection of the West, but identifies with the Byzantine Empire rather than with Central Asian tribal culture.

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