Monism Monist Tsleostnost NATO-Russian Ukrainian War NATO-Russian War Russia Tselostnost' Ukraine

Russian Monist Wholeness and Ukraine

            Russian culture, thought, history and politics demonstrate a certain Russian belief in or aspiration to wholeness, ‘integrality’ or tselostnost’. I discussed tselostnost’ and its four types in my most recent book Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). It recently struck me that it might be a worthwhile exercise to consider the ways in which Russian tselostnost’ might have influenced and might be influencing still Russia’s relations with Ukraine and the emergence of the NATO-Russian Ukrainian war. To be sure, other factors are important in these matters, including NATO expansion, Western meddling in Ukraine, elsewhere in the former USSR and among Russian allies, Russia’s historical relations with Ukraine, and the rise of Russophobic Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and neofascism just to mention a few. But could it be that Russia’s preference, even passion for wholeness, unity, tselostnost’ over schism and division have had any role in events to date and those yet to come? This article addresses however schematically this question. None of it should be construed necessarily as any justification on the part of the author for Russia’s attempt to incorporate parts of all of Ukraine back into the Russian fold. However, much of it serves as such justification for many Russians.

In my Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics I hypothesized four types: (1) monism – the integrality of Heaven and/or God with all existence and/or mankind, of spirit with matter, of mankind with all the rest of the cosmos; (2) universalism – the unity in one form or another of all mankind or alternatively a portion of mankind with Russia (all Slavdom, all Orthodox Christianity, Europe and the West writ large, Eurasia); (3) communalism – spiritual, social and/or socioeconomic wholeness (Orthodox conciliarity or sobornost’), the Russian communal obshchina and mir, and Soviet forms of collectivism such as the labor collective, the communal apartment, and parttiinost’ or intense loyalty to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union); and (4) solidarity – the belief in the importance of and the persistent aspiration to and pursuit of national political, cultural, and ideological unity.[1] In other words, there has been a relentless hope and spiritual, intellectual, artistic, scientific, social and political quest for the unity of Heaven and Earth, God and humankind, spirit and matter, of the peoples of the world, of society’s disparate groups and classes, and of Russia’s usually divided and conflictive politics and contested culture and identity. Monist tselostnost’ appears to be the foundational form of tselostnost’ from which comes the development of the other types, given monism’s birth in Russian Orthodox Christianity in ancient Kievan Rus — the first Russian ‘state’ — and strong further development as a result of peculiarities of Russian history and cultural development.

Russian monism with its foundation in Russian Orthodox Christianity is vital connection to Kiev for most Russians. Since Kievan Rus’ and the rise of Western (and Mongol) threats to Kiev and its Kiev-Pecehersk Lavra or the Monastery of the Caves Shrine, holding relics of ancient Byzantine and Kievan church fathers, Russians have treasured Kiev. Ask any Russian what city is the ‘mother of all Russian cities,’ and he/she will answer without hesitation: Kiev. Russians have a series of other names for Kiev: ‘cradle of the Russian state’ and ‘the holy font of the Russian people.’ These are ideas that have carried across centuries and still can be heard today.

Kiev is the city where Orthodox Christianity was first adopted by Russians in the 9th century and from which it was spread across the other Russias over the next few centuries. This places Kiev at the center of the wound that any possible or actual separation of Ukraine from Moscow inflicts on the Russian psyche over the centuries. Kiev is also crucial in the monist Russian myth to the extent many Russian believers see the hand of God placed on Russian history. Any time of trouble touching religious issues takes on an apocalyptical aura. It is important to note that the numerous chronicles, theses, and even prayers scribed and uttered by metropolitans and other Orthodox clergymen in Kiev Rus’ remain important texts for Russian history, culture, literature, and religion to this day. For Russians, Kiev is the cornerstone of the Russian Orthodox Church, and at the center of Orthodoxy in Kiev stands the Kiev Monastery and Lavra of the Cave, where the relics of ancient Russian priests lie.

The loss of Kiev as the root, embryo, and integral part of the Russian universe, civilization, or ‘world’ (in the non-politicized version as interpreted by Russians and Westerners) at the end of the Cold War and the Soviet collapse meant the loss of the birthplace of the Russia people, state, faith, and culture. Kiev’s policies aimed at de-russifying the religious and Orthodox community in Ukraine – the seizure of churches, arrests of priests – adds to the sense of loss. Kiev has direct implications for Russian monist tselostnost’, which posits a connection between God and humankind, the Heavenly Kingdom and earth, spirit and matter, even the world and cosmic history.

The Russian idea of, and aspiration to monism (as well as semi-universalist pan-Orthodoxy) raises the importance of Kiev, given its status as a lynchpin of all kinds of unities for Russia: spiritual, etno-national, religious, cultural, and territorial. Russian monist tselostnost’ is joined to any issue connected with Orthodoxy a sacred aura, and any violation of the proper order of the world as defined by Orthodox monism verges on or attains sacrilege status.

Concern for Kiev’s unity with Russia in religious terms has a long pedigree going back centuries and is tied to Russians’ view that Kiev is the source of Russian statehood, nationality, culture, literature, language and, most importantly, religion. This has implications for Heaven-Earth, God-Man, and Russian ‘Holy Rus’ messianism—that is, monist tselostnost’.

Articulations revealing this belief matrix surrounding Russian monism and other forms of Russian tselostnost’ are legion. For example, Mikhail Katkov, the 19th century conservative editor, publisher, and opinion-maker waxed eloquent about “golden-domed” Kiev as being “even more unifying force than the name of Moscow itself” among Russians.[2] Kiev was particularly sacred for the mostly traditionalist Slavophiles, whose monism was reinforced by a communalism based in the Eastern Orthodox idea of spiritual conciliarity or sobornost’—the belief that those in the Orthodox community were of one spirit in communal unity under the divine blessing spirit or blagodat’. In 1864 article, influential Slavophile Ivan Aksakov criticized ‘Ukrainophilia’ and warned against the potential danger of Ukrainian separatism, emphasizing the religious significance of Kiev. His closing declared that “southern Russians” (i.e., Ukrainians) “were an indigenous Russian tribe, connected with all of Russia by their faith and the unity of the Kiev shrine” (the Monastery of the Caves and Lavra).[3]

Father Pavel Florenskii, the Russian genius or ‘Russian da Vinci’, alluded to the Kiev Lavra’s significance for Russia’s national and cultural wholeness in the 1920s before the Bolsheviks arrested him and in 1937 put him to death: “(Russian) culture began with communal living: the Christian community, the monasteries. The Kiev Lavra, the Trinity Lavra (the St. Sergii Radonezhskii Trinity Lavra near Moscow – GH). The center was not seen in foreigners, but in the Russian nation speaking through the Lavra.”[4]

After the Soviet collapse, as is the traditional pattern historically, Russian thinkers continue to proselytize ideas replete with monism, often tying monist tselostnost’ to universalist tselostnost’.[5] Esoteric and increasingly influential Russian political philosopher and neo-Eurasianist or ‘Orthodox Eurasianist’, Aleksandr Dugin – who is not an advisor of Vladimir Putin, despite misleading claims by Westerners – does this in relation to the battle for ‘Novorossiya’, as he sees it. Investing a mystical aura into the Russian language, he calls for the creation of “special detachments of the Russian Logos” (the Word) to organize apparently sermon-like gatherings at the front in Ukraine that would meditate upon Russia, God, the Church, Earth and Heaven, and the world along with much else: “It is necessary to create in Novorossiya special detachments of the Russian Logos (Word). Before battle, after battle, and during battle we should think – about Russia, about God, about the Church, about history, about ourselves, about being, about the world, about truth, about geopolitics, about Earth and Heaven, about our identity, about the nature of power, about life and death. To think and discuss, to meet, being in the Logos. The war in Novorossiya was begun from language. This is no formality. The Russian language is the language of the Russian Logos.” [6]

The citations presented above are a mere drop in a deluge of such sentiments from Russian thinkers across history.

The almost entirely religious content of Russian monism today (fully dominating over teleologies such as residual communist thought and the small number of democratic and transhumanist thinkers) makes the increasingly intensified religious conflict between the Maidan regime under Zelenskiy and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU or PTsU in Russian and Ukrainian), on the one hand, and  the ROC-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC or UPTs) is fraught with potentially far-reaching, radical, and grave ideational, ideological, and political consequences. The recent Ukrainian raids on the Kiev Cave Monastery and numerous other Russian Orthodox churches and shrines, their expropriation by the Ukrainian state for transfer to a Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the arrests of Russian Orthodox priests, and the likely complete ban UPTs throughout Ukraine can only reconfirm Russians’ trepidation regarding the ‘loss’, the new fall of Kiev. The perhaps still distant but far-reaching upshot of this loss of golden-domed Kiev, particularly the Monastery of the Caves Lavra, might spark among the Russian faithful’s visions of the rise of the anti-Christ, Armageddon, and the coming of Christ and the Heavenly Kingdom to the world.


[1] Gordon M. Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics (London: Europe Books, 2022).

[2] M. N. Katkov, “Peredovitsa v ‘Moskovskikh vedomstvyakh’ za 21 iyunya 1863 g.,” in A. Yu. Minakov, ed. Ukrainskii vopros v Russkoi patrioticheskoi mysli (Moscow: Knizhnyi mir, 2016), pp. 91-100, p. 99.

[3] I. S. Aksakov, “Opasno li ukrainofil-stvo dlya Russkogo gosudarstva?,” in Minakov, Ukrainskii vopros, pp. 200-211, at p. 211.

[4] Pavel Florensky, At the Crossroads of Science and Mysticism: On the Cultural-Historical Place and Premises of the Christian World-Understanding (Kettering, Ohio: Semantron Press, 2014), p. 108

[5] Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics.

[6] Aleksandr Dugin, Moya Voina: Geopoliticheskii dnevnik (Moscow: Tsentropoligraf, 2015), pp. 500-1.










About the Author 

Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, and

Dr. Hahn is the author of the new book: Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Thought, Culture, History, and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). He has authored five previous, well-received books: The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, 2021); Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018); The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.

Dr. Hahn taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and was a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group.

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