Communalist Tselostnpst' Idea of Russian Historical Tselostnost' Monist Tselostnpst' Russia Russian Historical Tselostnost' Russian Historical Wholeness Russian solidarism Solidarist Tselostnost' The Idea of Historical Tselostnost' Tselostnost' Universalist Tselostnost'



Our contemporary philosophies of history, in particular Western and secular ones, tend to reject the idea of a unified history, a wholeness of history. Instead, these posit the idea of plural histories, multiplied by interpretation, alternative foci and the like. For example, Dmitri Nikulin, Professor of Philosophy at the New School argues: “Since history is not one monolithic universal and teleological history, it should allow for a coexisting plurality of histories, so that we always participate and live in several histories at the same time.”[1] Most Russian, particularly Russian traditionalist thinkers, across history, including today, have begged to differ.

In December 2016, on the eve of the anniversary of perhaps the greatest example of disunion and fraternal conflict in Russian history — the 1917 revolution that brought civil war and totalitarian state terror to Russia — Putin gave a speech in which he called on Russians to seek unity. Far from being a philosopher of history, Putin’s call was one of political instrumentalism, to be sure. One way that national solidarity could be achieved, he noted, was through a common respect for “all” of the country’s “common history.” [2] By calling on Russians to respect their common history even as they might stand on opposing sides of one or another of Russian history’s many barricades, Putin was clearly endeavoring to delimit internal political conflict and consolidate Russian national political and cultural solidarity. More important for present purposes, he was invoking a long-standing Russian tradition of asserting or seeking a unity or tselostnost’ in Russian and world history.

I examined Russian culture’s aspiration to national political solidarity in my book The Russian Dilemma[3] and pursued it further in my most recent book Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History, and Politics.[4] In the latter study, I argued that amidst the conflict and strife that has plagued much of their history, Russians nevertheless have believed in, dreamt of and pursued wholeness or integrality (tselostnost’ in Russian). In theology, philosophy, the arts, and even the sciences, whether under the rule of tsars or commissars, Russia’s most prominent thinkers and actors have articulated relentlessly a belief in and norm of wholeness and proselytized a quest for one or more types of Russian tselostnost’. In Russian Tselostnost’, 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.

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. I also argued in both The Russian Dilemma and Russian Tselostnost’ that in addition to Russians’ deeply held belief in the need to overcome internal political divisions there has also been an instrumentalist aspect to the culture’s ubiquitous articulations of tselostnost’. Political leaders and others sought to capitalize on or reinforce the tselostnost’ norm in order to maintain religious, cultural, and political wholeness often in response to real and perceived threats to Russian unity emanating from abroad, most often the West.

The belief in or aspiration to tselostnost’ is not left out when Russians contemplated or tried to conceptualize their own history and that of the world. Many Russians have promoted Russian historical tselostonost’ or the unification of Russian history. Just as monist tselostnost’ is the foundation of the other forms of Russian tselostnost’, as I noted in Russian Tselostnost’, it arguably also inspires and subsumes historical tselostnost’, which in turn may influence Putin’s thinking beyond the mere instrumentality of solidarity promotion as a weapon against political division and opposition. This article examines the prevalence of the tselostnost’ of Russian history as a value, evidenced by the host of important Russian thinkers, who articulated historical tselostnost’ through the centuries.

We will make the acquaintance of at least three types of historical tselostnost’: teleological, processual, and political. Teleological historical tselostnost’ is a form of historical wholeness or unity in which there is a belief in a predetermined outcome towards which history is inexorably advancing. For the most part, philosophy of history – an endeavor exceedingly popular in Russia – is teleologically and eschatologically Christian for most Russians.  Perhaps Russia’s greatest late Imperial, then exiled émigré` thinker, Nikolai Berdyaev, noticed the connection between Russian religious thought and Russian historical philosophy and their great importance in Russian culture. In The Meaning of History, he wrote:

“Russian thought during the XIX century was most of all preoccupied with the problems of the philosophy of history. Our national consciousness was formed on the basis of the philosophy of history. It is no accident that the disputes of Slavophiles and Westerners about Russia and Europe, about the East and the West were at the center of our spiritual interests. Chaadaev and the Slavophiles were introduced the theme of philosophy of history to Russian thought, because the riddle of Russia and its historical fate was the riddle of the philosophy of history. The construction of a religious philosophy of history is, apparently, the calling of Russian philosophical thought. Unique Russian thought is devoted to the eschatological problem of the end, and it is colored apocalyptically. This is the difference between (Russian thought) and Western thought. But this is also what gives (Russian thought) primarily the character of a religious philosophy of history.”[5]

Berdyaev also underlined the eschatological element in the philosophy of history – and presumably as a Russian Orthodox believer also the teleology (and monism) of both the second coming of Christ and the Heavenly Kingdom – if perhaps not the teleological nature of history in his own philosophy (see below). He regarded philosophy of history as having originated from Jewish eschatological and teleological culture and then developed more fully in Christianity. Thus, he saw both as inherently eschatological and teleological, not just conceiving of an end of history but conceptualizing a particular outcome for the end: “Philosophy of history, by its historical origin, has an indissoluble connection with eschatology, and it explains to us why the historical originated in the Jewish people. Eschatology is the teaching about the end of history, about the outcome, about the resolution of world history. This eschatological idea is absolutely necessary for the idea of history to be realized and designed and for the realization of completion and movement that has meaning and completion. Without the idea of historical completion, there is no perception of history, because history is essentially eschatological, because it presupposes resolution.”[6]

Teleology and eschatological philosophies of history – whether Christian or historical dialectical or materialist in form – introduce an element of unity into the course of History.[7] If there is a predetermined quality to History’s end, then certain directions of development become impossible, and the directions History takes contain common qualities created by the main principle predetermining History’s outcome. In Hannah Arendt’s terms, “the idea of a divine providence” gives  “the unity of a plan of salvation” to “the whole of man’s historical time.”[8] In this way, Russian belief in historical tselostnost’ is rooted in Russian monism, for the most part Heaven-Earth monism rooted in Russian Orthodoxy and its eschatology and teleology of the apocalypse, second coming, and the Heavenly Kingdom’s arrival to humankind, its world and cosmos. This theological basis in turn shaped Russian literature from the writings of the holy fathers to those of the Great Russian Literature, Religious Renaissance, and artistic Silver Age that emerged in the 19th century on through to the Soviet era – with radically transformed, mostly materialist content – to the post-Soviet era.   

Processual historical tselostnost’ is the kind in which the history of a particular subject/entity (world, country, person) is seen as being united by a foundational basis or a strand or several strands of development thought to run through an entire history. This type of unity of history often but not always accompanies teleological historical wholeness. The driver of the process can be physical as materialist thinkers have contended or metaphysical, even religious. Thus, Karl Marx and his numerous Russian devotees posited that the means of production determined the nature of history’s various stages and its communist outcome. Like Berdyaev, Fyodor Stepun implied a processual as well as teleological historical unity in “the religious basis of history” in arguing for democracy and Christianity in semi-monist terms. By asserting that religion was the driving force or constant thread running through history, he was positing a form of processual tselostnost’ for history.[9] Here, historical tselostnost’ can be connected with universalism (universalistic tselostnost’) in addition to monism (monist tselostnost’).

Political historical tselostnost’ is that in which the entire history of a state, nation, or other subject should be valued equally by its members because each part of that history comprises the single history of a separate and ideally united entity. This is the kind of tselostnost’ that Putin has promoted, as noted above and below, and many politicians are inclined to use in order to promote political and ontological (cultural and and identity) unity. Thus, this kind of historical tselostnost’ is directly tied to the Russian idea and norm of Russian solidarity—that is, Russian solidarism or solidarist tselostnost’.

Below, I discuss first various Russian beliefs about the tselostnost’ of world and cosmological history before turning to Russian ideas regarding the unity of Russian history.

Orthodox Christian Monism and Russian Belief in World History’s Unity

As with monist tselostnost’, Russian Orthodox Christianity forms the foundation of Russian culture’s commitment to the idea of historical unity too. From Kievan Rus’, Russian theologists and other thinkers saw world (and often Russian national) history as God’s eternal plan for his Creation: matter, nature, humankind, and the universe they comprised. Historical unity is encompassed in the eschatology and teleology of Christ’s second coming, the promised redemption of the world, and the divinization under the Heavenly Kingdom to come. The final settlement of all of history’s great (and petty) human conflicts would render the end of history a united history rather than a divided one. In much of the Christian reading of history, the path of history was a predetermined whole directed by the Creator or ‘Providence’, rather than a messy, arbitrary struggle between chaotic human forces or a twilight struggle between Heaven and Hell with an uncertain outcome. Christian teleology provides the meaning that connects a seemingly random sequence of events, and that connection by meaning imparts to history a certain tselostnost’.

As far back as Kievan Rus, Russia was seen to be selected by God after the Jews to play the leading role in the unfolding of history. The first Russian historical document we have, the epistle “Slova o Zakone i Blagodati” (“A Word on Law and Grace”) written in the years 1037-1050 by Kievan priest Illarion (Hilarion), is a panegyric to the unification of mankind with God in and through Christ. Illarion Kievskii “stands at the very springs of original Russian literature.”[10] His prayers and teachings continue to influence Russian Orthodoxy today. Illarion’s ‘Word’ was, in historian Gerogii Fedotov’s words, “a theological hymn to salvation” on the “national theme interspersed with the great universal-historical picture of God’s redemptive Providence,” vividly expressing the “Russian national spirit.”[11] The gist of Illarion’s Slova is that history and God’s open relationship with humankind is divided into two periods. The first period – the Jewish Hebrew period – begins with God’s handing down to Moses the Ten Commandments as the Law by which humanity should live. The second – Orthodox Russian – period begins with Christ’s salvation of man through repentance and death on the cross; the coercion of law and punishment is replaced by divine love and grace or blagodat’. In the second period, Kievan Russians are God’s chosen people, God- and grace-bearing. Illarion hails the new era’s advent to the world of God’s blagodat’ through Christ’s sacrifice and Christian faith in a “Single God,” a “God United in the Trinity.” “Christ’s Blagodat’ embraced all the earth.”[12] Fedotov’s summary of Illarion’s ‘Word’ notes: “God’s Plan, which chose and saved the Jewish people by giving it law through Moses, was revealed as Truth and Grace in Jesus Christ to all peoples, including the last of the called – the Russian people. From this point of view, the conversion of Rus’ comes to the center of the historical canvas traced in the New Testament.”[13] In this way, Russia’s foundational literature, Church literature, laid down the idea in Russian culture that God intervenes in human affairs and guides History and that the Russian national spirit is rooted in God’s Providence and at the center of God’s plan. In this vision and many subsequent such Russian visions, world history’s teleology and integrality logically entail Russia’s historical tselostnost’.

The view – that God’s interaction with human history would lead to a Christian redemption at history’s end in a glorious divinization and unification of humankind and thus of its history for all eternity – survived for a millennium and sprouted new branches of Christian monism, universalism, and teleogical historical telestnost’ in Russian theology, philosophy, and thought. The messianic idea of Moscow as the ‘Third Rome’ in medieval Muscovite Rus’ that emerged in the 15th century and politicized by the Slavophiles in the 19th, the apocalyptical and chiliastic Old Believers, who broke from the Russian Orthodox Church’s reforms in the 1660s, and eagerly received foreign millennial teachings, such as those of theosophists like the German Pietist Jacob Boehme, so influential in religious and mystical circles from the 17th century forward, are but a few examples. Even after Great Break of Peter the Great secularizing and Westernizing reforms, the Christian view of teleology in history continued to thrive in Russian culture, flowering in the 19th century and bringing more overt expressions of teleogical, processual and, as we shall see further below, political historical tselostnost’.

During what Billington called the ‘Great Ferment’ at the birth of the ‘Great Russian Literature’ in the 19th century, of Russia’s three greatest writers –  Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), and Fyodor Dostoevskii (1821-1881) – two, Dostoevskii and Tolstoy fervently believed in and hoped for, respectively, a Christian telelogical tselostnost’ in world and, as discussed further below, in Dostoevskii’s case in Russian history as well. In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevskii’s Father Paissy reflects his own monist Orthodox messianism in dialogue with the materialist brother Ivan Karamazov: “Our Lord Jesus Christ came precisely to establish the church on earth. The kingdom of heaven, of course, is not of this world, but in heaven, and they (believers) enter it only through the church, which is founded and established on earth. Therefore, secular puns in this sense are impossible and unworthy. The Church is truly a kingdom and is ordained to reign, and at the end of her life must appear as a kingdom on all the earth without a doubt – for that we have a covenant.”[14] Father Paissy adds: “Christian society is not yet ready” but will undergo “complete transformation from a society like an almost pagan union into a single universal and ruling church. This, so be it, so be it, at least at the end of time, for only this is destined to be accomplished!”[15] Dostoevskii’s monist, universalist, and historical tselostnost’ are ultimately part of the Orthodox Christian utopian vision of the same; the Kingdom of God on Earth through the creation of a universal Christian theocracy under the Russian Orthodox Church and its universalization of blagodat’ will unite the world for the second coming; a teleology and eschatology forming a unified end of history. In Dostoevskii’s mythology, the histories of the world and, as discussed further below, Russia, individually and together, are united in the final destination ordained by the All-Unifier.

Tolstoy, the other great Russian novelist in the second half of the 19th century but one with a very different vision than Dostoevskii’s, never came to see God as the mover of world history or at least of any single, no less pre-determined outcome integrating world or Russian history. Just as Tolstoy’s monism and universalism were less ‘pure’ than traditional Orthodox-rooted Russian variants proselytized by Dostoevskii and many others, his adherence to the idea of the tselostnost’ of History and the Russian history it entailed was confined to aspiration. There is a longing for but no attainment of any integrated vision of reality. Isaiah Berlin, in his landmark study of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” remarks:

Tolstoy was by nature not a visionary; he saw the manifold objects and situations on earth in their full multiplicity; he grasped their individual essences, and what divided them from what they were not, with a clarity with which there is no parallel. Any comforting theory which attempted to collect, relate, ‘synthesize’, reveal hidden substrata and concealed inner convictions, which, though not apparent to the naked eye, nevertheless guaranteed the unity of all things, the fact that they were ‘ultimately’ parts one of another with no loose ends – the ideal of the seamless whole – all such doctrines he exploded contemptuously and without difficulty. His genius lay in the perception of specific properties, the almost inexpressible individual quality in virtue of which the given object is uniquely different from all others. Nevertheless, he longed for a universal explanatory principle; that is, the perception of resemblances or common origins, or single purpose, or unity in the apparent variety of the mutually exclusive bits and pieces which composed the furniture of the world.[16]

In short, Tolstoy was a fox (knowing many things) but wished to be a hedgehog (knowing one big thing), as Berlin demonstrated, aspiring and indeed struggling to uncover how it is that the many infinitesimal acts of individual human beings, their actions, feelings, and numerous other factors yield particular historical outcomes such as the Napoleonic wars and Russia’s victory. How did these innumerable infinitesimals conjoin to produce that history? Tolstoy never found an answer or any unifying principle or driver.  

The most outstanding 19th century Russian Religious Renaissance and Silver Age theologians and religious philosophers and thinkers – most notably the God-seekers – Vladimir Solovev (1853-1900), Father Pavel Florenskii (1882-1937), Father Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944), among others, as well as Vekhi ‘Signposts’ movement founder Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948) – held to an eschatology, even teleology that Christ’s redemption of the world opened the path to all of humankind’s divinization at the end of history.[17] All of these, except the great religious philosopher of the maximally monist and foundational concept of ‘all-unity’ or ‘vseedinstvo’, Vladimir Solovev, saw history as an integrated whole, even only at the existential or metaphysical level. Solovev saw a unified eschatology and teleology in world history; the “goal” of world history, he asserted, is the development of a “spiritual mankind.”[18] Elsewhere, he argued that vseedinstvo, while “accomplished in the person of Christ, as his individual process, could be accomplished in the rest of humanity and throughout the world only as a  collective historical process.” In Solovev’s view – one that influenced a generation of Russian philosophers – this collective historical process or historical unity was thus connected with the God-Man (Christ) and the “inner unity of everything” (vseedinstvo), a monist element, and must be accomplished across “the rest of humanity and throughout the world,” the element of universalism.[19]

The historical philosophy of the ‘Russian da Vinci’, the brilliant Orthodox priest, theologist, poet, linguist, mathematician, engineer and biologist, Father Pavel Florenskii is of enormous importance, especially given his post-Soviet rehabilitation and growing authority in Russian religious and conservative culture today. Faher Florenskii’s view of history was naturally Russian Christian Orthodox and teleological: “One who has been grafted to Christ cannot be barren and lifeless. Therefore, a truly living fig tree by the very process of its life points to parallel events in the mystical world; when the flowering of life begins, then victory of Christ and the end of history are near. “Take a likeness from the fig tree: when its branches are already soft and sprout leaves, you know that summer is near” (Matthew 24, 32 = Mr. 13, 28).”[20] For Florenskii, history is a struggle of and with disunity, a consequence of the cosmic battle between Christ and Anti-Christ, Logos (God’s Word through Christ) and Chaos (the word of the Anti-Christ), between good and evil.[21] Humankind, society, their conflicts and contradictions (disunity) were imbued with Chaos, which could only be overcome at the end of history under the divinization of humankind – the “qualitative change in the nature of man” – would come with Christ’s second coming and all-unity under the Heavenly Kingdom: “(T)he moment of change must still be in time, since it must also be the end of time, the end of this form of life. … Hence the need to think in time the end of this form of life, and therefore the end of history, when one way or another there will be a qualitative change in the nature of man and the form of his life.”[22]

“(H)istory becomes eschatology,” once wrote Florenskii’s close friend, Father Sergei Bulgakov, in describing Nikolai Fyodorov’s immortalist and cosmist futurism also influenced by Solovev and vseedinstvo (see Fyodorov below).[23] For Bulgakov, philosophy of history – which he prefers to call “metaphysical history” or the metaphysics of history – is tasked with “interpreting the meaning of history” and must be part of, and will inevitably be predetermined by any thinker’s metaphysical system or worldview.[24] Yes, History is eschatological, even teleological for him, possessing processual wholeness—a plan: “What does it mean to find the meaning of history through metaphysical history? This means, first of all, to recognize that history is the disclosure and fulfillment of one creative and reasonable plan, that the world, providential thought is expressed in the historical process.”[25] Even mankind’s free will does not spoil, in Bulgakov’s view, the fact that history is a “planned process” with “a common providential plan: “The world and historical process can be thought of as a kind of planned process, in the initial plan of which human freedom is included as its main and necessary condition. It appears in such case to be the interaction of human freedom, the free efforts of historical humanity, and the creative or divine principle by God-human process, and since the human heart is open to the omniscience of absolute reason (and, consequently, all future actions of people), the existence of a common providential plan is possible without any constraint on human freedom.”[26] Bulgakov’s take on the end of history closely reflects that of his God-seeking colleague Florenskii, their inspirer Solovev,  and Russia’s other apocalyptical thinkers of that age. Holy teachings regarding the “prophetic teaching” in the Apocalypse call upon humankind “to endure history courageously and to the end, for it (history) is also the accession of Christ the King and the way to the Kingdom of Christ in the world and that are attained (by Christ) on the cross and attained in the world’s paths on the cross.”[27] In a 1933 lecture, he professed: “Only God knows when it is possible and necessary to end history. ….The relationship between eschatology and history consists in that full spiritual ripeness is the precursor to the coming of Christ.[28]

Nikolai Berdyaev – one of Russia’s greatest thinkers employed a metaphysical-religious approach in his own philosophy of history that reflected some historical tselostnost’. Although not one of Russia’s formal philosophers, he was praised in his time by the most formidable among them. For Berdyaev, human history was not integral. It was broken up into the past present and future and by numerous contradictions and conflicts. At thе same time, history did not consist of human history alone. It was connected with a larger Heavenly or Divine history, which would eventually incorporate humankind and human history at their end. Close in spirit to the God-seekers as well as the intuitivism of Nikolai Losskii, Semyon Frank, and others (see below), he asserted against the grain of monism, that God’s Kingdom exists only in existential time, not in historical time. While the latter “can be symbolized by a line which extends forward, into the future, to the new,” the former “has no distinction between the past and future, the beginning and the end.”[29] While world history was divided in time between past, present and future, they each dissolved into eternity, which is integral. “The time of our world reality, the time of our world zone, is a torn time; it is a bad time, containing an evil, deadly beginning, time is not whole, broken into the past, present and future. The doctrine of the time of St. Augustine is brilliant in this respect. Time is not only torn apart, but one part of it is rebelling against another. The future is rebelling against the past, the past is fighting against the exterminating principle of the future. The historical process in time is a constant tragic and painful struggle of these torn parts of time — the future and the past.”[30] Still, in Istoriya russkoi filosofii (The History of Russian Philosophy) Losskii saw in Berdyaev’s view of “historical time” a view of the “tselostnost’ of the historical process.”[31] How could this be?

      As a Russian Orthodox believer Berdyaev suggested the unity of world history by holding that a Christian philosophy of history was eschatological and teleological, and so his idea of world history and time being resolved at the end of time by the “eternity” of time in Divine history resolved the contradiction between a broken chain of human history and time, on the one hand, and the overall tselostnost’ of history embedded in the Heavenly Kingdom. Berdyaev noted: 
We must, in our faith and in our hope, elevating us above the moment of the present and making us not only people of the severed present, but also people of great historical destiny, finally overcome this torn and vicious time — the time of the present, past and future, and enter into the true time — into eternity. All our beliefs and hopes must be connected with the solvability of human destinies in eternity, and we build your perspective of life not on the perspective of a detached future, but on the perspective of a holistic eternity.

“The time of our world reality, the time of our world zone, is a torn time; it is a bad time, containing an evil, deadly beginning, time is not whole, broken into the past, present and future. The doctrine of the time of St. Augustine is brilliant in this respect. Time is not only torn apart, but one part of it is rebelling against another. The future is rebelling against the past, the past is fighting against the exterminating principle of the future. The historical process in time is a constant tragic and painful struggle of these torn parts of time — the future and the past. [32]

But like a good monist always inclined towards tselostnost’, Berdyaev at the same time asserts historical memory can overcome this division and contradiction, providing “some kind of integral life that combines three moments of time – the past, present and future – in a single integral unity.”[33] Also, Berdyaev discusses the interconnection rather than the usual philosophical view of opposition between eternity and time and the ultimate unification of the latter by the former.[34]

         But world-human history’s tragedy was not resolvable in world-historical time; only at the end of time after the apocalypse, the advent of the Heavenly Kingdom and in the eternity of Divine history: “History is, truly, — and this is its religious content — the way to another world. But inside history, it is impossible for any absolute state to occur, the task of history is solvable only outside of it.” [35] Berdyaev believed in “the deeply tragic and dual nature of the entire historical process”: “In history, there is no progress of goodness, progress of perfection in a straight line, by virtue of which the next generation stands above the previous generation; in history, there is no progress of human happiness either — there is only a tragic, greater and greater disclosure of the inner origins of being, the disclosure of the most opposite origins, both light and dark, both divine and diabolical, both the beginnings of good and the beginnings of evil.” [36] Berdyaev’s philosophy of history is influenced by monism, despite his division between world history and what he calls “heavenly” or divine history (nebesnaya istoriya): “What should be understood by the history of heaven? In the unfathomable history, in the depths of the inner life of the spirit, that history is predetermined, which is revealed and unfolded in earthly life, in earthly human destiny, in the earthly historical destiny of humanity, in what we call earthly history.”[37] “(I)n the far depths of history the borders between heavenly and earthly are erased.”[38]

            In Berdyaev’s view, History and any philosophy thereof “cannot exist” without two elements: the conservative (preservation of tradition and connection to past) and the creative (drive for development into the future). But in the classic integrative way of those Russians who were inclined towards tselostnost’ in their thinking, Berdyaev connected everything in a classic expression of belief in global historical unity and monism:

The absence of one of these elements — either a moment conservative or a moment creative, dynamic — destroys the existence of history. Pure, abstract conservatism refuses to continue history, it says that everything has already ended, that now everything is subject only to protection. This attitude to history makes it impossible to perceive it. The connection with the past, with what was sacred in the past, is a connection with a creative dynamic life; loyalty to the branches of the past is loyalty to the precepts of the creative dynamic life of our ancestors; therefore, a connection, an inner connection with the ancestors, with the motherland, with everything sacred, is always a connection with a creative dynamic process turned to the future, to resolution, to fulfillment, to the creation of a new world, a new life, to the connection of this new world with the old past world; it happens in eternity, in some inner, unified historical movement, a creative dynamic movement, a reunion in eternal life is taking place. Such an understanding of the historical process, in which the connection of the temporal and the eternal is made, the historical and metaphysical are brought closer and identified, what is given to us in historical facts, in historical embodiment, and what is revealed in the deepest spiritual reality, leads to the unification of the history of the earth with the history of heaven.”[39]

The interconnection between Berdyaev’s monism, Christian teleology and eschatology, and philosophy of world and cosmological history was expressed in his The Meaning of History: “(F)or the Christian consciousness, at the center of the world process and the historical process is a certain fact that happened singly and was archetypical, non-repeatable, unique, incomparable, unlike anything, one-off and cannot be repeated, a historical fact and at the same time metaphysical, i.e. revealing the depths of life – the fact of the phenomenon of Christ.[40] Christ is a foundational element unifying world history’s path and integrating worldly and heavenly history, the historical and the metaphysical:

The revelation of history is comprehensible for us, for the human spirit, only through Christ, as a perfect man and a perfect God, as a perfect union, as the birth of God in man and man in God, the revelation of God to man and the reciprocal revelation of man to God. The absolute man — Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man – stands at the center of both heavenly and earthly history. …Through Christ, truly, the metaphysical and the historical cease to be separated, become united and identified, the metaphysical itself becomes historical and the historical itself becomes metaphysical; heavenly history becomes earthly history, earthly history is comprehended as a moment of heavenly history.” [41]

Russia’s Imperial twilight produced the culture’s first great formal philosophers, who, like Berdyaev, were most often religiously guided as in the Solovevian tradition, and they possessed a sensibility of tselostnost’ similar to that of the God-seekers just noted. Among these idealists there emerged a school of ‘intuitivism’ that fully rejected Western rationalism and materialism but were influenced by the Western metaphysical tradition. ‘Intuitionism’ (intuitivizm) or ‘intuitivism’ was developed by Nikolai O. Losskii and Semyon Frank, most prominently and influenced by Solovev, the Russian personalist or “metaphysical idealist” philosopher Andrei Kozlov (1831-1901), as well as various Western formal philosophers, most notably Gottfreid Wilhelm Liebnitz (1646-1716). The movement’s adherents broke new ground in formal philosophy in line with the more mystical Russian tradition rooted in Orthodox theology.[42]

Intuitivism was replete with monist, universalist, communalist, and solidarist articulations of tselostnost’. These ‘intuitivists’ were Orthodox Christians, and therefore their view of history was subject to the expected teleology and eschatology that entails historical tselostnost’ among theologists, God-seekers, and the like. Losskii laid down intuitivism’s foundations, elaborating tselostnost’ in a gnosiology and cosmology inspired by Kozlov. Frank in turn built on Losskii’s work. Kozlov was a believer in reincarnation and, in Losskii’s words, viewed the history of humankind as “existing as a completed whole.”[43] Losskii’s own work allows one to infer his belief in historical unity, in particular his discussions on the afterlife and reincarnation.[44]

Perhaps the most important of the intuitivist philosophers, Semyon Frank, reflected a historical tselostnost’ which was directly related to his communalist (and other) forms of tselostnost’ but as with Losskii this needed to be inferred. According to Soviet/Russian historian of philosophy Aleksandr Yermichev, Frank demonstrated that the “real spiritual essence” of the Russian people “determines the unity of the history of (its national spirit), a unity which is laid down by interaction between the forms of the communal (sobornoi) organization in society (family, religious life, and fate) and its outward manifestations.”[45] Yermichev’s life work itself would play an important role in the reunification Russian history after the velikii perelom or Great Break of that history by way of communist revolution, war, and terror. His work examined the philosophers of Russian Religious Renaissance exiled by the Bolsheviks in 1922, among them Frank. During perestroika, Yermichev helped in the rehabilitation of Berdyaev and the intuitivists, compiling their works for publication of the works, including those of Frank.[46]

For Frank, history was a dialectical struggle between religious faith and secularism (non-faith). The tselostnost’ of history can be inferred from his view that antipodes, opposites, counteropposites – that is, Hegel’s thesis-antithesis – comprised an integral whole; reflecting Losskii’s observation that Hegelian dialectics were a poor restatement of the idea of the ‘unity of opposites.’[47] This meant the thesis created the antithesis, or, in other words, the antithesis emerged from and was impossible without the thesis, thereby making them a unified pair.

The religious historian and philosopher Lev Karsavin (1882-1952), who was close to the intuitivists and like them a Solovevian, built his system of thought on the concept of “true absoluteness as perfect all-unity” and the unity of opposites. Like many of the God-seeking, intuitivist and other Russian religious philosophers, Karsavin postulated unity and wholeness throughout his philosophy. For him, even history and the study of history were integrated. He defines history as “both the process of historical being and the science of it.”[48] Karsavin thought that any subject in history – whether an individual, family, nation, humankind, a culture, civilization, the universe – traverses through stages toward an apogee which consisted of the “complete revelation of (its) all-unity” and could only be discovered by way of researching the religious character of the given subject.[49] Thus, the historian’s work could and should strive for and theoretically achieve all-unity: “The perfection of historical knowledge lies in the fact that conditionally established boundaries are overcome, and they are overcome with the help of the historical method, i.e. through the ascent to all-unity.”[50] But the absolute all-unity, God, is the ultimate Historian: “True and complete historical knowledge is the cognition of historical reality by the Divine Mind.”[51]

In his A Philosophy of History (Filosofiya istorii) conceptualized historical development as a process of internally derived “development” (razvitie) distinct from that of externally acquired change. The latter involves the addition of something new to the subject or entity (humankind, physical object, history) introduced from outside, externally from said object. Development is different internally generated. Any subject “develops continuously, continuously becomes qualitatively different, becomes from within, from itself, and not by attaching something to it from the outside.” In other words, any transformations are extensions from, variations on that which already exists within the subject. It is “impossible” that development “consists of parts or composed of parts, because separation denies continuity.” In any subject (t)here are no elements in it, and it coincides with a system,” and “development does not allow any atomization.” “Development necessarily presupposes that which develops. There is no development without a subject of development. But the subject is not outside of development – in this case we would not need it at all – but in development itself. There is no subject and development, but there is a developing subject.”[52] This is classic tselostnost’ philosophizing; all is connected, the subject is in inseparable from (its) development. And so too with history or History, Karsavin sees it as a constantly developing phenomenon. It is a single subject, and development is its essence, always evolving from one of its qualities to another.

History’s actors (persons, families, nations, civilizations) are interrelated, each containing within itself all the qualities, aspects, space, and time of the all-unity. For example, all of humankind’s souls are tied together among themselves and across time. Karsavin wrote: “The all-unity (vseedinstvo) of our souls is possible only if it is omni-temporal (vsevremenna).”[53] Thus, the elements that make history and drive its development interpenetrate each other, are all-united, thereby integrating history.[54] Thus, he saw elements of tselostnost’ in history (and Russian history) rooted as interrelated strands of action comprising the destiny of history. The predetermined Christian eschatology for the end of time was one element that created a unifying element across history if not the outright unity of history.[55] For example, Karsavin thought “the entire historical process is divinely human” and that all of human history is “the empirical establishment and death of the earthly Church  of Christ,” which unites humankind with God through a unifying ‘conciliarity’ or ‘sobornost’.[56] Therefore, history for Karsavin, as for other intuitivists, God-seekers, and their fellow traveler Berdyaev, was monist—both a Divine and human process.  

Through the great ferment of Russian culture and thought and the Russian Renaissance of the late 19th century through the fall of the Romanov dynasty and even the Soviet era there persisted a strain in Russian culture imagining the unity of humankind’s history, sometimes rooted in Russia’s foundational Orthodox Christian eschatology, teleology, and messianism, sometimes rooted in a new communist version of these. The rise of revolutionary nihilism and the resulting great break that the Bolshevik seizure of power and communist rule imposed on Russia and its history did not overthrow the idea of historical tselostnost’ either as it pertained to world history or as it pertained to Russian history. Rather it transformed the idea of historical tselostnost’. Tselostnost’ was no longer an attribute of Russian history per se and certainly not rooted in Russian Orthodox Christian doctrine. Rather, with the rise of Russian socialism, communism, and anarchism, Christian eschatology and teleology morphed into a proletarian eschatology and teleology. The imminent coming of communism replaced the teleology of the second coming of Christ at history’s end, and all History had consisted and would continue to consist in class struggle and humankind’s great march to communism.

Hegel’s historical dialecticism was doctrine for the pre-revolutionary intelligentsia and thus for Russia’s revolutionaries, not least of all the communists. The mechanistic development of history towards tselostnost’ – through a process of an emerging thesis, a countering anti-thesis, and resolving synthesis making a new thesis from which the cycle begins anew until the end of history – appealed to Russia’s revolutionaries. This was because his dialectical method provided a formula in which the reigning thesis of capitalism could be overturned in the equation by the antithesis of communism. Never mind the formula’s promise of a succeeding synthesis that would partially subsume communism according to the method in a purist application. Perhaps the attraction of the dialectical method for Russian thinkers lay in something else—its ultimate unity? As Losskii noted, Hegel’s dialectics, resting on the equality of counter-opposites and the resolution of contradictions between them, “is simply an inexact expression of the idea of the unity of counter-opposites”—a routine concept in philosophy for ages.[57] In this way, even a historical process seemingly broken up between theses and antitheses retains its overall wholeness, as it is comprised of interconnected unities.

Hegel’s historical materialism deviated from the revolutionaries’ vision in another way: it did not eschew the Divine. God or ‘Providence’ directed the historical drama of human history, which, according to Hegel was “the unfolding of Spirit in time” until, in Herman’s words, “Spirit, Nature, and History are One.”[58] Naturally, most revolutionaries jettisoned the spiritual element in Hegel under the influence of his successors, Karl Marx and Friederick Engels, and their most infamous student, Vladimir Lenin.

Marx, Engels, and Lenin – the Bolsheviks’ Holy Trinity of sorts – were rooted in the real world, the materialist world of economics, productive forces, and revolutionary classes forming the antithesis. Not God but the working class was the driver of human history; a history predetermined to end in universal communism, equality, and comity. Although History was driven by the clash between contradictions and opposing forces, most notably socialism and capitalism, its inevitable terminus was a communist state of harmony and utopia. Marx and Engels saw communism as eschatological, like their Russian bourgeois forebearers, an inevitable end to which the independent force of History would arrive. But this History was not simply a sequence of interrelated influences cascading through time and humankind’s development. Rather, History is an unstoppable force moving toward a rationally constructed final, communist endpoint maintained in perpetuity by a scientific state apparatus.

Influenced subconsciously by the very Russian Orthodoxy, Russian Westernizers and especially the socialist and anarchist revolutionaries reinterpreted historical tselostnost’ according to their own eschatology and teleology—the ‘end time’ and the form it would take. For them, History might be full of even driven by contradictory, often conflictive processes but ends in the harmony of agrarian communalism or proletarian communism.

Russian revolutionaries were also shaped not just by Christian Orthodox or Jewish messianism and utopianism, as Berdyaev thought, but also ultimately imbibed monism and teleological historical tselostnost’ as well. Berdyaev notes Russia’s radicals inherited through Marx the Jewish messianism and utopianism inherent in the expectation of the Messiah and Israel’s role as the chosen people in history: “(T)he Jewish demand for earthly bliss in the socialism of Karl Marx manifested itself in a new form and in a completely different historical setting. Marx’s teaching outwardly breaks with the religious traditions of Jewry and goes against every shrine. But K. Marx transfers the Messianic idea, which was extended to the Jewish people as the chosen people of God, to the class, to the proletariat.”[59] The coming of the Messiah was another form of Heaven-Earth, God-Man, Divine-material monism. The Jews were the people chosen in what was a predetermined historical script ending in the Messiah’s coming. According to Marx, the proletariat was History’s chosen class to lead humankind to the predesignated classless, industrial utopia, integrating humankind and machines rather than spirit, flesh, and all matter. In this way, through Marx’s Jewishness and messianism, Russia’s and other communist revolutionaries inherit teleological historical tselostnost’.

Thus, agricultural socialist Nikolai Mikhailovskii defined progress a “a gradual nearing to wholeness.” “All that restrains this movement is immoral, unjust, harmful, and irrational. Only that which reduces the diversity of society, strengthening the diversity of its individual members is moral, just, rational, useful.” The new world would be a level one: “full and thorough division of labor between organs and the least possible division of labor between people.”[60]

The father of Russian Marxism, Georgii Plekhanov, was similarly teleological in his writing. In an article dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, he wrote that capitalist development had reached such an apogee now that the contradictions of thesis-antithesis tension were about to yield to a new synthesis. “The triumph of the workers’ cause is guaranteed to such a degree now by history itself.” “The success of the proletariat is guaranteed now by history itself” and was a “historical inevitability.”[61] Lenin’s philosophical interests were invested solely in the philosophy of history and in particular Marx’s historical materialism and determinism, excluding his caveat that leadership could produce leaps of progress in historical development. Lenin called the force of History “historical necessity” (though his mechanical ‘historiosophy’, rooted in Marxist historical materialism, did not exclude “in the slightest” the role of the personality in history).[62] But Lenin’s History naturally rejected all alternative outcomes other than the rise of universal communism. There was only one History, in Lenin’s reading, its developmental resolution having by ‘necessity’ only one possible end. As in Christian teachings, Lenin’s teaching of historical development implied the unity of History eschatologically—through its communist teleology.

The Soviet era saw a gradually waning in the reigning official teleology of the communist kingdom, and the Soviet collapse led to a return to the old eschatology and teleology of history in post-Soviet Russia. Today, the standard Orthodox indeed overall Christian interpretation of human history as ‘influenced’ by ‘Providence’ remains and influences both state and society. Patriarch Kirill refers to “Divine participation.” [63] The late Father Aleksandr Men’ has become an Orthodox force in post-Soviet Russia. His writings as well as the Aleksandr Men’ Open Orthodox University in Moscow guarantee his place in the ROC and Russian monistic canon. Although not a robust monist, he certainly had the Divine’s, specifically Christ’s role in human history on his mind. Restating in a lecture the optimism he expressed in his Reading the Apocalypse: Conversations on the Revelation of John the Theologian, inspired by Sergei Bulgakov, he declared that Christianity “has only made the first hesitant steps in the history of the human race.”[64] Father Men’s writings for the most part were confined to the mainstream subjects of the Christian canon. Only rarely did he delve deeply into theological questions of humankind’s or the material world’s interrelationship with the divine and the Heavenly Kingdom.[65] One of those rare forays was his incomplete, seven-volume The History of Religion: In Search of the Way, Truth, and Life, a history of humankind’s search for God.[66] Men’ places Christ at the center of human history, and today’s Christianity at the beginning stage of its infusion throughout all humanity. Christ’s incarnation on Earth marked a “mysterious kinship of the infinite Spirit and a finite spirit” and makes possible, according to the Bible, a Covenant between them. A historical “covenant, or union, is the path to the unification of man, not with gods, but with the grand Origin existing over the world.”[67] In the closing of his magnum opus, Men’ emphasizes Christ’s presence not ‘over’ but ‘in’ the world, citing Christ’s promise: “I am with you on all days to the end of time.”[68] Thus, God, Christ, and humankind’s pursuit of ‘the grand Origin’ infuse human history with unity.

The great Soviet/Russian cinematographer Andrei Tarkovskii, a spiritualist if not traditional religious believer seemed in a philosophical, almost Florenskian passage in his diary published in 2008 to invoke the unity of history in perceiving a hidden unity of time, an ultimate simultaneity of all times: “God, what a simple, even primitive idea – time! Yes, this is a simple way to differentiate materially and connect our beings at the same time, because in material life the synchronous efforts of individual people are valued. Time is just a way of communication, we are wrapped in it like in a cocoon, and it costs nothing to tear off this cotton wool of centuries that envelops us in order to get common, unified and one-time sensations.”[69]

More recently, the ultranationalist philosopher and political activist Aleksandr Dugin in his 2014 book The Fourth Way: Introduction to the Fourth Political Theory explicitly acknowledged his Orthodox Christian faith with an implicit monism, given the Orthodox roots of much of Russian monism already discussed. True to monist tselostnost’s form, he prognosticates “the return of the Divine,” “the return of the sacred,” and “the Second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and interprets “history in Christian terms.” “The Living God, Himself is returning… Therefore it is fully appropriate to speak of a total return of the sacred and about a sacred Revolution.”[70] The revolution Dugin predicts and proselytizes will be led by Russia and is to bring about a new world based on his rather esoteric Fourth Political Theory, which rejects and accepts certain aspects of history’s three previous secular ideologies: liberalism, communism, and fascism.[71] In a way quite distinct from Solovev, Florenskii and Bulgakov, Dugin gives a place in his theory to Divine Wisdom or Sophia and the Mother of God, referencing the Silver Age sophiists Vyacheslav Ivanov, Andrei Belyi, and Fedor Sologub. Divine Sophia is another entity shaping history and Russia according to God’s universal plan. For Dugin, the Mother of God is “a historical personage.” [72] Thus, Dugin’s theory includes a teleological philosophy of history, suggesting its tselostnost’.

The unity of overall world and universal history, if only in its last stage, could logically entail a unity of Russian history itself. Thus, the teleology of the eschatological unity of world history and the attendant messianism of many Russian thinkers regarding their homeland’s role as the chosen people eventually redounded to thought about the unity of Russian history.


The Unity of Russian History

The eschatology of Creation’s ultimate if not continuous historical unity lent itself logically to the idea of Russian historical unity because Russian messianism became part of the belief in the unity of world history. Illarion Kievskii’s Orthodox eschatology of a universal historical unity guided by Russians as God’s chosen people was reinforced rather than undermined by Russia’s encounter with the West. In the course of Westernization after the Peter the Great’s monumental reforms, Russians tended to be drawn most often to forms of Western thought that reinforced their image of historical unity. For instance, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling’s inherent monism and God-centered philosophy of history appealed to the Russian sensibility; the former represented in Shelling’s view that nature is visible spirit and spirit is invisible nature, the latter in his assertion that history overall is progressive and gradually reveals the Absolute or God.

Romanticist poet-historian Friedrich Schelling and historical philosopher Friederich Hegel each shaped Russian thought on historical development in different ways, but each reinforced Russians’ ideas on historical unity (and socialist and later revolutionary thought). Russians, religious believers, and lovers of nature were taken by Schelling’s cosmology of an organic, unified spiritual and natural world—a ‘world soul’ with a beautiful diversity expressed by the plurality of nationalities and natural life. Schelling held, for example, an ‘absolute spirit’ or absolute idea, truth or beauty defined each historical epoch. Each stage of mankind’s development was defined by one, then another dominant nation, culture, or civilization. Like German historio-philosopher Friedrich Hegel, Schelling attributed the leading role in world development to his homeland. Schelling assured Russians of their greatness, Hegel did not. On German superiority, Hegel was confident and explicit, Schelling was tentative and implicit. In the second half of the 19th century almost all Russians were Hegelians, and Hegel taught there was a unifying ‘dialectical’ mechanism path to human history. At the same time, the materialist Hegel also once wrote in his Phenomenology of Spirit that history is “the unfolding of Spirit in time.”[73]  But Hegel denied Russia’s role in world history; Slavic ‘civilization’ had never been on the ladder of history or played any historical role whatsoever. Russia and Slavdom were “non-historical” – doomed to spiritual and cultural slavery to be devoured by German civilization, ending history. Hegel was popular among Russian Westernizers and later the socialists, who saw Russian and world history as a predetermined march to universal communism. Schelling was popular among Slavophiles.[74]

The Slavophiles, who were profoundly influenced by German romanticism and related philosophies of history, believed that Russian history had been an organic unified whole or would have been if not for Peter’s fundamental transformation and Westernization of Muscovite Russia. Peter the Great’s abrupt, coercive, and inorganic transformations disrupted a basic Russian historical unity in the view of many Russian thinkers even before the Slavophile movement’s emergence. Influential philosophers of history and historians such as Pyotr Chaadaev (1794-1856), Nikolai Karamzin (1766-1826), and Mikhail Pogodin (1800-1875) saw Peter’s reforms as necessary to one extent or another, but they all acknowledged that the transformation represented an important shift if not a fundamental break with Russia’s prior history. Some Slavophiles saw an organic unity in Russian history, even as others saw that unity having been regretfully broken by the Western influences brought into Russia in great force beginning with Peter’s transformations. The organic development of Russia undergirded her historical unity.

Specifically, some Slavophiles held that Russia’s adoption of Orthodox Christianity’s spiritual conciliarity or sobornost’ imparted an organic unity to Russian society leading to a history unencumbered by conflict requiring reliance on law to ensure social order and stability and contain an ultimately fractured civilization. Sobornost’ combined with the organic Russian village commune or ‘obshchina’ of close communal labor and living introduced an essential unity and continuity in Russian social development. Indeed, the father of Slavophilism, Ivan Kireevskii, would find the roots of organic development of Russian history in sobornost’ and the Russian obshchina. He developed a connection between two core beliefs—his belief in the organic relationship between different historical epochs and his Russian messianism. His version of ‘historicism’ as “the theory of the organic continuity of national life” posited that Russia’s historical mission was to lead an ultimately fractured Europe. Whereas European history was one of conflict overcome by enforcement of laws, Russian history was one of organic development based on spiritual and communal unity and consensus.[75] Thus, for Kireevskii and many other Slavophiles, as for the ancient metropolitan Illarion Russian, communality and solidarity were part of an organic course of Russian history that stood in contrast to Russia’s leading civilizational and historical contender, Europe, which in the Slavophiles’ view Europe had replaced the Jewish people as the main historical competitor Russia was destined to succeed as history’s standard bearer.

         During the 19th century, only Dostoevskii from among the Russia’s greatest writers delved into the unity of Russian history to different degrees and in different ways. In Pushkin, there is an explicit if privately communicated acceptance, if not preference to take Russian history as a united whole. Pushkin’s attitude towards Russia’s past seems to presage Putin’s own wholistic attitude, which is also a political instrument that theoretically might limit polarization in society over proper interpretations of Russian history, for example, between communist and monarchist, red and white elements. In his October 1836 letter to Pyotr Chaadaev, whose controversial and changing views of Russia’s place in world history sparked the country’s still ongoing and seminal discourse on the subject, Pushkin wrote: “I honestly swear that I would not change the fatherland for anything in the world or have another history, besides our forefathers’ history that God gave to us.” There is also in Pushkin’s letter a nascent, if indeterminate messianism – “(W)e have a special destiny” – which implies a certain processual unity, as the road to the destination if not predetermined is at least significantly unchangeable and so somewhat integral.[76]

Dostoeveskii outlined a clear a vision that entailed the view that world (and Russian) history’s teleology would arrive at unity. Dostoevskii, a Slavophile, believed that Russia had a messianic destiny to unite first the Slavic, then the Orthodox, and ultimately the entire world in an Orthodox Christian utopia that would precede the second coming of Christ and the end of human history. Beginning in 1876, Dostoevskii repeatedly argued that the truth of Christ and the Kingdom of God on Earth would be established by Russia first in a unification of all the Slavs and eventually of the entire world centered in Constantinople, which he repeatedly hoped would be seized by Russia from the Ottomans in 1876-1877.[77] In June 1876 tract that was both universalist and monist, Dostoevskii wrote that world brotherhood would be achieved by Russia not through violence or conquest but the Russian people’s service to mankind and faith in “unity in Christ.”[78] Russia’s destiny was to be “guardian of Christ’s truth,” deliverer of “universal reconciliation.”[79] The vessel through which Russia would realize Dostoevskii’s universalist if nationalist dream was the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the period between the publication of War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1875-1877), Tolstoy began researching a novel he wished to write on Russia’s enlightenment century between the rules of Peter the Great and Alexander I, that would have been largely focused on Peter. Reading about pre-Petrine Russia, Tolstoy seems to be winding his way to conclude that the Russian peasant was the force that united all Russian history. He wrote: “In addition, reading about how they robbed, ruled, fought, ruined (this is the only thing in history), you involuntarily come to the question: what was robbed and ruined? And from this question comes another: who produced that which was ruined? Who and how were all these people fed bread? Who made brocades, clothes, dresses, kamkas, in which the tsars and boyars played? Who caught the black foxes and sables, which were given to ambassadors, who mined gold and iron, who brought horses, bulls, sheep, who built houses, courtyards, churches, who transported goods? Who brought up and gave birth to these people of a single root?” [80] The answer to all these questions was the simple, faithful Russian peasant. In the midst of the spiritual crisis that would end only in death, Tolstoy sought to escape in both his work and life the powerful grip of history that is life, an understanding of which he had still not come to grasp fully, though it is apparent in War and Peace. Perhaps yearning to join with the simple folk or ‘narod’, he renounced and abandoned all his past life, work, even his home until he collapsed. He was brought back home to leave the world, Russia, and the grip of History.

The 19th century’s great God-seeking theologist-philosophers Vladimir Solovev, Pavel Florenskii, and Sergei Bulgakov and figures close to or influenced by them, such as Nikolai Fyodorov (1829-1903), carried forth the Christian and Orthodox tradition of seeing historical unity eschatologically in the context of Christ’s return and unification of the world and cosmos. Solovev discussed history’s unity both within and outside its Christian eschatological context. In the latter form, he noted: “The gradual realization of ideal unity comprises the meaning and goal of the world process. Just as under the divine order everything eternally is the absolute organism, so too according to the law of natural being everything gradually is becoming such an organism in time.”[81] In brief, history has a single, united purpose. It aspires to Solovev’s core concept of vseedinstvo (all-unity) or the unity of everything with everything. Solovev repeatedly assumed and connoted the unity of history, which has a sole goal, a predetermined Christian eschatological end. “(W)orld history’s task” is to bring “world solidarity” (universalism) to its full and final fruition.[82]

The unity of world history inevitably entailed the unity of Russian history, again as for the Slavophiles, through Russia’s vanguard role in bringing history to its Christian culmination. Unlike Hegel, Solovev saw Russia as a “historical nation” that would replace the original historical nation, the Jewish people, and overtake the second, the Polish people, which “hates and curses” Russia and represents the Catholic alternative to Russian-led Orthodoxy.[83] Russian history would consolidate around the Russian monist and universalist mission to achieve the united outcome of world history. Russia, through the Russian Orthodox, had a “historical obligation” and religious “goal” or “task” to unite east and west in one Church, reconciling with Poland and Catholicism, and then lead the “bringing of Christianity to fruition in life and the creation of a universal Christian culture” in preparation for the apocalypse and second coming.[84] In discussing the imperfect role of the state and the desirability of its subordination to the Church, Soloved argued: “The goal of historical life consists not only in the fact that human society exists but that it exists in a dignified or ideal form and on the bases of an internal moral solidarity.” And the state and Church are obliged to facilitate “the gradual moralization and spiritualization of social relations according to the ideal of free moral all-unity.”[85] This moral all-unity is the partial revelation of ‘vseedinstvo’ that will be fully revealed at the end of history. Thus, Russia would establish a Christian universalism as a precursor to the incarnation of the Orthodox monist mission of facilitating the second coming and the unity of the divine and material worlds.

A contemporary of the God-seekers and another acolyte of Solovev, the more secularly minded father of Russian cosmism and immortalism Nikolai Fyodorov, thought everything is in a state of unity or of becoming unified. He expressed monism, universalism, collectivism, and global political unity or solidarism in championing the cause of achieving human immortality and integration with the universe. Fyodorov insisted that Russia’s historical mission is to lead mankind’s historical-eschatological drive to an immortalist and cosmist unification with nature and the heavens. Fyodorov’s fundamental idea is that “through rational beings’ control, nature will achieve the fullness of self-consciousness and self-government, will recreate everything destroyed due to its still blindness, and thus fulfill God’s will, becoming His likeness.” “The unity of mankind…unity in the common cause, resurrection, is the highest unity.”[86] Thus, for Fyodorov, history “represents an ideal unity, despite the continuous conflicts.”[87] History’s finale in all-unity under God could only be achieved, according to Fyodorov, if all deceased mankind – the aggregate of all generations in history – is resurrected and unified with God and all that is divine en masse: “Only in its full composition, in the aggregate of all generations, can the human race enter into the unity promised to it, into communion with the Tripartite Being, enter into Him, as it were, into its own frame.[88]

Father Pavel Florenskii seemed to suggest that the medieval Orthodox missionary Reverend Sergei Radonezhskii’s influence tied together Russian history and culture: “Looking at Russian history, the very fabric of Russian culture, we will not find a single thread that would not lead to this first node: the (Russian) moral idea, statehood, painting, architecture, literature, the Russian school, Russian science — all these lines of Russian culture converge in the Reverend.”[89] His spiritual colleague Father Sergei Bulgakov also seemed to hold a belief in a special world-historical mission for Russia, thus entailing Russian history in the teleological integrity of  world history: “The Russian people have a great religious vocation to show the power and depth of Orthodoxy in creativity and in life, in the realization of the revelations so hard won. But these destinies themselves are its testimony to its special chosenness… In this sense, Russia is the entelechy (the potential for the realization) of world history, its true “axis”, and the Russian soul has always known this. This consciousness is bequeathed to us from the past and is rooted in its depths, and neither the Satanism of Bolshevism nor the grief of emigration can extinguish it in her. Russia will rise and is rising, wake up, wake up.”[90] Elsewhere he noted: “The Chirst-murder in the hearts and souls in Russia hides the resurrection of Christ. It is happening today, in Russia Christ is resurrecting.”[91] Again, belief in humankind’s salvation at the end of history entails Russia’s salvation, and, what is more, Russia is designated a special mission in world salvation through its Orthodox Christ in the Savior.

Ever since their appearance, the Vekhi (Signposts) group and their publications Vekhi (1909) and Iz glubiny (From the Depths, 1918) have had a profound influence on Russian thought. Relegated to émigré’ circles during the Soviet era, respectively, their anti-Bolshevik, liberal traditionalist works have been fully rehabilitated and then some in post-Soviet Russia. The Vekhi’s prime force, Nikolai Berdyaev revealed many of the elements that drove the revolutionary events of 1917.[92] He along with hundreds of philosophers, historians, and other cultural figures were exiled by the Bolsheviks in 1922, as elements incompatible with the goals and spirit of the socialist revolution and communist future. Today, Berdyaev’s writings enjoy wide circulation and broad popularity. Liberals and even traditionalists such as Putin cite them.

In his article for the Vekhi collection Iz glubiny, Berdyaev emphasized the continuity in Russian history, despite the revolution and Bolshevik takeover. In one passage, he went beyond continuity as a form of Russian history’s unity and offered a semi-metaphysical vision of Russian historical tselostnost’:

On the surface everything seems new in Russia’s revolution – new facial expressions, new gestures, new costumes, and new formulas rule over life; those who were below, now have risen to the very top, and those who were at the top have fallen down below; those rule who were once persecuted, and the persecuted are those who ruled; the slaves became unlimitedly free, and the free in spirit are subject violence. But try and penetrate beyond the surface layer into the depths of revolutionary Russia, and you will recognize old Russia and meet the old familiar faces. …If you go deep into Russia, then behind the revolutionary struggle and revolutionary phraseology, it is not hard to see the snorting Gogolian mugs and horns. Any people at any moment of its existence lives in various times and various centuries. But there is no people in which so many different ages and which could combine the 20th century and 14th century as the Russian people. And this multiple ageness (razno-vozrastnost’) is the source of the unhealthiness, even а hindrance for the integrity (tsel’nost’) of our national life.”[93]

In other words, the ‘stickiness’ of the past undermined the solidarity that Berdyaev preferred for Russian life. Berdyaev’s anti-communism makes it clear that if any time frame should be removed from Russia’s post-1917 era, it should be the communist present.

Berdyaev’s considered the “freedom of evil” to be “the real basis of history.”[94] The contradictions, conflict, violence, and general moral and ethical failures of which human history ultimayely were insurmountable: “In the historical fate of man, in fact, everything failed and there is reason to think that it will never succeed.”[95] Therefore, human history’s end logically was apocalyptic, and Russian philosophies of history were apocalyptic. Berdyaev argued that the eschatology of 19th century Russia’s mainstream (non-revolutionary) historical philosophies – from Chaadaev to the Slavophiles, Solovev, Leontev, Gogol, Tolstoy, and Dostoevskii, he averred – were “apocalyptic,” filled with “grief,” “tragism,” and “a thirst for redemption of the world’s sins and salvation.”[96] Any philosophy of history that forecasts a particular end of history – apocalyptic, as in Dostoevskii’s “tragic humanism,” chiliastic or otherwise – is by definition teleological and therefore is imparted a certain wholeness tselostnost’. And the writings of Russian thinkers from Chaadaev to Berdyaev himself were brooding, apocalyptic, and eschatological. They were often teleological and in a way that designated a messianic role in humankind’s unification and salvation. Consequently, Berdyaev also assigned Russia a certain role, perhaps messianic or at least pivotal, in revealing the tragic essence of history after the collapse of European humanism that he considered to have occurred in the late 19th to early 20th century.

But Berdyaev also saw the potential for a return to the past in Russia’s post-communist future and a perhaps messianic role for Russia. In his more philosophical The Meaning of History, he held out a seemingly Russian messianic hope that the ‘tragism’ of history and its divine reformulation at the end of time might be communicated to humankind by Russia and its religio-philosophical tradition, representing perhaps prophecy helping it prepare if not escape the Apocalypse.

Russia was a mysterious country, unclear even in its fate, a country in which was hidden a passionate dream of religious transformation of life. The will to culture has always been overwhelmed by the will to ‘live’ and this will had two vectors, which were often mixed — the vector of the social transformation of life in civilization and the vector of the religious transformation of life and of the phenomenon of a miracle in the fate of human society and in the fate of the people. We began to experience a crisis of culture without having fully experienced culture itself. Russians have always been had dissatisfaction with culture and an unwillingness to create a middling culture and to settle with the middle culture. Pushkin and the Alexandrian Era are the pinnacle of Russian culture. Russian Russian literature and Russian thought of the XIX century were no longer a culture; they were striving for ‘life’, for religious transformation. Such is Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, such is V. Solovyov, K. Leontiev, N. Fedorov, such are the latest religious and philosophical trends. The traditions of our culture have always been too weak. We have been creating a formless civilization. The barbarian element has always been too strong. Our will to religious transformation was struck by some kind of morbid dreaminess. But the Russian consciousness is given to understand the crisis of culture and the tragedy of historical fate more acutely and in depth than the more prosperous people of the West. Perhaps, the soul of the Russian people has preserved a great ability to reveal the will to the miracle of religious transformation of life.… The will of the Russian people needs to be purified and strengthened, and our people must go through great repentance. Only then will its will to the transformation of life give it the right to determine its calling in the world. [97]  

The teleological unity of world history is in evidence in Berdyaev, and in this conclusion of The Meaning of History it seems to entail Russian history. Russia seems to be attributed a special calling to reveal to the world the tragedy of history, as Berdyaev sees it, in preparation of the end of history and the onset of heavenly history with the second coming of Christ.

In one of Vekhi’s most interesting analyses, Nikolai Muravev hailed the Russia’s ancient tradition of historical awareness, devotion, and ultimately tselostnost’:

         “Ancient Russian worldview established a living indestructible connection between the present and the past. For the ancient Russian person the past that their fathers and grandfathers made was eternally alive and was present in his affairs and directed them. He honored the secret connection between times, and the Perfect God was felt by him in the beginning and at the end of the historical process.” The Russian person lived in fact between Birth and Resurrection.

         “The connection with the past in ancient Rus’ was established not by the mind and not by rational cognition of history, but by integral (tselostnoe) cognition and perception of the past in action, and all the existence of the ancient Russian person. He was present not outside history but in it, and he did not think it but lived it. This included the miracle-making force, which, despite the absence of mental understanding in his acts, guaranteed their power over the life around. Life itself was in these acts, and he did not change outside it, but (life) itself was reborn and transformed in him. The actions of ancient Russian people serve as a signal example of unity and the inextricability of thought and deed. Then there was no theory, but existence alone. But this existence was not blind. It was inspired by integral cognition of the Great Act, including the Small Act of the individual person. This Great Act is the act of the historical integral, communal (sobornoe) whole. The connection between times is one and the same as the connection between the people of past and present, united in such a whole. Communality (sobornost’) and temporality are inseparable.[98]

In this passage we find monism, communalism, and the tselstnost’ of history intermixed together.

Many Russian thinkers in the emigration, the exile of which demonstrated the great historical break of 1917 and Russia’s fractured cultural and historical tselostnost’, continued to hope for reconstitution of Russian history’s tselostnost’. In a response to Berdyaev’s landmark anti-Bolshevik ‘Vekhi’ movement, a group of exiled Russian liberals tried to come to terms with rather than reject their homeland’s civil war and Bolshevik victory, publishing Change of Signposts (Smena vekh) in 1921. The ‘smenovekhovtsy’ concluded that patriots needed to face reality and come to terms with the new regime.[99]

One of the collection’s more prominent authors, Nikolai Ustryalov, argued the need to reconcile ‘whites’ and ‘reds’, Imperial and Soviet Russia: “Similar to the way the contemporary Frenchman would answer the question ‘In what lies the greatness of France?’ to us: ‘Descartes and Rousseau, Voltaire and Hugo, Bodelier and Bergson’, our grandsons to the question ‘In what lies Russia’s greatness?’ will say with pride: ‘Pushkin and Tolstoy, Dostoevskii and Gogol, the Russian peasant, Russian religious thought, Peter the Great and the great Russian revolution…’” (Ustryalov’s italics).[100] Patriotism as in the past motivated this desire for reconciliation and the ‘restoration’ of tselostnost’ to Russian history, so 1917 should be included in the iconostasis of Russian historical greatness alongside Pushkin, Peter, the peasantry, and Orthodoxy.

         Political philosopher and another exile Ivan Il’in (1883-1954), seen by some as an important influence on Putin and whom others, for their own instrumental political purposes, erroneously have designated a fascist, was another Orthodox believer in world and Russian historical unity at the center of which lay a Russian national mission: “We should learn to see Russia – its heart, its statehood, its history – in God. We should think anew spiritually and religiously the entire history of Russian culture. And when we will think anew, then it will be revealed to us that the Russian people stood before God for its entire life.” “To believe in Russia means to see and acknowledge that its spirit is rooted in God and that its history is her growing from these roots.”[101] “We believe in Russia because we contemplate her in God and see her as she really is. We…thoughtfully turn to God’s design laid into the foundation of Russian history and the Russian national being. [102] If ‘God’s design was layed into the foundation of Russian history’ then Russian history must be a united whole, since God’s plan is a united whole. The God-seekers’, the cosmists’, and Il’in’s thought represent just one of many articulations of a Russian transcendental messianism that entailed the idea of Russian historical unity during twilight Imperial Russia’s Silver Age and Russian Renaissance. A new form of historical tselostnost’ would emerge with the rise of the Russian revolutionary movement.

The Tselostnost’ of Russian History According to the Soviets

History continued to play out on the world canvass. For Russia, it brought a new teleological eschatology and idea of historical tselostnost’. The Russian ‘narod’ survived into the Soviet era in a new form, ‘pared down’ through a war waged against God, the Church, and the peasantry in a brutal collectivization and Great Terror for the purposes of attaining the new pre-determined historical end—communism.

Among communists before and after ‘October’, world history and that of the motherland – the new Soviet motherland – seemed no less inextricably intertwined than it did to many of their forebears, but the Bolsheviks were less concerned with their homeland’s history and more focused on world history and revolution. Nevertheless, the old entailment of world and ‘Russian’ history remained, objectively speaking. Just as Dostoevskii’s Orthodox messianism and Russian universalism put Russia’s unified history at the head of that of world history, the Bolsheviks’ proletarian messianism and socialist internationalism stood at the vanguard of communist movement’s advance across the globe. Indeed, Orthodox messianism facilitated the rise of Russian communist messianism, and Russian universalism paved the way for Soviet internationalism, though in neither case was this evolution inevitable. Thus, world and Russian history were united by a new eschatology grounding the new Soviet historical tselostnost’; the end of history in a global communist utopia and, moreover, the historical materialism that dictated the unfolding of humankind’s historical development outlined a certain pre-determination and thus unity of both the world’s and Russia’s (Soviet) historical development.

Whereas Lenin could be said to have propagated a historical monism in which the ultimate unity of history is rooted in its communist predetermined outcome or teleology, his opponents among the Bolsheviks’ fellow travelers attempted to combine classic pre-revolutionary historical tselostnost’ rooted in the single origin of history as God’s creation and the lone endpoint as God’s intent with the new Russian faith’s belief in the proletariat’s role in leading humankind to a new form of God-like existence by way of science and industry. For the God-makers (distinct from the God-seekers) Alexander Bogdanov and Anatolii Lunacharskii, History’s ultimate communist end could retain belief in cosmic unifications and transformed worlds. The ‘God-bearing’ Russian nation became the communist-carrying, Man-Machine-God-building Soviet proletariat, whose mission was to complete history in humankind’s universal humankind-machine unification through socialist labor and science. Even humankind’s unification with the cosmos would be broached by successors of Fyodorov’s cosmism and immortalism such as Konstantin Tsiolkovskii.

Lunacharskii and other God-builders in and around government after February 1917 manifested a neo-monism that hoped to transmogrify the narod and its vanguard in history, the proletariat, to take God’s place either symbolically or literally—a force capable of leading mankind to a God-like immortality and power over the universe. Lunacharskii claimed proletarian man would “take possession of the universe and extend his species into distant cosmic regions, taking over the whole solar system. Human beings will be immortal.” In his Faust and the City he claimed that the very idea of an immortal God is simply a presentiment “of what the might of men might be.” In his never completed trilogy Vasilisa the Wise (modeled on the Divine Sophia template), Lunacharskii offered an ode to the inevitability of “man’s divinity on earth.”[103]

Similarly, Lunacharskii’s friend and Bolshevik fellow traveler, Maksim Gorky, in his Confession conjured a vision of “the fusion of all the peoples for the sake of the great task of universal God-creation” and consecrated the people as “almighty, immortal,” “the creator of all gods” and “the one God that creates miracles!”[104] Soviet ‘proletarian poets’ sang the praises of machinery in religiously monist terms, replacing Man and Earth with symbols of the revolutionary technology – “Machine Heaven” and “Iron Messiah” – and proselytized the advent of “new beings, the name of which would already not be man.”[105] A new machine-fused, proletarian Man-God would bring the end and full unification of history.

The Soviet state’s mandated approach to literature, socialist realism, included numerous explicit articulations of faith in a predetermined utopian outcome for history under communism. The classic of the genre`, Andrei Platonov, in his 1921 article, “Proletarian Poetry,” stated in quasi-monist and universal terms his belief in humankind’s universal or collective victory over the material world and universe: “History is the path to salvation through the victory of man over the universe. And we are heading to humankind’s immortality and his salvation from the shackles of physical laws, natural disasters, disorganization, happenstance, secrets, and horrors.”[106]

Less proletarian, less socialist-realist strains in Soviet culture, such as the village prose writers or derevenshchiki, carried forth a transformed Orthodox historical unity that rejected the materialist and technological fetishism of Sovietism. For example, Valentin Rasputin’s literary work reflected a quasi-monism similar to Platonov’s rooted in a non-religious but semi-spiritual tselostnost’ focused on the Russian village, death and memory, tying generations together in a single, integral stream of Russian history. Memory connects the living and the dead in a single microcosm. As Meyer-Reickh notes, Rasputin’s works are imbued with the “motif of the ‘unending chain’ of existence” and “concern with the continuation of one’s family line.”[107] In his story Oh, Old Woman (Ekh, starukha), Rasputin relays an old female shaman’s thoughts as her death nears. She feels that she has fulfilled her duty to her daughter and granddaughter: “Her family is continuing and will continue – she was a reliable link to which other links could latch onto in this chain.”[108]

In the years of stagnation, Valentin Rasputin’s village prose sought to preserve Russia’s ontological security by insisting on the preservation of memory and the tselostnost’ of Russian culture and history. Influenced by Slavophile thought, Rasputin’s literary work reflected a quasi-monism similar to Platonov’s rooted in a non-religious but semi-spiritual tselostnost’ focused on death and memory, tying generations together in a single, integral stream of history. Memory connects the living and the dead in a single microcosm. Historical unity is provided in Rasputin’s work in a way similar to cosmist Fyodorov’s idea of ‘the aggregate of all generations.’ As Meyer-Reickh notes, Rasputin’s works are imbued with the “motif of the ‘unending chain’ of existence” and “concern with the continuation of one’s family line.”[109] In his story Oh, Old Woman (Ekh, starukha), Rasputin relays an old female shaman’s thoughts as her death nears. She feels that she has fulfilled her duty to her daughter and granddaughter: “Her family is continuing and will continue – she was a reliable link to which other links could latch onto in this chain.”[110] The aggregate of all the generations of Russia’s families provides a unified chain across her history.

The Old Historical Tselostnost’ of Soviet Dissidents 

An early Soviet dissident published outside his time was Daniil Andreev (1906-1959). His “metaphilosophical” historical novel The Rose of the World: A Metaphilosophy of History (Roza mira: metafilosofskaya istoriya), first published in 1991, Soviet power’s last year, was written in the during the Stalinist and early post-Stalin eras. Andreev was in fact a Silver Age poet, writer, and philosopher. It is a monist work with direct roots in the Silver Age. Roza mira was perhaps the last flicker of that seemingly lost age and Andreev its last Mohican was one the millions of ‘accidents of history’ that took place in the Stalin era. In 1947, Andreev was arrested and sentenced to a ten-year term in the Gulag for creating an ‘anti-Soviet group’ and for his novel Night Wanderers (Stranniki nochi). The Gulag gravely damaged his health, and the deterioration soon led to his death in 1959. Nevertheless, he managed to complete Roza mira, which he claimed was the result of a religious epiphany he experienced in the camps.[111] Andreev’s work, in particular Roza mira, is an extension of the sofiological and eschatological cosmism, God-seeking, and monist vseedinstvo of Solovev, Florenskii, Bulgakov, Merezhkovskii, and Karsavin.[112] Gaining in popularity since the Soviet collapse, Roza mira is based on a monist philosophy of history: “The history of humankind is part of the great cosmic mystery, which is occurring simultaneously in several material worlds simultaneously, whereas meta-history is “the sum of all processes flowing in all the layers of non-material existence, which, abiding in other forms of space and other flows of time, shine through sometimes in the process and are being perceived by us as history.”[113]

Soviet dissidents rooted in the old Russian Orthodox culture later revived the purely religiously eschatological historical unity that presupposed Russian historical tselostnost’. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, for instance, believed in Providence or “Supreme Complete Reality”–something “solemn” and not to be spoken of lightly. He had a firm faith in “His presence in every human life” and the life of nations. God guided history – even 1917 had a “purpose” – and allowed Solzhenitsyn “to send mankind a reflection of [God’s] rays.” God guided history – even 1917 had a “purpose” – and allowed Solzhenitsyn “to send mankind a reflection of [God’s] rays.” Whatever he would fail to communicate to mankind, God surely “allotted unto others.”[114]

With Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika, the view of the teleological wholeness of Russian and world history that stipulated a communist end to history driven by the world proletariat was replaced in good part by a new Westernized teleology tied to Gorbachev’s new universalism, the semi-universalism of a ‘common European home’ stretching ‘from Vancouver to Vladivostok.’ Nevertheless, a teleological unity of history remained. During an August 1988 trip to Lithuania, perestroika’s chief ideologist Aleksandr Yakovlev signaled the turn from Soviet stagnation-era communism to social democracy, common human values, and a new Soviet universalism: “General human interests are not an abstract category, deduced speculatively in the armchair detachment of a thinker … The thesis on the priority of universal human values is valuable for the fact that it captures an objective developmental trend. This calls for abandoning the dogmatic vision of one’s country, each as a national cell. It helps one to look realistically and sensibly to the idea of coexistence of countries with different political systems as the dictate of history.”[115]


[1] Dmitri Nikulin, The Concept of History (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), p. 173.

[2] “Poslanie Prezidenta Federal’nomu Assembleyu,”, 1 December 2016.

[3] Gordon M. Hahn, The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (Jefferson: McFarland, 2021).

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

[5] Nikolai Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, Vtoroe izdanie (Paris: YMCA Press, 1969), p. 5.

[6] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 42.

[7] As Russian philosopher Lev Shestov noted: “They say that there is already philosophy in the Old Testament, which served St. Augustine as a model for his reconsiderations about humankind’s fate. In the Old Testament the fate of the Jewish people is not only told but it is also explained—and this you see also is philosophy of history. The latter assertion at first glance seems very similar to the truth.” L. I. Shestov, Filosofiya istorii,, excerpted pages from L. Shestov, Sobranie sochinenii v 2-kh tomakh, (Moscow, 1993), Tom 1, p. 66).

[8] Hannah Arendt, “The Concept of History: Ancient and Modern,” in Between Past and Future (New York: Penguin, 1977), pp. 41-90, at p. 65.

[9] Stepun also may have been asserting a Christian teleology leading to democracy or its necessity for the attainment of a certain outcome such as the coming of the Heavenly Kingdom. Thus, for Stepun, Christianity supports democratization: “God’s confirmation of the free person,” and “a form of God-serving action.” “Democracy is nothing other than the political projection of this supreme human faith of the last four centuries.” Vladimir Kantor, Lyubov’ k dvoiniku: Mif i realnost’ russkoi kul’tury (Moscow: Nauchno-politicheskaya kniga, 2013), p. 392.

[10] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 86.

[11] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 88 and 91.

[12] “Slovo o Zakone i Blagodati Mitropolita Illariona,”, last accessed on 31 July 2020.

[13] Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., p. 88.

[14] F. M. Dostoevskii, Brat’ya Karamazovy, in F. M. Dostoevskii, Polnoe sobranie v tridtsati tomakh (Leningrad: Nauka, 1976), Tom 14, p. 57.

[15] Dostoevskii, Brat’ya Karamazovy, p. 61.

[16] Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” in Isaiah Berlin, Russian Thinkers (), pp. 24-92, at p. 54, see also p. 57.

[17] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1991), p. 278.

[18] V. S. Solovev, Dukhovnyie osnovy zhizni,,, last accessed on 15 January 2021, p. 43.

[19] V. S. Solovev, “Istoricheskiya dela filosofii (1880),” Vystupitel’naya lektsiya v S.-Peterburkskom universitete 20 noyabrya 1880, pp. 407-8,,

[20] P. A. Florenskii, “Ponyatie Tserkvi v Svyashchennom Pisanii,” in Svyashchennik Pavel Florenskii, Sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh (Moscow: Mysl’, 1994), Vol. 1, pp. 319-489, at p. 439.

[21] P. A. Florenskii, “Avtoreferat,” in Florenskii, Sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh, Vol. 1, pp. 37-43, at p. 39.

[22] P. A. Florenskii, “O tseli i smysle progressa,” in Florenskii, Sochinenii, Vol. 1, pp. 196-204, at pp. 203-4.

[23] Bulgakov, “Dusha sotsializma,” pp. 57-8.

[24] Prot. S. Bulgakov, “Osnovnyie problem teorii preogressa,” in Sergei Bulgakov, Ot Marksizma k idealism: Sbornik statei 1896-1903, (Sankt Peterburg: Obshcehstvennaya pol’za, 1903),, pp. 113-60, at p. 142.

[25] Prot. S. Bulgakov, “Osnovnyie problem teorii preogressa,” p. 143.

[26] Bulgakov, “Osnovnyie problem teorii preogressa,” p. 158.

[27] Prot. S. Bulgakov, “Yavleniya Khrista po Apokalipsisu,”, p. 353.

[28] Prot. S. Bulgakov, “Eskhatologiya i progress,” Vestnik RSKhD, Paris, Vol. X No. III, 1933, pp. 34-40, at p. 39,

[29] Losskii, Istorii russkoi filosofii, p. 283 citing Berdyaev’s Opyt eskhatolgicheskoi metafiziki.

[30] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 85. On Berdyaev’s views regarding philosophy of history and Christian eschatology see Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, pp. 30-54, especially pp. 36-40.

[31] Losskii, Istorii russkoi filosofii, p. 282.

[32] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 234.

[33] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 89.

[34] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, Chapter 4, pp. 78-109.

[35] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 236.

[36] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 230.

[37] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 50.

[38] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 54.

[39] Nikolai Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, pp. 49-50.

[40] Nikolai Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, pp. 43-44.

[41] Nikolai Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 73.

[42] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 294-6. Other prominent Russian intuitionists were A. F. Losev, D. V. Boldyrev, S. A. Levitskii, and V. A. Kozhevnikov. See Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 289-347.

[43] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofiya, p. 183.

[44] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofiya, pp. 299-307.

[45] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 24.

[46] “1.3.4. A. A. Yermichev,” in Oleg Sumin, Gegel’ kak sud”ba Rossii, (Krasnodar: Glagol’, 2005),

[47] Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, p. 28.

[48] Lev Karsavin, Filosofiya istorii (Moscow: AST, 2007), p. 7.

[49] Losskii, Istorii russkoi filosofii, pp. 359-60.

[50] Karsavin, Filosofiya istorii, p. 239.

[51] Karsavin, Filosofiya istorii, p. 96.

[52] Karsavin, Filosofiya istorii, p. 9.

[53] Karsavin, Filosofiya istorii, p. 27.

[54] Karsavin, Filosofiya istorii and Losskii, Istorii russkoi filosofii, pp. 359-60.

[55] Losskii, Istorii russkoi filosofii, pp. 348-9.

[56] Karsavin, Filosofiya istorii, p. 152.

[57] Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, p. 434.

[58] Arthur Herman, The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization (New York: Random House, 2014), p. 434

[59] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii, p. 109.

[60] Sochineniya N. K. Mikhailovskogo, Tom IV (second edition), pp. 186-7 cited in G.V. Plekahanov, K voprosu o razvitii monisticheskogo vzglyada na istoriyu (Moscow: Politicheskaya literature, 1949).

[61] G.V. Plekhanov, “Stoletie velikoi revolyutsii,” in G. V. Plekhanov, Sochineniya, Tom IV (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe isdatel-stvo, 1888-1894),

[62] V. I. Lenin, “Chto takoe ‘druz-ya naroda’,” in V. I. Lenin, Sochineniya v 35-ikh tomakh (Moscow: Partizdat, 1935), tom 1, p. 77.

[63] Kirill (Gundyaev), part., “Vystuplenie v avtorskoi programme ‘Slovo pastyrya’, vypusk kotoryi byl posvyashchen 1000-letiyu predstavleniya svyatogo ravnoapostol’nogo knyaza Vladimira,” 11 July 2015,,, p. 285, last accessed on 14 March 2021.

[64] Louth, Modern Orthodox Thinkers: From the Philokalia to the Present, p. 331.

[65] See, for example Aleksandr Men’, “Otets Sergei Bulgakov, Lektsiya prochitana 20 fevralya 1990g. v DK, im. Serafimovicha,”, last accessed on 15 November 2020 and Aleksandr Men’, “Lektsiya ob o. Sergii Bulgakove (DK MZAL), 9 dekyabrya 1989g.,”,, last accessed on 15 November 2020.

[66] Aleksandr Men’, Istoriya religii: V Poiskakh Puti, Istiny, i Zhizni (Moscow: Slovo, 1991-1992).

[67] Men’, Istoriya religii: V poiskakh Puti, Istiny, i Zhizni, p. 16.

[68] Men’, Istoriya religii: V poiskakh Puti, Istiny, i Zhizni, p. 233.

[69] Andrei Tarkovskii, Martirolog: Dnevniki 1970-1986 (Florence, 2008), p. 243, cited in C. M. Meyer-Reickh, Memory and Wholeness in the Works of Andrei Platonov, Valentin Rasputin, and Andrei Tarkovsky, Doctoral thesis, University College of London, 2011, p. 136, and, last accessed on 9 December 2020.

[70] Aleksandr Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu (Moscow: Academicheskii proekt, 2014), p. 85.

[71] Dugin himself does not give his theory a formal name, but his theory might be called ‘Daseinism’ based on his application of German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s idea of ‘Dasein’ or ‘mankind’s being’ and its place in the world. Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu, pp. 438-66. Dugin’s emphasis on ‘being’ and “intuition” recalls late 19th century Russian formal philosophy, in particular that of the intuitivists Frank and Losskii. Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu, p. 39.

[72] Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu, p. 426.

[73] Georg Friederich Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), cited in Herman, The Light and the Cave: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, p. 434.

[74] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 309-12.

[75] Andrzej Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy: A History of Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth Century Russian Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), pp. 125, 132, and 133-41.

[76] The entire relevant portion of the quote from Pushkin’s letter reads: “Although personally I sincerely am attached to the sovereign (Tsar Nicholas I), I am far from overjoyed by everything that I see around myself; as a writer – they annoy me, and as a person with biases – I am humiliated – but I honestly swear that I would not change the fatherland for anything in the world or have another history, besides our forefathers’ history that God gave to us.” For Pushkin’s letter to Chaadaev, see “Pis’mo P. Ya. Chaadaev, 19 oktyabrya 1836 g. (Pushkin)”,,

[77] F. M. Dostoevskii, Dnevnik pisatelya, 1873-1881 (St. Petersburg: Lenizdat, 2001), pp. 250-55, see also pp. 436-44 for his views in March 1877.

[78] Dostoevskii, Dnevnik pisatelya, 1873-1881, p. 712.

[79] Dostoevskii, Dnevnik pisatelya, 1873-1881, pp. 252-3.

[80]Rasshifrovka: Lev Tolstoi i istoriya,”, last accessed on 10 August 2022.

[81] V. S. Solov’ev, Chtenie o Bogochelovechestve, in V. S. Solov’ev, Sobranie sochinenii v 15-ikh tomakh, Vol. 3 (Saint Petersburg, 1912), p. 144.

[82] V. Solovev, Filosofiya istorii, excerpt, “V. Solov’ev iz Filosofii Istorii (1891),” p. 350,

[83] V. S. Solovev, “Nravstvennost’ i politika delakh Rossii – Istoricheskie obyazannosti Rossii” (1883), Natsional’nyi vopros v Rossii, Vypusk pervyi (1983-1988), in S. M. Solov’yov i E. L. Radlov, eds. Sobranie sochinenii Vladimira Sergeevicha Solov’yova, vtoroe izdanie (St. Peterburg: Prosveshchenie, 1914), Tom 5 (1883-1892), pp. 7-23, at p. 17.

[84] V. S. Solovev, “O narodnosti i narodnikh delakh Rossii, 1884, Natsional’nyi vopros v Rossii, Vypusk pervyi, in Solov’yov and Radlov, Sobranie sochinenii Vladimira Sergeevicha Solov’yova, vtoroe izdani, Tom 5 (1883-1892), pp. 24-39, at p. 34.

[85] V. S. Solovev, “Slavyanofil’stvo i ee vyrozhdenie,” Natsional’nyi vopros v Rossii, Vtoroi vypusk (1888-1891), in Solov’yov and Radlov, Sobranie sochinenii Vladimira Sergeevicha Solov’yova, pp. 181-245, at p. 203.

[86] N. F. Fyodorov, Sobranie sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh, tom pervyi (Moscow: Progress, 1995), p. 92.

[87] Fyodorov, Sobranie sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh, tom pervyi, p. 95.

[88] Fyodorov, Sobranie sochinenii v chetyrekh tomakh, tom pervyi, p. 101.

[89] “P. A. Florenskii, “Troitse-Sergieva lavra i Rossiya,” p. 304,

[90] Sergei Bulgakov, “O rasizme,” cited in L. A. Zander, Mir i Bog: Mirosozertsanie otsa Sergiya Bulgakova (Paris: YMCA Press, 1948), Vol. 1, p. 413,

[91] Sergei Bulgakov, “Iuda Iskariot,” cited in Zander, Mir i Bog: Mirosozertsanie otsa Sergiya Bulgakova, Vol. 1, p. 414.

[92] Vekhi’s contents can be found in I. A. Isaev, ed., V poiskakh puti (Moscow: Russkaya kniga, 1992), pp. 21-206. Iz glubiny can be found in I. A. Isaev, ed., Puti Yevrazii (Moscow: Russkaya kniga, 1992), pp. 27-310. In his contributions, Berdyaev issued a powerful critique of the state of Russian culture and society, particularly the intelligentsia, and its maximalism, messianism, “irrationalism,” radical materialism, excess positivism, and “class proletarian mysticism” at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Thoroughly infused with socialist ideas, the intelligentsia’s desire for simple absolute truths played a pivotsl role in the revolutionary outcome of 1917-1921 and the events of years to follow, in Berdyaev’s view. See N. A. Berdyaev, “Filosofskaya istina i intelligentskaya pravda,” in Isaev, V poiskakh puti: Russkaya intelligentsia i sud’by Rossii, pp. 24-42, at pp. 27-31, 35 and 37-41 and N. A. Berdyaev, “Dukhi russkoi revolyutsii,” in Isaev, Puti Yevrazii, pp. 67-106.

[93] N. A. Berdyaev, “Dukhoi russkoi revolyutsii,” in Iz glubny republished in Isaev, Puti Yevrazii: Russkaya intelligentsia i sud’by Rossii, pp. 67-106, at p. 68.

[94] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 95.

[95] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 237.

[96] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, p. 221.

[97] Berdyaev, Smysl’ istorii: Opyt’ filosofii chelovecheskoi sud”by, pp. 268-9.

[98] V. N. Murav’ev, “Rev plemeni,” in Iz glubiny republished Isaev, Puti Yevrazii: Russkaya intelligentsia i sud’by Rossii, pp. 217-37, at pp. 221-2.

[99] For Smena vekh, see Isaev, V poiskakh puti: Russkaya intelligentsia i sud’by Rossii, pp. 207-371.

[100] N. V. Ustryalov, “Patriotica,” in Smena vekh republished in Isaev, V poiskakh puti: Russkaya intelligentsia i sud’by Rossii (Moscow: Russkaya kniga, 1992), pp. 252-69, at p. 256.

[101] Ilyin, Natsional’naya Rossiya: Nashi zadachi, p. 15.

[102] Ilyin, Natsional’naya Rossiya: Nashi zadachi, p. 19.

[103] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, p. 488.

[104] Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, pp. 487-8.

[105] Sarkisyants, Rossiya i messianizm: k ‘russkoi idee’ N. A. Berdyaeva, pp. 32-4.

[106] Andrei Platonov, “Proletarskaia poeziia”, in Andrei Platonov, Sochineniya (Moscow, IMLI RAN, 2004), Tom I, Kniga 2, pp. 162-67, at p. 162.

[107] Meyer-Reickh, Memory and Wholeness in the Works of Andrei Platonov, Valentin Rasputin, and Andrei Tarkovsky, p. 136.

[108] Valentin Rasputin, Ekh, starukha, in Valentin Rasputin, Krai vozle samogo neba: Ocherki i rasskazy (Irkutsk: Vostochno-Sibirskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1966), pp. 53-58, at p. 54.

[109] Meyer-Reickh, Memory and Wholeness in the Works of Andrei Platonov, Valentin Rasputin, and Andrei Tarkovsky, p. 136.

[110] Valentin Rasputin, Ekh, starukha, in Valentin Rasputin, Krai vozle samogo neba: Ocherki i rasskazy (Irkutsk: Vostochno-Sibirskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1966), pp. 53-58, at p. 54.

[111] Born in Berlin on 2 November (20 October) 1906, Andreev was the son of the writer Leonid Andreev (1871-1919) and Alexandra Veligorskaya (1881-1906), the great-niece of Ukraine’s national poet, Taras Shevchenko. With his mother dying days after his birth, Daniil was sent to live with relatives in Moscow. The home of a famous doctor Fillip Dobrov, was a Silver Age haven of musical and theatrical evenings attended by the likes of Scriabin, Gorkii, Bunin, the opera great Fyodor Chalyapin, and many others. Boris N. Romanov, Daniil Andreev (Moscow: Progress-Pleyada, 2013).

[112] See Ye. P. Rashchevskaya, “Kosmizm Daniila Andreeva i russkii kosmogonicheskii mif,” Vestnik KGU im. N. A. Nekrasova, No. 6, 2013, pp. 179-82.

[113] Daniil Andreev, Roza mira: metafilsosofiya istorii (Moscow: Promotei, 1991), p. 274.

[114] Daniel J. Mahoney, The Other Solzhenitsyn: Telling the Truth about a Misunderstood Writer and Thinker (South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 2014), pp. 188-9.

[115] A. N. Yakovlev, Realizm – zemlya perestroika: Izbrannyie vystuplenii i stat’i (Moscow: Politizdat, 1990), p. 358.










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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