Russian culture, thought, history and politics demonstrate a certain Russian belief in or aspiration to wholeness, ‘integrality’ or tselostnost’. I discussed tselostnost’ and its four types in my most recent book Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics (Europe Books, 2022). So it struck me recently that it might be worthwhile to consider whether and in what ways Russian tselostnost’ may be influencing Russia’s relations with Ukraine and the emergence of the NATO-Russian Ukrainian war. To be sure, other factors are important in these matters, including NATO expansion, Western meddling in Ukraine, elsewhere in the former USSR and among Russian allies, Russia’s historical relations with Ukraine, and the rise of Russophobic Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and neofascism just to mention a few, about which, incidentally, I have written about extensively. But it could very well be that Russia’s preference, even passion for wholeness, unity, tselostnost’ over schism and division has had a not insignificant role in events to date and those yet to come. This article addresses schematically this question.
None of what is written below should be construed necessarily as any justification on the part of the author for Russia’s attempt to incorporate parts of all of Ukraine back into the Russian fold. However, much of it serves as such justification for many Russians. Legitimate historical claims to another state’s sovereign territory do not justify policies or wars designed to end such sovereignty for the sake of national self-aggrandizement or even historical justice. Even if it is thought true that Ukrainians were or are Russians or a subset of them, this does not negate the development or existence of a separate identity today that warrants a separate Ukrainian state. After all, there are many Arab states, two German states, and three English-speaking states, two of which fought a war leading to American independence from Britain. There is no reason why there cannot be three ‘Russian’ states and peoples that can learn to both resolve their historical and cultural issues and preserve their historical and cultural ties so that they might enrich them together rather than drive them apart. For that, it would be best if outsiders refrained from meddling in these incredibly sensitive and complicated issues to the detriment of the direct parties’ comity. The purpose of this article is to explain not justify Russian ideas and actions related to Ukraine. To the extent there remains any interest outside Russia in such understanding, there can be a contribution here to outsiders’ ability to work with Ukrainians and Russians with more humility.
In my Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics I hypothesized four types: (1) monism – the integrality of Heaven and/or God with all existence and/or mankind, of spirit with matter, of mankind with all the rest of the cosmos; (2) universalism – the unity in one form or another of all mankind or alternatively a portion of mankind with Russia (all Slavdom, all Orthodox Christianity, Europe and the West writ large, Eurasia); (3) communalism – spiritual, social and/or socioeconomic wholeness (Orthodox conciliarity or sobornost’), the Russian communal obshchina and mir, and Soviet forms of collectivism such as the labor collective, the communal apartment, and parttiinost’ or intense loyalty to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union); and (4) solidarity – the belief in the importance of and the persistent aspiration to and pursuit of national political, cultural, and ideological unity. Since publication, I have researched a fifth form of Russian tselostnost’: historical tselostnost’ or historicism—the idea that history has a single direction, driver, and/or is teleological, having a predetermined outcome. Taken together these beliefs, aspirations, even norms reflect a Russian 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, of Russia’s usually divided and conflictive politics and contested national culture, identity, and history.
How tselostnost’ relates to the Russians’ attitudes, aspirations, and fears about Ukraine is the subject of this article. I would argue that Russian monism, especially traditional Orthodox Christian monism, universalism (again especially that rooted in Orthodoxy), solidarism, and historicism have more direct implications for Russian attitudes, beliefs, aspirations, and fears regarding Ukraine. Communalism has the least and indeed few if any implications for the Ukrainian question in Russian thought, culture, history, or politics. Communalism may be a quality common to both Russian culture and, to a lesser extent, Ukrainian culture. This lends a certain level of commonality that might facilitate comity between the two peoples and cultures all else put aside. However, as a factor driving Russia attitudes towards Ukraine it lacks sufficient significance, in my view, to be addressed in any detail in this article. Here I will concentrate on the connection between Russian monist, universalist, solidarist, and historicist tselostnost’, on the one hand, and Russians attitudes, beliefs, aspirations, and fears in relation to Ukraine and Ukrainians.
Russian Monism and Ukraine
Monism is in many ways the foundational tselostnost’, the well spring from which the other tselostnosts emerged and rose to importance as values in Russia. Russia’s earliest monism was strictly religious and anchored in Russian Orthodox Christianity as it was borrowed from Greek Byzantium in the 9th century by Kievan Rus’. Kiev has direct implications for Russian monist tselostnost’, which posits a connection between God and humankind, the Heavenly Kingdom and earth, spirit and matter, even the world and cosmic history. It is a foundational and vital connection for Russians to the Orthodox Christianity and Church that define past, present, and future religious monism (and universalism as discussed further below). Kiev is the city where Orthodox Christianity was first adopted in the 9th century by Russians. From Kiev and the Russian Orthodox Church’s Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra or Kiev Monastery of the Caves, Russian Orthodoxy spread across the other Russias over the next several centuries. For Russians, Kiev is the cornerstone of the Russian Orthodox Church, and at the center of Orthodoxy in Kiev stands the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, where the relics of ancient Byzantine and Kievan church fathers. Numerous ancient chronicles, theses, and even prayers scribed and uttered by metropolitans and other Orthodox clergymen in Kiev Rus’ remain important texts for Russian history, culture, literature, and religion to this day.
Since Kievan Rus’ and the rise of Western (and Mongol) threats to Kiev and the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, Russians have treasured Kiev. Ask any Russian what city is the ‘mother of all Russian cities,’ and he/she will answer without hesitation: Kiev. Russians have a series of names for Kiev: ‘cradle of the Russian state’ and ‘the holy font of the Russian people.’ These are ideas that have carried across centuries and still can be heard today, making Ukraine and the present war a sacred and volatile issue for Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox believers, regardless of which ‘camp’ one belongs to. This places Kiev at the center of the wound that any possible or actual separation of Ukraine from Moscow inflicts on the Russian psyche, and great powers over the centuries – from the Vatican and Poland to Napoleon to Austria-Hungary to Nazi Germany and to 20th and 21st century West and NATO – have sought to accomplish such a separation. Kiev is especially crucial, since, according to the monist Russian myth, many believers see the hand of God placed on Russian history. Any time of trouble touching religious issues takes on an apocalyptical aura. The loss of Kiev – the root, embryo, and integral part of the Russian universe, civilization, or ‘world’ (in the non-politicized version as interpreted by Russians and Westerners) – at the end of the Cold War and the Soviet collapse meant the loss of the birthplace of not just the Russian people, state, and culture but the predominant Russian faith. Kiev’s policies aimed at de-russifying the religious and Orthodox community in Ukraine – the seizure of churches, arrests of priests – adds to the sense of loss and wound.
The Russian idea of, and aspiration to monism (as well as universalism’s semi-universalist pan-Orthodoxy) raises the importance of Kiev, given its status as a lynchpin for all kinds of unities for Russia: spiritual, ethno-national, religious, cultural, and territorial. There is a monist element in Russia’s foundational folklore and historical chronicles, which are tied directly to Russian Orthodoxy through the Kievo-Pechorskaya Lavra and still read today throughout Russia. The first historical chronicles ‘The Lay of Igor’s Tale’ and Kievan Rus’ Orthodox Church Metropolitan Illarion’s historico-theological ‘A Word about Law and Grace’ (‘Slovo o Zakone i Blagodati’) (1050), the rich folklore and ‘bylinas’ such as “Three Bogatyrs” (Heroes) and Ilya Muromets, Pushkin’s epic poetical fairy tale “Ruslan and Lyudmilla” centered on the kidnapping of Prince Vladimir’s daughter, Lyudmilla, and hundreds of other such cultural monuments are from and/or set in Kiev and often filled with religious themes and symbols. “Three Bogatyrs” hero Ilya Muromets is thought to be based on a 12th century monk, Ilya Pecherskii, whose relics are preserved in Kiev-Pechorskaya Lavra’s caves and who was beatified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1643. Similarly, the relics of 11th century historical chronicler Nestor Kievskii (of Kiev) are also held in the Lavra. Concern for Kiev’s unity with Russia in religious terms has a long pedigree, with implications for Heaven-Earth, God-Man, and Russian ‘Holy Rus’ messianism and monist tselostnost’. The Russian Orthodox Church still celebrates the birthdays of ancient church fathers and the heads of the Kievan Rus’ Orthodox Church, called the ‘Metropolitan of Kiev and all Rus’ before the Mongol yoke, the ‘Metropolitan of Kiev, Moscow, and all Rus’ immediately afterwards, and later the ‘Metropolitan,’ then ‘Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’. In sum, Russian monist tselostnost’ is joined to any issue connected with Orthodoxy, and any violation of the proper order of the world as defined by Orthodox monism verges on sacrilege.
Orthodox monism merged with, evolved within and spread throughout much of Russia’s secular culture after the Westernizing reforms of Peter the Great. Russia’s greatest poet Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837), who was also a great thinker in his own right, remains something of a Russian thought leader in his homeland’s discourse. Although he never articulated anything about Ukraine in overtly monist, universalist, or any other shades of tselostnost’, such a sensibility can be gleaned from the totality of his many writings. His monist tselostnost’ is mystical not theo-ideological, unlike that of many other Russian thinkers. Much as his religiosity is usually stated in terms of everyday religious faith.
With a few possible exceptions, Pushkin’s monism and any connection it might have to Ukraine must be teased out. The most intriguing case comes in one of two seemingly monist and perhaps historicist assertions that God had given Russia its history. Pushkin expressed this feeling in his famous 19 October 1836 letter to Chaadaev. The sentiment follows a few sentences after a reference to ancient Kievan Rus’s princes Oleg and Svyatoslav, which together read: “As for our historical insignificance, I absolutely cannot agree with you. The wars of Oleg and Svyatoslav and even specific strife — isn’t this the kind of life full of boiling ferment and fervent and aimless activity that distinguishes the youth of all peoples? … I swear by honor that for nothing in the world would I want to change the Fatherland or have another history, except the history of our ancestors, such as God gave it to us.” This apparent manifestation of historical tselostnost’ borders on a messianic interpretation. His religiosity and semi-monism, along with his negative attitudes towards Ukrainian heroes like Ivan Mazepa and Polish independence also suggest he placed great value on Russia’s religious heritage and on Russian-Ukrainian religio-cultural solidarity and the national territorial and political solidarity between Kiev, Malorossiya or ‘Little Russia’, later to be called ‘Ukraine’ (see below).
One of Russia’s greatest writers and most influential thinkers yesterday and today, Fyodor Dostoevskii (1821-1881), combined both Russian monism, universalism, universalism’s pan-Slavism and pan-Orthodoxism, and historicism (as well as communalism) in a messianic vision that placed Russia at the center of Christian teleology, soteriology, and eschatology. The great writer’s life was touched by Kiev and Ukraine in intimate ways. Dostoevskii’s grandfather was born in Ukraine and was a Greek (Uniate) Catholic priest as was his uncle, and he valued the great pilgrimages to the Kievo-Pechorskaya Lavra. Dostoevskii was well aware of the centrality of the Lavra as a shrine for Russian pilgrimages, in which he himself participated to Sergii-Trinity Monastery near Moscow. The source for one of his most famous characters is just such a monastery and its starets Father Zosima, in his most important novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Zosima delivers Dostoevskii’s monist, universalist, and historicist message.
No Russian writer, with the exception of the philosophers, manifests all four types of tselostnost’ – but most of all monism and universalism – as robustly as does Dostoevskii. He embedded the semi-universalisms of Slavophilism and pan-Slavism so popular in his day in the widespread idea of Russia’s messianic destiny in the larger monist and universalist Orthodox eschatology of his day. Zosima’s words reflect theurgy, God-Man, Heaven-Earth, and spirit-matter “all-unity”, expressed by Russia’s greatest philosopher, the “Russian Plato,” Vladimir Solovev and the various intellectual trends his teaching spawned in Russia, from the God-seekers to the intuitivist philosophers to the symbolist poets to the ‘Vekhi’ (‘Signposts’) political philosophers. In Dostoevskii’s view, Russia would one day unite the world in Christ first by uniting the Slavic peoples, obviously including Ukraine – which, needless to say, was still part of Russia – through peaceful means in order to establish an Orthodox Slavic capitol in Constantinople, from which Orthodoxy would spread across the world in preparation for the inevitable second coming of Christ. For Dostoevskii, the significance of uniting Slavic and Orthodox peoples through Constantinople was part of the very monist Christian soteriology, and Kiev, having received revelation from Constantinople, could have had no less monist-based value for him. Thus, for those Russians who think along the lines of Orthodox monist Dostoevskii or may be convinced of ideas by reading him, the separation of Ukraine from Russia might very well be seen as a sign of the Anti-Christ’s temporary advantage that presages the apocalypse.
Dostoevskii’s embrace of Russian monism (and universalism and nationalist solidarism, see below) is but one, albeit a most resonant example of the circulation in Russian discourse today and yesterday of such ideas and how they might be connected to Ukraine for many Russians. Mikhail Katkov (1818-1887), Dostoevskii’s conservative editor, publisher, and opinion-maker, waxed eloquent about “golden-domed” Kiev as being “even more unifying force than the name of Moscow itself” among Russians. Kiev was particularly sacred for the mostly traditionalist Slavophiles, whose monism was reinforced by a communalism based in the Eastern Orthodox idea of spiritual conciliarity or sobornost’—the belief that those in the Orthodox community were of one spirit in communal unity under the divine blessing spirit or blagodat’.
As Russian traditionalists, albeit of various sorts, Russia’s 19th century Slavophiles and pan-Slavists were particularly inclined towards expressions of monist tselostnost’. In 1864 article, influential Slavophile Ivan Aksakov (1823-1886) criticized ‘Ukrainophilia’ and warned against the potential danger of Ukrainian separatism, emphasizing the religious significance of Kiev. His closing declared that “southern Russians” (i.e., Ukrainians) “were an indigenous Russian tribe, connected with all of Russia by their faith and the unity of the Kiev shrine.” Founding Slavophile Aleksei Khomyakov (1804-1860) argued that the spark of spiritual monist tselostnost’ in Russia came from Kiev during the reign of “Kiev’s favorite,” “enlightener of the Russian land” Prince Vladimir II Monomakh (1053-1125): “The spiritual integrity and unity that was expressed under Monamakh, but his personal actions did not find other pillars in the still unenlightened land, and the aspiration to unity was already extant and searched for other pillars in physical forces and physical violence.”
Slavophile Nikolai Danilevskii (1822-1885) is best known for his theory of civilizations or “historico-cultural types,” articulated in his 1885 Russia and Europe, and his pan-Slavism, which is almost identical to Dostoevskii’s, calling for a federative “All-Slavic Union” with its capitol in Constantinople. In Danilevskii’s view, Slavdom was a specific “historico-cultural” type and should not attempt to borrow from Europe or other civilizations. Like species, civilizations could not borrow from one another; any attempt to do so was harmful. Slavdom had a great historical mission if Russia could lead and unite the other Slavs to form the nucleus of a new kind of communalist and harmonious civilization. But more importantly for our discussion, Danilevskii placed Kiev near the center, along with Moscow, in what he saw were two sources of “the main stream of world history,” and he did so in clearly monist, universalist, and messianic terms. Both of history’s sources were born on the “banks of the Nile.” “One, heavenly and godly” spring flows “from Jerusalem and Constantinople to Kiev and Moscow, before which it attains undisturbed purity.” The other runs along Athens, Alexandria and Rome. But it was Russia that was to lead history to the promised land: “A new well-spring is breaking through on the Russia land: a socioeconomic system which justly provides for the broad masses.” Danilevskii follows this assertion in the closing sentence in his still very influential book, Russia and Europe: All these streams should merge into one broad reservoir on the broad valleys of Slavdom.” Thus, the entire stream of world history should end in a new universal order ordained by the ‘heavenly and godly’ Slavic lands of Moscow and Kiev.
The Russian Slavist professor and pan-Slavist V.I. Lamanskii (1833-1914) believed like Dostoevskii in the inevitability of Slavic unification and wrote about Kiev in religious and monism-connoting terms:
“Russia’s basic strength, its nucleus and impulse is the peasantry of central and northern Russia, Siberia, and New Russia Territory (Novorosskii krai), under the words: Holy Rus’ and the Holy Russian land, which always means Kiev and its region. Glorious Kiev lives deeply in the consciousness of our people in its poetic traditions across the entire Great Russian expanse. The capitol of the red sun, the center of the triumphs of the people’s bogatyrs, the keepers and preservers of the Russian land, and the mother of Russian cities draws to itself thousands of worshippers from the entire Great Russian territory. Kiev with its region is equally as dear as Little Russia as well as Great Russia to our people by its shrines and the coffins of God’s saints, by the moral ideals of the Russian people, and by those spiritual gatherers of Russian land! The removal of Kiev and its region from Russia would lead to the decay of the Russian national way of life and the collapse and breakup of the Russian land.”
Here, monist tselostnost’ is viewed as undergirding Russia’s religious, cultural, national, and territorial solidarity—the mandate of Russian solidarism.
Anton Kartashev (1875-1960), a Church historian and journalist, noted in the 19th century that Illarion’s ‘Word on Law and Grace’ of 1050 is the Russian source of Russian universalism and messianism, though its origins lie in the Byzantine “world perspective” about “chronography.” Since this Russian mission is a religious one presented by God, it is also a monist message of God’s involvement in the world through Russia. Thus, Kartashev notes that the introduction to the ‘Word’ christens Illarion’s work a monist revelation of Russia’s universal task:
“(Illarion) was brought up on the world perspectives of Byzantine chronography and writes a victory song to the New Testament era of ‘grace’, which replaced the Old Testament era of ‘law’. The Word’s heading reads: ‘(The epoch of) the law has gone, grace and truth are spreading to the whole earth, and (the Word) reached our Russian language.’ … So Byzantium instilled in the highest conscious stratum of Russian people the idea of a great task, a great service to Russia. A place in history and in the providential plan for the salvation of the whole world has been found, indicated by and assimilated to the cross-Christianized Russian people, so far without any separation from a number of other Orthodox peoples. … The Word of Illarion is the undisputed manifesto of the still young, newly baptized Russian Church, but already conscious of itself next to Byzantium, the bearer of a universal soteriological mission.”
Kartashev was an important religious leader. He was the Minister for Religious Affairs in the post-February 1917 Provisional Government and Ober-Procurator of its Church Synod eventually shut down by the Bolsheviks. The point here is that Kievan Russians in the 11th century and modern Russians in the 19th century received a very similar message of monism, universalism, and messianism—one born in Kiev and delivered by the authoritative figures.
During the atheistic Soviet era, this kind of Orthodox monist significance attributed to Ukraine and Kiev disappeared, replaced by the idea that Russia and Ukraine (or for that matter Russo-Ukrainian-Belarussian unity) were but one building blocks, along with Caucasian and Central Asian building blocks, upon which a new proletarian Soviet man and culture were being constructed. After completion the ethnonational, religious, political, economic, and artistic cultures of such bourgeois entities as nations would wither away. Materialist monism had nothing else to say about Russia, Ukraine, and relations between the two, though Soviet historiography reinforced the Russian Imperial message that Ukrainian language and culture had been parts of their Great Russian counterparts.
Russia’s Orthodox-rooted monism continued to be articulated in relation to Ukraine in émigré` circles, where it survived, indeed thrived. For example, Semyon L. Frank (1877-1950), after founder Nikolai O. Losskii (1870-1965), was the second most important figure of the influential and very monist (and universalist) Russian philosophical trend known as ‘intuitivism’. He was deeply religious, a converted Jew, and his work is a prime example of Russian tselostnost’, especially its monist variant. Frank reflected the centrality of Kiev and the Kievo-Pechorskaya Lavra in his literary analysis of the work of Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) in significantly monist terms. Emphasizing Rilke’s enchantment with Russia, Orthodoxy and Russian culture, Frank noted Rilke’s visits to Moscow and Kiev, in particular noting visits to the Kievo-Pechorskaya Lavra and the impressions they made on Rilke. For example: “In the second part of Stundenbuch, in the ‘book of pilgrimages’, in the poems which speak about how all human culture, moving into the past, flows into God’s bosom, and how in it (humanity’s Christian culture) is preserved by Rome, Florence, and Piza and mentioned along with them are Kazan and the Trinity Lavra, and the Kievo-Pechorskaya monastery, and Moscow with its church bells. And there in a series of poems the Kievo-Pechroskaya Lavra is described, and the images and its holy hermits and pilgrims who come to worship are recreated.”
Religious philosopher and religious and cultural historian Georgii Fedotov (1886-1951), who would emigrate to America rather than Europe as Frank, Berdyaev, and many of the other 1922 Bolshevik deportees and who is getting attention in post-Soviet Russia, struck monist and universalist themes in discussing Kiev as the source of Russian nationhood. Mixing religiosity and patriotism in his magnificent study Russian Religiosity, Fedotov praises ancient Kievan Church metropolitan Illarion of Kiev – the first appointed independently from Constantinople – and his truly seminal ‘A Word on Law and Grace’. The ‘Word’ is described as “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.” Thus, Fedotov proposes that one of the first declarations in Russian history was delivered in monist and universalist terms by a great Kievan clergyman. In his 1926 article “The Three Capitols”, discussing the cultural significance of Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Fedotov noted that in Kiev “the cross of the First-Called (St. Andrei Pervozvannogo) shone, and here the golden sky of St. Sofia fell on the Slavonic-Varangian terem.” “An eternal symbol was given to Kiev in the dome of St. Sofia — not only for (Kiev), but for the whole of the Russia to come. What does that symbol say? (It speaks) not only about the eternal truth of Orthodoxy and about the perfect sphere embracing the diversity of national and private worlds. It also gives an indication of our special path among the Christian peoples of the world.”
After the Soviet collapse, the return of pre-communist thinkers to the Russian discourse has revived Orthodox monism and universalism. As is the traditional pattern historically, Russian thinkers continue to proselytize ideas replete with monism, often tying monist tselostnost’ to universalist tselostnost’. Esoteric and increasingly influential Russian political philosopher and neo-Eurasianist or ‘Orthodox Eurasianist’, Aleksandr Dugin – who is not an advisor of Vladimir Putin, despite misleading claims by Westerners – does this in relation to the battle for ‘Novorossiya’, as he sees it. Investing a mystical aura into the Russian language, he calls for the creation of “special detachments of the Russian Logos” (the Word) to organize apparently sermon-like gatherings at the war front in Ukraine that would meditate upon Russia, God, the Church, Earth and Heaven, and the world along with much else: “It is necessary to create in Novorossiya special detachments of the Russian Logos (Word). Before battle, after battle, and during battle we should think – about Russia, about God, about the Church, about history, about ourselves, about being, about the world, about truth, about geopolitics, about Earth and Heaven, about our identity, about the nature of power, about life and death. To think and discuss, to meet, being in the Logos. The war in Novorossiya was begun from language. This is no formality. The Russian language is the language of the Russian Logos.” On this background, it is no coincidence whatsoever that Dugin has been an outspoken supporter of Russia’s support for the Donbass rebels beginning in 2014, during which he criticized Putin for not waging all-out war and seizing Kiev.
Ideally, for Dugin, it would be his theo-ideology that the Logos detachments would preach. Dugin’s thought brings Russia back full circle to the mixed monism and universalism of Dostoevskii’s system, for Dugin also predicts a universal, essentially Orthodox Christian revolution tied to the metaphysical, if not the Divine—in other words, Russian monism. Dugin’s monist-universalism is evident in his idea of a “sophiological revolution” and the realization of a new world based on the concept of “Dassein.” In his 2014 book The Fourth Way: Introduction to the Fourth Political Theory, Dugin explicitly acknowledged his Orthodox Christian faith with an implicit monism, given the Orthodox roots of much Russian monism already discussed. 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.” The revolution Dugin predicts and proselytizes is to bring about a new world order based on his rather esoteric Fourth Political Theory, which might be called ‘Daseinism’, being based on his interpretation of Martin Heidegger’s idea of ‘Dasein’ or ‘humankind’s being’ and its place in the world. In a way similar but still distinct from Solovev, Florenskii and Bulgakov, he gives a place in his theory to the variously interpreted Christian spirit ‘Divine Wisdom’ or Sophia, referencing the Silver Age symbolist sophiists Vyacheslav Ivanov, Andrei Belyi, and Fedor Sologub. For Dugin, Divine Sophia is “a historical personage” and the “Universal light, enlightening the mind and soul of the Russian person.” “(T)he equating of Sophia and Rus’…resonates with the intuitive Russian truth about the fact that Rus’ is the land of the Mother of God, her country” (Dugin’s emphasis). Here the use of the title ‘Rus’ in place of Russia harkens back to Kievan Rus. The Fourth Political Theory’s “sophiological Revolution” will bring the advent of “a holy Russian Polis, a holy Russian City” (Grad), as Kiev and later other Russian cities were thought of. The revolution needs a leader, according to Dugin, “a figure of Sophia’s guard, a Russian guard of Sophia, who will be the carrier of the political project.” Thus, for Dugin, Russia’s efforts in Ukraine are entailed by, embedded within his monist idea of a worldwide Orthodox revolution.
Dugin’s close ally, the Orthodox, pan-Slavic oligarch Konstantin Malofeev sees world history as struggle between “Empire,” manifested in a series of empires going back millennia to ancient Egypt, and “Khanaan,” a counterforce of those who have worshipped money and presently manifested in the West. Malofeev is virulently pro-Orthodox and pan-Slavist and has been a strong financial and political supporter of Russian military operations in Ukraine going back to 2014. In the third installment of his ‘historiosophical’ trilogy, Imperiya: nastoyashchee i budushchee, he like Dugin portrays the present NATO-Russian conflict over Ukraine as the beginning of a twilight struggle.
However, Malofeev replaces Dugin’s idea of a sophiological revolution with the idea of a twilight conflict between Empire and Khanaan, and Kiev’s connections with Orthodoxy and the last empire, a new Russian Empire, are clearly expressed:
“Kiev is the ‘mother of Russian cities’, and the first abode of Russian holiness is to be found in it—the Kievo-Pechorskaya Lavra. Therefore, it is not surprising that beginning in 1991 Khanaan (the West) particularly thoroughly administered the de-russification of Ukraine. … Matters were not limited to nurturing the neo-Nazi Banderite ideology, which took its beginning in the concept of Ukraine-ness (Ukrainstvo) as anti-Russianism (antirusskost’) that the Austrian intelligence organs used already on the eve of the First World War. On the expanse of ancient Holy Rus’ descended tens of American Protestant sects. Such Jewish communities of Uman and Dnepropetrovsk (formerly Yekaterinoslav) also developed enormous activity. Precisely in Ukraine global Khanaan strongly established its favorite political model – oligarchy.”
Malofeev’s model is a slightly re-worked Holy Rus’-Antichrist model in which the ‘other world’ of the divine is active on the world stage and has selected Russia to play the messianic role in the Christian salvation of the world. In this monist construction of world-historical conflict, the Ukraine becomes the frontline much in the way that in the pluralist West Ukraine is the frontline in the ‘cold war’ between Western democracy and the ‘rules-based world order’, on one side, and the Sino-Russian-led authoritarian rogues and retrogrades, on the other.
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill has repeatedly invoked Kiev, Ukraine, and the Kievo-Pechorskaya Lavra in a monist context if not always in monist terms. In a 2010 visit to Kiev, he tied Kiev and its Orthodox shrine to Russian history and, in the monist tradition of Christianity, to God’s power to act in the world. Kirill invoked “the mother of Russian cities – ancient Kiev, the first monastery of the Russian land – the Kievo-Pechorskaya lavra,” and prayed that “God show mercy” on Ukraine as “holy land” and on its “much suffering people and unite those in division.” He also expressed hope that “coming in touch with Kiev’s shrine will strengthen him in his service as patriarch.” Here we find rather standard, albeit, Christian expressions of belief in God’s involvement in the world and the possibility that it can come through the Kiev shrines. Moreover, he seems to appeal to God to help overcome the growing divisions within Ukraine and between Ukraine and Russia by wishing for God to ‘unite those in division.’
President Vladimir Putin has not made any detailed monist articulations in relation to Ukraine. Putin has stated and written clearly and unambiguously that “Russians and Ukrainians are one people, a single whole.” In the same article he made the point in another way that hints at monism by asserting that Russia and Ukraine are “parts, in essence, of a single historical and spiritual space” (my emphasis). A caveat is in order, however. Russians, more so in the past than at present, sometimes to use the term ‘spiritual’ (dukhovnyi) to indicate something more cultural or generally spiritual rather than religiously spiritual. But Putin also uses the term later in the article in a clearly religious fashion, referring to “the spiritual choice of (Kievan Grand Prince) St. Vladimir, who was both the Novgorod and Kievan grand prince.” Thus, it seems Putin has been influenced by the ubiquitous Russian monist tselostnost’, if not being a conscious purveyor.
To those who might doubt the relevance of Russian monist tselostnost’ for ongoing events today, particularly that in its religious Orthodox form, I offer the following. In an April 2023 article published in the Russian newspaper Vzglyad on events regarding ostensibly as rising ‘Satanism’ in Ukraine demonstrated by Zelenskiy’s expropriation of numerous churches, monasteries, and shrines, including the Kievo-Pechorsk Lavra, which belonged until recently ROC-affiliated Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the author closed by noting the following: “The darkest hour is before dawn. The prophecy attributed to the Donetsk elder Zosima reads: ‘The Kievo-Pechorsk Lavra will fall. All the grace of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra will be transferred to Moscow’s Optina Pustyna. I won’t live to see it, but you’ll see.’ And he also said that after the fall of the Lavra, in exactly six months, the reunification of Russia will begin. These words are widely known in Ukraine. But so far one senses that in addition to ‘Geranium’ and ‘Calibra’ missiles Ukraine needs to be treated with ‘ammunition’ of a different kind – sprinkle it with shells filled with holy water.”
Russian monism’s roots in Russian Orthodoxy, born in Kiev, imposes a divine, sacred imprimatur on Russian ties to Kiev and Ukraine. This overlaps with the other tselosnosts tied to Orthodoxy: the communalist idea of Church sobornost’ and the semi-universalism of pan-Orthodoxy. Monism is thus reinforced and expanded through these two aspects of tselostnost’. Therefore, the monist views touching on Ukraine described above, which dominated among Russian thinkers, especially in the 19th century, have important implications for present day Russian discourse on Ukraine. The post-Soviet era has seen them be rehabilitated and, especially among new traditionalist and conservative Russians, honored, lending their works greater influence than might other be the case.
The almost entirely religious content of Russian monism today (fully dominating over teleologies such as residual communist thought and the small number of democratic and transhumanist thinkers) makes the increasingly intensified religious conflict between the Maidan regime under Zelenskiy and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU or PTsU in Russian and Ukrainian), on the one hand, and the ROC-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC or UPTs) fraught with potentially far-reaching, grave ideational, ideological, and political consequences. The recent Ukrainian raids on the Kiev Cave Monastery and numerous other Russian Orthodox churches and shrines, their expropriation by the Ukrainian state for transfer to a Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the arrests of Russian Orthodox priests, and the likely complete ban UPTs throughout Ukraine can only reconfirm Russians’ trepidation regarding the ‘loss’, the new fall of Kiev. The perhaps still distant but far-reaching upshot of such a humiliating loss of golden-domed Kiev, particularly the Monastery of the Caves Lavra, might spark among the Russian faithful’s visions of the rise of the anti-Christ, Armageddon, and the coming of Christ and the Heavenly Kingdom to the world. It may also prompt the Kremlin to escalate the war in Ukraine.
In response to Kiev’s repressions at the Lavra and the noted evacuation order, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomaryov) stated that “apparently the apocalypse is beginning in Ukraine.” Although neither Russian tselostnost’ nor Western or Ukrainian assaults on that Russian sensibility may not be signs or causes of a coming apocalypse, they certainly are factors producing the present time of troubles in Slavdom today.
Through monist tselostnost’, in particular the role of religion, the present Russian-Ukrainian conflict and NATO-Russian Ukraine appear to be such that they can very easily transform, escalate, and endure perhaps beyond what any of the players, external and internal, could have imagined. Even though they began largely as a result of Western interference – most importantly NATO and EU expansion – they could carry on for years as religious fervor drives national hatred to higher and higher levels. More optimistically, we might hope that Christianity’s message of love will triumph and that the ROC, Ukrainian Churches, and other Christian faiths will place words encouraging restraint, peace and reconciliation and tip the scale tottering towards armegeddon towards peace instead.
NEXT: ‘PART 2 – Russian Universalist Tselostnost’ and Ukraine
 Gordon M. Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics (London: Europe Books, 2022).
 Patr. Kirill (Gundyaev), “Slovo za Bozhestvennoi liturgiei v den’ pamyati svyatitelya Aleksiya, mitropolita Moskovskogo i vseya Rusi, chudotvortsa, v Bogoyavlenskom kafedral-nom sobore g. Moskvy, 25.o2.2009,” Odinblago.ru, http://www.odinblago.ru/slovo_pastira_2/144.
 F. M. Dostoevskii, Dnevnik pisatleya: 1873-1881 (St. Petersburg: Lenizdat, 2001), p. 555.
 Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics, chapters 4-5. Solovev was christened the ‘Russian Plato’ by Russian philosopher Vladimir Ern (1882-1917), ‘title’ rejected for Solovev by Frank. See Semyon Frank, “O natsionalizme v filosofii” and “Eshcho o natsionalizme v filosogfii,” in S. L. Frank, Russkoe morrovozzrenie (Saint Petersburg: Nauka, 1996), pp. 103-12 and pp. 113-19, respectively, at pp. 108-9 and 115-16.
 Dostoevskii, Dnevnik pisatleya: 1873-1881, pp. 251-5.
 M. N. Katkov, “Peredovitsa v ‘Moskovskikh vedomstvyakh’ za 21 iyunya 1863 g.,” in A. Yu. Minakov, ed. Ukrainskii vopros v Russkoi patrioticheskoi mysli (Moscow: Knizhnyi mir, 2016), pp. 91-100, p. 99.
 I. S. Aksakov, “Opasno li ukrainofil’stvo dlya Russkogo gosudarstva?,” in Minakov, Ukrainskii vopros v Russkoi patrioticheskoi mysli, pp. 200-211, at p. 211.
 A. S. Khomyakov, “Po povodu stat’i I. V. Kireevskogo,” in Aleksei Sergeevich Khomyakov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, Tretii vypusk, Tom 1 (Moscow: Universitetskaya tipografiya, 1900), http://www.odinblago.ru/filosofiya/homakov/tom1/7, pp. 197-260, at pp. 234-5.
 N. I. Danilevskii, Rossiya i Yevropa (Saint Petersburg: Strakhov, 1895), pp. 416-22.
 Danilevskii, Rossiya i Evropa, p. 125, cited in Losskii, Istoriya russkoi filosofii, pp. 79-80 and Danilevsky, Rossiia i Evropa, Vzgliad na kul’turnye i politicheskie otnosheniia slavianskogo mira k germane-romanskomu, pp. 113, cited in Walicki, A History of Russian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Marxism, p. 292.
 Danilevskii, Rossiya i Yevropa, pp. 556-7.
 V. I. Lamanskii, “Natsional’naya bestaktnost’,” in Minakov, Ukrainskii Vopros v Russkoi patrioticheskoi mysli, pp. 37-57, at p. 46.
 Lamanskii, “Natsional’naya bestaktnost’,” pp. 47-8.
 Anton Karatashev, “Pravoslavie i Rossiya” in S. Verkhovskogo, Pravoslavie i zhizn’: sbornik statei (New York: Izdatel’stvo imeni Chekhova, 1953), pp. 184-5, http://www.odinblago.ru/prav_i_rossia.
 Semyon Frank, “Ril’ke i slavyanstvo,” in Frank, Russkoe mirovozzrenie, pp. 609-13, at p. 611.
 Fedotov, Russkaya religioznost’- Chast’ 1: Khristianstvo Kievskoi Rusi, X-XIII vv., pp. 88 and 91.
 G. P. Fedotov, “Tri stolitsy,” Versty, No. 1, 1926, in G. P. Fedotov, Tom 1: Litso Rossii – stati 1918-1930 (France, YMCA Press, 1988), pp. 49-70, at pp. 67-8, http://www.odinblago.ru/filosofiya/fedotov/fedotov_gp_tri_stolici/.
 Fedotov, “Tri stolitsy,” p. 69.
 Hahn, Russian Tselostnost’: Wholeness in Russian Culture, Thought, History and Politics.
 Aleksandr Dugin, Moya Voina: Geopoliticheskii dnevnik (Moscow: Tsentropoligraf, 2015), pp. 500-1.
 Aleksandr Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu (Moscow: Academicheskii proekt, 2014), p. 85.
 Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu, pp. 438-66. Dugin’s emphasis on ‘being’ and “intuition” clearly borrows from late 19th century Russian formal philosophy, in particular the intuitivists. Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu, p. 39.
 Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu, p. 426.
 Dugin, Chetvertyi put’: Vvedenie v chetvertuyu politicheskuyu teoriyu, p. 427.
 Konstantin Malofeev, Imperiya: nastoyashchee i budushchee (Moscow: Isdatel’stvo AST, 2022), pp. 384-5.
 Kirill (Gundyaev), part., “Iz slova v Krestovozdvizhenskom khrame Uspenskoi Kievo-Pecherskoi lavry,” Kiev Bishopric, Ukraine, 24 February 2010, Odinblago.ru, www.odinblago.ru/sobranie_trudov_s4_t2/171.
 “Митрополит Киево-Печерской Лавры заявил, что апокалипсис начинается с Украины,” InoSMI.ru, 13 March 2023, https://inosmi.ru/20230313/pravoslavie-261323896.html and “Apokalipsis nachinaetsya s Ukrainy: kak Kiev ispolzuet veru dlya bor’by s sobstvennym narodom,” Rambler.ru, 13 March 2023, https://news.rambler.ru/world/50365163-apokalipsis-nachinaetsya-s-ukrainy-kak-kiev-ispolzuet-veru-dlya-borby-s-sobstvennym-narodom/.
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About the Author –
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com. Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, gordonhahn.com and gordonhahn.academia.edu
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.