Contemporary Russian Thought

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Trends of Contemporary Russian Thought (1)

ABSTRACT: This paper focuses on the most recent period in the development of Russian thought (1960s-1990s). Proceeding from the cyclical patterns of Russian intellectual history, I propose to name it 'the third philosophical awakening.' I define the main tendency of this period as 'the struggle of thought against ideocracy.' I then suggest a classification of main trends in Russian thought of this period: (1) Dialectical materialism in its evolution from late Stalinism to neo-communist mysticism; (2) Neorationalism and Structuralism; (3) Neo-Slavophilism, or the Philosophy of National Spirit; (4) Personalism and Liberalism; (5) Religious Philosophy and Mysticism, both Christian Orthodox and Non-Traditional; (6) Culturology or the Philosophy of Culture; (7) Conceptualism or the Philosophy of Postmodernity.

"The Karamazovs are not scoundrels but philosophers, because all real Russian people are philosophers..."

Dmitry Karamazov, in Fyodor Dostoevsky. The Brothers Karamazov

It is a property of the Russian people to indulge in philosophy. ...The fate of the philosopher in Russia is painful and tragic.

Nikolai Berdyaev. The Russian Idea

The fact that one can annihilate a philosophy . ... or that one can prove that a philosophy annihilates itself is of little consequence. If it's really philosophy, then, like the phoenix, it will always rise again from its own ashes.

Friedrich Schlegel. Athenaeum Fragments, trans. Peter Firchow, 103.

The last period of the Soviet ideocracy, approximately from the early 1970s through the late 1980s, can be characterized as a period of "philosophical awakening," to use the felicitous expression of the theologian Georgy Florovsky (1893 - 1979). "Such awakening is usually preceded by a more or less complicated historical fate, the abundant and long historical experience and ordeal, which now becomes the object of interpretation and discussion. Philosophical life begins as a new mode or a new stage of national existence... One can feel in the generation of that epoch some irresistible attraction to philosophy, a philosophical passion and thirst, a kind of magical gravitation toward philosophical themes and issues." (2) Florovsky refers here to the first "philosophical awakening" of Russia in the span of years from 1830s to 1840s: roughly, the generation of Chaadaev, early Westernizers and Slavophiles, such as Belinsky, Herzen, Bakunin, Khomiakov, the brothers Aksakov, and the brothers Kireevsky. (3)

Russia's second philosophical awakening occurred in the first two decades of the 20th century, following in the wake of the unsuccessful revolution of 1905 and disenchantment of the most refined part of intelligentsia with the low intellectual level of populism, Marxism and other socialist theories.
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