Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (Николай Александрович Бердяев) (March 18 [O.S. March 6] 1874 – March 24, 1948) was a Russian religious and political philosopher.
Berdyaev was born in Kiev into an aristocratic military family. He spent a solitary childhood at home, where his father's library allowed him to read widely. He read Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Kant when only fourteen years old and excelled at languages.
Early Life and Education
Berdyaev decided on an intellectual career and entered the Kiev University in 1894. This was a time of revolutionary fervor among the students and the intelligentsia. Berdyaev became a Marxist and in 1898 was arrested in a student demonstration and expelled from the University. Later his involvement in illegal activities led to three years of internal exile in central Russia – a mild sentence compared to that faced by many other revolutionaries.
In 1904 Berdyaev married Lydia Trusheff and the couple moved to St. Petersburg, the Russian capital and centre of intellectual and revolutionary activity. Berdyaev participated fully in intellectual and spiritual debate, eventually departing from radical Marxism to focus his attention on philosophy and spirituality. Berdyaev and Trusheff remained deeply committed to each other until the latter's death in 1945.
Berdyaev was a believer in orthodox Christianity, but was often critical of the institutional church. A fiery 1913 article criticising the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church caused him to be charged with the crime of blasphemy, the punishment for which was exile to Siberia for life. The World War and the Bolshevik Revolution prevented the matter coming to trial.
He was a Christian universalist.
Berdyaev could not accept the Bolshevik regime, because of its authoritarianism and the domination of the state over the freedom of the individual. Yet, he accepted the hardships of the revolutionary period, as he was permitted for the time being to continue to lecture and write.
His philosophy has been characterised as Christian existentialist. He was preoccupied with creativity and in particular freedom from anything that inhibited said creativity, whence his opposition against a "collectivized and mechanized society".
In September, 1922, the Bolshevik government expelled a carefully selected group of some 160 prominent writers, intellectuals and scholars whose ideas the Bolshevik regime found objectionable, Berdyaev among them on the so-called "philosophers' ship" . Overall, they were supporters neither of the Czarist régime nor of the Bolsheviks, preferring less autocratic forms of government. They included those who argued for personal liberty, spiritual development, Christian ethics, and a pathway informed by reason and guided by faith.
Exile in France
The first date is of the Russian edition, the second date is of the first English edition The list is compiled from '"Bibliographie des Oeuvres de Nicolas Berdiaev" établie par Tamara Klépinine' published by the Institut d'études Slaves, Paris 1978
The Meaning of the Creative Act (1916) 1955
Dostoevsky (1923) 1934
The Meaning of History (1923) 1936
The End of Our Time (1924) 1933
Leontiev (1926) 1940
Freedom and the Spirit (1927-8) 1935
The Russian Revolution (1931)(anthology)
The Destiny of Man 1931 (1937)
Christianity and Class War 1931 (1933)
The Fate of Man in the Modern World (1934) 1938
Solitude and Society (1934) 1938
The Bourgeois Mind 1934 (anthology)
The Origin of Russian Communism (1937) 1955
Christianity and Anti-semitism (1938) 1952
Slavery and Freedom (1939)
The Russian Idea (1946) 1947
Spirit and Reality (1946) 1957
The Beginning and the End(1947) 1952
Towards a New Epoch" (1949) (anthology)
Dream and Reality: An Essay in Autobiography (1949) 1950
The Realm of Spirit and the Realm of Caesar (1949) 1952
The Divine and the Human (1949) 1952
Truth and Revelation (n.p.) 1953 Works cited
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