Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nikolai Berdyaev on Russian Identity, Revolution, and History

Below are some choice phrases culled from my first reading of Nikolai Berdyaev's famous treatise on the Russian revolutionary tradition, The Russian Idea.

Russian Identity

Berdyaev citing Tyutchev:  "Russia is not to be understood by intellectual processes.  You cannot take her measurements with a common yardstick, she has a form and stature of her own:  you can only believe in Russia."

Berdyaev citing Khomyakov:  "The Russians are a people in the highest degree polarized:  they are a conglomeration of a contradictions."

"The unexpected is always to be expected from them.  They are as a people capable in the highest degree of inspiring both intense love and violent hatred.  As a people the Russians have a dusturbing effect upon the peoples of the West."

"The Russian people is not purely European and it is not purely Asiatic."

"In the Russian soul there is a sort of immensity, a vagueness, a predilection for the infinite, such as is suggested by the great plain of Russia."

"Russia was never an aristocratic country in the Western sense, and equally there was no bourgeois."

"The burning oneself alive, as an exploit in religion, is a Russian national phenomenon…"

"That the Russians have a leaning to debauchery and to anarchy with a loss of discipline is well known."

"Messianic consciousness is more characteristic of the Russians than of any other people except the Jews."

Berdyaev citing Pushkin upon completion of Gogol's Dead Souls:  "Oh, Lord, how wretched our Russia is."

"The Russian emotional bent for revolution was the outcome of the unbearableness of the actual conditions in which they lived, of their wrongness, and their ugliness."

Berdyaev citing Chaadav:  "At the present time we constitute a gap in the moral order of the world."

Berdyaev citing Chaadav:  "Looking at us it might be said that the general law of mankind had been abrogated so far as we are concerned."

Berdyaev citing Pechorin: "How sweet is is to hate one's native land, and eagerly to await its annihilation."

"The vocation of Russia presents itself as connected with the fact that the Russian people are the most humble people in the world.  But there exists among that peopler a pride in their humility."

"Among the Russians and it may be among the Russians only, there exists a doubt about the righteousness of punishment."

"It is the property of the Russian people to indulge in philosophy."

"The vocation of Russia is a world vocation."

"Russia alone lives not for herself, but for thought…"

"The Russian people are a people of the future;  they will decide questions which the West has not yet the strength to decide, which it does not even pose in their full depth."

"The Russian has a greater capacity for enduring suffering than the man of the West, and at the same time he is especially sensitive to suffering;  he is more sympathetic than the Western man."

"Spengler described Russia very acutely and very well when he said that it is an "apocalyptic revolt against antiquity.""

"Among the Russians there is always a thirst for another world;  there is always discontent with that which is."

"An eschatological bent is native to the Russian soul."

"Russia took shape in grevious historical circumstances;  the Russian land was surrounded by enemies;  it was made use of by the evil forces of history."


Characteristics of Russian History

"Interruption is a characteristic of Russian history.  Contrary to the opinion of the Slavophils the last thing it is is organic."

"The very manner of life of the landowning nobility was a thing incomprehensible to the people."

"The history of the Russian people is one of the most poignantly painful of histories."

"The development of Russia has been catastrophic."

"The State grew strong, the people grew weak, as Kluchevsky says."

"Among us the Intelligentsia could not live in the present;  it lived in the future and sometimes in the past."

"In the second half of the century the Intelligentsia, keyed up to a revolutionary frame of mind, was obliged to lead an existence which was almost heroic…"

"There was no Renaissance among us…"

On the Nature of the Revolution

"History is not only traditional and it is not only guardianship;  a lack of basis has a basis of its own;  revolution is part of the flow of history."

"The Russian Intelligentsia…endeavored to find a way out of the unbearable sadness of Russian reality into an ideal reality.  This ideal reality was either the Russia before Peter's the, or the West, or the coming Revolution."

"[Herzen]…regarded Hegel's philosophy as the algebra of revolution."

Berdyaev citing Belinksy:  "I am beginning to love mankind in the manner of Marat.  To make the smallest part of it happy I think I would exterminate the rest of it with fire and sword."

"The makers of the French Revolution lived by the up-to-date ideas of the time, the ideas of J.J. Rousseau, of the eighteenth century philosophy of the Enlightenment.  Those who made the Russian Revolution lived by the ideas of Chernishevsky, Plekhanov, by a materialist and utilitarian philosophy, by an outworn and tendentious literature; they were not interested in Dostoyevsku, Tolstoy, Solovyov;  they knew nothing of the new movements of Western culture."

The real content disappeared from the official phrase:  "Orthodoxy, autocracy and the people;"  such has an expression had become insincere and false.

"In the Russian communist revolution it was not the actual proletariat of experience which was in control but the idea of the proletariat, the myth of the proletariat."

"Followers of Lenin exalted the revolutionary will and regarded the world as plastic and fit for any changes you like..."

"There is in communism its own truth and its own falsehood."

"To the Russian Intelligentsia of the left the Revolution has always been both a religion and a philosophy."

"The Russian Revolution awakened and unfettered the enormous powers of the Russian people."

Berdyaev citing Tyutchev:

"The abyss now yawns across the path we tread
With all its terrors and its gloomy mist.
Between the gulf and us no barriers exist
And hence to us the night is filled with dread."

Berdyaev citing Tyutchev:

"O!  rouse not sleeping storms,
Beneath us quivering chaos moves."

Berdyaev citing Lermontov:

"The day will come, for Russia that dark day
When the Tsar's diadem will fall, and they,
Rabble who loved him once, will love no more,
And many will subsist on death and gore."

Berdyaev citing Blok:

"Wild passions are let loose
'Neath the yoke of the crescent moon.
I see over Russia afar,
A broad and gentle fire."

Berdyaev citing Blok:

:A sphink is Russia;  sorrow and joy embrace
Her both; and she is darkly drenched in gore"


"It was a particularity of Herzen that truth presented itself to him as sad."

"It is astonishing that the Christian writer Gogol was the least humane of Russian writers, the least humane in the most humane of all literatures."

No comments:

Post a Comment