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Russian Religious-Philosophical Renaissance

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E061-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Russian Religious-Philosophical Renaissance was created by lay intellectuals who found rationalism, positivism and Marxism inadequate as explanations of the world or guides to life. They were deeply engaged in finding solutions to the problems of their time, which they saw as moral or spiritual/cultural in nature. Some were already devout Christians; others became so later on. Collectively known as the God-seekers, they propounded their ideas in numerous publications and in the Religious-Philosophical Societies of St Petersburg and Moscow. The meetings of these societies attracted capacity audiences and helped disassociate religion from reaction. Branches were founded in Kiev and Vladimir. The founding members were mainly Symbolist writers and idealist philosophers. Both groups sought a new understanding of Christianity, but the Symbolists emphasized psychological and literary/aesthetic issues and the idealists focused on ethics, epistemology and political and social reform. The Revolution of 1905 was a watershed for all of them. The hitherto apolitical Symbolists perceived it as the start of the apocalypse and championed anarchistic political doctrines. The idealists continued to champion reform. After the revolution, some of them called for a new religious intelligentsia that respected culture and the creation of wealth, spiritual/cultural and material. Both groups began to talk about national identity and destiny. The Bolshevik Revolution signalled the end of the Religious-Philosophical Renaissance. In 1922–3, over 160 non-Marxist intellectuals were forced into exile, where they continued their work. Inside Russia private religious-philosophic study circles carried on illegally.

The Religious-Philosophical Renaissance had a profound impact on Russian thought and culture. It inspired attempts to ground metaphysics and political doctrines in Christianity, demands for church reform, visions of a new culture, sophiology, religious existentialism and new interpretations of Orthodox ritual and dogma. Its proponents made people aware of the needs of the ‘inner man’, the soul or the psyche, and the importance of art and myth. Symbolism became the dominant aesthetic, shaping literature, poetry, painting and theatre. Theorists of Symbolism tried to make it the basis of a new cosmological worldview. The Religious-Philosophical Renaissance was rediscovered by Soviet intellectuals in the 1960s, nourished the dissident movement from then on, and is extensively discussed in Russia today.

Citing this article:
Rosenthal, Bernice Glatzer. Russian Religious-Philosophical Renaissance, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E061-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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