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Soloviev, Vladimir Sergeyevich

SOLOVIEV, VLADIMIR SERGEYEVICH

(18531900), philosopher, theologian, journalist, poet, literary critic.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Vladimir Soloviev sought to counter the secular trend in Russian thought by articulating a world view grounded in Christianity. As a young man, Soloviev seemed destined to become the foremost academic philosopher of the Slavophile school, and his early works, such as The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Positivists (1874), reflected Slavophile themes, but in time he gravitated from Slavophilism to Westernism, much like his father, the renowned historian Sergei Mikhailovich Soloviev. When Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, Soloviev called upon the new tsar to set an example of Christian forgiveness by sparing the lives of the terrorists. The ensuing scandal led to his exile from Russia's government-controlled universities, a lifelong career as an independent writer, and eventually an association with the liberal journal Vestnik Evropy (European Messenger). Soloviev led an unconventional life as a kind of secular monk dedicated to intense intellectual work; the result was a remarkable output of philosophy, theology, poetry, literary criticism, and social commentary.

Soloviev's philosophical approach was a synthesis of Western philosophy (particularly German idealist thought) and the Orthodox faith in which he had been raised. His philosophical system emphasized the integration of science, philosophy, and religion. At the center of his philosophical outlook was the concept of the unity of allthe idea that the world was an Absolute in the process of becoming. On this basis, he developed a unique Christian metaphysics in his Lectures on God-Manhood (18771881). He argued that reality had been fractured by the Fall, and that history, the center of which was the Incarnation of Christ (the "Godman"), was a process leading to renewal of the unity of all. In this work, he also introduced the elusive concept of Sophia, which at various times he referred to as the "world soul," the ideal of a perfect humanity, and the "eternal feminine" principle in the Divine.

Soloviev's fascination with Sophia was reflected in personal mystical experience. His reputation as a mystic derived from his poetry, most famously the poem "Three Meetings," in which he described three encounters with Sophia, first as a young boy, then during his studies in the British Museum, and finally in the Egyptian desert.

Meanwhile Soloviev was developing a liberal theology similar to the Social Gospel movement in the West. He criticized conservative intellectuals for compromising the moral claims of the Gospels, and advocated unification of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches. Soloviev's enthusiastic ecumenism provoked a nationalist backlash, which in turn led to his Christian critique of nationalism (The National Question in Russia, 2 vols., 1888, 1891). Soloviev went on to produce a wide-ranging ethical treatise, The Justification of the Good (1897), in which he provided an overall theory as well as practical discussion of such issues as nationalism, capitalism, and war. He also contributed to the development of a liberal philosophy of law in Russia.

In the year of his untimely death at age forty-seven, Soloviev published Three Conversations on War, Progress, and the End of History, a controversial work of fiction that questioned the efficacy of human action in an evil world. The work concluded with "The Short Tale of the Anti-Christ," a futuristic story about the end of the world. Some scholars argue that Soloviev here rejected his liberal theology, but others contend that the central meaning of the story is consistent with his earlier work, because a unified, truly ecumenical humanity triumphs.

A uniquely independent thinker during his life, Soloviev had great influence after his death. His theology inspired social activism among some Orthodox clergy, a trend cut short by the Bolshevik Revolution. His philosophy paved the way for Orthodox thinkers like Sergei Bulgakov and Pavel Florensky. His mystical poetry inspired symbolists like Alexander Blok and Andrei Bely. And after the Soviet Union came to an end, many Russians returned to Soloviev as a guidepost for creating a new Russian philosophy.

See also: bely, andrei; blok, alexander alexan drovich; bulgakov, sergei nikolayevich; orthodoxy; silver age

bibliography

Copleston, Frederic C. (1986). Philosophy in Russia: From Herzen to Berdyaev. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press.

Gaut, Greg. (1998). "Can a Christian Be a Nationalist? Vladimir Soloviev's Critique of Nationalism." Slavic Review 57:7794.

Groberg, Kristi A. (1992). "The Feminine Occult Sophia in the Russian Religious Renaissance: A Bibliographic Essay." Canadian-American Slavic Studies. 26:197240.

Kline, George L. (1985). "Russian Religious Thought." In Nineteenth Century Religious Thought in the West. Vol. 2, ed. Ninian Smart. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Kornblatt, Judith, and Gustafson, Richard, eds. (1996). Russian Religious Thought. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Sutton, Jonathan. (1988). The Religious Philosophy of Vladimir Soloviev: Towards a Reassessment. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Walicki, Andrzej. (1987). Legal Philosophies of Russian Liberalism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Greg Gaut

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"Soloviev, Vladimir Sergeyevich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Soloviev, Vladimir Sergeyevich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/soloviev-vladimir-sergeyevich

"Soloviev, Vladimir Sergeyevich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/soloviev-vladimir-sergeyevich

Vladimir Sergeevich Soloviev

Vladimir Sergeevich Soloviev

The Russian philosopher and religious thinker Vladimir Sergeevich Soloviev (1853-1900) was an early exponent of the ecumenical movement. He was also a leader of the modern reaction against extreme rationalism.

Vladimir Soloviev was born on Jan. 28, 1853, the second son of a distinguished historian. He graduated from Moscow Gymnasium No. 1 in 1869 and entered the science faculty at Moscow University. Three years later he transferred to the philosophy faculty, graduating in 1873, and then attended classes in the seminary of the St. Sergius Monastery. He also studied European philosophy in preparation for his master of arts thesis, an attack on materialism which was accepted in 1874 (The Crisis of Western Philosophy). He lectured for a year at Moscow University and then took a leave in England. In the British Museum he had a vision of a beautiful woman whom he identified as Sophia, or the Divine Wisdom (he had first seen her when he was only 9 years old). This time she told him to go to Egypt, where in November 1875 she appeared to him in the desert.

This desert vision changed Soloviev's life. He became increasingly interested in religion. In 1877 he took a post in the Education Ministry in St. Petersburg, where he was close to Slavophile circles. In 1878 he completed his Treatise on God-Manhood. Two years later his doctoral dissertation (Critique of Abstract Principles) was accepted. His public lecturing was suppressed after April 1881 because of his appeal to spare the lives of those who had assassinated Alexander II, an appeal which incensed the authorities.

The decade from 1881 to 1890 was the fullest in Soloviev's life, a period of intense work for the reconciliation of the churches. He worked closely with J. G. Strossmayer, Archbishop of Djakovo (in what is now Yugoslavia), who wished to unite the Slavs with the West under the Pope. In 1888 Soloviev traveled to Paris with his latest book (written in French), Russia and the Universal Church, but had little success with French Catholics.

The last decade of Soloviev's life was one of frustration and growing darkness. He continued to write profusely, notably, Three Meetings (1897) and The Justification of the Good (1898). His 1898 trip to Egypt greatly depressed him. In the last year of his life he published Three Conversations, which he considered his most important book, even though it repudiated much of his earlier work. He died at Uzkoe, the estate of the Trubetskoys, on Aug. 13, 1900.

Further Reading

S.L. Frank, ed., A Solovyev Anthology (1950), is poorly translated but remains much better than any of the books in English about Soloviev. Probably the best concise treatment of Soloviev's life and ideas is the chapter on him in Nicolas Zernov, Three Russian Prophets (1944). Written from the Roman Catholic point of view, Maurice d'Herbigny, Soloviev: A Russian Newman (trans. 1918), is rather turgid and one-sided; the chapter on Soloviev in Karl Pfleger, Wrestlers with Christ (trans. 1936), is cursory; and Egbert Munzer, Solovyev: Prophet of Russian Western Unity (1956), is intellectually shoddy.

Additional Sources

Stremooukhoff, D., Vladimir Soloviev and his messianic work, Belmont, Mass.: Nordland Pub. Co., 1980, 1979.

Sutton, Jonathan, The religious philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov: towards a reassessment, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988. □

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Soloviev, Vladimir Sergeyevich

Vladimir Sergeyevich Soloviev (vlədyē´mĬr sĬrgā´əvĬch sələvyôf´), 1853–1900, Russian religious philosopher and poet; son of Sergei Mikhailovich Soloviev. Soloviev believed in the incarnation of divine wisdom in a being called Sophia, a concept that greatly influenced the young symbolist poets, especially Blok. He advocated a synthesis of Eastern and Western churches in Russia and the Universal Church, which he wrote in French in 1889 (tr. 1948). The imminent coming of the Antichrist was the theme of his Three Conversations on War, Progress, and the End of History (1899, tr. 1915). The best known of his mystical poems is Three Meetings (1899), which describes his visions of Sophia. Soloviev is also noted for political writings and literary criticism.

See biography by M. d'Herbigny (1918); studies by E. Munzer (1956) and P. M. Allen (1973).

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Soloviev, Vladimir

Soloviev, Vladimir (1853–1900). Russian poet and philosopher. From 1873 he was a friend of Dostoevsky. As a poet, he was a leader of the Symbolists; as a philosopher, he was influenced by German idealism and gnostic occultism; as a theologian, he was a proponent of visible unity with Rome, after initial sympathy with the Slavophils. Underlying all was a vision of Sophia (Wisdom), the creative and redemptive feminine principle, providing a fragile coherence increasingly threatened by apocalyptic disaster.

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