Kireevskii, Ivan

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KIREEVSKII, IVAN (18061856), was a Russian publicist and Slavophile. In his early years Kireevskii's literary criticism gained him the patronage of Vasilii Zhukovskii (17831852) and the approval of Aleksandr Pushkin (17991837). He founded and was briefly the editor of a promising journal, Evropeets, closed by the authorities in 1832. This event drove Kireevskii into semiretirement, from which he was to emerge only occasionally and with reluctance. Only in the last decade of his life was he to find a cause that helped to justify his withdrawal from society: collaboration with the monastic elders of the hermitage at Optino. This in its turn provided him with a theological diagnosis for what in 1853 he called "the disorder of my inner forces."

In his early years Kireevskii was a proponent of Westernization. But by the late 1830s he insisted on the role of Russia as a lodestar for a western Europe in decline. Without any marked chauvinism or aggressiveness (in this he differed from several of his contemporaries and successors), he had become one of the founding fathers of the Slavophile movement.

For Kireevskii this undertaking had involved a conversion or at least a return to the Orthodox church. At the prompting of his wife, Natalʾia Arbeneva, Kireevskii had turned his attention from Friedrich Schelling (17751854) to the church fathers. His first guide in Orthodox church life was his wife's confessor, Filaret (d. 1842), a monk of the Novo-Spasskii monastery in Moscow. But in his search for guidance Kireevskii also visited the Optino community, which was in the forefront of a Russian hesychast revival. Here he found two profound and subtle guidesthe elder Leonid (17681841) and his successor Makarii (17881860). Kireevskii's acceptance of their guidance presaged the reconciliation of the Westernized gentry and (subsequently) intelligentsia with the church; and it anticipated what is so often termed the Russian "religious renaissance" of the early twentieth century.

At Optino Kireevskii committed himself to an ambitious, unprecedented programthe editing, translation, and publication of Greek patristic texts. The program attracted the patronage of Metropolitan Filaret of Moscow and proved to be a landmark in the history of Russian publishing. Among the authors made available were Isaac the Syrian (d. 700?), Maximos the Confessor (c. 580662), John Climacus (c. 570649), Symeon the New Theologian (9491022), and, representative of Russian mystics, Nil Sorskii (14331508). The first volume issued (1847) was, appropriately enough, called The Life and Writings of the Moldavian Starets Paisii Velichkovskii (17221794). Paisii's influence had stimulated the resurgence of hesychast spirituality at the Optino community.

With all his concern for the traditional spiritual disciplines, Kireevskii had no intention of discarding reason. Nor did he see Orthodox tradition as something finite. He spoke of patristic teaching as "an embryo for the philosophy of the future." That future philosophy must not be the task of an isolated individual. Kireevskii's "integrality" of the soul was to be attained solely by "the common endeavor of all who believe and think." The concept of sobornostʾ, first formulated by Kireevskii's friend Aleksei Khomiakov (18041860), was equally congenial to Kireevskii himself. Each was eager to promote that sense of Orthodox community and organic fellowship to which sobornostʾ refers.

Several of Kireevskii's insights were to prove seminal for Russian thinkers of succeeding decades. He died an early death of cholera and was buried at Optino, his spiritual home. Despite the neglect of Kireevskii's reputation and depredations of Optino during the Soviet period, his tombstone has recently been recovered and restored.


Kireevskii's complete works were edited by M. O. Gershenzon as Polnoe sobranie sochinenii I. V. Kireevskago in two volumes (1911; reprint, Farnborough, 1970). To these should be added the German translation of Kireevskii's diaries for 18521854 (the original remains unpublished): "Das Tagebuch Ivan Vasilʾevic Kirejevskijs, 18521854," translated by Eberhard Müller, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 14 (1966): 167194. Two monographs may be mentioned: Abbott Gleason's European and Muscovite: Ivan Kireevsky and the Origins of Slavophilism (Cambridge, Mass., 1972) and Peter K. Christoff's An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Russian Slavophilism: A Study in Ideas, vol. 2, I. V. Kireevskij (The Hague, 1972).

Sergei Hackel (1987)