Trubetskoi, Evgenii

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TRUBETSKOI, EVGENII (18631920), Russian Orthodox philosopher. Evgenii Nikolaevich Trubetskoi, a brother of Sergei, was professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow from 1905 to 1918. He developed his philosophical views within the same general context as did Vladimir Solov'ev and was the author of a major study on him, Mirosozertsanie Solov'eva (Solov'ev's Worldview, 2 vols., Moscow, 1913). A theoretical disagreement with Solov'ev, which did not stand in the way of their friendship, led Trubetskoi to study Western theocratic ideas. In his two-volume Religiozno-obshchestvennyi ideal zapadnogo khristianstva (The Religio-Social Ideal of Western Christianity, Moscow, 1892; Kiev, 1897), which focused on Augustine and the medieval papacy, he concluded that a religious institution's primary responsibilities were incompatible with that institution's exercise of political power.

In his philosophy, Trubetskoi blended philosophical idealism, traditional Orthodoxy, and a voluntaristic-exhortative creed that shaded off into political activism. His posthumously published Smysl zhizni (Meaning of Life) was popular among the Russian émigrés whom it provided with the much-needed assertion that there was meaning in existence.

Trubetskoi was instrumental in stimulating increased interest in religious philosophy. He was active in the Moscow Psychological Society, in the Religio-Philosophical Society of Vladimir Solov'ev (named after the philosopher), and in the publishing house Put' (The Way). All three, on different levels, popularized metaphysics, religion, and, tangentially, liberalism. Trubetskoi worked for reform of the Russian Orthodox church and for a greater involvement of the laity in the church. He was appointed to the pre-Sobor meeting in 1906 that prepared for institutionalizing self-government in the church and was elected to the church council that pronounced the reestablishment of the patriarchate in 1917.

Evgenii Trubetskoi in his writing focused both on the individual, as the carrier of value, and on the state, which establishes conditions that can make moral value effective. He published a number of important works in law, and led between 1906 and 1910 a small moderate political party, the Party of Peaceful Regeneration. At the same time he edited the Moskovskii ezhenedel'nik (Moscow Weekly), a journal in which he expounded upon public issues. In 1910 he joined the Constitutional Democratic Party. During World War I his patriotic brochures, especially one containing an analysis of icons titled Umozrenie v kraskakh (Speculation in Colors), were quite popular.

Trubetskoi based his liberalism not on the will of the majority but on the rights inherent in each individual. He saw the state as a necessary buffer between the majority, which could, on occasion, be illiberal, and the individual. Equally outspoken about the dangers of violence from the left as from the right, he condemned the terrorist actions of radicals that the Russian progressives tended to condone.

Trubetskoi was an early and uncompromising foe of the Bolsheviks. In the last years of his life he placed great hopes on the innate religiosity and conservatism of the Russian peasants to overthrow the oppressive Bolshevik regime. He died in Novorossisk, fleeing the Bolsheviks and predicting their early demise.


There is no comprehensive study of Evgenii Trubetskoi. His philosophical views are discussed in the standard works on Russian philosophy. I have written an introduction to a new edition of his memoirs, Iz proshlago (Newtonville, Mass., 1976), in which can also be found a bibliography of his major works.

Martha Bohachevsky-Chomiak (1987)