Khom[symbol omitted]kov, Alekseĭ Stepanovich

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Leader of the early Slavophile ideologists and most influential Russian Orthodox lay theologian of the 19th century, poet; b. Moscow, May 1, 1804; d. of cholera on his estate near Riazan, Sept. 23, 1860. Khomi[symbol omitted]kov was a very versatile and erudite member of the landed gentry, and he was intimately acquainted with leading intellectuals at home and abroad. He was well read in the Greek Fathers, but the chief influence on his thought came from the German romantic and idealist philosophers then popular in Russia. He studied literature at the University of Moscow and wrote verse tragedies (e.g., Ermak, 1832). After two ventures in a military career (1822 and 1828) and some study of art, he married in 1836. He vigorously argued for the abolition of serfdom, for intellectual freedom, and for the curtailment of censorship.

In contrast to the secularist Westernizers who believed that Russia should adopt European ideas and institutions such as a representative assembly, Khomi[symbol omitted]kov, a religious populist, advocated the preservation and strengthening of Russia's ancient patriarchal traditions as embodied in the peasant collective village or commune. He held that history's movement was caused by the clash of two forces, the Iranian principle of spiritual and moral freedom and the Kushite principle of material and logical necessity. The former characterized Russia, the latter predominated in the West. The Slavophiles, not to be confused with the later political Pan-Slavists, asserted that Western civilization was doomed to extinction because it was based on juridicism, rationalism, and materialism.

According to Khomi[symbol omitted]kov, Roman Catholicism had turned Christianity into a state by its absorption of Roman law and its exaltation of a legalistic hierarchy. This hierarchy, apart from and above the faithful, culminated in a despotic papacy. It possessed an enforced external unity without inner freedom. Protestantism was a logical continuation of Catholic rationalism and had achieved only an unprincipled freedom without unity, which is license. The Russian Orthodox people alone, i.e., the peasants in their communes, as distinct from the upper classes and the institutional hierarchic Church, had preserved Christianity in its pure form and was destined to lead other nations into a new Christian era because of its Christian character. The superiority of the Russian Orthodox people was attributed to the spirit of sobornost, Khomi[symbol omitted]kov's main contribution to theology. Sobornost is derived from the Slavonic word for "catholic" in the Nicene Creed and variously translated as integrality, communality, collegiality, or collectivity. Sobornost effects the harmonious blending of inner freedom and unity, of the individual and society, in a living organic body whose members are bound together by mutual love under the sole headship of Christ; this love is the Holy Spirit. Sobornost is also the criterion of truth, which resides not in the decisions of the hierarchy, nor even of an ecumenical council, but in acceptance by the whole Christian community united in mutual love.

See Also: russian theology; slavophilism.

Bibliography: a. s. khomi[symbol omitted]kov, Polnoe sobranie sochineniĭi, 8 v. (Moscow 1900), collected works. a. gratieux, A.S. Khomi[symbol omitted]kov et le mouvement slavophile, 2 v. (Paris 1939). p. baron, Un Théologien laïc orthodoxe russe au XIXe siècle (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 127; Rome 1940). p. k. christoff, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Russian Slavophilism: A Study in Ideas (The Hague 1961 ) v. 1. n. v. riasanovsky, Russia and the West in the Teaching of the Slavophiles (Cambridge, Mass. 1952).

[w. j. mcbrearty]