Solov’ev, Vladimir Sergeevich
SOLOV'EV, VLADIMIR SERGEEVICH
Russian mystic, theologian, philosopher, poet, journalist, ecumenist (also known as Solovyiev, Solovyev, Solowjew); b. Moscow, Jan. 16 (28), 1853; d. Uzkoe, near Moscow, July 31 (Aug. 13), 1900. Although reared in a devout Russian Orthodox home, Solov’ev became an atheist while in secondary school after reading the lives of Christ written by David strauss and renan. He also became devoted to the materialism of Ludwig Büchner (1824–99) and the nihilism of Pisarev. During his university years in Moscow (1869–74), he experienced another religious crisis. From spinoza he gained a living sense of God's reality and a clear experience of the total spiritual unity of the world. Other influences on the development of his religious thought were schopenhauer, Eduard von hartmann, schelling, and hegel. He attended the Theological Faculty of Moscow (1873–74) and published his widely acclaimed dissertation against comte and positivism, Crisis of Western Philosophy (1874). After lecturing at the university, Solov’ev studied mysticism and theosophy in London (1875). He then went to Egypt, where he claimed to have had a vision of Sophia, or Wisdom. In 1876 he resumed teaching but soon left Moscow University because of a dispute concerning slavophilism. In St. Petersburg he served on the Scholarly Committee of the Educational Ministry and delivered 12 lectures on Godmanhood (1877). He thought the essence of Christianity consisted of the union of God and man in the Incarnate Word, but that Eastern Orthodoxy neglected man, while Western Christianity tended to forget God. These lectures attracted much attention. The audience included dostoyevsky and tolstoi. The former had been a friend of the lecturer since 1873 and seemingly fashioned the character Alyosha in Brothers Karamazov after Solov’ev. Tolstoi's denial of Christ's resurrection caused Solov’ev to be wary of him. A Critique of Abstract Principles (1880), Solov’ev's doctoral dissertation, met wide acclaim, but its author was compelled to retire from teaching in 1881 because he had publicly sought clemency for Alexander II's assassins.
This proved to be a turning point in Solov’ev's life. Thereafter he devoted himself entirely to writing and the ecumenical movement. He described himself as an eternally wandering, homeless pilgrim seeking the heavenly Jerusalem. Friends were never lacking, however, to provide him with hospitality. Some of his writings at this time concerned contemporary problems, but his most significant works had to be published abroad because of his growing sympathy with the Roman Church. These tendencies occasioned a break with his slavophile friends, especially khomi[symbol omitted]kov and Kireyevsky. In his Great Dispute and Christian Policy (1883) he defended the papal primacy. His History and Future of Theocracy (1884) indicated that he had been little influenced by Chaadayev's slavophile views about the kingdom of God. During Solov’ev's travels in Croatia (1886–88), his association with Bishop strossmayer strengthened his desire for reunion with Rome. In 1887 he lectured in Paris on the Russian Church, and in 1889 he published La Russie et l'église universelle, which met a very hostile reception in Russia. The holy synod forbade him to write further on religious topics.
In 1896 he made a profession of faith, confessed to a Catholic priest, and received Holy Communion. He hoped to see all men united religiously in Christianity (which would be in practice a theocracy under the pope) and politically, under the czar. His thought became more eschatological in Three Conversations (1889–90), as he became increasingly pessimistic and concerned with the problem of evil and of the antichrist. On his deathbed Solov’ev received the Last Rites from a Russian Orthodox priest. Since he believed that Roman Catholicism and the orthodox churches remained mystically united despite their outward separation, he apparently considered intercommunion justifiable. His action, therefore, was apparently not based on disregard for canon law. So broad was his erudition that Solov’ev has been called the Russian Newman. Several of his works have been translated into English.
Bibliography: Collected works in Russian, 9 v. (St. Petersburg 1901–07; 2d. ed., 10 v. 1911–14); Collected letters in Russian, 4 v. (St. Petersburg 1908–23); A Solovyof Anthology, ed. s. l. frank, tr. n. duddington (London 1950). m. d'herbigny, Vladimir Soloviev, A Russian Newman, tr. a. m. buchanan (London 1918). d. stremoukov, Vladimer Soloviev et son oeuvre messianique (Paris 1935). k. pfleger, Wrestlers with Christ, tr. e. i. watkin (London 1936). n. zernov, Three Russian Prophets: Khomyakov, Dostoievsky and Soloviev (New York 1944). v. v. zen'kovskĬi, History of Russian Philosophy, tr. g. l. kline, 2 v. (New York 1953). e. munzer, Solovyev, Prophet of Russian-Western Unity (London 1956). l. mÜller, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 v. (Freiburg 1957–65) 9:869–870.