20 December 2005, 10:22

Religious philosopher Ivan Ilyin

The breakup of the Russian Empire in the wake of the February 1917 democratic revolution and the Bolshevik takeover and the civil war that followed later bitterly split the Russian nation forcing the anti-Bolshevik-minded Russians into self-imposed exile in Central and Western Europe.

The breakup of the Russian Empire in the wake of the February 1917 democratic revolution and the Bolshevik takeover and the

civil war that followed later bitterly split the Russian nation forcing the anti-Bolshevik-minded Russians into self-imposed exile in Central and Western Europe. It was a terrible tragedy not only for the Russian émigrés who dreamed of someday being able to come back, but also for the country as a whole that lost some of its very best children…



Until the very end of the Soviet regime in the early 1990s national reconciliation was absolutely out of the question. But it has finally come true with the consecration at the Donskoi Monastery in Moscow of the foundation stone of a chapel to commemorate the victims of social upheavals and fratricidal war and those who found eternal peace in foreign soil. This event was a prime example of this much-awaited reconciliation. As was the return to Russia of the remains of General Anton Denikin, one of the leaders of the White Guards movement, and of Ivan Ilyin, a philosopher. They were buried in the monastery’s memorial cemetery in October 2005…



Ivan Ilyin is by right considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. His extensive philosophical, cultural and spiritual heritage, previously unknown here in Russia, has come as a real revelation to millions of Russians.



Ivan Ilyin was born on April 10, 1883 into the family of old Russian aristocrats. His intellectual endowment manifested itself early on and after his graduation from the law department of Moscow University, Ivan Ilyin stayed on and spent several years teaching law there. It was then and there that he started taking interest in philosophy and human morality. His doctoral thesis was all about Hegel’s ideas and this work is still hailed as one of the very best on the subject.



A true-blue monarchist, Ivan Ilyin rejected the February 1917 democratic revolution that abolished the Russian monarchy seeing it as a catastrophe for Russia and the rest of the world. Ilyin declared an ideological war on Bolshevism and turned out scores of anti-Soviet lectures and articles which on several occasions landed him behind bars. In September 1922 they arrested him for the sixth time and sentenced to death which was later commuted to exile. A month later Ivan Ilyin, along with a large group of leading scholars, thinkers, historians and writers was banished from Soviet Russia. Ilyin initially settled down in Germany and following the Nazis advent to power in 1933, moved to neighboring Switzerland.



Studying the causes of the 20th century Russian tragedy, Ilyin wrote “the Russian revolution is a reflection of the religious crisis we are living through now, an attempt to establish an anti-Christian public and state system thought up by Friedrich Nietze and economically and politically realized by Karl Marx. This anti-Christian virus was exported to Russia from the West.” “Losing our bond with God and the Christian tradition, mankind has become morally blind and gripped by materialism, irrationalism and nihilism.”



To overcome this global moral crisis people need to return to the eternal moral values, that is faith, love, freedom, conscience, family, motherland and nation, above all faith and love, Ilyin wrote. He trusted that “to make Russia great again the Russian people should believe in God and that this faith will firm up their willpower and their mind, will make them strong to overcome themselves. Ivan Ilyin believed in the religious gift and talent of the Russian soul. And prophesied that “Russian history is all about morality triumphing over difficulties, temptation, danger and enemies. That’s how it was and that’s how it is always going to be, even better…”

  •  
    and share via