The establishment of the Soviet regime in Russia caused a mass exodus of those opposed to it. Between 1919 and 1922, several hundred thousand Russians had to leave their homeland and seek refuge abroad. Later, smaller groups succeeded in joining them, until the Communists sealed off all escape routes from the territories under their control.
The majority of these exiles found asylum in the Balkans, Czechoslovakia, Germany and France. Others settled down in Manchuria, in Shanghai, and in other cities in China. The first emigration included representatives of a variety of nationalities, classes and political convictions. Among them were such well-known church figures and theologians as Metropolitan Antony Kharpovitsky (1864–1936), Metropolitan Evlogy Georgievsky (1868–1946), Metropolitan Anastasy Gribanovsky (1873–1965), Bishop (later Metropolitan) Venjamin Fedchenko (1882–1962), V. Skvortsov (1853–1934), Professor N. Glubokovsky (1863–1937), and Professor A. Dobroklonsky (1856–1937). Their presence considerably helped the organization of the Russian Church abroad.
One of the characteristics of the first Russian emigration was the founding of Orthodox parishes everywhere. Despite poverty and uncertainty about their future, the Russians began to organize church services, form choirs, and start parochial schools where the children were taught the catechism, Russian language and history. The desire to unite around the church led to the convening of a sobor (council) in Sremski Karlovtsy in Yugoslavia in the autumn of 1921. Eleven bishops, nearly 100 priests and laymen, representatives from parishes in France, Germany, Belgium, England, Italy, Czechoslovakia and the Balkans gathered there. This meeting revealed two different approaches to the establishment of ecclesiastical life abroad. Some of the members of the council thought that the church was called to assist the restoration of the monarchy in Russia. They issued a declaration in which they encouraged members of the Church to remain faithful to the Romanov dynasty.
But a substantial minority was opposed to the Church's participation in political struggles, and insisted that the task of the Church in exile was to remain above party divisions. This divergence of opinion displayed at the first council of Karlovtsy, has coloured the entire subsequent history of the Russian Church abroad, which eventually became divided into three groups: a) The Synodical Church in exile, closely associated with the monarchist movement; b) The Church under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarch; c) The Church which accepted the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
A decisive shift in the spiritual life of the emigration took place in 1922. In the autumn of that year a significant number (about 70) of professors of the Universities of Moscow and Petrograd, together with their families, were exiled to Germany. Ibis move by the Soviet government saved many leading scholars for Russian and world culture. These were men who, instead of perishing within the walls of the secret police, were able to continue their scholarly labours in the West.
Among those exiled were several religious philosophers: Nicolas Berdyaev (1874–1948), Simeon Frank (1877–1950), Nicholas Lossky (1870–1965), V. Vysheslavtsev (1871–1954), and Ivan Ilin (1883–1954). At the beginning of 1923 Archpriest Sergy Bulgakov (1871–1944) joined them. In this way the emigration was enriched by the inclusion of Orthodox thinkers who were not only renowned in the world of European scholarship, but who recognized the necessity of counterbalancing Marxism by a carefully thought-out Christian worldview. They were inspired by the desire to share with the Western world the new spiritual experience which they had undergone, living under totalitarian Communism.
Hie majority of theological, philosophical and religious books published in emigration came from the pens of these exiled scholars or their immediate disciples.
At first these Russian scholars felt unwelcome and lost in Europe. At that time the idea was still popular there that the persecution of the Christians in Russia was a deserved punishment of the members of a church that had been an obedient tool of the fallen Empire. Russian Christian thinkers were dismissed as reactionaries. Gradually, however, they began to attract the attention of more prescient men. Among the latter, a young Swiss, G. G. Kullmann, (1894–1961), a secretary of the American YMCA, was one of the first to realize the importance of these outstanding men so much feared by the Communists11. Kullmann enlisted the interest of John R. Mott (1865–1955), a well-known American ecumenist and philanthropist. Mott was able to raise enough money to establish a Russian Religious-Bhilosohical Academy in Berlin and start a publishing house for printing theological books in Russian. Thanks to their efforts and to the cooperation of other Americans such as Donald Lowrie (1889) and Paul B. Anderson (1894), it became possible for Russian theologians to continue their work in an atmosphere of independence, since their Western friends gave them full freedom in both the choice and the treatment of themes in their books and lectures.
In 1925 the Religious-Philosophical Academy and the YMCA Press were moved from Berlin to Paris, where they remained until the start of the Second World War. They played a decisive role in the development of theological literature in exile.
Concurrent with the establishment of the Religious-Philosophical Academy, two other organizations came into being, this time by the initiative of the Russians: the Russian Student Christian Movement (RSKD or RSCM) in 1923, and the Theological Institute (known as the St. Sergius Theological Academy) in 1925. The first united the two generations which met in exile: the representatives of the intelligentsia who had returned to the Church on the eve of the revolution, and the youth who had just begun a difficult life in exile, and who were seeking ways to enter the life of the Church. The Theological Institute in Paris provided an opportunity of acquiring higher education for those who found their vocation in the pastoral ministry.
Most of the YMCA`s publications between the two world wars were ideologically related to the work of the RSCM and the Academy of St. Sergius. They were inspired by faith in the world-wide calling of Orthodoxy as the church which had retained the fullness of the teachings of the Apostles. The theologians in exile were certain that Orthodox believers could and should help Western Christians to overcome their divisions and find an answer in the light of the Gospel`s teachings to those questions which the Marxists attempt ed to answer by means of dialectical materialism.
The church groups which were associated with Metropolitan Antony and the Synod of Bishops abroad often reacted negatively to the literature published in Paris, and to the work of the RSCM and the Theological Institute, accusing them of deserting the established tradition of Orthodoxy. However, the adherents of the conservative approach contributed relatively little to theological literature in exile.
Until the outbreak of World War II, the most important center of the Russian emigration after Paris was Harbin, with a Russian population of 100,000 and a network of schools, newspapers, churches and monasteries. Religious literature published in Harbin served local needs for the most part, and seldom penetrated beyond the borders of Manchuria; whereas the theological and philosophical works of the Russian colony in Paris were with increasing frequency translated into Western languages; and in this way Orthodox thought became familiar in both Roman Catholic and Protestant circles.
The Second World War and subsequent events profoundly influenced the fate of the Russian emigres. Their cultural centers in Prague and the Balkans dis appeared. The Russian population of Manchuria was forced to leave. At the same time a strong new wave of emigrants joined the ranks of the first emigration. Most of those who made up this second wave, however, tried to find shelter further from the Soviet Union, and the largest centers of Russian emigration developed in the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. These shifts in the pattern of emigre settlements were mirrored in religious and philosophical literature. Those writers who before the war had been the main voices of Orthodoxy were no longer alive, and the periodicals which they had directed came to an end. The publication of Orthodox literature in foreign languages, on the other hand, increased greatly. Young Russian theologians began to write and publish their works in English, French and German. At this time a new school for higher theological education appeared: St. Vladimir`s Seminary in New.York. With the appointment of Father Alexander Schmemann as dean, this school began to attrach a number of outstanding Orthodox scholars.
A special place in the history of theological literature of this period belongs to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, the spiritual center of the Russian Synodical Church in exile. In addition to publishing new works, it has also reprinted pre-revolutionary works of a religious character, such as the Philokalia. The Ladder of St. John Climacus» Unseen Warfare, The Kievan Paterikon, as well as the writings of Father John of Kron- atadt (1828–1908), Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807–1867), and the monks of Optina Hermitage.
Main themes of emigre theological literature
The theological works of the Russians in exile include Doctrine, New Testament Theology and Church History. These works are characterized by the desire of their authors to remain within the tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy, and at the same time to incorporate in the exposition of Christianity the results of Western scholarship.
Father Sergy Bulgakov occupies a pre-eminent place among writers on doctrinal subjects. An important contribution to the study of the nature of the Church was made by Nicholas Afanassiev. In the post-war period, the writings of Paul Evdokimov became well known. Bishop Cassian Bezobrazov worked in the field of New Testament theology; Anton Kartashev, George Fedotov, Igor Smol- itsch and Nicolas Zernov worked in Church history. Archimandrite Cyprian Kern and Archpriest Alexander Schmemann studied liturgy; Archpriest George Florov- sky, Vladimir Lossky and Archpriest John Meyendorff wrote on patristics, while Archpriest Basil Zenkovsky did research in apologetics.
RELIGIOUS-PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT. This includes works which defend the value of man's individuality, creativity and freedom in the light of the Christian Gospel. In this field of work, fame has been achieved by Nicolas Berdyaev, Simeon Frank, N. Lossky, I. Ilin, and Fedor Stepun. The following Christian sociologists also belong to this field: Nicholas Timasheff, Nicholas Alexeev, Eugene Spektorsky, and the literary critics Vladimir Weidle and Konstantin Mochulsky.
During the first years of their exile, Russian theologians encountered a lack of knowledge of Orthodoxy in the West. Convinced of the necessity of Christian unity, many of them devoted themselves to familiarizing the Western world with the essence of Orthodoxy. They studied the reasons for the schisms among Christians and sought ways to unify Christendom. Their work has not been in vain. The Russian Orthodox Church abroad has done much to strengthen co-operation and trust among the churches. Some of those who have written on ecumenical topics are Sergy Bulgakov, Nicholas Arseniev, Leo Zander, Nicolas Zernov, Alexander Schmemann and Peter Kovalevsky.
This includes various ways of teaching the Orthodox faith. It is important to notice the five-volume illustrated Cathechism, the collective effort of sixteen theologians, writers and artists, which was published in Paris between 1950–1958.
Refutation of soviet atheism
Among those who worked in this field were Nicolas Berdyaev, Vladimir Ilin, F. Melnikov and Boris Vysheslavtsev.
Books in this category consist mainly of reprinted works of such pre-Revolutionary writers as Bishop Feofan Zatvornik (1815–1894), Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, and Father John of Kronstadt. The Way of a Pilgrim, first published in 1881, holds an important place in this category. It was published in Paris in 1930 and immediately achieved wide recognition. In more recent times it has been translated into English, French and German, and it is very popular throughout Europe and in America.
Among the original works of this type, Father Elchaninov's (1881–1934)
The Diary of a Russian Priest (London, 1967) and Archimandrite Sofrony Sakharov`s biography of the Starets Silouan (1866–1938), The Undistorted Image, must be mentioned.
AUTOBIOGRAPHIES include the memoirs of Metropolitan Evlogy, Archpriest Shavelsky, Archbishop Vitaly, Archimandrite Andronik Elpedinsky, F. Stepun, the autobiographical notes of Archpriest Bulgakov, the seventeen-volume biography of Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky, edited by Archbishop Nikon Rklit- sky. A special place in this section belongs to the chronicle of the Zernov family, describing church life in emigration. Na Perelome and Za Rubezhom.
POLEMICS – books which defend one or another of the jurisdictions into which the emigre church has become divided. The following have written works of this kind: Archpriest Michael Polsky, Archpriest George Grabbe, I. Stra- tonov and Sergey Troitsky.
Such are the various divisions of theological thought to which the exiled Orthodox writers of Russia have added their contribution.
The significance of emigre orthodox literature for russian culture
Pre-Petrine Russia knew how to pray, build churches and paint icons. It created a ritual of devout daily life (bytovoe blagochestie), an original attempt to implement Church teaching in the domestic life of its members. Its spiritually inspired culture and penetrated the population deeply, but despite all these accomplishments, it was defective in the realm of clear, logical thought. Theology – in the generally accepted sense of the term – was lacking in Muscovite Rus`. One of the main reasons for this was the Church Slavonic used for the Holy Scriptures and the Liturgy.12 Having received access to the sources of Christian revelation in Slavonic translations, the spiritual leaders of the Russian people did not feel the need to learn Greek and Latin. In this way the Slavonic language with which Russian Orthodoxy was born and raised deterred the Russians – if only in an indirect fashion – from becoming familiar with the achievements of classical culture. Until the eighteenth century, Russians did not have access to Hellenic philosophy or to Roman law, both of which formed and disciplined the thinking of Western Europe. On the other hand, the Slavonic language helped the Russians to become the authors of their own form of culture. The Orthodox Liturgy became for them the source of their knowledge of God and man, inspired their artistic creativity and enriched the spiritual experience of the people.
The dramatic encounter with the West occurred under Peter the Great. It took place in an atmosphere of impoverishment in Russia – Moscow society was still shaken by the Old Believer's recent schism, which had ejected from its leading circles the most zealous representatives of the traditional world-view.
The result of this catastrophe was the abrupt decline of Russian original culture. Peter the Great, having taken as his aim the reformation of the government according to Western models, demanded that his followers renounce the traditions of Muscovite Rus`. He forced them to go to Europe for their education, creating a strong inferiority complex among the Russian upper classes, who began to look upon their fathers and forefathers as uncouth barbarians.
In the course of the eighteenth century the Russian Empire with its capital at St. Petersburg was ruled by an aristocracy who were ashamed of their famous past. In the field of theology the Russians were forced to memorize Roman Catholic and Protestant catechisms, and to do it in Latin – a language hitherto unfamiliar and alien to them. It is not surprising that the new learning was difficult for them and that their theology, with few exceptions, for a long time imitated the decadent type of the Western theology of the 17th century, not daring to speak with its own voice. It sounded again only in the mid-nineteenth century, and even then from a source one would hardly have expected. One of the first authentic spokesmen of Russian Orthodoxy was a retired cavalry captain, Alexey Stepanovich Khomiakov (1804–1860).13 His writing was so unlike official theology that he was suspected of being a heretic, and during his lifetime his works could only be printed outside Russia; he died unacknowledged by any except the close-knit circle of friends who shared his views. One of them, Yury Samarin (1819–1876), had the prophetic courage to call Khomiakov a «Father of the Church» in print. Having once sounded, the voice of Russian Orthodoxy could not be stilled. Until the end of the century its speakers were nonetheless mostly individuals who seemed alien to the clergy brought up in theological seminaries and academies. One such proponent of an Orthodox world-view was Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821–1881). In the form of novels he gave Orthodox's answers to the most difficult theological questions – the possibility of reconciling belief in a God of love with innocent suffering, and the attractive force of evil with moral responsibility. The intuitions of Dostoevsky's genius had their philosophical foundation in the works of Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (1853–1900).
This friend of Dostoevsky's prepared the ground for that religious and cultural renaissance which began in Russia in the twentieth century. The fatal schism between Russians educated in the European manner and the Orthodox tradition which split post-Petrine Russia into two camps gradually began to be overcome. The anti-national and anti-Church intelligentsia discovered to their surprise values they had previously rejected. They fell in love with the beautiful world of Orthodox Rus`; her church architecture and her icons, as well as the other fruits of Orthodox Russian culture became accessible to them. At this time an encounter took place between the representatives of the clergy and the intelligentsia which was beneficial to both sides.14 The desire ripened to free the Church from the yoke of the Synodal Administration imposed on it by Peter. The prophecies of Dostoyevsky and Solovyov began to be realized. A hitherto unknown growth of art, philosophy and religious thought began in Russia.15
But this renaissance suffered a fatal blow at the hands of the Leninist dictatorship which offered the archaic positivism and materialism of the nineteenth century as the only acceptable world-view for the entire population of Russia. The hatred which Lenin and Stalin and their successors had for Orthodox culture brought about a mass extermination of the cultured classes in Russia, and the destruction of the art treasures which represented her traditional Orthodox culture. Only those Orthodox thinkers who were able to leave their homeland could continue their creative work. Here is the ultimate significance of emigre religious and philosophical literature for Russian culture: it maintained the vital links with the past and deepened the brilliant ideas of teachers such as Khomiakov, Dostoevsky and Solovyov. It preserved that spiritual essence of ideas and thoughts which even today remain inaccessible to Russians within the Communist orbit. While living and working outside their homeland, Orthodox writers have never lost their belief that the Russian people would one day achieve the right to read without fear the works of their thinkers and scholars who cherished freedom, and so enjoy again that Christian culture from which they had been torn away by the revolution.
Significance of russian emigre literature for other christians
The first Russian emigration of 1919–1922 coincided with the start of the Ecumenical Movement, whose goal was the re-integration of the Christian church. Initially this movement met with disapproval from the Vatican, which forbade Roman Catholics to participate in it. This decision created a danger that the Ecumenical Movement would be concerned only with Protestant unity.
Its leaders, therefore, began to seek ways of attracting Orthodox participation, feeling that Eastern Christian involvement would lend it a more authentically ecumenical character. With the exception of a few bishops and professors, mostly Greeks, the Orthodox were little prepared for co-operation with the heterodox. A deep, inbred mistrust of Western Christians, ignorance of Western European languages and lack of adequate education hampered their understanding of the new movement. The appearance of the Russian emigres in the West during the formative years of ecumenism had a decisive influence on its development. Russian thinkers, influenced by the ideas of Vladimir Solovyov, advocating the unity of the Christian Church, were spiritually prepared for ecumenical work. Thanks to their high level of education and their know- ledge of foreign languages, they were able to take leading parts in ecumenical discussions. Having personal experience of the persecution of the church in Russia, they understood that the fight against militant atheism required the coordination of Christian strength. Russian theologians brought to the Ecumenical Movement an Orthodox interpretation of Christianity which helped the leaders of the Western churches to see their differences in a new light.
From 1925 until the outbreak of World War II the members of the Ecumenical Movement met at world congresses. These conferences took place in Stockholm (1925), Lausanne (1927), Oxford (1937), Edinburgh (1937) and Amsterdam (1939). At all these meetings side by side with other Orthodox, the representatives of the Russian Church in emigration took part in both discussions and panels.
In many respects they were responsible for the success of these conferences and helped create an atmosphere of respect and trust between Eastern and Western Christians. Although the Russians were not official delegates (since the Church of Russia was not allowed by the Communists to participate), their contribution was made in the name of the absent Russian Church, and this was recognized by the members of these ecumenical meetings. In this way, Russian emigre theologians prepared the basis for a wider participation by Eastern Christians in the work of the World Council of Churches, which began after the war. Emigre Orthodoxy also appeared to assist the changing of Rome's initially negative attitude to the Ecumenical Movement. The meeting of Abbe Paul Couturier (1881–1953) with Russian emigres was a milestone in this respect. Under its impact the abbe became a dedicated worker for church unity and an advocate of the spirit and outlook which prevailed at the second Vatican Council. Thus it can be said that Russian theologians in emigration not only made the essence of Orthodoxy accessible to Western Christianity, but also that they contributed to the overcoming of the antagonism which, from the time of the Reformation, had made co-operation between Protestants and Catholics so difficult.
The significance of russian orthodox thought for contemporary mankind
The Russian Revolution shook the entire world. Totalitarian Communism spread its influence and power widely over Europe and throughout Asia. Questions raised by Leninism took on importance for all mankind. Leninism is essentially a religious phenomenon. Secularism, popular in the West, is
alien to Russian Communism. Lenin and his disciples changed Marxism into a religion of the deified collective, and while rejecting the existence of God, promised their followers «God's Kingdom on Earth» to be created by their own efforts. Leninists assert Man's independence of any kind of intellectual or moral force superior to his own, but at the same time impose on men the yoke of collectivized slavery, personified in the First Secretary of the Party. According to Leninism, unconditional adherence to its teaching assures material and spiritual prosperity to all people.
The value of the works of these emigre Orthodox thinkers lies in their refutation – the fruit of serious consideration and personal experience – of the utopianism preached by the Leninists. Some of these Orthodox philosophers passed through the Marxist school themselves, and rejected that outlook on the grounds that it led to the denigration of the individual and consequent loss of freedom. The anthologies Vekhi (Signposts), 1909, and Iz Glubiny (De Profundis), published in 1918 with the collaboration of Berdyaev, Bulgakov, Frank and Struve, were prophetic statements about the atmosphere of fear, lies and denunciation created by atheistic communism in Russia. However, the importance of these philosophers` work is not limited to their criticism of Leninism; their writings also contain a positive programme for overcoming social ills and moral contradictions inherent in man. This program is based on the primacy of love and freedom over class hatred and envy; it admits the tragedy of the duality in man and the reality of sin, but at the same time asserts the possibility of triumphing over them, not by means of prison and hard labour camps, but through a revival of personality based on belief in the divine image reflected in each man. The Russian Church has never had so many outstanding creative theologians and religious philosophers as in the epoch when so many of its leading members were exiled to the West. Their contribution to world culture, therefore, has been of special significance at this time of far-reaching change in the history of mankind.
Thus, as one part of the Russian people became the bearers of Communism, another segment came to be the antithesis of this atheistic utopianism. It is not by chance that Russian soil was the arena where integral Communism and integral Christianity clashed. Both spring from recognizing the necessity of unity of outlook. Moscow can be both the Third Rome 16 and the capital of the Third International. The Russians are susceptible to the growth of despotism in their midst as well as to the development of a system in which organic unity does not endanger individual freedom. This ideal found its embodiment in the gathering of spiritual strength in a Rus` enslaved by the Tartars, and was personified in St. Sergius of Radonezh (1314–1392). The icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrey Rublyov (1370–1430), that masterpiece of Russian art, testifies to this. It shows the artist`s vision of the possibility of accord in love and freedom, reflecting the perfect unity of the Holy Trinity. It was this ideal that inspired the Russian leaders of genius in the nineteenth century – Khomiakov and his teachings on «sobornosj:», Dostoevsky and his «Russian Socialism«. Solovyov and his »Free Theocracy«, and Nicholas Fyodorov (1828–1903) and his »Common Task». These sacred precepts found a place in the works of the Russian emigre thinkers in whom the tradition of the Orthodox Church and the liberal aspirations of the intelligentsia have been reconciled.
At the present time there is only one official voice of the Russian people. It proclaims to everyone the happiness of life under the leadership of the all-powerful and «infallible» Party, and never ceases glorifying the achievements of the «Great Socialist Revolution». The Kremlin invites the whole of mankind to follow in the footsteps of Lenin, that «great teacher of the peoples». It threatens the opponents of Communism with severe punishments. Although this voice sounds triumphantly throughout the entire world, it does not appear to be the only expression of the hopes of the Russian people.
Other voices are beginning to be heard from Russia, like that of the writer Solzhenitsyn (b. 1918). The emigre leaders have a special place in this opposition, for they bought their freedom by choosing exile. Among them the voices of the religious thinkers are of considerable importance. These are the voices of men who see hope for a better future for mankind not in submission to totalitarianism but in the revival of the Evangelical teachings. This Christian voice threatens no one, but declares its unshakable belief in the living force of genuine freedom, love and forgiveness.
Every despotism runs its course, and there will come a time when the thoughts of Orthodoxy's philosophers will reach those who have no access to them at present. The drama of Russian Christian culture has reached its apogee in this century. The fate of the emigres has been to assume the arduous but glorious task of preserving and deepening the spiritual values of Russian Orthodoxy in a period of trial and tension.
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Dr. Kullmann played an important role in the religious life and social fortunes of the Russian emigration. He was one of the outstanding participants of that religious and philosophical renewal which characterized the first decades of the Russian dispersion. In the course of the years spent in the work with the Russian Student Christian Movement, he helped the West to understand better Russian Orthodoxy and its theologians and religious thinkers. The second half of his active life he devoted to the political protection of refugees as a representative of the International Orgainzations.
His obituary was published in nThe New Review’1, No. 70, New York, 1962. A brief outline of his life can be found in the book «Za Rubezhom», Paris, 1973. His articles, letters and other relevant documents await a biographer. They are deposited in the Archives of Russian History and Culture at the Columbia University in New York. Their copies can also be found in the library of St. Gregory House, 1 Canterbury Road, Oxford, England
N. Zernov: The Russians and their Church. London, S.P.C.K. 1968
Khomiakov. The Church is one. L. 1968
N. Zernov: The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth Century, London, 1963
The extraordinary personality of Father Pavel Florensky (1882–1943) appeared as the epitome of this hoped-for reconciliation of the Russian intelligentsia with the Orthodox Church. It is hard to find a sphere of art or science in which his exceptional talents were not revealed. He was an outstanding mathematician, astronomer, physicist, biologist, a talented electro-technician, a member of the committee for the electrification of the U.S.S.R., an inventor who made a series of discoveries of «economic significance on a state scale». (Filosofskaya Entsiklopedia, Moscow, 1970, vol. V, pp. 337.) At the same time he was a symbolist poet, an art historian, teaching at the Moscow School of Painting, a musicologist, a spe¬cialist on Bach and Beethoven, an outstanding linguist with a command, apart from European languages, of the languages of the Caucasus, Iran and India. To crown all this, he was a philosopher, mystic and theologian.
«This genius unequalled in the history of Russia, and comparable only with Leonardo da Vinci or Pascal» (Bulgakov) found his vocation as a priest, and as such he ended the Russian intelligentsia's long years of erring in the desert of materialism and atheism.
The fate of Florensky, as of the intelligentsia as a whole, was tragic. Despite his merits as a scientist, he was arrested in 1933. All threats were futile in trying to force him to renounce his priestly status. He was banished to one of the concentration camps in the north. Rumour has it that he was felling timber, when a falling log smashed this genius» skull. Reminiscences of the childhood of Father Pavel Florensky were published in «Vestnik R.S.K.D», Nos. 99 and 100 (1971).
N. Zernov. Moscow the Third Rome. L. 1944