Authors: Nikolay Berdyayev

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Russian philosopher

Author Works


Smysl istorii, 1923 (The Meaning of History, 1923)

Mirosozertzanie Dostoievskago, 1923 (Dostoievsky: An Interpretation, 1934)

Filosofiia svobodnago, 1927 (Freedom and the Spirit, 1935)

Onaznacheni cheloveka, 1931 (The Destiny of Man, 1937)

The Russian Revolution: Two Essays on Its Implications in Religion and Psychology, 1931

The End of Our Time, Together with an Essay on the General Line of Soviet Philosophy, 1933

Ya i mir obyektov, 1934 (Solitude and Society, 1939)

The Bourgeois Mind, and Other Essays, 1934

The Origin of Russian Communism, 1937

Dukh i real’nost’, 1937 (Spirit and Reality, 1939)

Slavery and Freedom, 1943

Russkaya ideya, 1946 (The Russian Idea, 1947)

Opyt eskhatologicheskoi metafiziki, 1947 (The Beginning and the End, 1952)

Samopozhaniye, 1949 (Dream and Reality, 1950)


Nikolay Berdyayev (byihrd-YAH-yihf), also frequently spelled Berdyaev, was a prolific and widely read writer on idealism, philosophy, and religion. He was born in Kiev in 1874. During his youth, he was profoundly impressed by the writings of Fyodor Dostoevski; he attributed his early interest in philosophical problems to Dostoevski’s influence upon him. Having challenged the Russian political system as a young man, Berdyayev was exiled at the age of twenty-five from Kiev to Vologda, a town in North Russia east of St. Petersburg. During that period of exile, he studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, Immanuel Kant, and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Berdyayev’s first book was published the following year.{$I[AN]9810000650}{$I[A]Berdyayev, Nikolay}{$I[geo]RUSSIA;Berdyayev, Nikolay}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Berdyayev, Nikolay}{$I[tim]1874;Berdyayev, Nikolay}

Berdyayev was again threatened with exile shortly before the Russian Revolution of 1917, when he questioned certain philosophies of the governing synod of the Orthodox Church. Following the revolution, he was appointed to the chair of philosophy at the University of Moscow and then imprisoned for two years; in 1922, he was expelled from Russia as a supporter of religion. In Germany, he founded the Academy of the Philosophy of Religion, later directing it from Paris, where he had settled by 1934. In Paris, he associated himself with a group of scholars interested in the philosophy of the spirit and edited a review, Putj (the way).

Although Berdyayev always considered himself a member of the Russian Orthodox Church and never renounced it, he was nonetheless impatient with formalism and was at odds with the church on more than one occasion. In his philosophy, he relied largely upon intuition: The spiritual motivation was the important factor, the ennobling influence in human activity. Material aspects of civilization he consistently held suspect. He deplored the cold materialism of the communist movement and believed that it could never be ultimately successful without recourse to spirit. He considered Russian communism chiefly Russian in origin and character, owing comparatively little to outside influences, and he did not believe that communism or human progress were incompatible with Christianity. His anti-intellectual orientation led him to distrust mechanical civilization and to foresee its dehumanizing effects.

Berdyayev considered his philosophy prophetic rather than contemporary, looking forward to a time when there would be renewed interest in the spirit. Like most philosophers, he was a seeker after absolutes; unlike some, he did not discard all but a few select ideas. Having studied Christianity, Marxism, and existentialism, he evolved a highly complex philosophy embracing these and with them “all the dilemmas that confront our world.”

BibliographyCalian, C. S. Berdyaev’s Philosophy of Hope: A Contribution to Marxist-Christian Dialogue. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1969.Copleston, Frederick C. Philosophy in Russia: From Herzen to Lenin and Berdyaev. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986.Davy, M.-M. Nicolas Berdyaev: Man of the Eighth Day. Translated by Leonora Siepman. London: Bles, 1967.Lowrie, Donald A. Rebellious Prophet: A Life of Nicolai Berdyaev. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1974.McLachlan, James M. The Desire to Be God: Freedom and the Other in Sartre and Berdyaev. New York: Peter Lang, 1992.Shragin, Boris, and Albert Todd, eds. Landmarks: A Collection of Essays on the Russian Intelligentsia, 1909. Translated by Marian Schwartzed. New York: Karz Howard, 1977.Slaatte, Howard Alexander. Personality, Spirit, and Ethics: The Ethics of Nicholas Berdyaev. New York: Peter Lang, 1997.Slaatte, Howard Alexander. Time, Existence, and Destiny: Nicholas Berdyaev’s Philosophy of Time. New York: P. Lang, 1988.Vallon, Michel A. An Apostle of Freedom: Life and Teachings of Nicolas Berdyaev. New York: Philosophical Library, 1960.Wernham, James C. S. Two Russian Thinkers: An Essay in Berdyaev and Shestov. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968.
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