Ivan Ilyin: The philosophy of monarchist and pious in the XXI century (Part 2 – On Revolution 1917)

A large place in philosophy of Ivan Ilyin has been taken by the discussion over the reasons and effects of Russian revolution. In February 1917 Ilyin hoped that the revolution would save his country from decay. He even supported the Provisional Government and was proponent of the convocation of the Constituent Assembly. The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks led to a sharp change in Ilyin’s attitude to revolution, within   his   religious-philosophical   worldview.   The   collapse   of   the   state,   terror, lawlessness and arbitrariness, the bloody utopianism of the new government forced     Ilyin to rethink phenomenon of revolution in Russia.

Ivan Ilyin claimed that Russian revolution 1917 was a catastrophe not only for Russia itself, but for the whole world and humanity; a great state-political, national and spiritual collapse. The germs of Russian revolution were laid down in Europe decades before its destructive force struck the Russian monarchical regime. Soviet communism was an outcome of the efforts of people from the West, who, as Dostoyevski said, knew nothing about Russia and neither saw its uniqueness, nor understood its national goals.

In his discussion on revolution, Ilyin tries to find an answer to the question of why Russia was destined for such a fate. Talking about the reasons of revolution, philosopher is  in search for an answer to the question “why?”  from  national-historical perspective, pays attention to the importance of historical understanding of the reasons. Among those he underlined country’s geographical position and conditions, heterogeneity of  tribes,  specialness  of  language and mode of  life,  Mongol-Tatar  yoke, “Europe’s contempt and predatory invasions from Asia”, thieving and wry behavior of Russian people themselves – the complex of these determined weakness and backwardness in development of country and nation. Although the revolution itself has been imported from Western Europe, all these reasons made it impossible for Russia to resist the “external enemy” – Russian society simply did not had the “immunity” – a strong social resistance and maturity of Russian national character and consciousness.

Ivan Ilyin paid special attention to the formation of legal consciousness/sense of justice, especially  that  of  the  new,  strong-willed  elite  –  the  future  ruling  Russian  stratum.  Ilyin believed that “The revolution is born in the country not at the moment of street movements, but at the moment when confidence in the authorities begins to waver in the souls”. The decay of “sense of justice inevitably seizes honor and conscience, kills the sense of knowing the limits and justice, quenches faith and religion. The people become victims of spiritual nihilism”.

Russian revolutionaries did not understand the pillars of Western democracy, as well as they couldn’t understand the statehood of their motherland. They ignored the fact that Russian national legal consciousness and statehood is based upon the Russian people’s Orthodox faith and faith to Tsar and used only people tiredness from the poverty and protest. As Ilyin put it, revolutionaries did not see the dangers that were laid for Russia in country itself – incapacity of people’s spirit to take an active and responsible role in the building of their own state. Russian people, Ilyin believed, were not ready for the political freedom, thus, could only misuse it rather than appreciate.

For Ilyin, Russian Revolution was an insanity for all the stratums of society: peasantry, industrial proletariat, merchants, and the greatest insanity of Russian intelligentsia: “Russian intelligentsia idealized something that was alien; instead of putting efforts to understand the life and character of its nation, they ‘dreamed’; were proponents of political maximalism and aimed at being politically equal to Europe or even greater”.

Russian Revolution became a great tragedy, through which, according to Ivan Ilyin, a new Russian national character rooted in the Christ has to emerge and develop; Russian national spirit has to be cleansed through the sufferings and humiliation, because sufferings are given to people by God not for their sins, but for inspiration and transformation: Russian spirit has to be freed from “slavery” and a shift towards civil, free, legal consciousness to take place.

Ivan Ilyin’ concept of revolution is not limited to a political discourse, but is discussed from an unusual perspective of a “religious sense” that reflects philosopher’s ambiguous perceptions of the phenomenon. Those have changed from positive and hopeful to extremely negative and destructive for the national existence, but still with

The imprints of “divine” providence. The complexity of the phenomenon of Russian revolution, surely, cannot be deducted to the thoughts of national character cleansing and faith in God, but this analysis still has the right to exist, although, should not drop a shadow on the basic theoretical arguments of the nature of revolution.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button