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The Flow of Ideas

Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to the Religious-Philosophical Renaissance


Andrzej Walicki

This history of Russian thought was first published in Polish in 1973 and subsequently appeared 2005 in a revised and expanded publication. The current volume begins with Enlightenment thought and Westernization in Russia in the 17th century and moves to the religious-philosophical renaissance of first decade of the 20th century. This book provides readers with an exhaustive account of relationships between various Russian thinkers with an examination of how those thinkers relate to a number of figures and trends in Western philosophy and in the broader history of ideas.
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Chapter 1: Trends and Tendencies in Enlightenment Thought


Chapter 1Trends and Tendencies in Enlightenment Thought

The development of Enlightenment\ thought in Russia was extended over several decades. Tracing its genesis requires reaching back to the reforms of Peter the Great which had transformed the Muscovite Empire into a Europeanized, Imperial Russia. Among Peter’s closest collaborators were people representing the rationalist culture of the early Enlightenment, such as Teophan Prokopovich (1681–1736), an eminent Church activist and alumnus of the Kiev Academy, and Vasilii Tatishchev (1686–1750), a historian and economic activist. Most historians, however, locate the beginning of a mature Enlightenment in Russia as late as the second-half of the 18th century, marked by the ascendance to the throne of Catherine II (1762–1796).1

One of the main objectives of Peter I’s reforms was to modernize the state as fast and as effectively as possible – in the military, administrative and technological senses. The reformer Tsar did not intend to introduce any new political doctrine in public life – being of a utilitarian frame of mind, he ignored abstract ideas and was not fully aware of the long-term consequences of his own reforms. During his tour of Europe from 1697–1698, he mastered the art of sailing and shipbuilding, as well as such trades as that of a cobbler, barber and dentist. Talking with Patriarch Adrian (in 1700) about the necessity of changes at the Moscow Slavic-Greco-Latin Academy, he entirely omitted religious questions. He just proposed eliminating theology and philosophy from the Academy schedule and...

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