Nikolai Berdyaev
1874 - 1948

50th Anniversary of Berdyaev's Death

Fifty Years ago, 23 March 1948, died N A Berdyaev. Den' Prestavlenia Berdiaeva!

The world was far different a world 50 years ago, but the writings and the thought of Berdyaev remain so very relevant today as then, striving to define the human person in meonic freedom in the image of God, without compromise, and without intellectual betrayal of the dignity of God nor of man.

For some of us at least, he has deeply touched our lives, and even affected our personal destinies, myself included. He remains a vital link to the dynamic currents of Russian thought of the XIX Century, as we ourselves face the threshhold of a new century, and indeed a new millenium, and the tasks of passing on to the future generation that which is truly precious in our own. To read Berdyaev, and follow out his extensive sources, ancient and modern, churchly and secular, is to fill in various lacunae and gaps in our our ostenstible educations.

Speaking as an Orthodox (Pravoslavni) priest, but reflecting only of my own opinion, the Russian Religio-Philosophical thought of which Berdyaev was part, was a leavening and a deepening of Church life, of Christian integrity and integrality of faith, beyond the superficial formalism and nominalism, and sometimes shallow fanaticism, that so often obtains in Church life. The retrenchment of the Church under Sainted Patriarch Tikhon was necessary in the face of Revolution-fanned persecutions, and God bless Patriarchs Sergei, Alexei, and Pimen with Memory Eternal. But the Revolution cut short so many possibilities of positive changes that blossomed at the turn of the century, including the Church and the long-awaited great Sobor, blossoms cut short from fruition by the Revolution; Berdyaev was one of these precious blossoms. And engranted onto the West by exile, he came to fruition. Exile even seems a long-standing Russian tradition.

Berdyaev is often faulted for his emphasis on propheticism, in the Church. Bolshevism in the past, and perhaps Americanism at present, seems bent upon turning the Church into "museums" -- "museums" being places filled with dead stuff; the Bolsheviks of ocurse failed. But too often Church people do what outside forces cannot, relegating the Church to museum-status in thought and life. The most notorious article of Berdyaev was "Quenchers of the Spirit" ("Gasiteli Dukha"), which nearly got him exiled permanently to Siberia, and which is quite interesting as an historical reflection of the extreme dichotomy within the Church between the "official Church" and the Church of the "startsi". This dichotomy within Orthodoxy has always existed within Orthodoxy, but rarely so extreme as in Russia prior to the Revolution. And in America, we have not this problem, since we have no "startsi". But Berdyaev's title is directly based on Scripture without specifiying -- (1 Thes. 5: 19) "Quench not the Spirit", followed by 5: 20 "Despise not prophesyings"; and these passages are among Paul's exhortations which serve as the basis of the Jesus Prayer, "Pray unceasingly" (5: 17). The "Gasiteli Dukha" is among hitherto untranslated Berdyaev articles we hope to post here in future.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Berdyaev's Repose, I have revised and updated with additions the Berdyaev Bibliography of English Works.

Vo blazhennom ouspenii vechnyi pokoi podazhd', Gospodi, ousopshemu rabu Tvoemu Nikolaiu, i sotvori emu vechnuiu pamyat'. Vechnaya Pamyat'!

Grant rest eternal in blessed falling-asleep, O Lord, unto Thine departed servant Nikolai, and make for him memory eternal. Memory Eternal!

Fr Stephen Janos (


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Last revised: March 2, 2000