The Life and Thought of Lev Karsavin

"Strength made perfect in weakness…"

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“At last, Russia has begun to speak in a truly original voice.” So said Anatoly Vaneev, a Soviet dissident who became Karsavin’s disciple in the Siberian gulag where the philosopher spent his last two years. The book traces the unusual trajectory of this inspiring voice: Karsavin started his career as Russia’s brightest historian of Catholic mysticism; however, his radical methods – which were far ahead of their time – shocked his conservative colleagues. The shock continued when Karsavin turned to philosophy, writing flamboyant and dense essays in a polyphonic style, which both Marxists and religious traditionalists found provocative. There was no let-up after he was expelled by Lenin from Soviet Russia: in exile, he became a leading theorist in the Eurasian political movement, combining Orthodox theology with a left-wing political orientation. Finally, Karsavin found stability when he was invited to teach history in Lithuania: there he spent twenty years reworking his philosophy, before suffering the German and Soviet invasions of his new homeland, and then deportation and death. Clearing away misunderstandings and putting the work and life in context, this book shows how Karsavin made an original contribution to European philosophy, inter-religious dialogue, Orthodox and Catholic theology, and the understanding of history.

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Dominic Rubin holds degrees in Hebrew (BA) and linguistics (PhD) from Oxford and London Universities; he has taught philosophy, history, theology and Hebrew for nine years in Russia at The Higher School of Economics and St Philaret’s Orthodox Christian Institute. He is the author of numerous articles on Russian Orthodoxy, Russian philosophy, and Jewish-Christian relations in the Russian context, as well as of the book Holy Russia, Sacred Israel: Jewish-Christian encounters in Russian religious thought (Academic Studies Press, 2010). Currently, he teaches courses on religion and history in Russia and Eurasia at Dickinson College, USA.
”very thorough… Rubin’s book is an admirable contribution to the scholarly literature on Russian religious philosophy.” in: The Russian Review, Vol. 72, No. 4, October 2013
List of Diagrams
Preface
The Making of a Metaphysical Historian
Prelude: Who was Lev Karsavin?
Early life (1882–1901)
Scholarly beginnings and first crisis (1902–1915)
The Foundations of Medieval Religiosity (1915–1916)
Karsavin, historical Christianity and FMR
A Theology Unfolds
The Petrograd years (1917–1922): “I have singed my wings . . .”
The roots of all-unity (1): Catholicism and Revelation of the Blessed Angela
The roots of all-unity (2): Nicholas of Cusa
The early essays (1919–1922)
Conclusion
The Flames of Love and Knowledge
Noctes Petropolitanae: love and temptation
Expulsion
On First Principles (1921–1925)
Conclusion
The Symphonic Face of Lev Karsavin: From History to Politics
Bread, butter and—metaphysics in exile (1924–1926)
The Philosophy of History (1921–1923)
Karsavin and the Eurasian movement (1926–1930)
Conclusion
Personhood as the True Countenance of Being
The move to Lithuania
On Personhood (1928)
The correspondence with Wetter (1940)
“Strength made perfect in weakness . . .”
From occupation to deportation (1940–1949)
Karsavin’s Lithuanian and camp works
Coda: Karsavin’s years in Abez and Anatoly Vaneev (1950–1952)
Epilogue: Karsavin Today
Prelude
Eastern and Western theology yesterday and today
Conclusion
Bibliography
Works by Lev Karsavin
Works by Other Authors
Abbreviations for Selected Works by Karsavin
Appendix: Karsavin’s Poem on Death (1931)
Index