The aim of this article is to grasp the complicated situation of Church, religion, and theology in contemporary Russia and Ukraine. While the disappearance of the Soviet system has created a situation of freedom, in which a variety of churches and religious organizations can deploy their activities to an extent unimaginable a mere ten years ago, it also has left behind a social and political wasteland, in which a so-called ‘civil society’ is only beginning to develop. The greatest challenge today, both for the citizenry at large and for religious groups, seems to be a recognition of this situation as a ‘normal’ state of society, rather than as a vacuum waiting to be filled in by new hierarchical structures. This challenge presents itself with particular urgency to the strongest religious organization, the Russian Orthodox Church. The traditional, ‘national’ Church of Russia (in the broad sense, including Ukraine), but at the same time attracting only a small proportion of the post-Soviet populace, is a structure in which many initiatives flourish, exemplified here by the field of theology teaching, but which also tends to seek mutual support with the weakly developed state structure.
Russian philosophy is usually treated, in scholarly literature, as a special case: it neither fits into the model of ethno-philosophy, because it has its roots in classical Greek philosophy and Byzantine patristics, nor can it be included in an account of Western philosophy, because it obviously took a different course of development. Additionally, it contains a tradition of claims to specificity and superiority. During the Soviet period, the imposition of an official Marxist-Leninist philosophy, with its own claim to superiority, led to the intellectual isolation of philosophical thought in Russia. It is argued, in this paper, that the best way to approach the phenomenon of Russian philosophy is through the notion of “philosophical culture” as the space where a plurality of philosophical traditions coexist, depending of course on political, social, and economic circumstances.
Merab Mamardashvili was not a political philosopher in the conventional sense of that label: he did not write extensively on political-philosophical topics and, for obvious reasons, actively avoided politics during most of his career. However, he was keenly aware of the political dimension of his activity as a thinker, and of the fact that his thought-work was a politicum in its own right. His thought contains several elements of a philosophical understanding of the political. In this contribution, these elements will be explored on the basis of some of his later essays, courses, and interviews, as well as the published correspondence between him and the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser.
Vladimir Solov’ëv, informal “founder” of the current of Russian religious philosophy which gained some prominence in the early 20th C with thinkers like N. Berdyaev, S. Frank and S. Bulgakov, based his social and political philosophy as well as his program of “Christian politics” (an attempt to bring the world as close to the Kingdom of God as possible, while steering clear from any idea of “building” God’s Kingdom on Earth) on a series of personal mystical encounters with Sophia, understood by him as, simultaneously, Eternal Femininity, Divine Wisdom and World Soul. The paper argues that this vision remained the foundation of his entire world-view, despite the fact that he initially articulated a more “utopian” vision of a world-encompassing “free theocracy,” while later in his career he elaborated, in Opravdanie dobra [The Justification of the (Moral) Good], a more realistic, but still “ideal-theoretical” vision of a just Christian state. Highlighting the tension between Solov’ëv’s advocacy of a free and plural sphere of public debate and his own “prophetic” position based on privileged access to divine wisdom, the paper ends with a discussion of the intrinsic and unsolvable tension between religion and politics, and with the claim that there is a fundamental opposition between holistic mystical visions and a recognition of the political, understood as the ubiquitous possibility of both conflict and concord among humans.