Vladimir Solovyov (philosopher)

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Vladimir Solovyov
Born (1853-01-28)January 28, 1853
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died August 13, 1900(1900-08-13) (aged 47)
Uzkoye, Moscow Governorate, Russian Empire
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Russian philosophy
School Platonism, Christian mysticism, Russian symbolism
Notable ideas
Revived and expanded the idea of Sophia, the feminine manifestation of Divine Wisdom, in Orthodox theology

Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov[a] (Russian: Влади́мир Серге́евич Соловьёв; January 28 [O.S. January 16] 1853 – August 13 [O.S. July 31] 1900) was a Russian philosopher, theologian, poet, pamphleteer, and literary critic. He played a significant role in the development of Russian philosophy and poetry at the end of the 19th century and in the spiritual renaissance of the early 20th century.

Life and work

The son of the historian Sergey Mikhaylovich Solovyov (1820–1879), and the brother of historical novelist Vsevolod Solovyov (1849-1903), he was born in Moscow.[2] His mother Polyxena Vladimirovna belonged to a Polish origin family and had, among her ancestors, the thinker Gregory Skovoroda (1722–1794).[3]

In his teens, Solovyov renounced Eastern Orthodoxy for nihilism, but later,[when?] his disapproval of positivism[4][page needed] saw him begin to express views that were in line with those of the Orthodox Church.[4][page needed] Solovyov studied at the University of Moscow, and his philosophy professor was Pamfil Yurkevich.[5]

In his The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Positivists, Solovyov discredited the positivists' rejection of Aristotle's essentialism, or philosophical realism. In Against the Postivists, he took the position of intuitive noetic comprehension, or insight. He saw consciousness as integral (see the Russian term sobornost) and requiring both phenomenon (validated by dianonia) and noumenon validated intuitively.[4][page needed] Positivism, according to Solovyov, validates only the phenomenon of an object, denying the intuitive reality that people experience as part of their consciousness.[4][page needed] As Solovyov's basic philosophy rests on the idea that the essence of an object (see essentialism) can be validated only by intuition and that consciousness as a single organic whole is done in part by reason or logic but in completeness by (non-dualist) intuition. Soloyvev was partially attempting to reconcile the dualism (subject-object) found in German idealism.

Vladimir Solovyov became a friend and confidant of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881). In opposition to his friend, Solovyov was sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church. He favoured the healing of the schism (ecumenism, sobornost) between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. It is clear from Solovyov's work that he accepted papal primacy over the Universal Church,[6][7][8] but there is not enough evidence, at this time, to support the claim that he ever officially embraced Roman Catholicism.

As an active member of Society for the Promotion of Culture Among the Jews of Russia he spoke Hebrew and struggled to reconcile Judaism and Christianity. Politically he got renowned as the leading defender of Jewish civil rights in tsarist Russia in the 1880s. Solovyov also advocated for his cause internationally and published a letter in London Times pleading for international support for his struggle.[9] Jewish Encyclopedias describe him as a friend of the jews and state that "Even on his death-bed he is said to have prayed for the Jewish people".[10]

Solovyov spent his last years obsessed with the fear of the "Yellow Peril", constantly warning that soon the Asian peoples, especially the Chinese, would invade and destroy Russia.[11] In an 1890 article entitled "China and Europe", in the journal Review, Solovyov wrote that the great struggle of the coming 20th century would be a war between China which was "yellow", "pagan" and completely "evil" vs. the Europe which was "white", "Christian" and completely "good".[11] After the victories of the Japanese during the First Sino-Japanese war in 1894-95, Solovyov added Japan to the list of Asian nations that were allegedly menacing Russia.[11] Solovyov's fear of Asians was most vividly expressed in his 1894 poem Pan-Mongolism, where he wrote:

From the Altai to Malaysian shores
The leaders of Eastern isles
Have gathered a host of regiments
By China’s defeated walls.
Countless as locusts
And as ravenous,
Shielded by an unearthly power
The tribes move north.
O Rus’! Forget your former glory:
The two-headed eagle is ravaged,
And your tattered banners passed
Like toys among yellow children.
He who neglects love’s legacy,
Will be overcome by trembling fear
And the third Rome will fall to dust,
Nor will there ever be a fourth.[11]

The Third Rome of the poem was Russia, which claimed to be the successor of the Eastern Roman Empire whose emblem of a two-headed black eagle was also adopted as the symbol of the Russian state. The Rus were the Viking tribe that founded the first Russian state in the 9th century, and the term Rus is an archaic, poetical name for Russia.

Solovyov by Ivan Kramskoy, 1885

Solovyov further elaborated on the "Yellow Peril" in his apocalyptic short story "Tale of the Antichrist" published in the Nedelya newspaper on 27 February 1900, where China and Japan join forces to conquer Russia.[11] Solovyov began his story with the epigraph: "Pan Mongolism! The name is monstrous Yet it caresses my ear As if filled with the portent Of a grand divine fate".[11] In his story, the Japanese, after having adopted modern technology following the Meiji Restoration, teach the Chinese modern science and technology, after which a combined Sino-Japanese army conquers Europe.[12] After a long era of occupation, the Europeans rise up, defeat and kill all of the Asians and then establish a "United States of Europe", living together in peace and prosperity as the various European powers have all learned that their real enemy is the Asians, not each other.[12] The Boxer Rebellion in China was seen by many Russians as confirming the accuracy of Solovyov's anti-Asian writings and in the spring and summer of 1900 Solovyov was constantly interviewed by the Russian press about the "Yellow Peril".[13] In an interview shortly before his death in July 1900, Solovyov stated he was very worried about what was happening in China, expressed regret that the Europeans had not joined forces already to stop the "Yellow Peril" and urged that China be partitioned between the various European powers before it was too late.[14] Solovyov attacked those in the Russian intelligentsia who saw the British Empire as Russia's principal enemy and prompted the viewpoint that Russia was an Asian nation that should ally with China against Britain.[14] Solovyov insisted that Russia was a European power that should side with its traditional archenemy Britain against what he claimed was the menace of China.[14] Solovyov praised the German Emperor Wilhelm II for his Hunnenrede (Hun speech) calling for German troops be sent to China to behave like "Huns", saying the Kaiser was a "crusader, descendant of a sword-carrying host who in the face of the dragon's power understood that the sword and cross are one".[14] Solovyov expressed absolute agreement with Wilhelm, arguing that in face of the "Yellow Peril", only the most merciless violence could save the white race.[14]

Solovyov never married or had children, but he pursued idealized relationships as immortalized in his spiritual love poetry, including with two women named Sophia.[15] He rebuffed the advances of mystic Anna Schmidt, who claimed to be his divine partner.[16]


It is widely held that Solovyov was one of the sources for Dostoyevsky's characters Alyosha Karamazov and Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov.[17] Solovyov's influence can also be seen in the writings of the Symbolist and Neo-Idealist writers of the later Russian Soviet era. His book The Meaning of Love can be seen as one of the philosophical sources of Leo Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata (1889). It was also the work in which he introduced the concept of 'syzygy', to denote 'close union'.[18]

He influenced the religious philosophy of Nicolas Berdyaev, Sergey Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Lossky, Semyon Frank, brothers Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy and Evgenii Nikolaevich Trubetskoy, the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, and the poetry and theory of Russian Symbolists (Andrei Belyi, Alexander Blok, Solovyov's nephew, and others). Hans Urs von Balthasar explores his work as one example of seven lay styles, which reveal the glory of God's revelation, in volume III of The Glory of the Lord (pp. 279–352).


Solovyov compiled a philosophy based on Hellenistic philosophy (see Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus) and early Christian tradition with Buddhism and Hebrew Kabbalistic elements (Philo of Alexandria). He also studied Gnosticism and the works of the Gnostic Valentinus.[19] His religious philosophy was syncretic and fused philosophical elements of various religious traditions with Orthodox Christianity and his own experience of Sophia.

Solovyov described his encounters with the entity Sophia in his works, such as Three Encounters and Lectures on Godmanhood. His fusion was driven by the desire to reconcile and/or unite with Orthodox Christianity the various traditions by the Russian Slavophiles' concept of sobornost. His Russian religious philosophy had a very strong impact on the Russian Symbolist art movements of his time.[19] His teachings on Sophia, conceived as the merciful unifying feminine wisdom of God comparable to the Hebrew Shekinah or various goddess traditions,[20] have been deemed a heresy by Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and as unsound and unorthodox by the Patriarchate of Moscow.[21]


Vladimir Solovyov by Nikolai Yaroshenko, 1892

Solovyov sought to create a philosophy that could through his system of logic or reason reconcile all bodies of knowledge or disciplines of thought, and fuse all conflicting concepts into a single system. The central component of this complete philosophic reconciliation was the Russian Slavophile concept of sobornost (organic or spontaneous order through integration, which is related to the Russian word for 'catholic'). Solovyov sought to find and validate common ground, or where conflicts found common ground, and, by focusing on this common ground, to establish absolute unity and/or integral[22] fusion of opposing ideas and/or peoples.[23]


Solovyov died at the Moscow estate of Nikolai Petrovitch Troubetzkoy, where a relative of the latter, Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy, was living. Solovyov was apparently a homeless pauper in 1900. He left his brother, Mikhail Sergeevich, and several colleagues to defend and promote his intellectual legacy. He is buried at Novodevichy Convent.


"But if the faith communicated by the Church to Christian humanity is a living faith, and if the grace of the sacraments is an effectual grace, the resultant union of the divine and the human cannot be limited to the special domain of religion, but must extend to all Man's common relationships and must regenerate and transform his social and political life."[24]


See also


  1. ^ The name Solovyov derives from "соловей", "solovey", Nightingale in Russian.



  1. ^ The Meaning of Love, p. 20
  2. ^ Dahm 1975, p. 219.
  3. ^ Kornblatt 2009, pp. 12, 22.
  4. ^ a b c d Lossky 1951.
  5. ^ Valliere 2007, p. 35.
  6. ^ Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, Russia and the Universal Church, trans. William G. von Peters (Chatanooga, TN: Catholic Resources, 2013).
  7. ^ Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, The Russian Church and the Papacy: An Abridgment of Russia and the Universal Church, ed. Ray Ryland (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2001).
  8. ^ Ryland, Ray (2003). "Soloviev's Amen: A Russian Orthodox Argument for the Papacy". Crisis. Vol. 21 no. 10. pp. 35–38. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  9. ^ Solovyov, Vladimir, The Burning Bush - Writings on Jews and Judaism ISBN 978-0-268-02989-0
  10. ^ http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13907-solovyev-vladimir-sergeyevich
  11. ^ a b c d e f Eskridge-Kosmach 2014, p. 662.
  12. ^ a b Eskridge-Kosmach 2014, p. 663.
  13. ^ Eskridge-Kosmach 2014, pp. 663–664.
  14. ^ a b c d e Eskridge-Kosmach 2014, p. 664.
  15. ^ Solovyov 2008.
  16. ^ Cioran 1977, p. 71.
  17. ^ Zouboff, Peter, Solovyov on Godmanhood: Solovyov's Lectures on Godmanhood Harmon Printing House: Poughkeepsie, New York, 1944; see Milosz 1990.
  18. ^ Jacobs 2001, p. 44.
  19. ^ a b Carlson 1996.
  20. ^ Powell 2007, p. 70.
  21. ^ OCA labels Sophianism of Solovyov as heresy
  22. ^ Kostalevsky 1997.
  23. ^ Lossky 1951, pp. 81–134.
  24. ^ Olson, Matthew (12 November 2013). "Minding the Monarchical Church". Ignitum Today. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 

Works cited

Carlson, Maria (1996). "Gnostic Elements in the Cosmogony of Vladimir Soloviev". In Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch; Gustafson, Richard F. Russian Religious Thought. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 49–67. ISBN 978-0-299-15134-8. 
Cioran, Samuel (1977). Vladimir Solov’ev and the Knighthood of the Divine Sophia. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 
Dahm, Helmut (1975). Vladimir Solovyev and Max Scheler: Attempt at a Comparative Interpretation. Sovietica. 34. Translated by Wright, Kathleen. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. ISBN 978-90-277-0507-5. 
Eskridge-Kosmach, Alena (2014). "Russian Press and the Ideas of Russia's 'Special Mission in the East' and 'Yellow Peril'". Journal of Slavic Military Studies. 27 (4): 661–675. doi:10.1080/13518046.2014.963440. ISSN 1556-3006. 
Jacobs, Alan (2001). "Bakhtin and the Hermeneutics of Love". In Felch, Susan M.; Contino, Paul J. Bakhtin and Religion. Rethinking Theory. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. pp. 25–46. ISBN 978-0-8101-1825-6. 
Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch (2009). Divine Sophia: The Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov. Ithica, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-7479-8. 
Kostalevsky, Marina (1997). Dostoevsky and Soloviev: The Art of Integral Vision. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-06096-6. 
Lossky, N. O. (1951). History of Russian Philosophy. New York: International Universities Press (published 1970). ISBN 978-0-8236-8074-0. 
Milosz, Czeslaw (1990). Introduction. War, Progress and the End of History: Three Conversations, Including a Short Story of the Anti-Christ. By Solovyov, Vladimir. Hudson, New York: Lindisfarne Press. ISBN 978-1-58420-212-7. 
Powell, Robert (2007) [2001]. The Sophia Teachings: The Emergence of the Divine Feminine in Our Time. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Lindisfarne Books. ISBN 978-1-58420-048-2. 
Solovyov, Vladimir (2008). Jakim, Boris, ed. The Religious Poetry of Vladimir Solovyov. Translated by Jakim, Boris; Magnus, Laury. San Rafael, California: Semantron Press. ISBN 978-1-59731-279-0. 
Valliere, Paul (2007). "Vladimir Soloviev (1853–1900)". In Witte, John, Jr.; Alexander, Frank S. The Teachings of Modern Orthodox Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-14264-9. 

Further reading

du Quenoy, Paul. "Vladimir Solov’ev in Egypt: The Origins of the ‘Divine Sophia’ in Russian Religious Philosophy," Revolutionary Russia, 23: 2, December 2010.
Finlan, Stephen. "The Comedy of Divinization in Soloviev," Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology (Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock, 2006), pp. 168–183.
Gerrard, Thomas J. "Vladimir Soloviev – The Russian Newman," The Catholic World, Vol. CV, April/September, 1917.
Groberg, Kristi. "Vladimir Sergeevich Solov'ev: a Bibliography," Modern Greek Studies Yearbook, vol.14–15, 1998.
Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch. "Vladimir Sergeevich Solov’ev," Dictionary of Literary Bibliography, v295 (2004), pp. 377–386.
Mrówczyński-Van Allen, Artur. Between the Icon and the idol. The Human Person and the Modern State in Russian Literature and Thought - Chaadayev, Soloviev, Grossman (Cascade Books, /Theopolitical Visions/, Eugene, Or., 2013).
Nemeth, Thomas. The Early Solov'ëv and His Quest for Metaphysics. Springer, 2014. ISBN 978-3-319-01347-3 [Print]; ISBN 978-3-319-01348-0 [eBook]
Stremooukhoff, Dimitrii N. Vladimir Soloviev and his Messianic Work (Paris, 1935; English translation: Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1980).
Sutton, Jonathan. The Religious Philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov: Towards a Reassessment (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1988).
Zernov, Nicholas. Three Russian prophets (London: SCM Press, 1944).

External links

  • Works by or about Vladimir Solovyov at Internet Archive
  • Works by Vladimir Solovyov at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900) – entry on Solovyov at Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/readings/end/antichrist.shtml
  • ALEXANDER II AND HIS TIMES: A Narrative History of Russia in the Age of Alexander II, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky Several chapters on Solovyov
  • http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/s/solovyov.htm
  • http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/soloviev/soloviev.html
  • http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/soloviev/biffi.html (address by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi)
  • http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9068629/Vladimir-Sergeyevich-Solovyov
  • http://www.valley.net/~transnat/solsoc.html
  • Tale of the Anti-Christ at the Wayback Machine (archived January 12, 2006) – excerpt from Three Conversations by Solovyov
  • Civil Society and National Religion: Problems of Church, State, and Society in the Philosophy of Vladimir Solov'ëv (1853–1900) – research project at Centre for Russian Humanities Studies, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
  • http://rumkatkilise.org/necplus.htm
  • English translations of 5 poems, including 8 of 18 acrostics from the cycle "Sappho"
  • English translations of 2 poems by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky, 1921
  • "The Positive Unity: How Solovyov’s Ethics Can Contribute to Constructing a Working Model for Business Ethics in Modern Russia" by Andrey V. Shirin
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