Leontev, Konstantin

Leont’ev, Konstantin Nikolaevich


Born Jan. 13 (25), 1831, in Kudinovo, now in Maloiaroslavets Raion, Kaluga Oblast; died Nov. 12 (24), 1891, in Troitse-Sergiev Posad, now Zagorsk, Moscow Oblast. Russian writer, publicist, and literary critic.

Leont’ev studied in the faculty of medicine at Moscow University and served as a military surgeon during the Crimean War of 1853–56. Between 1863 and 1873 he was a consul in a number of Greek cities. From 1880 to 1887 he was a censor in Moscow. Shortly before his death, he took monastic vows.

Leont’ev was the author of a number of novellas and sketches; L. Tolstoy had high praise for the novella collection From the Life of Christians in Turkey (vols. 1–3, 1876). He achieved fame with his articles on politics and topics in culture and history (the collection The East, Russia, and Slavdom, vols. 1–2, 1885–86) and with his studies in literary criticism—for example, On the Novels of Count L. N. Tolstoy: Analysis, Style, and Spirit (1890) and a study of I. S. Turgenev.

Leont’ev’s world view had a conservative orientation. Anticipating the coming revolutionary upheavals and considering bourgeois liberalism with its “embourgeoisement” of daily life and cult of universal comfort a major threat, Leont’ev preached “Byzantinism” as an organizing principle of state and social life. For Leont’ev “Byzantinism” meant firm monarchial authority, strict observance of religion, the preservation of the peasant commune, and a rigid class and estate division of society. Leont’ev hoped that an alliance between Russia and the East (the Muslim countries, India, Tibet, and China) and political expansion in the Near East in order to convert Russia into the new historical center of the Christian world would brake the process of the “liberalization” of Russia and protect Russia from revolution.

Leont’ev’s cultural and historical theory, formed under the influence of N. Ia. Danilevskii, recognized three stages of cyclical development: primary “simplicity,” “flourishing complexity,” and secondary “simplification” and “mixing together.” Leont’ev viewed these stages as an additional justification for juxtaposing the ideal of a “colorful and variegated” Russia to Western “universal merging” and “universal happiness.”


Sobr. soch., vols. 1–9. Moscow, 1912–13.
“Moia literaturnaia sud’ba: Avtobiografiia.” In Literaturnoe nasledstvo, vols. 22–24. Moscow, 1935.


Pamiati K. N. Leont’eva: Literaturnyi sb. St. Petersburg, 1911.
Bulgakov, S. N. “Pobeditel’-Pobezhdenyyi.” In his book Tikhie dumy. Moscow, 1918.
Berdiaev, N. A. Konstantin Leont’ev. Paris, 1926.
Preobrazhenskii, P. F. “A. Gertsen i K. Leont’ev.” Pechat’ i revoliutsiia, 1922, book 2.
Istoriia filosofii v SSSR, vol. 3. Moscow, 1968.
Ianov, A. L. “Slavianofily i K. Leont’ev.” Voprosy filosofii, 1969, no. 8.
Istoriia russkoi literatury XIX v.: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Edited by K. D. Muratova. Moscow-Leningrad, 1962. Pages 412–14.
Kologrivov, I. von. Von Hellas zum Mönchtum: Leben und Denken K. Leontjews. Berlin, 1948.
Gasparini, E. Le previsioni di Constantino Leont’ev. Venice, 1957.