Vasilii Rozanov

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Rozanov, Vasilii Vasil’evich

 

Born Apr. 20 (May 2), 1856, in Vetluga; died Feb. 5, 1919, in Sergiev posad, now Zagorsk. Russian religious philosopher, literary critic, and publicist.

Rozanov graduated from the faculty of history and philology at Moscow University. Between 1880 and 1893 he taught in Gymnasiums in Simbirsk, Elets, Belyi, and Viaz’ma. His first book, On the Understanding: An Attempt to Study the Nature, Boundaries, and Internal Structure of Science as Integrated Knowledge (1886), a variant of the Hegelian analysis of science, was not successful. It contained, however, the seeds of Rozanov’s later mystical theism. Rozanov’s literary and philosophical study F. M. Dostoevsky’s Legend of the Grand Inquisitor (1891) was widely read. It was the basis for later interpretations of Dostoevsky as a religious thinker made by N. A. Berdiaev, S. N. Bulgakov, and others with whom Rozanov discussed religious and philosophical questions at meetings held from 1901 to 1903.

In the late 1890’s, Rozanov became prominent as a journalist propounding late Slavophile views. He contributed to the journals Russkii vestnik (Russian Herald) and Russkoe obozrenie (The Russian Review) and became a leading writer for Novoe vremia (New Times). His articles provoked sharp criticism from revolutionary Marxists (see V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 25, p. 172). Rozanov’s conscious lack of principles and the ambiguity of his pronouncements were condemned by liberals. Nevertheless, although he usually wrote from a chauvinistic standpoint, Rozanov did not consistently advocate retaining the old way of life. His articles “The Twilight of Enlightenment” (1893) and “Aphorisms and Observations” (1894) sharply criticized the school system in Russia. The book When the Authorities Left (1910) sympathetically described the ferment among the masses during the Russian Revolution of 1905–07.

Rozanov’s collections Religion and Culture (1899) and Nature and History (1900) sought to resolve the social and philosophical problems of church religiosity. His relationship to the Orthodox Church, as seen in Around the Church Walls (vols. 1–2, 1906), remained profoundly contradictory. Attempting to adapt Orthodoxy to the demands of modern life and make it into a revived “life force” cult, Rozanov demanded a review of Christian attitudes toward sexual and family relationships in his controversial book The Family Question in Russia (vols. 1–2, 1903). In Dark Visage: The Metaphysics of Christianity (1911) and People of the Moonlight (1911), Rozanov separated himself from Christianity over the matter of sex, contrasting the Old Testament, which he viewed as an affirmation of the life of the flesh, to the New Testament.

In his works, Rozanov strove for extreme emotional saturation. The books Solitaria (1912), A Mortal (1913), and Fallen Leaves (parts 1–2, 1913–15) constitute a collection of heterogeneous essay-like sketches, cursory speculations, diary entries, and inner dialogues, all similar in viewpoint. Rozanov’s pronouncements on religion, philosophy, history, and literature, interspersed with sketches of daily life, reveal a deep spiritual crisis that cannot be resolved by unconditional acceptance of Christian dogmas, although Rozanov strove in vain for such faith. He remained a pessimist and an existential subjective idealist in the spirit of Kierkegaard, from whom, however, Rozanov differed in his cult of the individual realizing himself through sex. Rozanov’s pessimism with regard to history was fully expressed in his sketches The Apocalypse of Our Time (fascs. 1–10, 1917). In these works he despairingly accepted the inevitability of the revolutionary catastrophe, which he considered the tragic conclusion of Russian history.

WORKS

Literaturnye ocherki. St. Petersburg, 1899.
V mire neiasnogo i nereshennogo. St. Petersburg, 1901.
Dekadenty. St. Petersburg, 1904.
Ital’ianskie vpechatleniia. St. Petersburg, 1909.
Voina 1914 i russkoe vozrozhdenie, 2nd ed. Petrograd, 1915.
“Iz poslednikh list’ev: Apokaliptika russkoi literatury.” Knizhnyi ugol, 1918, no. 5.
Izbrannoe. New York, 1956.

REFERENCES

Griftsov, B. Tri myslitelia. Moscow, 1911.
Shklovskii, V. “Rozanov.” In Siuzhet kak iavlenie stilia. Petrograd, 1921.
Gollerbakh, E. V. V. Rozanov: Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Petrograd, 1922.
Istoriia filosofii v SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1971.
Leskovec, P. Basilio Rozanov e la sua concezione religiosa. Rome, 1958.
Rozanov. London, 1962.

V. S. MURAV’EV