The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(god-seeking), a religious and philosophic movement among the Russian liberal intelligentsia. It arose in the atmosphere of imminent social transformations of the prerevolutionary period and became widespread after the defeat of the Revolution of 1905–07. The bogoiskatel’stvo movement proposed to reconstruct contemporary forms of civil existence and human life on the basis of a renewed Christianity. Representatives of the movement— N. Berdiaev, S. Bulgakov, D. Merezhkovskii, Z. Hippius, N. Minskii, D. Filosofov, and others—were grouped mainly around the Religious-Philosophical Society; they also published the journals Novyi Put’ (New Way; St. Petersburg, 1903–04), Voprosy zhizni (Problems of Life; St. Petersburg, 1905), and Vesy (Scales; Moscow, 1904–09). One of the sources of the bogoiskatel’stvo movement’s world view was V. Solov’ev’s philosophy of absolute unity. Members of the movement spoke critically of official Orthodoxy, observing that “sexual life, social life, all the beauty of world culture, art, and science function at a pole opposed to the religious consciousness of historical Christianity” (N. Berdiaev, Sub specie aeternitatis . . . , St. Petersburg, 1907, p. 347); they developed the theory of a “new religious consciousness” directed toward the establishment of “the kingdom of god on earth.” The god-seekers preached that existence is tragic, that in it death and destruction reign supreme and contradict the absolute dignity and values of the individual. They regarded the resurrection of Christ, perceived as an authentic historical fact, in its quality as a guarantee of man’s victory over death and of his resurrection in the flesh, thus finding god in his own soul. The bogoiskatel’stvo movement was hostile to Marxism, which, its members affirmed, sacrifices the individual for the sake of general equality and fraternity and subordinates the individual to the tyranny of social organization. Marxists subjected the movement to a critique for its interpretation of freedom and its denial of the meaning of the class struggle and evaluated it as a reactionary, subjective, and mystical theory. V. I. Lenin wrote that the god-seekers spoke out “against the extremes of clericalism and police guardianship, but for the strengthening of the influence of religion on the masses, for replacing, if you will, some methods for the stupefication of the people, too crude . . .—by more refined and perfected methods” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17, pp. 434–35).

The bogoiskatel’stvo movement was diffused among the philosophic and artistic intelligentsia—the decadents and symbolists of the so-called older generation. After the defeat of the Revolution of 1905–07, many of the movement’s adherents actively developed the antirevolutionary ideology of the collection Signposts. The bogoiskatel’stvo movement was one of the sources of religious philosophy, existentialism, and personalism in Russian emigré and Western philosophical literature.


Lenin, V. I. “Materializm i empiriokrititsizm.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 18.
Lenin, V. I. “Klassy i partii v ikh otnoshenii k religii i tserkvi.” Ibid., vol. 17.
Lenin, V. I. “Priemy bor’by burzhuaznoi intelligentsii protiv rabochikh.” Ibid., vol. 25.
Plekhanov, G. V. “O tak nazyvaemykh religioznykh iskaniiakh v Rossii.” Soch., vol. 17. Moscow [1924].
Istoriia filosofii, vol. 5. Moscow, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.