Ivan Kireevskii

Kireevskii, Ivan Vasil’evich


Born Mar. 22 (Apr. 3), 1806, in Moscow; died June 11 (23), 1856, in St. Petersburg. Russian idealist philosopher, literary critic, and publicist. With A. S. Khomiakov, founder of Slavophilism.

Kireevskii was descended from an old noble family and was the brother of P. V. Kireevskii. In 1822 he began attending lectures at Moscow University, subsequently joining the society of the liubomudry (lovers of wisdom) and coming under the influence of German idealist philosophy. Kireevskii attracted literary notice with his article “Some Remarks on the Nature of Pushkin’s Poetry” (1828). In “A Survey of Russian Literature in 1829” he described the stages of the development of Russian literature of the early 19th century and pointed out the realistic tendencies of the most recent, or “Pushkin,” period. In 1830 Kireevskii went to Germany, where he attended the lectures of the philosophers F. Schleiermacher, G. Hegel, F. W. von Schelling, and C. Ritter. Returning to Russia, he began publishing the journal Evropeets (The European) in 1832, attracting to it the foremost men of letters, including A. S. Pushkin. The journal was suppressed after the second issue, in part because Nicholas I regarded Kireevskii’s article “The Nineteenth Century” as propaganda for a constitution. Subsequently Kireevskii devoted himself almost exclusively to theoretical problems. Beginning in the early 1840’s he played a part in elaborating Slavophile doctrines. In 1845 he edited the first three issues of the journal Moskvitianin (The Muscovite).

Kireevskii’s principal published works are About the Character of European Education and Its Bearing on Education in Russia (1852) and On the Necessity and Possibility of New Principles for Philosophy (1856). In these works he contrasted the traditions of Plato and Eastern Christian “speculation” (Eastern patristic writings)—from which a Russian philosophy ought to evolve—with the philosophy of Hegel, which he regarded as the culmination of Western European rationalism, derived from Catholic Scholasticism and Aristotle. The premise of this distinctive Russian philosophy was the individual’s spiritual and moral wholeness, expressed in religious faith, and its goal was “the thinking development . . . of the relation of faith to contemporary culture” (Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 1, Moscow, 1911, pp. 271, 253). Kireevskii considered the abandonment of religious principles and the loss of spiritual wholeness, particularly the separation of man’s cognitive and moral forces, to be the source of the crisis of European education and of the ascendancy of abstract thought in idealist philosophy. He held that Russia’s assimilation of the achievements of European education, “the mature fruit of the development of all mankind,” must be accompanied by a reinterpretation of these achievements in the light of Orthodox doctrine, which had preserved the truth of Christianity in its pure form. This, according to Kireevskii, was the new principle that Russia was destined to bring into world history; he sought the sources of this principle in the character of ancient Russian social life. He propounded a conservative, Utopian ideal of universal Orthodox Christian culture, which embodied “the entire intellectual development of the contemporary world” (ibid., p. 271), and did not take into account the concrete social and political conditions of mid-19th century Russia. Kireevskii influenced the development of Russian idealist philosophy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Poln. sobr. soch., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1911.


Liaskovskii, V. Brat’ia Kireevskie. St. Petersburg, 1899.
Lushnikov, A.G. I. V. Kireevskii. Kazan, 1918.
Mann, Iu. “Put’ Ivana Kireevskogo.” In Russkaia filosofskaia estetika. Moscow, 1969.
Galaktionov, A. A., and P. F. Nikandrov. Russkaia filosofiia 11–19 vekov. Leningrad, 1970. Pages 237–43.
Müller, E. Russischer Intellekt in europäischer Krise: Ivan V. Kireevsky (1806–1856). Cologne-Graz, 1966. (Bibliography.)
Goerdt, W. Vergöttlichung und Gesellschaft: Studien zur Philosophie von I. V. Kireevskij. Wiesbaden, 1968.
Gleason, A. European and Muscovite: Ivan Kireevsky and the origins of Slavophilism. Cambridge, Mass., 1972.