Lev Karsavin

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Karsavin, Lev Platonovich


Born Dec 1 (13), 1882, in St. Petersburg; died July 12, 1952, in Abez’, Komi ASSR. Russian religious philosopher and medieval historian. Student of I. M. Grevs and brother of T. P. Karsavina.

Karsavin received his training in history at the University of St. Petersburg. In 1912 he was appointed a professor at the St. Petersburg Institute of History and Philology, and in 1916 he began teaching at the University of St. Petersburg. He was exiled abroad in 1922. In 1928 he was appointed a professor at the University of Kaunas, and between 1940 and 1946 he taught at the University of Vilnius.

Under the influence of early Christian teachings (patristic writings and Origen) and 19th-century Russian religious philosophy, particularly that of V. S. Solov’ev, Karsavin sought to create a unified and systematic Christian world view. He interpreted Solov’ev’s category of vseedinstvo (“total-unity”) as a dynamic principle of development, of “growth of being,” and consequently as a fundamental category of the historical process: any existing thing does not so much “exist” as “become” and thus appears as one of the manifestations of total-unity. Interpreted in this manner, historicism becomes a universal principle in Karsavin’s metaphysical system, rendering it in certain respects similar to Hegel’s dialectical process. Other aspects of Karsavin’s system, his epistemology, ethics, and doctrine of personality, rest on this philosophy of history. His early works are based on extensive material taken from historical sources and deal with the history of medieval religious trends and spiritual life in the Middle Ages.


Ocherki religioznoi zhizni v Italii XII–XIII vv. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Osnovy srednevekovoi religioznosti. … St. Petersburg, 1915.
Kul’tura srednikh vekov. St. Petersburg-Moscow, 1914.
Katolichestvo. St. Petersburg, 1918.
Vvedenie v istoriiu. St. Petersburg, 1920.
Vostok, zapad i russkaia ideia. St. Petersburg, 1922.
D. Bruno. Berlin, 1923.
Filosofiia istorii. Berlin, 1923.
O nachalakh. Berlin, 1925.
PerÍ archón: Ideen zur christlichen Metaphysik. Memel, 1928.
O lichnosti. Kaunas, 1929.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
For example, when Losskii wrote in 1952 that Lev Karsavin lived in Vilnius, the latter was actually interned at the camp of Abez.
Lev Karsavin played an important role in the movement: he elaborated its ideology in a great number of articles and brochures; he was in charge of the "Eurasian seminar" in Paris, and he is the presumed author of the movement's manifesto, "Evraziistvo" (Eurasianism).
The life and thought of Lev Karsavin; "strength made perfect in weakness...".
Together with his colleague and friend Lev Karsavin, a noted Russian religious thinker and erudite cultural historian, Sesemann made up the best of Vytautas Magnus University faculty in Kaunas before WWII, exerting a strong intellectual presence in Lithuania and internationalizing the academic life of a small country.
Last but not least, the book offers five valuable appendixes: Sesemann's articles 'Socrates and the Problem of Self-Knowledge' (1925) and 'On the Nature of the Poetic Image' (1925), Lev Karsavin's article 'The Foundations of Politics' (1927) (all three writings translated from Russian into English by Botz-Bornstein), 'A Letter by Henri Parland from Kaunas' (by Sesemann's nephew, the eminent Finnish-Swedish poet Henri Parland [1908-1930]), and a bibliography of Sesemann's works.
In the case of Losskii, though he explicitly rejects the metaphysics of total-unity as proposed by such philosophers as Florenskii and Lev Karsavin, he still subscribes to an organic conception of the world in line with the sophiologists he criticizes.
Remaining chapters explore Eurasianism as a reaction to the rise of pan-Turkism, the role of philosopher Lev Karsavin in the Eurasian movement, theories of absolutism and authority in Eurasian ideology, Polish reactions to Eurasianism in the interwar period, and anti-Semitism in Eurasian historiography (particularly in the writings of Lev Gumilev).