Lev Platonovich 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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.