Biography:Vladimir Solovyov (philosopher)

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Short description: Russian philosopher (1853–1900)
Vladimir Solovyov
VS Solovyov.jpg
Portrait of Vladimir Solovyov, c. 1900
Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov

Died13 August 1900(1900-08-13) (aged 47)
Uzkoye, Moscow Governorate, Russian Empire
Alma materImperial Moscow University
Era19th-century philosophy
RegionRussian philosophy
SchoolChristian philosophy, sophiology, Christian mysticism, Russian symbolism,[1] Russian Schellingianism[2]
ThesisCritique of Abstract Principles (Kritika otvlechennykh nachal) 1880
Main interests
Philosophy of religion
Notable ideas
Reviving and expanded the idea of Sophia

Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov[4] (Russian: Влади́мир Серге́евич Соловьёв; 28 January [O.S. 16 January] 1853 – 13 August [O.S. 31 July] 1900) was a Russian philosopher, theologian, poet, pamphleteer, and literary critic, who played a significant role in the development of Russian philosophy and poetry at the end of the 19th century and in the spiritual renaissance of the early 20th century.

Life and work

V. Solovyov in the 1880s

Vladimir Solovyov was born in Moscow;[5] the second son of the historian Sergey Mikhaylovich Solovyov (1820–1879); his elder brother Vsevolod (1849-1903), became a historical novelist, and his younger sister, Polyxena (1867-1924), became a poet.[6] Vladimir Solovyov's mother Polyxena Vladimirovna (née Romanova, d. 1909) belonged to a family of Polish origin and among her ancestors was the philosopher Gregory Skovoroda (1722–1794).[7]

In his teens, he renounced Eastern Orthodoxy for nihilism, but later[when?] his disapproval of positivism[8][page needed] saw him begin to express views that were in line with those of the Orthodox Church.[8][page needed] From 1869 to 1873 Solovyov studied at the Imperial Moscow University, where his philosophy professor was Pamfil Yurkevich[9] (1826-1874).

In his 1874 work The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Positivists (Russian: Кризис западной философии (против позитивистов), Solovyov discredited the positivists' rejection of Aristotle's essentialism, or philosophical realism. In Against the Positivists he took the position of intuitive noetic comprehension, or insight. He saw consciousness as integral (see the Russian term sobornost) and requiring both phenomenon (validated by dianoia) and noumenon validated intuitively.[8][page needed] Positivism, according to Solovyov, validates only the phenomenon of an object, denying the intuitive reality that people experience as part of their consciousness.[8][page needed] As Solovyov's basic philosophy rests on the idea that the essence of an object (see essentialism) can be validated only by intuition and that consciousness as a single organic whole is done in part by reason or logic but in completeness by (non-dualist) intuition. Solovyov was partially attempting to reconcile the dualism (subject-object) found in German idealism.

V. Soloviev, S. Trubetskoy, N. Grot, L. Lopatin, 1893

In 1877, Solovyov moved to Saint Petersburg, where he became a friend and confidant of the writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881). In opposition to his friend, Solovyov was sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church. He favoured the healing of the schism (ecumenism, sobornost) between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. It is clear from Solovyov's work that he accepted papal primacy over the Universal Church,[10][11][12] but there is not enough evidence, (As of 2022 ), to support the claim that he ever officially embraced Roman Catholicism. As an active member of Society for the Promotion of Culture Among the Jews of Russia, he spoke Hebrew and struggled to reconcile Judaism and Christianity. Politically, he became renowned as the leading defender of Jewish civil rights in tsarist Russia in the 1880s. Solovyov also advocated for his cause internationally and published a letter in The London Times pleading for international support for his struggle.[13] The Jewish Encyclopedia describes him as "a friend of the Jews" and states that "Even on his death-bed he is said to have prayed for the Jewish people".[14]

Portrait of Vladimir Solovyov by Ivan Kramskoy, 1885

Solovyov's attempts to chart a course of civilization's progress toward an East-West Christian ecumenicism developed an increasing bias against Asian cultures - which he had initially studied with great interest. He dismissed the Buddhist concept of Nirvana as a pessimistic nihilistic "nothingness", antithetical to salvation and no better than Gnostic dualism.[15] Solovyov spent his final years obsessed with fear of the "Yellow Peril", warning that soon the Asian peoples, especially the Chinese, would invade and destroy Russia.[16]

Solovyov further elaborated this theme in his apocalyptic short-story "Tale of the Antichrist" (published in the Nedelya newspaper on 27 February 1900), in which China and Japan join forces to conquer Russia.[16] His 1894 poem Pan-Mongolism, whose opening lines serve as epigraph to the story, was widely seen as predicting the coming Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.[17]

Solovyov never married or had children, but he pursued idealized relationships as immortalized in his spiritual love-poetry, including with two women named Sophia.[18] He rebuffed the advances of the Christian mystic Anna Nikolayevna Schmidt (ru), who claimed to be his divine partner.[19] In his later years, Solovyov became a vegetarian, but ate fish occasionally. He often lived alone for months without a servant and would work into the night.[20]


It is widely held that Solovyov was one of the sources for Dostoevsky's characters Alyosha Karamazov and Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov.[21] In Janko Lavrin's opinion, Solovyov has not left a single work which can be considered an epoch-making contribution to philosophy as such.[22]:7 And yet his writings have proved one of the most stimulating influences to the religious-philosophic thought of his country.[22]:7 Solovyov's influence can also be seen in the writings of the Symbolist and Neo-Idealist writers of the later Russian Soviet era. His book The Meaning of Love [ru] can be seen as one of the philosophical sources of Leo Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata (1889). It was also the work in which he introduced the concept of 'syzygy', to denote 'close union'.[23]


Solovyov compiled a philosophy based on Hellenistic philosophy (see Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus) and early Christian tradition with Buddhist and Hebrew Kabbalistic elements (Philo of Alexandria). He also studied Gnosticism and the works of the Gnostic Valentinus.[24] His religious philosophy was syncretic and fused philosophical elements of various religious traditions with Orthodox Christianity and his own experience of Sophia.[citation needed]

Solovyov described his encounters with the entity Sophia in his works, such as Three Encounters and Lectures on Godmanhood. His fusion was driven by the desire to reconcile and/or unite with Orthodox Christianity the various traditions by the Russian Slavophiles' concept of sobornost. His Russian religious philosophy had a very strong impact on the Russian Symbolist art and poetry movements of the Silver Age[24] and his written arguments in favor of the reunion of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Holy See had had an instrumental role in the formation of the Russian Greek Catholic Church.[25] His teachings on Sophia, conceived as the merciful unifying feminine wisdom of God comparable to the Hebrew Shekinah or various goddess traditions,[26] have been deemed a heresy by Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and as unsound and unorthodox by the Patriarchate of Moscow.[27] This condemnation, however, was not agreed upon by other jurisdictions of the Orthodox church and was directed specifically against Sergius Bulgakov who continued to be defended by his own hierarch Metropolitan Evlogy until his death.[28]

In his 2005 forward to Solovyov’s Justification of the Good, the Orthodox Christian theologian David Bentley Hart wrote a defense of Sophiology including a specific defense of Solovyov's later thought:

It is important to note that, in Solovyov’s developed reflections upon this figure (and in those of his successor Sophiologists,’ Pavel Florensky and Sergei Bulgakov), she was most definitely not an occult, or pagan, or Gnostic goddess, nor was she a fugitive from some Chaldean mystery cult, nor was she a speculative perversion of the Christian doctrine of God. She was not a fourth hypostasis in the Godhead, nor a fallen fragment of God, nor a literal world-soul, nor an eternal hypostasis who became incarnate as the Mother of God, nor most certainly the ‘feminine aspect of deity.’ Solovyov possessed too refined a mind to fall prey to the lure of cultic mythologies or childish anthropomorphisms, despite his interest in Gnosticism (or at least in its special pathos); and all such characterizations of the figure of Sophia are the result of misreadings (though, one must grant, misreadings partly occasioned by the young Solovyov’s penchant for poetic hyperbole). In truth, the divine Sophia is first and foremost a biblical figure, and ‘Sophiology’ was born of an honest attempt to interpret intelligibly the role ascribed to her in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, in such a way as to complement the Logos Christology of the Fourth Gospel, while still not neglecting the ‘autonomy’ of creation within its very dependency upon the Logos.[29]


Main page: Religion:Sobornost
Vladimir Solovyov by Nikolai Yaroshenko, 1892

Solovyov sought to create a philosophy that could through his system of logic or reason reconcile all bodies of knowledge or disciplines of thought, and fuse all conflicting concepts into a single system. The central component of this complete philosophic reconciliation was the Russian Slavophile concept of sobornost (organic or spontaneous order through integration, which is related to the Russian word for 'catholic'). Solovyov sought to find and validate common ground, or where conflicts found common ground, and, by focusing on this common ground, to establish absolute unity and/or integral[30] fusion of opposing ideas and/or peoples.[31]


Intense mental work shattered Solovyov's health.[32] He died at the Moscow estate of Nikolai Petrovitch Troubetzkoy, where a relative of the latter, Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy, was living.[32][33]

By 1900, Solovyov was apparently a homeless pauper. He left his brother, Mikhail Sergeevich, and several colleagues to defend and promote his intellectual legacy. He is buried at Novodevichy Convent.[citation needed]


But if the faith communicated by the Church to Christian humanity is a living faith, and if the grace of the sacraments is an effectual grace, the resultant union of the divine and the human cannot be limited to the special domain of religion, but must extend to all Man's common relationships and must regenerate and transform his social and political life.[34]

Selected works

English translations


See also



  1. "Symbolism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2023-02-21. 
  2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1998): "Schellingianism, Russian".
  3. Pillar and Ground of Truth
  4. The philosopher's family name has been spelt in various ways: Soloviev, Solov'ev Solovëv, Solowjew, Solov'jov, Solovieff, Solovioff and Solovyev. The most widely accepted transliterated form of his last name is Solovyov.
  5. Dahm 1975, p. 219.
  6. Бондарюк (Bondaryuk), Елена (Elena) (16 March 2018). "Дочь своего века, или Изменчивая Allegro" (in ru). Крымский ТелеграфЪ (Simferopol, Crimea) (471). 
  7. Kornblatt 2009, pp. 12, 22.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Lossky 1951.
  9. Valliere 2007, p. 35.
  10. Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, Russia and the Universal Church, trans. William G. von Peters (Chattanooga, TN: Catholic Resources, 2013).
  11. Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, The Russian Church and the Papacy: An Abridgment of Russia and the Universal Church, ed. Ray Ryland (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2001).
  12. Ryland, Ray (2003). "Soloviev's Amen: A Russian Orthodox Argument for the Papacy". Crisis 21 (10): 35–38. Retrieved 10 July 2017. 
  13. Solovyov, Vladimir (2016). The Burning Bush: Writings on Jews and Judaism. University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 978-0-268-02989-0. 
  15. Kornblatt 2009, pp. 68,174.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Eskridge-Kosmach 2014, p. 662.
  17. Kornblatt 2009, pp. 24.
  18. Solovyov 2008.
  19. Cioran 1977, p. 71.
  20. Masaryk, Tomáš Garrigue. (1919): The Spirit of Russia: Studies in History, Literature and Philosophy, Volume 2. Allen & Unwin. p. 228
  21. Zouboff, Peter, Solovyov on Godmanhood: Solovyov's Lectures on Godmanhood Harmon Printing House: Poughkeepsie, New York, 1944; see Milosz 1990.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Lavrin, Janko (2004). "Introduction to the Work of Vladimir Solovyov". Transformations of Eros: An Odyssey from Platonic to Christian Eros. Grailstone Press. ISBN 1-59650-001-8. 
  23. Jacobs 2001, p. 44.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Carlson 1996.
  25. Fr. Paul Mailleux, S.J. (2017), Blessed Leonid Feodorov: First Exarch of the Russian Catholic Church; Bridgebuilder between Rome and Moscow, Loreto Publications. Pages 11-13.
  26. Powell 2007, p. 70.
  28. Ladouceur, Paul (23 September 2021). "Georges Florovsky and Sergius Bulgakov: 'In Peace Let Us Love One Another'". The Living Christ: The Theological Legacy of Georges Florovsky. London, UK: T&T Clark. pp. 91–111. ISBN 9780567700469. 
  29. Solovyov, Vladimir; Hart, David Bentley (31 August 2005). "Forward". The Justification of the Good: An Essay on Moral Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Wm. B. Eerdmans. pp. xxxvii-li. ISBN 9780802828637. 
  30. Kostalevsky 1997.
  31. Lossky 1951, pp. 81–134.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Zouboff, Peter P. (1944). Vladimir Solovyev's Lectures on Godmanhood. International University Press. p. 14. "The passionate intensity of his mental work shattered his health. On the thirty-first of July, in "Uzkoye", the country residence of Prince P. N. Troubetskoy, near Moscow, he passed away in the arms of his close friend, Prince S. N. Troubetskoy."
  33. Oberländer, Erwin; Katkov, George. (1971). Russia Enters the Twentieth Century, 1894-1917. Schocken Books. p. 248; ISBN:978-0805234046 "Vladimir Solovyev died in the arms of his friend Sergey Nikolayevich Trubetskoy (1862–1905), on the estate of Uzkoye."
  34. Solovyov, Vladimir (1948). Russia and the Universal Church. Geoffrey Bles Ltd.. p. 10. 
  35. Solovyov, Vladimir Sergeyevich (1948). "Russia and the Universal Church". 

Works cited

  • Carlson, Maria (1996). "Gnostic Elements in the Cosmogony of Vladimir Soloviev". in Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch; Gustafson, Richard F.. Russian Religious Thought. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 49–67. ISBN 978-0-299-15134-8. 
  • Cioran, Samuel (1977). Vladimir Solov'ev and the Knighthood of the Divine Sophia. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 
  • Dahm, Helmut (1975). Vladimir Solovyev and Max Scheler: Attempt at a Comparative Interpretation. Sovietica. 34. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. ISBN 978-90-277-0507-5. 
  • Eskridge-Kosmach, Alena (2014). "Russian Press and the Ideas of Russia's 'Special Mission in the East' and 'Yellow Peril'". Journal of Slavic Military Studies 27 (4): 661–675. doi:10.1080/13518046.2014.963440. ISSN 1556-3006. 
  • Jacobs, Alan (2001). "Bakhtin and the Hermeneutics of Love". in Felch, Susan M.; Contino, Paul J.. Bakhtin and Religion. Rethinking Theory. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. pp. 25–46. ISBN 978-0-8101-1825-6. 
  • Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch (2009). Divine Sophia: The Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-7479-8. 
  • Kostalevsky, Marina (1997). Dostoevsky and Soloviev: The Art of Integral Vision. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-06096-6. 
  • Lossky, N. O. (1951). History of Russian Philosophy. New York: International Universities Press (published 1970). ISBN 978-0-8236-8074-0. 
  • Solovyov, Vladimir (1990). "Introduction". War, Progress and the End of History: Three Conversations, Including a Short Story of the Anti-Christ. Hudson, New York: Lindisfarne Press. ISBN 978-1-58420-212-7. 
  • Powell, Robert (2007). The Sophia Teachings: The Emergence of the Divine Feminine in Our Time. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Lindisfarne Books. ISBN 978-1-58420-048-2. 
  • Solovyov, Vladimir (2008). Jakim, Boris. ed. The Religious Poetry of Vladimir Solovyov. San Rafael, California: Semantron Press. ISBN 978-1-59731-279-0. 
  • Valliere, Paul (2007). "Vladimir Soloviev (1853–1900)". in Witte, John, Jr.; Alexander, Frank S.. The Teachings of Modern Orthodox Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-14264-9.  <>

Further reading

  • du Quenoy, Paul. "Vladimir Solov’ev in Egypt: The Origins of the ‘Divine Sophia’ in Russian Religious Philosophy," Revolutionary Russia, 23: 2, December 2010.
  • Finlan, Stephen. "The Comedy of Divinization in Soloviev," Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology (Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock, 2006), pp. 168–183.
  • Gerrard, Thomas J. "Vladimir Soloviev – The Russian Newman," The Catholic World, Vol. CV, April/September, 1917.
  • Groberg, Kristi. "Vladimir Sergeevich Solov'ev: a Bibliography," Modern Greek Studies Yearbook, vol.14–15, 1998.
  • Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch. "Vladimir Sergeevich Solov’ev," Dictionary of Literary Bibliography, v295 (2004), pp. 377–386.
  • Mrówczyński-Van Allen, Artur. Between the Icon and the idol. The Human Person and the Modern State in Russian Literature and Thought - Chaadayev, Soloviev, Grossman (Cascade Books, /Theopolitical Visions/, Eugene, Or., 2013).
  • Nemeth, Thomas. The Early Solov'ëv and His Quest for Metaphysics. Springer, 2014. ISBN:978-3-319-01347-3 [Print]; ISBN:978-3-319-01348-0 [eBook]
  • Stremooukhoff, Dimitrii N. Vladimir Soloviev and his Messianic Work (Paris, 1935; English translation: Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1980).
  • Sutton, Jonathan. The Religious Philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov: Towards a Reassessment (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1988).
  • Zernov, Nicholas. Three Russian prophets (London: SCM Press, 1944).

External links