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The spiritual meaning of war in the philosophy of the Russian silver age


The First World War forced the Russian intelligentsia to rethink its values—values that had been constructed in the nineteenth century. Distancing itself from pacifism and cultural relativism, it began to search for a moral meaning to the war that broke out in 1914—i.e. to defend the war as morally right and having a higher spiritual purpose. Russian philosophers were central to these debates, as they tried to interpret the war, and the relationship between war and peace, from a metaphysical point of view. The paper will look at philosophical, ethical and religious aspects of these debates, and some of the philosophers who participated in them.

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    “What I'd like to know,” von Teutleben remarked, “is whether the youth of other nations lie in the straw like this and torment themselves with problems and antinomies.”

    “Hardly,” Deutschlin replied dismissively. “For them everything is intellectually much easier and cozier.”

    “One should make the exception,” Arzt suggested, “of Russia's revolutionary youth. There you'll find, if I’m not mistaken, an untiring interest in discussion and one hell of a lot of dialectical tension.”

    “The Russians,” Deutschlin said sententiously, “have depth, but no form. Those to our west have form, but no depth. Only we Germans have both together.” Mann Th., (1999, 132).

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    “Sovremennaya vojna i natsiya” (Modern War and Nation), “Slavjanofil’stvo u vlasti” (“Slavophilism in Power”), “Obščestvo i vlast’” (Society and Authorities), “Zlaja volja i razum istorii” (Evil Will and the Mind of History), “O vnutrennem i vnenem delanii” (On the Internal and External Doing), “Tolstovskoe neprotivlenie i vojna” (Tolstoyan Non-resistance and War) etc.


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Correspondence to Alexander. L. Dobrokhotov.

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Dobrokhotov, A.L. The spiritual meaning of war in the philosophy of the Russian silver age. Stud East Eur Thought 66, 69–76 (2014).

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  • The moral meaning of war
  • Metaphysics of war
  • Religious aspects of war
  • Nationalism
  • Right
  • Culture