May 2, 1856|
Vetluga, Russian Empire
|Died||February 5, 1919
Sergiyev Posad, Soviet Russia
|philosophy of religion|
Vasily Vasilievich Rozanov (Russian: Васи́лий Васи́льевич Рóзанов; 1856–1919) was one of the most controversial Russian writers and philosophers of the pre-revolutionary epoch. His views have been termed the "religion of procreation", as he tried to reconcile Christian teachings with ideas of healthy sex and family life and not, as his adversary Nikolai Berdyaev put it, "to set up sex in opposition to the Word". Because of phallic notions in his writings, Klaus von Beyme called him the Rasputin of the Russian intelligence.
Rozanov's mature works are deeply personal diaries, which contain his intimate thoughts, impromptu lines, unfinished maxims, vivid aphorisms, reminiscences, and short essays. These collections, attempting to recreate intonations of spoken speech, form a loosely-connected trilogy: Solitaria (1911), and the two-volume Fallen Leaves (1913; 1915).
Rozanov frequently referred to himself as Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Underground Man, and proclaimed his right to espouse contrary opinions at the same time. He first attracted attention in the 1890s when he published political sketches in the conservative newspaper Novoye Vremya, owned and run by Aleksey Suvorin. His comments, always paradoxical and sparking controversy, would lead him to clashes with radicals (like Lenin) and the Tsarist government alike.
Thus, Rozanov readily passed from a blasting criticism of Russian Orthodoxy and even of what he saw as the Christian preoccupation with death to the fervent praise of Christian faith, from the praise of Judaism to unabashed anti-Semitism, and from acceptance of homosexuality as yet another side of human nature to vitriolic accusations of Gogol and some other writers of latent homosexuality. His statements of politics remind of Dada in proclaiming politics as "obsolete": "God doesn't want politics anymore". He constructed an "apocalypse of our times" and recommended the "healthy instincts" of the Russian people, their longing for authority and their criticism of modernism against it.
Rozanov starved to death in a cloister in the hungry years following the Revolution. His work was largely forgotten in the Soviet Union even though some prominent writers (including Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Nabokov and Venedikt Erofeev) were among his admirers. Recently, his paradoxical writings have once again become available to Russian readers, and have experienced somewhat of a resurgence among audiences sympathetic to Rozanov's political views. Rozanov is the main source of inspiration for Dmitry Galkovsky's 1988 philosophical novel The Infinite Deadlock, which revises 19th-century Russian history and places Rozanov at the center of Russian philosophical thought. Still, Rozanov remains little known outside of Russia, though Western scholars of Russian culture have become increasingly fascinated by his work and his persona.
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- Klaus von Beyme: Politische Theorien im Zeitalter der Ideologien, Wiesbaden 2002, p. 604-605
- Vasilij Rozanov: Apocalypse of our times, p. 204; my own translation from Klaus von Beyme
- ibid., p. 443
- ibid., p. 483