Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy

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Prince Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy (1905)

Prince Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy (1862–1905) was a Russian religious philosopher.[citation needed] He was the son of Prince Nikolai Petrovitch Trubetskoy, co-founder of the Moscow Conservatory, and Sophia Alekseievna Lopouchina. His mother was a big influence on his religious thought. He and his brother, Evgenii Nikolaevitch Troubetzkoy (1863-1920), continued Vladimir Solovyov's work on developing a modern Christian philosophy of the world.[citation needed] He was a Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University.

He was also a founding members Beseda.[1]


Early life[edit]

As a teenager S. N. Trubetskoy was an adherent of the British Positivists, Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill. Later he became disappointed with both and turned to Schopenhauer. Study of his philosophy led Trubetskoy to a conclusion that Schopenhauer's pessimism was the result of denial of God. Trubetskoy himself described this dilemma the following way: "Either God exists or life is not worth living". He became an Orthodox Christian, and also an adherent of the Slavophiles: his beliefs at that time were influenced by the writings of Aleksey Khomyakov.[citation needed]

In 1885 Trubetskoy graduated from Moscow University; but he continued to work there until his death, lecturing in philosophy.


In 1886, he became acquainted with the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, who held largely the same views about religion as Trubetskoy and became his close friend.[citation needed]

In 1890 Trubetskoy became Professor of Philosophy in Moscow University.[citation needed] Later he played a significant role in the Russian liberal movement; he was a founding member of Beseda.[1]

Sergey Trubetskoy was one of several philosophers who complained that there in practice was no real autocracy, as all the entanglement of government agencies made it unsure where the power truly lay; in 1900 he wrote: 'There is an autocracy of policemen and land captains, of governors department heads, and ministers, but a unitary Tsarist autocracy, in the proper sense of the word, does not and cannot exist'.[2]

In 1904 the Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University wrote of the conflict with Japan, contending that Russia was defending the entire European civilisation from 'the yellow danger, the new hordes of Mongols armed with modern technology', being one of many Russian academics seeing the conflict as a 'crusade', a war between civilisation and barbarism;[1] it led an 'educated liberal' to see the conflict as one against the hordes of Asia.[3]

He was Professor of Philosophy at Moscow University by 1904.[1] In 1905 he was elected rector of Moscow University; but he died just a month later, of brain haemorrhage.[citation needed]


Nikolai Trubetskoy, the linguist, was his son.[4]

S. N. Trubetskoy's brother, Evgenii Nikolaevitch (1863-1920), was also a philosopher and a Professor at Moscow University, who largely shared S. N. Trubetskoy's beliefs. Evgenii Trubetskoy died of typhus in the Crimea while he was trying to emigrate.[citation needed]

Works and beliefs[edit]

Working in the same field as Solovyov, Trubetskoy sought to establish a philosophic foundation for an Orthodox Christian worldview, which would be equally rooted in faith and reason. In 1890 he defended his Master's thesis, "Metaphysics in Ancient Greece", in which he argued that the Holy Scripture and Christian theology largely stemmed directly from the idealistic philosophy of ancient Greece.[citation needed]

The religious beliefs of Trubetskoy are sometimes identified as Christocentrism, wherein the Church serves as a continuation of the Incarnation of Christ to convey divine precepts to society. These views are set forth in Trubetskoy's work, The Teaching on Logos.[citation needed] Trubetskoy believed that the personality of Jesus Christ, which united the human and divine wills, is crucial for understanding of all aspects and dimensions of Christianity. He viewed Christian teaching not solely as a set of ethical norms but as a system of truth which can be perceived and understood exclusively through special revelation (see fideism). His viewpoint differed both from the official doctrine of the Orthodox Church and from the beliefs of liberal intellectuals, who reduced the Christian faith to an egalitarian ethic.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d Figes, p. 168
  2. ^ Figes, p. 38
  3. ^ Figes, p. 169
  4. ^ Trubetzkoy, N. S. , trans. Christiane A. M. Baltaxe. 1969. Appendix III: Autobiographical notes on N. S. Trubetzkoy as related by Roman Jakobson, in Principles of Phonology. Los Angeles: The Center for Research in Languages and Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles, p. 309.


  • Figes, Orlando (2014). A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 9781847922915.

Further reading[edit]