Sie sind auf Seite 1von 5

III. -- N. F. FEDOROV. 1
Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov, an unassuming librarian at the Rumyantsev Museum, having
published not a single book during his life and denying the right to sell his books, a Russian
original and an eccentric, known but in a very narrow circle, was a genius of a man. N. Fedorov
-- is a Russians Russian, in him one can learn the uniqueness of Russian thought and Russian
searchings. Inherent to his life was a natural, undifficult asceticism and unique righteousness.
The most notable Russian people of his time spoke about N. F. ecstatically and deferred before
his person. Dostoevsky, not knowing N. F. personally, writes about his idea, that in essence I
am completely in agreement with these thoughts. I perceive them as though they were my own.
Vl. Solovev, on whom N. F. had a tremendous and as yet unstudied influence, writes to him: I
have read your manuscript avidly and with delight of spirit... Your project (the discussion is
about Fedorov idea of resuscitation) I accept unconditionally and without any quibblings... Your
project is the first movement forward of the human spirit on the path to Christ. I, on my side, can
but acknowledge You my teacher and spiritual father. Fet reports to N. F. the remark about him
by L. Tolstoy: I am proud, that I live at the same time with suchlike a man, and added for
himself: I know of no man, knowing You, who would not express about You this sort of thing.
L. Tolstoy defers before the moral figure of N. F. and forgave him quite harsh rebukes. The
friend of N. F., V. A. Kozhevnikov, who wrote a book about him, says concerning him: This was
a man wise and righteous, and those more close to him tend to add: this was one of those
righteous ones, who hold the world together. A fundamental idea of N. F., was a purely Russian
idea of the responsibility of all for all, the idea of the active participation of man in the matter of
universal salvation and resurrection. N. F. was sickened at the discord and non-brotherly
relationships among people. He was not at all a writer, nor was he a philosopher in the usual
sense of the word, and he never strove after what is called cultural creativity, -- he sought after
the deed and the task of universal salvation. He himself is at the extreme opposite antipode
to individualism, and a peculiar collectivist. He had no interest for the subjective world of the
soul and is repulsed by the romanticism of cultural people. N. F. is a mortal enemy of Capitalist
society, as lacking in kinship, grounded in discord, godless and anti-Christian, and in this he is
more radical than the Communists, which bear comparison with N. F. in views on the
bourgeoisie. The teaching of N. F. is first of all a calling forth and summoning to an universal
task, towards a religious organisation of labour and the regulating of labour. He has no love for
the teachings of the privileged, separating thought from life, and he denounces the sin of the
falling-away of the Intelligentsia from the people. Completely foreign to him is any theoretical
philosophy, any contemplative metaphysics. His own philosophy is projective and active.
Philosophy ought not passively to reflect the world, but the rather to actively transfigure and
improve the world. In this N. F. has a formal affinity with Marx. The separation of the theoretical
reason from the practical is a sinful downfall of thought. Therefore he calls his philosophy The
Philosophy of the Common Task. Only that philosophy is authentic and justified, at the
foundation of which lies a grieving over the sorrow and death of people. This grieving was to an
utmost degree in N. F. himself, and in this he stands at an extraordinary spiritual height.

For N. F., the sole and ultimate evil is death. Every evil issues forth from death and leads to
death. The worldwide struggle against death is a task, set before mankind. N. F. frequently
criticises the teaching about progress, as comprising a religion of death. Progress arranges life for
the graveyard, upon the decaying bones of the ancestors, it is based upon a forgetting of
obligation in regard to the deceased fathers, it legitimatises the devouring by the generation
following of the generation preceding, progress becomes reconciled with death and is contrary to
the idea of resurrection and resuscitation. The genuine vocation of man is the calling to be a
resuscitator to life. In the world-concept of N. F. there is an unique combination of conservative
and revolutionary elements. He wants a radical turnaround of time from the future to the past, a
victory over death-bearing time. Man ought to concern himself not only over his descendants,
but also over his ancestors, he has an obligation not only to his sons, but also to his fathers. Man
is first of all a son, and N. F. wanted as it were to reveal and affirm the sonship of man. The
human son ought to have memory and concern for the dead fathers, he cannot reconcile himself
with death. Christianity is the religion of Resurrection. And N. F. speaks not only about the
Resurrection (Voskresenie), but also about Resuscitation (Voskreshenie). Man is called to an
active preparation of the universal Resurrection, and this means also, that he is called to
Resuscitation. People ought to unite themselves into a common task of Resuscitation. N. F. is a
terrible enemy of the Monophysite tendencies within Christianity. For him it is not only God that
is active, but also man. In this is the meaning of the Christological dogma about God-manhood.
The separation of heaven and earth is a distortion of Christianity. Christianity strives for the
transfiguration of the earth, to a regulation of world life, to the inclusion of reason and
consciousness into the elemental powers of nature, to the conquest of death-bearing nature by
man the resurrector. Faith in the active vocation of man for N. F. is connected with a faith in
reason, in science, in technology, in the possibility of the regulation of the whole of nature. His
thought possesses a cosmic sweep. In nature rage irrational elemental powers, which leads to the
triumph of death. The victory over death is a victory over these unregulated elemental powers
through regulation, through the expedient activity of man. But the regulation of the elements of
nature for N. F. is not by conquest and violence, it is not by force, but is rather the fulfilling of a
sacred duty afront the dead, before the fathers, and it is wrought not for the future only, but also
for the past, for the restoration of the dust of the ancestors. The roots of Fedorovs idea of the
regulation of nature differs from the idea of the progress of civilisation. N. F. first of all is a
Christian and Orthodox. A godless science and technology can sow only but death. The novelty
of the idea of N. F., frightening to so many, is in this, that he affirmed the activity of man as
immeasurably greater, than that which Humanism and Progressism believes in. The Resurrection
is a deed not only of Gods grace, but also of human activity. The passive attitude towards the
elemental powers of nature and the death that is summoned forth by them, he regards as the
greatest evil. N. F. was original too as a Slavophil and he acknowledged a great superiority of the
East over the West, but in no way was he an adherent of the Eastern passivity of man. In the West
man was more active, but this activity was a false activity. It was expressed by the Western
progress, which death rules in. Western civilisation for N. F. is based upon citizenship, and not
upon kinship. But the citizens -- are prodigal sons, having forgotten their fathers. He is likewise
negative in regard to comradship, which is contrary to brotherhood. Brotherhood presupposes
sonship, which is a fundamental category in the social thought of N. F. The true society is
kinship and brotherhood, based on sonship. The primal archetype of true human society is the
Holy Trinity. The whole world ought to be organised on the model of the Divine Trinity, an
Heavenly kinship. The peculiar social utopianism of N. F. consists in this, that he believed in the

possibility of a patriarchal and kindred sociality, based on a cult of ancestors. He underestimated

the power of evil and discord in human society. He believed in an utopia of a Russian autocratic
monarchism, which should become worldwide and universal. The Russian Orthodox tsar ought
to rule all the natural world and stand at the head of the son-resurrectors. This presupposes
likewise an oneness of faith, on which there is little basis to count on. N. F. was in essence
antagonistic towards the state and a citizen society. The human society ought to be familial, and
based on a common religious cult. He is an extreme enemy to any sort of secularisation.
Everything ought anew to become sacral. The wars of nations, just like the struggle of classes,
ought to cease, and the power of a religiously united mankind ought to be turned into a war
against the elemental powers of nature and against death. The armies ought to be turned towards
the struggle against the elements of meteorological phenomena, towards a conquest of the
universe. But this presupposes the pacification of mankind, the victory over the evil will within
The project of N. F., which Vl. Solovev was entirely in agreement with, was the boldest thing
in all of Christian history: people ought to unite for a common task -- the resuscitation of dead
ancestors. Christianity up to the present time has believed in resurrection, but never did it make
bold to speak about a resuscitation, about the activity of man in the restoration of life to the
fathers. N. F. demanded, that all the whole life of people, the whole of culture, be transferred to
the graveyard, near to the dust of the ancestors. Alongside churchly liturgy there ought to be an
outside-churchly liturgy, the whole of life ought to become an outside-churchly liturgy. The very
division into sacral and profane ought to be surmounted, -- all ought to be sacral. The originality
of N. F. is in this, that together with this he acknowledged the great significance of science,
technology and organised labour. He is hostile to a dreamy romantic and mystical mindset. He
wants it real, almost that it be a materialistic resuscitation. The first condition of the common
task of the resuscitation of the dead ancestors appears to be a moral unifying of people, the
ceasing of discord and strife, the revealing of brotherly and filial live. This is an obligatory
spiritual condition, without which the common task is impossible. Man ought spiritually and
morally to be conscious of himself as a resurrector, to be conscious of his obligation in regard to
the fathers, i.e. all dead mankind. The moral consciousness of N. F. is extraordinarily lofty,
higher than this consciousness no one yet in the Christian world has risen, and it is immeasurably
higher than that consciousness, wherein Christianity is but a religion of personal salvation, a
transcendental egoism. Each Christian ought to think about salvation, the restoration to life, the
resurrection of all, not only about the living, but also about the dead, not only about oneself and
ones children, but also about all the sons of mankind. Man for N. F. is first of all a son, and
therefore already a father and brother. And he proposes to assert a cult of the eternal childliness
in place of the bad cult of eternal femininity, in the name of which according to N. F. has been
created Capitalism, with its sense of luxury and pleasure in life. For N. F. a masculine purity was
characteristic, the complete absence of decadence, which appeared in the subsequent generation.
But further on there occurs an even more problematic and questionably provocative matter in the
teaching of N. F. about resuscitation. According to the teaching of N. F., resuscitation is to be
understood not only by the deed wrought by Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and not only by
the spiritual and moral effects of mankind, by human love for the dead, but also by the scientific,
technical and physical activity of people. The life of people, transferred to the graveyard, ought
to be the experience of the restoration of the dust of the ancestors by the conjoint efforts of
religion and science, of the priest and the erudite technician. He speaks further about physical-

chemical experiments of resuscitation, that produce an almost painful impression. The faith of N.
F. in the power of science and technology is unbounded, but the realisation of this power is
possible only under certain delimited religious and spiritual conditions. Within the world-concept
of N. F. there are strong elements of nationalism and rationalism, which in him are reconciled
with traditional Orthodoxy. He underestimated the irrational powers in life and the irrational was
for him always an elemental evil, to be overcome by regulation, i.e. the rationalisation of world
Let us consider the most grandiose and dizzying idea of N. Fedorov. In N. F. there was a
completely original and unprecedented attitude towards apocalyptic propheticism, and his
teaching represents something completely new within the Russian apocalyptic consciousness and
Russian apocalyptic hopes. Russian apocalypticism usually assumes a passive form. Russian
man awaits the end of the world, the coming of the Anti-Christ and the final struggle of the good
and evil principles. But he himself passively undergoes the mystical winnowing of the
Apocalypse. Such a passive apocalypticism was in our schismatics, it was in K. Leontev and in
Vl. Solovev towards the end of his life. There draws nigh the end of the world, everything
disintegrates, the kingdom of the Anti-Christ approaches. Man does not have the strength to
oppose it. But the mindset of N. F. is completely otherwise. He taught, that the apocalyptic
propheticisms are conditional, they represent only a threat. If mankind does not unite itself for
the common task of the resuscitation of the dead ancestors, the restoration to life of all mankind,
then there will ensue the end of the world, the coming of the Anti-Christ, the Dread Last
Judgement and eternal perdition for many. But if mankind in love unites itself for the common
task, to fulfill its duty in regard to the deceased fathers, if it with all its strength devotes itself to
the deed of universal salvation and resurrection, then there will not be the end of the world, there
will not be the Dread Last Judgement and there will not be eternal perdition for anyone. This is a
projective and active understanding of the apocalypse. It depends on man, for Gods plan for the
world to succeed. Never yet within the Christian world has there been expressed so bold and
dizzying a thought about the possibility of averting the Dread Last Judgement and its inevitable
consequences through the active participation of man. If what N. F. calls for were to be done,
then the end of the world would not transpire and mankind with a transfigurative and ultimate
regulation of nature would pass over directly into eternal life. N. F. reveals eschatological
perspectives, which never before found expression in the Christian world. N. F. -- is a resolute
anti-Gnostic, for him everything is to be resolved not by passive thought and knowledge, but by
active deed. The apocalyptic and eschatological consciousness calls for a deed, for action, for
responsibility. If the end of the world is nigh, then this ought also to evoke an unprecedented
activity of man, an united effort to avert the fatal end and direct the world towards eternal life. In
this idea there is an extraordinary grandeur and loftiness, to an extent to which no one has ever
The Russian messianic idea of N. F. assumes a completely new form. He believes passionately in
Russia and the Russian people, in its singular vocation in the world. In Russia is where there
ought to begin the common task. Western Europe is too caught up in culture and progress. But
culture and progress have betrayed the deed of resuscitation, they go along the path of certain
death. N. F. did not survive up to the Russian catastrophe, in which the Russian messianic idea
was so terribly distorted. Russian Communism is the opposite antipode of Fedorovs idea, since
it made mockery over the dust of the ancestors, and it is oriented exclusively towards the future.

Russian Communism, from Fedorovs point of view, is a religion of death, but in it there is a
feature of an ape-like affinity with Fedorovs common task -- the uniting of people, regulation,
directed to the common welfare and earthly salvation, anti-individualism, a negative attitude
towards culture, towards the Intelligentsia, towards thought, having lost contact with life, and
activism and pragmatism. N. F. is extraordinarily characteristic of the Russian idea and he awaits
his own appraisal. The weak side of the teachings of N. F. -- is his inability to see the irrational
freedom of evil in the world, his rationalistic-naturalistic optimism. Therein is begotten his
utopianism, so in character for Russian thought. In actuality, the mystic is less utopian. N. F. sees
in death -- the source of evil, and in the victory over death -- the chief task. In this he is right. But
he understates the mystical significance of the passage through death, as an inward moment of
life, i.e. the salvific significance of the Cross and Golgotha. We ought properly to welcome
interest in N. F., the republishing of his works and the developing of his ideas. But in our era he
can also be a false interpreter. The greatness of N. Fedorov is first of all in his moral idea, in the
sorrowing over the discord and misery of people, in a call for human activity, and in the thirst for
universal salvation and resurrection.
Nikolai Berdyaev
2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos