Truly symbolic return of well-known philosopher
Memories of famous countryman published in Belarus for the first time
By Pavel Dmitrievsky
The second half of 1922 was tragic for flourishing Russian science and culture, since over 200 outstanding thinkers were exiled. Among them were university lecturers, doctors, engineers, agrarians, economists, literary men, religious figures and students. They were a true threat to the new regime, having independent opinions and openly criticising the new social-economic policy.
Lev Trotsky later admitted in a letter: ‘We exiled these people as we had no grounds to kill them legally but had no more capacity for patience.’ Several years later, it become more common for innocent ‘enemies of the state’ to be exiled; the State Political Department did so without giving any justification.
Of course, forced parting with your homeland is traumatic but their exile may have saved the lives of many and have been a blessing for global science and culture. World-known philosopher Belarus-born Nikolay Lossky, who came up with the original concept of intuitivism, had no love for Bolsheviks and spoke openly. However, it was his writings on intuitivism which led to his exile; as the Large Soviet Encyclopaedia later wrote, the theory ‘is opposite to the philosophy of dialectic materialism’. Mr. Lossky had no plans to change his views.
His works have now returned to Belarus, on the 90th anniversary of his exile. N. Lossky. Recollections. Life and Philosophic Path was recently presented at the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Philosophy, as part of a locally published series entitled Philosophy in Belarus and Global Intellectual Culture. Unlike editions earlier published in Germany and Russia, it has more illustrations and contains extensive reference and biographical material. He recounts his life, focusing greatly on his childhood and youth (spent in the Vitebsk Province), and on the formation of his philosophical concept. He also recalls his co-operation with leading Russian intellectuals and those from around the globe.
In the opening chapter of the book, Anatoly Lazarevich, the Director of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Philosophy and a candidate of philosophic sciences, writes: ‘The ever-changing logic of the Tsar and, later, of the Russian revolutionary authorities (which influenced many avenues of the philosopher’s life) are no longer easily understandable, since we perceive them from our post-Soviet standpoint. We look back on historical experience accumulated over decades under Soviet power and post-Soviet transformations. Lossky was expelled from Vitebsk gymnasium for ‘his passion for atheism and materialism’ and from Petrograd University’s lecturers ‘for idealism’. Readers will find many other examples. Perhaps the most important self-definition given by Lossky is his description of his ‘severe fight during my youth for the right to live a spiritual life’. This influenced the development of his philosophical ideas into adulthood, which grew even more acute during his years of exile.’
Learning the details of Nikolay Lossky’s life, it becomes clear that a true philosopher must uphold pure morals, kindness and firm beliefs, in order to remain loyal to the notion of Truth. His multi-faceted talents as a scientist and philosopher led to several written works: Freedom of Will; Value and Existence; The Intuitive Basis of Knowledge; Sensuous, Intellectual and Mystical Intuition; Absolute Good; and The Fundamentals of Ethics. In all, he wrote about 300 books, brochures and articles, which have been published in Russian, German, English, French, Czech, Slovak and other languages. Pleasingly, Belarusian authors are now paying more attention to the great man, writing articles on his artistry. Mr. Lazarevich writes: ‘We are sure that the day will soon come when Lossky’s works are released in Belarusian. This will be truly symbolic.’