The Philosophy of N.F. Fedorov

Russian Studies in Philosophy 30 (4):7-27 (1992)


Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov is one of the most original and as yet inadequately studied Russian thinkers. Neither a professional philosopher, nor a well-known scholar, nor a critical essayist, he led a kind of double existence while working as an ordinary civil servant, developing his original philosophy at his leisure in the hours free from his intensive daily work. Fedorov's life was one of selflessness and self-denial, not at all eventful outwardly. He graduated from the Gymnasium in Tambov and completed three years of study in the Law Department of the Richelieu Lyceum in Odessa, after which he taught for a number of years in the Borovsk, Lipetsk, Podol'sk, and other regional schools. The quarter century he spent working in the Library of the Rumiantsev Museum in Moscow was the most stable period in Fedorov's life. Fedorov's ideas attracted the attention of outstanding cultural figures. F.M. Dostoevskii became acquainted with them in 1878 through Peterson, and on March 24 of that year he wrote: "I am essentially in full accord with these ideas. I read them as if they were my own." L.N. Tolstoy, who knew Fedorov personally, said, "I am proud to be living in the same times as such a man." V.S. Solov'ev, who also associated with Fedorov, wrote to him as follows in the mid-1880s: "Your ‘project’ is the human spirit's first advance along the path of Christ since the advent of Christianity. As for me, I can only acknowledge you as my teacher and spiritual father." A.M. Gorky was especially impressed by the activism in Fedorov's views. But none of this precludes the many and very essential divergences of these authors from Fedorov. One can find some links with his ideas in A.N. Belyi, V. Ia. Briusov, N.A. Zabolotskii, V.V. Maiakovskii, A.P. Platonov, M.M. Prishvin, I.L. Sel'vinskii, O.D. Forsh, and V.N. Khlebnikov. The artist B.N. Chekrygin drafted a large fresco entitled The Resurrection of the Dead [Voskreshenie mertvykh] and a philosophical work entitled The Synod of the Resurrecting Museum [Sobor voskreshaiushchego muzeia], both inspired by Fedorov's teachings

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