Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyayev

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Nikolai Berdyaev

Nikolai Berdyaev ( Russian Николай Александрович Бердяев , scientific transliteration. Nikolai Aleksandrovich Berdyaev ; March 6 * . Jul / 18th March  1874 greg. In Obukhovo , Kiev Governorate , Russian Empire ; † 23. March 1948 in Clamart in the department of Hauts-de -Seine near Paris ) was a Russian religious philosopher .


Berdjajew came from a Russian aristocratic family and was educated in a cadet school before studying at Kiev University .

Berdyayev turned against the values ​​of aristocratic society at an early age and became a Marxist . In 1898 his revolutionary activities led to a three-year exile in the Vologda governorate . After his return he worked as a freelance journalist and worked on a Marxist magazine; Gradually, however, Berdyayev turned away from Marxism and turned to Neo-Kantianism . Inspired above all by the religious philosopher Vladimir Solovyov , he strived for a union of Marxism and Russian Orthodox Christianity . In 1919 he founded the "Moscow Free Academy for Spiritual Culture". His critical attitude towards the Soviet ideology led to his expulsion in 1922 ( Philosophenschiff ).

Berdjajew went into exile in Berlin , where he founded a "Religious Philosophy Academy". There he met Max Scheler , Oswald Spengler and Paul Tillich . A lifelong relationship developed with them, which was maintained through correspondence, among other things. With Tillich in particular, he shared a similar attitude with regard to "the criticism of positivism, technicalism, rationalism, bourgeoisie and civilization as a whole".

Two years later he moved on to Paris, where he again founded an academy, published the religious-philosophical journal Der Weg and was in contact with the Renouveau catholique , including Peter Wust .

"The New Middle Ages" (1927)

After his departure from Germany, a lively discussion of his works began, both among Protestant and Catholic theologians and publicists (e.g. Ernst Michel ). Berdjaev's publications can be found u. a. in Carl Muth's Hochland magazine . Works such as The New Middle Ages or The Meaning of History met with a positive response from Hans Scholl and other members of the White Rose .

From 1929 to 1934 Berdjajew was co-editor of the magazine Orient and Occident .

In the Third Reich , Berdjajew's works were banned due to his "probolshevik" attitude.


The basic constellation in Berdjajew's philosophy is the juxtaposition of spirit and nature and the orientation of man within this framework: Man has the choice between " objectivation ", that is, between falling into the material world and spirituality and "divine humanity". Freedom is essentially linked to the realm of the spirit - Berdjajew and Jakob Böhme place it above being, as "uncreated freedom" that is based on nothing . Here the closeness to existentialist philosophy becomes evident; Berdyayev has rightly been called a Christian existentialist . The spiritual rebirth he strives for should not only affect the individual, but also lead to a social transformation of society. In France he had contact with Emmanuel Mounier and the circle of personalists .


Berdyayev's reception differed significantly depending on the religious orientation of the recipients. Due to the anti-communist efforts of the Catholic Church in the 1920s and 1930s, attempts were made to find common ground here with emigrated Orthodox theologians. Among other things, the common early church roots were honored. Berdjajev's conception of the church was criticized by the Catholic side because he preferred an autocephalous church organization, that is, an organization of different churches with their own heads, as is characteristic of the Orthodox churches. The reception by Protestant theologians was shaped by the contradiction between similarities and differences. Berdjaev's prediction of a new epoch marked by stronger religiosity was received positively by Protestants, but others rejected his sacramental philosophical stance.

In an article published in an ecclesiastical periodical after his death, it became clear how closely Berdyaev felt himself to be connected to Orthodoxy. The editors praised him as a "loyal son of the Orthodox Church" and a "free spirit in his philosophical works".

The book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley begins with a French quote from Berdjajew as the motto in which the desirability of utopias is questioned.


Discovered on October 8, 1969, the asteroid (4184) Berdyayev was named after Berdyayev in 1991.


  • The Philosophy of Freedom , Moscow 1911 (Russian: Filosofija svobody )
  • The sense of creating. Attempt to justify people , Tübingen 1927 (Russian: Smysl 'tvorčestva , 1916).
  • Filosofija neraventstva. Pis'ma k nedrugam po socialnoj filosofii , Berlin 1923 ( The philosophy of inequality. Letters to opponents in questions of social philosophy - no German edition known).
  • The meaning of the story. Attempt at a philosophy of human destiny , Darmstadt 1925 (Russian: Smysl istorii ' , 1923).
  • The new middle ages. Reflections on the Fate of Russia and Europe , Darmstadt 1927 (Russian: Novoe sredneveko've , 1924).
  • Dostoyevsky's Weltanschauung , Munich 1925 (Russian: Mirosozercanie Dostoevskago , 1923).
  • The philosophy of the free mind. Problems and apology of Christianity , Tübingen 1930.
  • The Fate of Man in Our Time , Lucerne 1935 (Russian: Sud'ba čeloveka v sovremennom mire (K ponimaniju našej ėpochi) , 1934).
  • Truth and Lies of Communism , Lucerne 1934 (Russian: Pravda i lož 'kommunizma , 1930).
  • The endangerment of Christianity through racial madness and persecution of the Jews , German 1935
  • Christianity and class struggle , Lucerne 1936 (Russian: Christianstvo i klassovaja bor'ba , 1931).
  • The Russian Religious Idea , Darmstadt 1936 (edited by Paul Tillich )
  • On the dignity of Christianity and the dignity of Christians , Lucerne 1936 (Russian: O dostojnstve christianstva i nedostojnstve christian , 1931)
  • New edition Freedom in the heart. The middle class between the search for meaning and self-flagellation, Bad Schmiedeberg: Renovamen-Verlag 2018. ISBN 978-3-95621-133-1 . With a foreword by Father Michael Weigl (FSSPX).
  • Human personality and supra-personal values , Vienna 1937 (Russian: Čelověčeskaja ličnost 'i sverchličnyja cennosti , 1937).
  • Man and technology , Lucerne 1943.
  • Spirit and Reality , Lüneburg 1949 (Russian: Duch i real'nost ' , 1937).
  • Christianity and Anti-Semitism. The religious fate of Judaism , Zurich 1939.
  • Self-knowledge. Attempt at a philosophical autobiography , Darmstadt and Geneva 1953 (Russian: Samopoznanie , 1949).
  • The self and the world of objects. Attempt of a philosophy of loneliness and community , Darmstadt and Geneva 1951 (Russian: Ja i mir objektow ).
  • Existential Dialectic of the Divine and Human , Munich 1951 (French: Dialectique existentielle du divin et de l'humain , 1947; Russian 1952)
  • The realm of the spirit and the realm of Caesar , Darmstadt and Geneva 1952 (Russian: Carstvo ducha i carstvo kesarja ).
  • Of man's bondage and freedom. Attempt of a personalistic philosophy , Darmstadt and Geneva 1954 (Russian: O rabstve i svobode čelovka ).
  • The Russian idea. Basic problems of Russian thought in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. Introduced, translated and explained by Dietrich Kegler. (= Texts on Philosophy, Volume 5), Richarz, Sankt Augustin 1983 (Russian: Russkaja ideja. Osnovnye problemy russkoj mysli XIX veka i XX veka ), ISBN 3-921255-91-0 .
  • The fate of Russia. Experiments on the psychology of war and nationality . Translated and edited by Dietrich Kegler. Academia Verlag Baden Baden 2018 (Russian: Sud'ba Rossii. Opyty po psichologii vojny i nacional'nosti . Moscow 1918)


  • Roman Rössler: The worldview of Nikolai Berdjajews. Existence and objectivation. (= Research on systematic theology and religious studies . Volume 2), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1956.
  • Paul Klein: The "creative freedom" according to Nikolaj Berdjajew. Sign of hope in a fallen world. (= Studies on the History of Catholic Moral Theology . Volume 21) Pustet, Regensburg 1976, ISBN 3-7917-0444-3 .
  • Ivan Devčić: Personalism in Nikolaj A. Berdjajew. Attempt at a philosophy of the concrete . Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, Rome 1981.
  • Arnold Köpcke-Duttler: Nikolai Berdiajew. His philosophy and his contribution to a personalistic pedagogy. Haag & Herchen, Frankfurt / Main 1981, ISBN 3-88129-389-2 .
  • Stefan G. Reichelt: Nikolaj A. Berdjaev in Germany 1920–1950. A historical reception study. Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 1999, ISBN 978-3-933240-88-0 .
  • Wolfgang Nastali : History, Christianity and Freedom with Berdjajew. In: Wiener Jahrbuch für Philosophie 1993.
  • Martin Hoffmann : Nikolai Berdjajew. Berdjajew's Philosophy on Freedom of Mind with Consideration of Aspects of Consciousness . Helmesverlag, Karlsruhe 2008, ISBN 978-3-940567-02-4 .
  • Regula M. Zwahlen: The revolutionary image of God: Anthropologies of human dignity in Nikolaj A. Berdjaev and Sergej N. Bulgakov. (= Syneidos , Volume 5), Lit, Vienna - Berlin - Münster 2010, ISBN 978-3-643-80067-1 .
  • Olga Hertfelder-Polschin: Banished thinking - banished language. Translation and reception of the philosophical work of Nikolaj Berdjaev in Germany. (= Ost-West-Express , Volume 15), Frank & Timme, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-86596-529-5 .
  • Karl Schlögel (Ed.): Waymarks. On the crisis of the Russian intelligentsia. Essays by Nikolaj Berdjaev, Sergej Bulgakov , Michail Gersenzon , Aleksandr Izgoev , Bogdan Kistjakovskij , Petr Struve and Semen Frank . Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1990, ISBN 3-8218-4067-6 .


Web links

Commons : Nikolai Berdyaev  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. cf. O. Hertfelder-Polschin, p. 35 .
  2. Regula M. Zwahlen: The revolutionary image of God. Anthropologies of human dignity in Nikolaj A. Berdjaev and Sergej N. Bulgakov , Volume 5, 2010, ISBN 978-3-643-80067-1 , p. 87.
  3. ^ Klaus Bambauer: N. Berdjajew and the German Philosopher Peter Wust
  4. ^ Sönke Zankel : With leaflets against Hitler: The resistance group around Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell , Cologne 2007, pp. 236-240.
  5. Nikolai A. Berdjajew: The Truth of Orthodoxy , Vestnik of the Exarchate of the Orthodox Congregations of Russian Tradition in Western Europe , 1952. ( English , Russian )
  6. Minor Planet Circ. 18456