Moscow: Tipografiia T-va I. D. Sytina, 1915. Octavo (20 × 15.5 cm). Original printed wrappers; 42 pp. Wrappers lightly faded; spine restored; owner inscription to front wrapper. About very good. Item #2661
First edition of the great Russian philosopher and religious thinker's meditation on the essence of Russia, occasioned by the events of World War One. Probing the so-called "Russian soul," Berdiaev emphasizes Russian exceptionalism and outlines the anarchic, apocalyptic spirit of Russia and its people. Berdiaev (1874-1948) was one of the most important Russian religious and philosophical thinkers of the twentieth century. Here he posits: “The war urgently raises the question of Russian identity. Russian national thought feels the need and duty to solve the riddle of Russia, to understand the idea of Russia, to define its task and place in the world.” Berdiaev goes on to make bold, often categorical statements, throughout the essay, many of which became famous one-liners, such as his assertion that Russia is “the most bureaucratic country in the world.” He also discusses Russia as a country of spiritual excess and sectarianism, connecting the religious and social utopian imaginations. The essay was republished in a collection of his WWI essays “The Fate of Russia” in 1918. It was re-issued in a separate edition only in 1990, when interest in Russian philosophy and religious thought reemerged during Perestroika. KVK, OCLC show only three copies of the first edition at Columbia, Edinburgh and UCL.