Who is Nikolay Berdyayev?

Who is Nikolay Berdyayev?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Nikolay Berdyayev (Russian: Николай Александрович Бердяев) was a contemporary Russian thinker who lived from 1874-1948.

Berdyayev, who is in favor of non-systematic and mysterious forms of expression in philosophy instead of logical and rational methods, argued that truths are “the product of a light leaking from the transcendent world of the spirit”, not rational research, and that the greatness of man stems from his share of this spiritual world and his divine ability to create. .

He was born in Kiev in an aristocratic family of soldiers. He studied Hegel, Schopenhauer and Kant in his father’s library at an early age.

In 1894 he entered the University of Kiev. During this period when the idea of ​​revolution was widespread among students and intellectuals, he became a Marxist, was arrested in a student demonstration and expelled from the university. He was exiled in the country for three years due to his participation in illegal actions.

He married Lydia Trusheff in 1904. In Saint Petersburg, where he settled with his wife, he participated in intellectual and religious discussions and left Marxism to become interested in philosophy and spirituality.

Berdyaev, a believer in Orthodox Christianity but often criticizing the institutional church, was accused of blasphemy in 1913 for a scathing article criticizing the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and was exiled to Siberia. World War II and the Bolshevik Revolution prevented the issue from being brought to court.

Berdyaev did not support the Bolshevik regime because of its authoritarianism and the dominance of the state over individual freedom. In 1922, 160 writers, scholars and intellectuals whose ideas were found objectionable by the Bolshevik government were exiled abroad.

He reached Berlin with other immigrants, but due to the economic and political conditions of Weimar Germany, he and his wife went to Paris in 1923. During the German occupation of France, Berdyaev continued to write books that would be published after the war. He wrote fifteen books during his stay in France. He died at the writing desk of his house in Clamart, near Paris, in March 1948.

Berdyaev influenced many thinkers, but his works were often the subject of controversy. His works were mostly accepted by the members of existential philosophy and orthodox theology. Berdyaev had a great influence on the school of thought called Mystical realism, whose effects are especially visible in Russian philosophical thought.


Our view of truth is now under the spell of objectification. Only things that can be objectively verified are considered true, true, and reliable. The dominance of objective thought, which presents itself as science and technology, alienates and suffocates the life of both the soul and the individual.

Truth has two meanings: truth as knowledge of reality and truth as reality itself. (The Beginning and the End -1947- BE.48)

Where shall we look for the criterion of truth? Usually, human beings seek the criterion of the soul in the material world, in the objective world with all its obligations, in something lower than this criterion. Thus, it falls into a vicious circle. Discursive truth provides no criterion for ultimate truth, this (discursive) truth only marks half the way and knows neither beginning nor end. Every proof is based on no evidence, postulate, what has been created. There is risk and no guarantee. The quest for guarantee is wrong and actually means subordinating the higher to the lower. Freedom of the soul knows no guarantees. The ultimate criterion of truth is itself, and the light emanates from it. (BE.49)

Truth is the awakening of the soul in man, its communication with the soul. (BE,48)

Truth is of the soul, not of the world: it is known only by transcending the objective world. Truth is the end of this objective world and demands that we accept it. (BE 72)


Freedom is the ultimate: it cannot arise from anything, cannot be equivalent to anything. Freedom is the root of your being, it is deeper than anything else. (The Meaning of the Creative Act, 1916, 145) It would be a mistake to think that the common man loves freedom. The bigger mistake is to assume that freedom is an easy thing. Freedom is a powerful thing. It is easier to remain a slave. (Slavery and Freedom, 1939, p.247)

Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM)