(1915 – #204)

Few, actually, have heard of the remarkable Russian thinker, Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov. A modest librarian of the Rumantsev Museum — he was well know in certain Moscow circles. There are preserved letters to Fedorov from Vl. Solov’ev, from L. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Fet, from which it is indeed apparent, how deeply they esteemed him, and with what significance they regarded his thought. Vl. Solov’ev at one period was under the direct influence of N. F. Fedorov and called him his teacher. And L. Tolstoy took pride in this, that he was alive at the same time as such a man, as Fedorov. But the wider circles of Russian society up to the present know nothing concerning Fedorov and cannot derive wisdom, from what they know not. N. F. Fedorov was original, quaint, unique a man, quite unlike anyone. He did not wish, that his writings should be published for profit, since he denied the right of ownership to literary works. The first volume of his “Philosophy of the Common Task” was printed, not for profit, and was distributed by the editors to individual persons, which certainly made it impossible for any sort of wide distribution of the book. Two years back there appeared the second volume of the “Philosophy of the Common Task”, which however was published on a for-profit basis.

Fedorov thought quite much about war and the means of establishing peace into the life of mankind. Many of the thoughts of Fedorov pose not only at present an especial interest, but directly bear a prophetic character. The thought of Fedorov dealt constantly in the direction of the possibility of a world war and he foresaw the role of Germany in the world conflict. He strove passionately for a world all together, for the uniting of mankind towards a common task. He saw the mission of Russia in the bringing of peace, in the cessation of strife. He developes an audacious and original project for the rediverting of the army, which nowise ought to be dissolved, to rather the conquest and regulation of the elemental forces of nature.

Within the thought process of Fedorov is uniquely combined utopianism and fantasy together with a positive realism and prophetic insights. At the basis of the religio-philosophic and religio-societal worldview of Fedorov resides the idea of the unification of all mankind for an active regulation of the elemental forces of nature, and for the resuscitation of the dead. His faith in the activity of man, in the power of knowledge, in the reason-endowed will, directed towards the good, was truly boundless. A believing Christian, Orthodox even, he combines his Christianity with an exceptional awareness of the duty of man to be active, to bring reason into the whole of nature, to return to life the dead ancestors, to whom we remain indebted, since it is on their account that we live. So very bold a thinking about the resuscitation of dead fathers by the active efforts of an united mankind, with its knowledge, with its technology, its moral will, has never yet found such an expression. Howsoever utopian, but that Fedorov believes in the boundless power of reason in the world and he underestimates the significance of the irrational, the dark elements, he tends to overlook the power of evil within human life. Within the religious consciousness it led to this, that he relied too much upon the strenuous efforts of man and he as it were failed to see, that the resuscitation is possible only through the graced regeneration of Christ, and not through the regulatory will of man, his knowledge and technology. But the rationalistic utopianism of Fedorov has all the same not diminished his realistic foresights. He saw much clearly, and he foresaw much clearly in the position of Europe and of Russia.

Yet it is remarkable, that within the rightist camp he was one of the few, who accurately estimated the role of Germany within world life and understood the dangers of Germanism for Russia. Characteristic to our rightist camp was a traditional Germanophilia. We tend to remember, what a Germanophil that K. Leont’ev was, and how even Dostoevsky was not free from Germanophilism. And Germanophilism has become discernible within our rightist circles in recent years. This Germanophilism has led to an historical failing of the “rightists” in Russia, exposing neither the patriotic, nor the national character, within the dark powers in Russian society. Fedorov was more perspicacious and more sincere, his “rightist” bent did not obscure his awareness and did not lead to a betrayal of the interests of Russia under whatever the dark impulses. And concerning the prophetic insights of Fedorov in regard to Germanism I intend also to speak.


N. F. Fedorov clearly understood the growing role of Germany within world life. He was not blind to the fact, that Germany could represent a buttressing prop for the conservative forces in Russia. He terms Wilhelm the Black Tsar and even Anti-Christ in distinction to the Russian White Tsar, as a proponent of peace. “Germany, striving after a concentration of power, has become the initiator of militarism, at present threatening all the world”.1  He had clear insight into the union of Wilhelm with Islam. “We see the appearance… of a Germano-Turkish empire, which, from the moment of the solemn concluding of a pact of Wilhelm and Islam, will stretch from the Atlantic to the Philippines… Khan-Wilhelm sealed his alliance with Islam upon a stone in the city of Cain and Baal (Baalbek), and at Damascus he espied from Mount Kassioun the coursings, over which Kassioun presides… By his wanton sufferance the new Anti-Christ provokes a Mahometan fanaticism upon all the East and readies for future times new onslaughts, which he himself indeed predicted, and new progrommes”.2

Fedorov passionately wanted to forestall and surmount the need for wars and he saw in this the great mission of Russia. But he did not want disarmament. “There is needed not a disarmament; there is needed rather an armament overall, combined with an overall intensive education, which should give the arms different an application, enabling all peoples to unite into a single union. And therefore the fist question, posited by the Peace Circular — the support of preserving peace, — can only be severed by extraordinary efforts and only in this instance, if the enemy of peace, Germany, having entered into an union with Islam, itself a religion of war, and if the emperor of Germany, forgetful about the origin and significance of the imperial dignity, having entered into union with a caliph of fanatic true-believers, will be limited on land and sea by an union of other states”.

“For the supporting of peace it is necessary for Russia, maintaining its union with France against Germany, to enter likewise into union with the two Britains, not only the American, but also the European, with the holders of the ocean, though non-actively, certainly. This union would set, on the one hand, a limit to the expansion to the enemy of peace on the sea, and on the other hand, the alignment of Russia with the English at the Pamir would hold in check Islam, in its friendship with Germany, and would separate off the nomads of Upper Asia from Asia Proper and from Africa. The union of Russia however, standing at the head of the Slavs, with France, standing at the head of the Romanic states of Europe, having unbalanced Austria and having surrounded Hungary, would leave Germany to be held in check on dry land and Islam cut off from the sea”.3  Fedorov very precisely foresaw the worldwide positioning and inter-relationships, which now ultimately have appeared. He foresaw the alignment of lands in the present-day war. He desired the union of Russia with the English against Germany. He was not afraid of union with the English, as the rightist circles were wont to fear. He anticipated the falling apart of Austria-Hungary and the cutting off of Turkey from the sea.

And thus Fedorov, despite his mad utopianism, proved to be more perspicacious than many sober-minded people. He truly loved Russia and he loved truth. “In the capital of Wilhelm II, — says Fedorov, — at Campo Santo [Berlin Gallery of Kings], i.e. at the graveyard of his ancestors, Cornelius [Peter von Cornelius] prophetically depicted the destruction of the human race by poison, by hunger, by war and by death. Is it not Prussia, does not the horseman depict the Black Tsar, to whom power is given to expel peace from the earth?”4  In the opinion of Fedorov, “at the Peterburg Campo Santo needful it should be to depict an horseman, to whom would have been given power to return peace to the earth, — needful an image of resuscitation, in place of the scenes of destruction”. But the foreseeing of the world clash for Fedorov is closely interwoven with a dream about having peace amongst mankind and of transforming the instruments of death-bearing and killing into instruments life-bearing and of vitalisation. “At the present time, when the union of Germany with the massive millions of Mahometans threatens not only Russia, but also European Britain both in Asia and Africa, and when even the United States has come up against Philippine Mahometans, confederates of the Black Tsar, now moreso, than in the year 1812, there is needful an union of the two Britains, and not so much for the struggle with the enemy of peace (the Black Tsar), the supposed holder of the dry land, as rather for the ocean itself; there is needful for this struggle both the union of the two surrounding movements, both of the sea at the rear of Mahometanism, and of the overland path, to the meeting of these movements at the Pamir. This coming together would set closed the Christian circle around those confessing the religion of the sword and compel them to turn their tools of war not against others like themself, but rather against the blind forces, death-bearing, spreading discord amongst people, which also would lead to pacification”.5  According to Fedorov, the people ought to be armed, the army ought to be of the people. But the finalmost aim of the armed people — is for regulating the powers of nature, and not for mutual destruction. This ideal — is not the Germanic.


Fedorov understood quite well the connection of modern militarism with industrialism. And modern militarism is quite distinctly different from the military type of societies from former times, it — is the offspring of the manufacturing type of societies, it is flesh from flesh and blood from blood of a capitalistic economy. Germany has clearly discovered this connection of militarism with industrialism. Peaceful manufacturing societies, which Spenser contrasted to military societies, in the final end leads to a war of all against all. And this Fedorov distinctly foresaw. “Modern militarism, inseparable from industrialism, with its perfecting of weapons and excellence of the means of communication has returned the human race back to that condition, in which it was at the most primitive of times, when warfare was endless and everywhere”.6  N. Fedorov prophesied the inevitability of a world war set amidst the mindsets of modern societies and allowed for several possible combinations, in which the world struggle would explode. But amidst all the combinations inevitable was the clash between Russia and Germany. “The rapidity of communication has accomplished the possibility of a war of all against all, i.e. it has returned us to the primitive condition of everywhere incessant wars and to a condition of expecting them, but with weaponry no longer primitive, but rather of such an attainment of perfection, that a saving from them is well nigh impossible. This transformation reflects also a military evolution: all the separate local wars are transformed into a common single war between two union-alliances, gripping hold all the earthly sphere. With these union-alliances it can be either Russo-Chinese with the two Britains, European and American, against Germany with its massive millions of Mahometan allies, or the Germano-Mahometan with the two Britains against Russia, or more exactly still, the union-alliance of the Near and Far West in union-alliance with the Near and Far East against an isolated Russia…”.

“This — is the sort of inter-Aryan quarrel, which can end up with a triumph of Turan [the Turk]”.7  All the grandiose technology of modern industrialism leads not to a regulation of nature by an united mankind, of which Fedorov dreamed, but rather to a war of all against all. Fedorov distinctly understood, that Germany — is the bearer of this militaristic industrialism or industrialistic militarism, that the world conflagration would be ignited through the fault of Germany. The spirit of Germanism stood in the way to the realisation of his project of a common task, of a general co-uniting for the salvation of all, for the general resuscitation. But Fedorov did not want as it were to see, that what was so strongly and forcefully expressed in Germany, is something common also to all mankind. The seeds of the world war were lodged within the soul of modern mankind. And only through the suffering experience of world discord would mankind be led towards a greater oneness and unity.

But here is what is characteristic, and what has to be stressed. How profoundly distinct the will of Fedorov is for a worldwide unification of people for the common task, for the regulation of all the elemental powers of nature, his Russian will for the salvation of all, the living and the dead, for the vitalisation of all, — in contrast to the Germanic will to power and mastery over the world, the will to warfare and violence. Fedorov makes an appeal to power and activity, but it is a power and activity, saving the weak and perishing, and not oppressing nor destroying. And herein is expressed the profound difference of the spirit Germanism from the spirit of the Slavic race. The Slavic race is alien to the military will to power over the world, its characteristic will is to a worldwide unification of mankind, to an overall salvation. Our Russian universalism is nowise similar to the Germanic universalism. Fedorov — is a thinker characteristically Russian, and all his ideas and visions are profoundly Russian. And now, moreso than ever, we have to oppose the spirit of Germanism with our own Russian spiritual riches, and therefore these days also to be well mindful of N. F. Fedorov.

Nikolai Berdyaev.


©  2008 by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1915 – 204 -en)

PROROCHESTVA N. F. FEDOROVA O VOINE. Originally published 15 August 1915 in newspaper-gazette “Birzhevye vedomosti”. Reprinted since in the sbornik-anthology of N. Berdyaev articles under the title, “Mutnye liki (Tipy religioznoi mysli v Rossii)”, Publisher “Kanon+”, Moskva, 2004, p. 64-70.

1Vide: Philosophy of the Common Task, t. II, p. 105.


3Ibid., p. 289-290.

4Ibid., p. 306.

5Ibid., p. 335.

6Ibid., p. 335.