Nikolai Berdyaev about the East-West Problem
The problem of East and West is a fundamental problem of Russia
The saying of Dostoevsky, that Russian man — is preeminently the all-man, most of all applies to Solov’ev. This Russian anguish as regards all-mankind, as regards oecumenicity, leads to the positing of the problem of East and West. The problem of East and West, the problem of re-uniting the two worlds in a Christian all-unity, in God-manhood, — is the fundamental problem for Vl. Solov’ev, tormenting him all his life. But with this is also the greatness of Solov’ev, in this also is his significance, that the problem of East and West — that this is not only his fundamental problem — this is a fundamental problem of Russia, a problem not only of the Russian philosophy of history, but also of Russian history. The Russian national self-consciousness was begotten in the positing of the problem of East and West.
Panmongolism serves to the re-uniting of East and West
For Christian Russia and Christian Europe, as chastisement for sin, for betrayal of Christ and the Christian revelation about man, — there threatens Panmongolism, that of the Far East, til now aslumber, the East, by us forgotten. … In the pending dangers of Panmongolism there is a mystical anxiety, a presentiment of the end. But the great significance of Panmongolism is first of all in this, that by it is sharply put the question: what intends Russia to be, a Christian land, an organic part of the Christian all-humanity, or a borderland and un-Christian East?
Whether Russia should preserve the Christian revelation about person or betray it and suborn it to the Eastern-Mongolic element of impersonality?
Only a Christian Russia, united with a Christian Europe, can have the strength to repel a Panmongolism.
The Eastern-Mongolic element of impersonality has penetrated also into Western civilisation under the form of a leveling Americanism. The Far East and the Far West coincide. The problem of the Orthodox East and the Catholic West is decided in the problem of the relationship of a Christian all-humanity, of a true Christian revelation about man and humanity, towards the non-Christian humanity, either not having accepted the Christian revelation or having betrayed it. The Christian Churches, or more accurately, the two Christian worlds, conjoin in the external danger of the impersonal element of the East and the internal danger of the impersonal element of an anti-Christian civilisation. Afront Russian messianism there stands Solov’ev’s question:
The danger threatens Russia to become the East of Xerxes, if it conquers not within itself the Tatarism, i.e. the element of the Far East pervasive in its depths. With the Christian and the cultural surmounting of the Tatar element and the Far East is connected first of all the altering of the attitude towards the Christian West. Christian Russia ought to surmount the hostility and rather to love the Christian West, to behold the one truth of Christ, the truth of the oecumenical Church, both in Orthodoxy and in Catholicism. The oecumenical Christian culture ought to be contrast opposite to every, whether external or internal, Tatarism, Mongolism, and impersonalism, whether barbaric or civilised. Against the anti-Christian spirit, Starets Ioann acknowledges the truth of Pope Peter II, who in turn follows after the clear-vision of Ioann. Panmongolism serves to the re-uniting of East and West.
The Russian nation is a chosen people of God
The Slavophils looked on the East, on Eastern Orthodoxy, on Russia, as the possessor and preserver of Orthodoxy, the fullness and the wholeness of Christian truth. In the West, in Catholicism, they saw only the betrayal of Christian truth, only the breaking up of the spiritual wholeness, only rationalistic dissection. For them there was no need of an unifying of the world of the Eastern-Orthodox with the Western-Catholic, since in Orthodoxy was the fullness of truth, and in Catholicism only a deviation from this truth. Only in the Orthodox East, in Russia, was there possible the supreme type of Christian culture. Western culture — was anti-Christian, rationalistic, and hence false and in decay. There was nothing for us to learn from the West. The Slavophils understood Russian messianism in this sense, that only with Russia stood a great future, as the sole Christian land. For them the Russian nation was a chosen people of God, and their messianism brings to mind the times of the ancient Hebrews. Slavism will supersede the Western cultures, which are inclined towards collapse and becoming decrepit. It is proper only to speak about the re-unification of Catholicism with the Orthodox Church, the return of the prodigals to the bosom of the Church. In the West there are no self-sufficient principles, having significance for the fullness of truth. The Eastern-Christian world presented itself for the Slavophils as already that of all-mankind.