Nikolai Berdyaev about Russian maximalism
The Russian revolutionary wants a worldwide happiness and right now
The Russian revolutionaries wanted a worldwide turnabout, in which would be burnt away all the old world with its evil and darkness with its sanctities and values, and upon the ash-heap would be substituted a new and graceful life for all the people and for all peoples. Upon lesser than worldwide an happiness, the Russian revolutionary could not reconcile himself. His mindset is apocalyptic, he wants the end, he wants the finishing off of history and the inception of a supra-historical process, in which will be realised a realm of equality, freedom and bliss upon earth. And this allows for nothing transitional nor relative, no sort of steps of developement of awareness. Russian revolutionary maximalism is also an unique, and distorted apocalyptics. Its reverse side always manifests itself as nihilism. The nihilistic destroying of all the manifold and relative historical world inevitably spreads also to the absolute spiritual foundations of history. Russian nihilism does not admit of the very source of the historical process, which is lodged within the Divine actuality, it rebels against the Divine world-order, in which history takes shape with its steps, with its unavoidable hierarchical aspect. … Revolutionary socialism is not an economic and political teaching, is not a system of social reforms, — it has pretension to be a religion, it is a faith, in opposition to the Christian faith.
Revolt against God in the name of a worldwide love for people
Dostoevsky was a great master in exposing the ontological consequences of false ideas, when they have taken complete hold upon a man. What sort of an idea is it that has completely taken hold of Peter Verkhovensky and brought him to the disintegration of person, transforming him into a liar and sower of lies? This is all the selfsame basic idea of Russian nihilism, of Russian socialism, of Russian maximalism, all the selfsame infernal passion for a worldwide leveling, all the selfsame revolt against God in the name of a worldwide love for people, all the selfsame replacement of the Kingdom of Christ by the kingdom of the Anti-Christ. There are many suchlike demoniac Verkhovenskys in the Russian revolution, they everywhere attempt to pull things into the demonic whirling motion, they feed the Russian people on lies and drag it toward non-being.
In Russia all has to be collective, impersonal
In the Russian revolution there has been ultimately extinguished every individual attempt at thinking, the thinking was rendered completely impersonal, relegated to the masses. Read the revolutionary newspapers, listen to the revolutionary speeches, and you will receive a confirmation of the words of Peter Verkhovensky. Regarding someone who has so toiled away over it, that "not a single idea remains in their head". Russian revolutionary messianism leaves it to the bourgeois West to have one's own ideas and opinions. In Russia all has to be collective, of the masses, impersonal.
Let there be an absolute leveling
Tolstoy was a maximalist … This Tolstoyan maximalism exists within the Russian revolution — it is impelled by the destructive morals of maximalism, it breathes hatred towards everything historical, and in a spirit of Tolstoyan maximalism the Russian revolution has wanted as though to rip each man out of the world historical wholeness, to which he organically belongs, to transform him into an atom, so as to plunge him abruptly into the impersonal collective. … [I]n the Russian revolution this maximalist repudiation of the historical world is begotten of a frenzied egalitarian passion. Let there be an absolute leveling, even if it be a leveling right down to nothingness!
The Anti-Christ sanctity influences and entices Russian man
Revolutionary sanctity is not a genuine sanctity, this — is a fraudulent sanctity, a deceptive semblance of sanctity, a mere substitute. … The deceptive externals of the revolutionary guise of sanctity has been sent the Russian people as a temptation and a testing of its spiritual powers. And Russian people herein have not held up under this testing. Honestly attracted by the revolutionary spirit, they do not see the realities, they fail to discern the spirits. The deceptive, fraudulent and twofold images tempt and entice. The Anti-Christ allures, the Anti-Christ morals, the Anti-Christ sanctity all influence and entice Russian man. For Russian people, spiritually captivated by the revolutionary maximalism, there are peculiar experiences, very akin to Jewish apocalypticism, that apocalyptic aspect which was surmounted and overcome by the Apostle Paul and the Christian Church. The victory over this Judaic apocalyptic aspect also rendered Christianity a world historical force. Russian apocalypticism includes within it the greatest of dangers and temptations, it can direct all the energy of the Russian people onto a false path, it can hinder the Russian people from fulfilling its vocation in the world, it can render the Russian people into a people non-historical. The revolutionary apocalyptics sidetracks Russian people from the realities and precipitates them into a realm of phantasms. Getting free from this false and unhealthy apocalyptics does not mean the destroying of all the apocalyptic consciousness.
Maximalism of sanctity and minimalism of daily life
Catholicism in its own way, and Protestantism in another have nurtured the peoples of the West for an historical life, they have worked out the forging of character, necessary for the creation of culture. Catholicism is pervaded by the spirit of universalism. But it also developes and provides the discipline of person. In Catholicism there was always a dynamic energy, which has played a guiding role in world history. The Orthodox religious upbringing has been unfavourable for the historical life of peoples; it teaches little for a societal and cultural sense of building, it little disciplines the person. Orthodoxy eternally wavers between a maximalism of sanctity and the minimalism of a quite base manner of life. Russian Orthodoxy has created dazzling forms of sanctity and nurtured in the people the cult of sanctity and the saints. But very little was done for the developement in Russian man by way of integrity and responsibility, for the religious strengthening of energy in him, such as is needful for the creativity of history and culture. In the Russian religiosity there has always predominated features of the Eastern passivity. In this type of religiosity the personal principle has always been weakly expressed. The person is dissolved always and drowned in the natural collectivism, which is mistaken as being a spiritual Sobornost'-Communality. Many psychological features of the Russian Orthodox religiosity in a secularised form have passed over into the atheistic Russian Intelligentsia. The Orthodox upbringing has not left in the soul of Russian man solidly firm deposits in the form of the cultural virtues of the norms of civilisation, such as the religious upbringing of the West has left. Russian man all too easily passes over from the religious condition into a condition totally nihilistic. If there is no God and immortality of the soul, then for Russian man everything appears permissible. He can go about stark naked. The Russian Revolution has uncovered the deficiency of the religious upbringing of the Russian peopleю
N. A. Berdyaev
The Recuperation of Russia