Religion in Russia

Courtesy Reuters

THE story of the Communist attack on religion seems to me a very simple one. But to understand any Russian problem one has to know the country -- its real values and particularly its hidden values.

Here, to start with, is one fact which explains more than perhaps anything else in this story. M. Paléologue, witty and courtly ambassador of the French Republic to the last Tsar, states in his diary: "This people is more religious than its Church." The observation is true, but not because Russians are ignorant or superstitious; it applies not only to the masses but also to the best Russian minds. Hardly any really intelligent person can fail to recognize this even as he enters the country. I remember the words of Harold Williams, our greatest Russian scholar: "Don't you feel when you are leaving Russia as if something were being taken out of you?" All native Russian philosophy has always been idealistic. Of itself, without any special pleading, it arrived at the recognition of the unseen world, of the guiding Deity. When I was translating an article on Lopatin, one of the best Russian philosophers, I remember how a great and loved teacher of mine stood by and listened. As Lopatin's argument reached the conclusion just indicated, my friend commented: "A spirit such as that could dwell in no meaner shrine." It was within the people of all classes, not within the formal Church, that the spirit of religion dwelt.

In no country did the great German philosophers from Kant to Hegel leave a greater impression than on the educated élite in Russia; but no sooner did a German idea, perhaps quite secular in its origin, take root in Russia than it at once took on a religious character. Of course, this happened among the native Slavophils, men of enlightened, conservative and patriotic thought. The leader of the school, Kireyevsky, was at one time a pupil of Hegel. But even the westernizers like Belinsky could

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