Some Russian History
My Dissertation of course has copious footnotes. They are missing here because I did not know how to extract them from the MS Word file when I saved same as html.
PETR IA. CHAADAEV
AND THE RISE OF RUSSIAN CULTURAL CRITICISM, 1800-1830
Gordon Southworth Cook, Jr.
Department of History
Date: April 11, 1972
John S. Curtiss Supervisor
Harold T. Parker
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy in the Department of History
in the Graduate School of
Revised by the author in early 1994 in commemoration of the
200th Anniversary of Chaadaev's birth
© Gordon Cook
Petr Iakovlevich Chaadaev (1794-1856) was a major figure in the development of Russian intellectual history in the first half of the nineteenth century. His early life and his attitude towards Russian society were shaped by the experience of the generation of the Russian nobility born between the French Revolution and the European wars of 1805-06. For Chaadaev and most of his friends, the successful repulsion of the French invasion of Russia in 1812, followed by the entry of Russian armies into Paris in 1814, created liberal social expectations which, after these young officers returned to Russia, met only with one frustration after another. For some of his friends, these frustrations led to direct involvement in the revolt of December 14, 1825 and to the hangman's noose or to exile. For Chaadaev himself, they led to the writing of eight Philosophical Letters between 1828 and 1831. Eventually, nearly eight years after it was originally written, the publication of his First Philosophical Letter in October 1836 became a cause celebre from which the split of Russian intellectuals into opposing camps of Slavophiles and Westerners is generally acknowledged to have grown. The major presupposition of this study is that the events which shaped the development of the attitudes of Petr Chaadaev and of many of his friends towards the society in which they lived have never before been adequately examined.
This dissertation uses the biographical approach to examine the first 35 years of Chaadaev's life. Its objective is to understand the development of those critical attitudes towards Russian society and culture expressed in much of the literary criticism of the 1820s, in the programs and goals of the secret societies of the Decembrists, and finally in Chaadaev's First Philosophical Letter.
The two most important sources used in this study are M. O. Gershenzon's edition of the Works and Letters of P. Ia. Chaadaev and more than two dozen unpublished letters by Chaadaev or his friends. Microfilms of these letters and of the manuscripts of his Philosophical Letters were obtained from archives in Moscow and Leningrad. Charles Quénet's biography, Tchaadaev et les Lettres philosophiques, is used both as a valuable guide to other source materials and for the construction of the basic framework of many of the details of Chaadaev's early life. Other important sources are the memoirs, diaries and letters of many of Chaadaev's friends or acquaintances: I. D. Iakushkin, N. I. Turgenev, M. I. Zhikharev, M. N. Longinov, N. I. Grech, M. I. Murav'ev-Apostol, A. S. Pushkin, P. A. Viazemskii, and D. N. Sverbeev.
The dissertation examines in detail the period of time between 1814 and 1826. In so doing it explores a series of events which, as the historian V. O. Kliuchevskii later said, "destroyed the outlook of a generation." It concludes that many of the ideas of Petr Chaadaev were the product of the frustrations that he and his friends endured between 1815 and 1829, the date of the completion of his First Philosophical Letter. It demonstrates that the devastating criticism of Russian society and culture contained in Chaadaev's First Philosophical Letter was the result of a synthesis of identifiable Russian and Western European ideas gathered together into a critique more powerful than the sum of its parts. Thus it hopes to put an end to the type of historical analysis which, in the past, has moved from a discussion of Napoleon's attack on Russia to the coup of December 14, 1825, and finally to the publication of Chaadaev's First Philosophical Letter in 1836 without examining those events and ideas which tie together these three major episodes of the first four decades of the nineteenth century.
Petr Iakovlevich Chaadaev (1794-1856) was a major figure in Russian cultural history in the first half of the nineteenth century. This study traces the development of his early life and explains how he came to write his eight Philosophical Letters, the work that remains his major contribution to Russian intellectual history.
The research which led to this dissertation began in 1965 at the London School of Economics under the guidance of Professor Leonard Schapiro. Since then many people have generously given valuable aid and advice. Although it is impossible in this preface to thank them adequately, I will try at least to summarize their contributions here.
Professor John Shelton Curtiss supervised my initial work at Duke University, continuing his guidance even after his retirement in 1969. He provided me with a thorough and meticulous introduction to the demands of scholarship and writing, not to mention the valuable insights and knowledge of the forty years which he has devoted to the study of Russian history. Between the summer of 1969 and the beginning of my full time work on this dissertation I received valuable aid from several scholars. Professor Patrick Dunn suggested that the works of some of the literary critics who were active in the decade between 1815 and 1825 would be a good place to begin my search for the origins of Chaadaev's critical ideas. Professor Marc Raeff of Columbia University helped me to define the direction of my further research on Chaadaev and called my attention both to important primary works and to some recent dissertations related to the general area of my subject. Before going to the Soviet Union I visited Professor Raymond T. McNally who gave me the numbers from the Shakhovskoi Archives of the seven separate folders listed in my bibliography. Because these Archives were still uncatalogued in the summer of 1970, without those numbers, I would have had no chance to gain access to this valuable material during my relatively short stay in Leningrad. Dr. McNally also offered me a brief glimpse at the manuscript of his monograph, Chaadaev and His Friends , a glimpse which proved to be of great value in that it confirmed that this dissertation would not duplicate his work. Finally, both he and Professor Curtiss provided me with letters of introduction which were valuable in gaining access to archives in Moscow and Leningrad.
In the Soviet Union I was most fortunate in obtaining in a very short amount of time, microfilms of the necessary materials. The Social Sciences section of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR very kindly provided a letter to the Manuscript Division of the Lenin Library which resulted in a film being completed in one week instead of the normal six week's waiting time. In Leningrad, the staff of the Pushkinskii Dom accepted my request for the microfilming of more than one hundred pages of manuscripts. Four days later, the film was completed. I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the Soviet archivists and officials who went outside of normal procedural channels to expedite the microfilming of those source materials.
When I began full time work on this dissertation, in the winter of 1970-71, I was contemplating a study of the rise of cultural criticism that would have focused equally on Aleksandr Bestuzhev, Ivan Kireevskii and Petr Chaadaev. Professor Martin Miller's critical insights caused me to abandon this plan in favor of a more realistic one that would focus only on Chaadaev. Also, I was most fortunate that at this time, Dr. Curtiss agreed to continue the responsibility of the supervision of this dissertation. During the past fifteen months he has given generously of both his time and talents in reading and rereading the drafts of the chapters of this study.
Professor Paul Debreczeny of the Department of Slavic Languages of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has given me valuable advice and guidance ever since the summer of 1969. He has read and criticized the drafts of this work. Also, he has given invaluable help in negotiating the difficulties of translation of early nineteenth century Russian source materials. Dr. Harold Parker has introduced me to several monographs and primary sources which are useful in explaining the influences on Romanticism and German idealism on Chaadaev's thought. Professor Parker has also read and criticized Chapters VI and VII of this work. While he has not been directly involved in the writing this dissertation, Professor Warren Lerner has given valued advice and assistance in other details of my graduate education
I had the good fortune of meeting Professor Mary-Barbara Zeldin of the Department of Philosophy of Hollins College in October 1971. At that time, Dr. Zeldin gave me microfilms of the manuscripts of Chaadaev's Philosophical Letters found in the Dashkov Archives, and in the Pypin Archives, as well as films of both existing manuscripts of his Apology of a Madman. Since October of 1971, Professor Zeldin has read every chapter of this dissertation and provided extremely detailed and valuable criticism. Since her assistance was given in a spirit of collegiality, rather than as a member of the committee, it is all the more appreciated. I wish also to thank Professor George Lensen of the Diplomatic Press for sending me proofs of Professor Raymond McNally's Chaadaev and His Friends.
My thanks also to my wife, Valerie, who has endured much in the past four years and without whom this dissertation would never have been written. Finally, my thanks to my father who obtained copies of some valuable source materials from the British Museum. All responsibility, for this work, of course, rests solely with the author. All dates in this study (unless otherwise noted) are in accordance with the Julian calendar which was used in Russia until 1918 and which lagged twelve days behind the Gregorian calendar in the nineteenth century. In general, Russian words and names have been transliterated according to the system used by the Library of Congress with a few diacritical simplifications. However, the traditional Western spelling of the names of the members of the Russian royal family and of Aleksandr Herzen have been preserved for the sake of clarity. Chaadaev's Philosophical Letters are underlined when referring to three or more of the Letters. Mentioned individually they are treated as unpublished works which need not be italicized. The bibliography of this work lists only those materials actually cited. Hence it does not list many of the numerous secondary and primary materials which are solely concerned with Chaadaev's life after the completion of his Philosophical Letters.
G. S. C. Jr.
I "A SHOT IN THE DARK NIGHT:" THE PROBLEM
OF CHAADAEV'S HISTORICAL LEGACY 2
II. "I AM TRULY DYING OF BOREDOM HERE:" THE CHILDHOOD AND EARLY YOUTH OF PETR IAKOVLEVICH CHAADAEV 31
III. "IT IS AS THOUGH I AM SEEING THE END OF A HIGHLY BORING JOURNEY:" UNIVERSITY YEARS, WAR, AND RETURN TO RUSSIA 49
IV. "I AGREE THAT YOU ARE OBTUSE . . . ." SUCCESS ON THE HIGHEST INTELLECTUAL AND SOCIAL LEVELS. PUSHKIN, SECRET SOCIETIES, THE TEMPERING EDGE OF INCREASING REACTION 71
V. "EVERYTHING IS EMPTINESS:" ALIENATION AND
STRESS, THEIR CLIMAX AND THE END OF A CAREER,
VI. "I WANT A HOME BUT A HOME THERE IS NOT:"
IN SEARCH OF A SOUL; A EUROPEAN DIVERSION, AND RETURN TO RUSSIA 147
VII. "I SHALL WRITE AN ESSAY ON HIGHER METAPHYSICS . . . ." A SOUL IS FOUND: THE EMERGENCE OF A SOCIAL CRITIC FROM A SHATTERED RUSSIAN REALITY 185
VIII. "ALONE IN THE WORLD, WE HAVE GIVEN NOTHING TO THE WORLD . . ." ORIGINS OF A CULTURAL CRITIQUE AND A PRESCRIPTION FOR FUTURE PROGRESS 203
IX. EPILOGUE AND GENERAL CONCLUSIONS ON THE
DEVELOPMENT AND CHARACTER OF A CRITIC 231
"A SHOT IN THE DARK NIGHT:"
0F CHAADAEV'S HISTORICAL LEGACY
In the last months of 1836, on a calm day in the small provincial watering-place Known as Viatka, Aleksandr Herzen was seated at his writing desk when the postman delivered the most recent issue of the Moscow Journal Teleskop (The Telescope). In his memoirs he recalled what happened next--events that would; become etched in his mind and his emotions for the rest of his life.
One must have lived in exile and in the wilds to appreciate a new book. I abandoned everything, of course, and began to dissect The Telescope. I saw "Philosophical Letters," written to a lady, unsigned. In a footnote it was stated that these letters had been written by a Russian in French, that is, that they were a translation. This turned me against them and I proceeded to read the "criticism" and "miscellany." At last the turn came for the Letter; from the second or third page I was struck by the mournfully earnest tone. Every word breathed of a prolonged suffering. . . . I read further: the Letter grew and developed, it turned into a dark denunciation of Russia, the protest of one who, in return for all he has endured, longs to utter some part of what has accumulated in his heart. Twice I stopped to take a breath, and to collect my thoughts and feelings and then I read on and on. And this was published in Russia by an unknown author! I was afraid I had gone out of my mind!
Such was Herzen's immediate reaction to the First Philosophical Letter of Petr Iakovlevich Chaadaev (1794-1856). This Letter was the most emotionally moving and pessimistic critique of Russian society and culture since Radishchev's Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow which had been furtively published in 1790. Nothing comparable to it would appear until the works of Belinskii, Herzen and Lermontov in the early 1840's. Moreover, because it was published in a periodical available to the general public, Chaadaev's work produced an even more profound and immediate impact on Russian intellectual life than either Radishchev's Journey or the written dissent of the early 1840's.
Herzen's evaluation of the Letter's impact is presented here because it offers some important clues on the question why, nearly a century and a half after the Letter was written, the picture of its place in Russian intellectual history, as well as that of its author, has not been adequately drawn. To go back to that important day:
That Letter was in a sense the last word, the limit. It was a shot that rang out in the dark night; . . . whether it was news of the dawn or news that there would not be one--it was all the same, one had to wake up. What, one may ask, is the significance of two or three pages published in a monthly review? And yet such is the might of speech, such is the power of the spoken word in this land of silence unaccustomed to free speech, that Chaadaev's Letter shook all of thinking Russia. And well it might. There had not been one literary work since Woe from Wit which made so powerful an impression. Between that play and the Letter there had been ten years of silence, the Fourteenth of December, the gallows, penal servitude, Nicholas. . . . The empty place left by the powerful men who had been exiled to Siberia had not been filled. Thought languished; men's minds were working but nothing was yet attained. To speak was dangerous and indeed there was nothing left to say; [but] suddenly a mournful figure quietly arose and asked for a hearing. . . .
This is eloquent testimony to the impact of Chaadaev's Letter. But this also contains statements which were to merge into a historical smoke screen obscuring the most cogent questions that scholars should have been asking as they have attempted to define Chaadaev's place in Russian history. "Ten years of silence," "thought languished," and then suddenly there came "a shot that rang out in the dark night"; this is Herzen's brief scenario of the period which will be the major subject of this study. "A dark night," "silence" and suddenly "a shot rang out"; these are also the statements which have obscured historical truth. The "dark night" symbolizes two problems. The first problem is the fact that, although Chaadaev is a major figure of Russian history, his legacy to the historian is composed of a disappointingly small amount of primary source material. Therefore one of the purposes of this introduction will be to sketch the efforts of historians to dispel this "darkness" as they have pieced together the available materials during the 110 years since the first edition of Chaadaev's works was published in Paris. The second problem of the "dark night" results from the fact that historians, even in Russia, have tended to accept Herzen almost literally when he speaks of "ten years of silence" and of "thought languishing." Consequently they have not bothered to illuminate the canvas of events against which Chaadaev's life developed.
Herzen was undoubtedly speaking metaphorically, but behind every metaphor, as far as its author is concerned, there lies a conviction of its truth. It is easy to see the source of Herzen's conviction. As he was more than fifteen years younger than Chaadaev, Herzen did not even enter the University of Moscow until the "ten years of silence" was more than half over. Not long thereafter he found himself condemned to exile. Thus, perhaps he should not be blamed for being largely unaware of the intellectual ferment and the development of social criticism that occurred during this ten-year period, not to mention the events of the preceding ten years when he had been only a child.
Standing in awe of Herzen's formidable life and intellectual accomplishments, many historians have portrayed Chaadaev's life against a canvas that is essentially blank because they have made little or no attempt to discover if a major source of his pessimism may not have sprung from the social and intellectual developments of the Russian environment in which he matured. Against such an empty canvas it is not surprising that the intellectual origins of his critique of Russian culture may have been misunderstood. By embarking on a brief chronological review of the appearance of the major primary materials relating to the life of Petr Chaadaev and by considering, at the same time, his treatment at the hands Or historians during the last century, it should be possible to gain an understanding of the problems which scholars have faced and their subsequent failure to depict accurately and completely Chaadaev's role in Russian intellectual history.
Petr Iakolevich Chaadaev died in April of 1856, but it was not until 1862 that the first substantial collection of his works and correspondence was published. The first set of memoirs written by a firsthand acquaintance appeared also in that year. Unfortunately, these three kinds of sources: his works, his correspondence and the memoirs of some of his friends are virtually the only kinds of material which are available to the historian. Chaadaev kept neither a diary nor any notebooks. The quantity of his personal correspondence is small, especially in the period before 1820. It is particularly unfortunate that apparently none of Chaadaev's personal letters during the eighteen months that preceded the completion of the First Philosophical Letter--if indeed there were any--have survived. Still, during the century which followed the appearance of these original materials, scholars have discovered much new material, the sum total of which is finally substantial enough to permit a reasonably detailed study of Chaadaev's early life.
In the year 1860, at the urging of Chaadaev's close friend, Aleksandr Ivanovich Turgenev, his "nephew," Mikhail Zhikharev, made a trip to Western Europe taking with ham a collection of his late uncle's correspondence and works. In, Zhikharev gave the collection to the Russian Jesuit, Prince Ivan Sergeevich Gagarin. In 1862 Gagarin published it there under the title Oeuvres choisies de P. Tchadaief, publiees Pour la premie`re fois Par le P. Gagarin. The collection published by Gagarin contained, in addition to Chaadaev's correspondence with A. I. Turgenev and several others, the texts of four Philosophical Letters. including the famous First Philosophical Letter, and finally the Apology of a Madman. Only three of Chaadaev's friends left detailed reminiscences of his life. These were his "nephew" Mikhail Zhikharev, the Muscovite nobleman Dmitri Nikolaevich Sverbeev, and Mikhail Nikolaevich Longinov.
Some thirty years younger than Chaadaev, Longinov did not come to know him well until the 1840's. Born in 1823, he was educated at the lycee in Tsarkoe Selo and attended the University of St. Petersburg. In 1843 he began a career as a functionary in the offices of the Governor General in Moscow. He showed a strong literary talent, having published a short story and some poetry before he reached his teens. As he grew older, he turned more toward biographical vignettes of well known Russian personalities. Finally, between 1856 and 1868 Longinov published several articles which touched upon Chaadaev's life. The most substantial and important of these was his "Recollections of P. Ia. Chaadaev" which appeared in the Russian Messenger (Russkii Vestnik) in 1862.
Of his three early "biographers," Dmitri Nikolaevich Sverbeev, only five years younger than Chaadaev, was by far the closest in age to Petr Iakovlevich. He did not enter the University of Moscow until just after Chaadaev had finished and did not come to know him well until they met while traveling in Switzerland in 1825. In 1868 Sverbeev's "Recollections of Chaadaev" appeared in The Russian Archive (Russkii arkhiv). His posthumously published Notes (Zapiski) offer the historian considerable additional insights into Chaadaev's life, although .it should be pointed out that Sverbeev's information, as is also the case with Longinov and Zhikharev, is sometimes inaccurate because of its retrospective nature.
Mikhail Ivanovich Zhikharev was twenty-five years younger than Petr Chaadaev. Despite this gap in age, Zhikharev compiled the most extensive memoir of his "uncle's" life. His "Petr Iakovlevich Chaadaev, from the Recollections of a Contemporary" totaled more than ninety pages in two 1871 issues of The Messenger of Europe (Vestnik Evropy).
In the December 1871 issue of Vestnik Evropy there appeared an article subtitled "The Appearance of Skepticism." It was the third part of a long article, 'The Characteristics of Literary Opinions from the Twenties to the Fifties," by the historian Aleksandr Nikolaevich Pypin. Pypin's article was the first attempt by a historian to evaluate the life and influence of Chaadaev. It may be divided into three parts: his admission of the gaps in the historian's knowledge of Chaadaev's life and the consequent difficulty of answering some of the most important questions about Chaadaev's role in Russian intellectual history; his attempt to show the origins of Chaadaev's interest in the Roman Catholic Church; and finally the publication within Russia, for the first time since the original scandal of 1836, of lengthy translated quotations from three of the Philosophical Letters and the Apology of a Madman. In the first pages of his essay, Pypin pinpoints the major problems which Chaadaev's life presents to the would-be biographer.
In examining the epoch from the 20s to the 50s . . . we should pause first of all at the personality of Chaadaev who . . . was one of the most intriguing figures of the age. Since that time the personality of Chaadaev has remained unclarified in the general understanding, and had stood as an isolated entity in the history of our intellectual development in spite of all that has been written for and against him. Indeed what was the origin of the contents of the Philosophical Letter which so stunned Russian society? How did there develop the implacable skepticism relating to Russian life which was unexpectedly expressed in the midst of a complacent society that inflicted on him such severe repression? How did his inclination toward Catholicism appear? What influenced him and what influences did he leave in our literature and social ideas?
Pypin here has concisely stated the most cogent questions relating to Chaadaev's life and development. Some of these are questions which some historians never asked, even after the Soviet Government began to open the Tsarist archives and to publish, not only the government files compiled in the investigation of the Decembrist movement, but also many personal memoirs, and studies of the development of journalism and literary criticism during Chaadaev's youth--material which, as time has passed, has made it possible to provide answers to Pypin's questions. Realizing the nature of his crucial problem, one of "not having enough factual material" at least in part because he was "still too close in time to these events," Pypin was content to throw some light on the question of the emergence of Chaadaev's interest in Catholicism and to give to the Russian public generous excerpts from the Philosophical Letters published by Gagarin.
Finally, in his concluding remarks, Pypin made an important observation, namely that the young Pushkin, Griboedov, some members of the secret societies and the anonymous author of "an-1824 letter" expressed "an intellectual state of Russian social thought" closely related to the thought of Chaadaev's Letter. Chaadaev's contribution was to combine "these doubts into a system, spread them into the past . . ., and finally give his system a doctrinal foundation." However, although Pypin recognized the existence of Russian sources for Chaadaev's critique, he was neither accurate nor detailed in his identification of them. Historians have failed to examine this intriguing problem. Among the scholars who have written about Chaadaev since 1871, only Quenet has made even an oblique reference to Pypin's observation.
While Pypin bemoaned "the many blanks" in "the biography of Chaadaev," for the next twenty-five years, scholars seem to have agreed with him that they were too close in time to evaluate adequately Chaadaev's life and work. Then, in 1896 Professor A. I. Kirpichnikov published two minor commentaries as well as the first major article on Chaadaev to appear since 1871. The article, "P. Ia. Chaadaev," the first publication of the ukaz issued on Chaadaev's retirement from the army in 1821, the censor's reports on the Sixth and Seventh Philosophical Letters which he attempted to have published in 1833, and finally Chaadaev's will written in 1855. Also, according to the historian M. 0. Gershenzon, whose testimony was later accepted by Dmitrii Ivanovich Shakhovskoi, Kirpichnikov's article contained the first publication of information about a "Memoir on Spirituality" ("Memoire sur Geistkunde") which he attributed to Chaadaev. Gershenzon is correct in his assertion, but he is also misleading. For he implies that the contents of the "Memoire" had been evaluated and discussed in Kirpichnikov's article and that, when he attributes it to Chaadaev, all he is doing is following the precedent already established by another scholar. Actually the only information concerning the "Memoire" is found on page 148 of Kirpichnikov's article where, in a footnote, he states that "among Chaadaev's papers there are excerpts from his diary compiled in Germany (in German, with French and English citations). However these excerpts have not yet been closely examined."
In the January and February 1908 issues of Russian Antiquity (Russkaia starina) there was published a biographical account of Chaadaev's life by the late Vladimir Vasilevich Stasov. The account was intended by Stasov to serve as an introduction to a complete Russian edition of Chaadaev's works and letters on which he had been working when he died not many months before the work's planned publication date of 1906 (in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Chaadaev's death). Stasov's articles contributed little of importance to the historian's knowledge of Chaadaev. The two most notable aspects of his account are that it seems to have been the first of many to cite the reaction of Aleksandr Herzen to the publication of the First Philosophical Letter and the negative fact that it sheds no light on the events which caused Chaadaev to write the Letter or on its place in the development of a tradition of Russian criticism. Finally it fails to mention anything about the "Memoire sur Geistkunde."
Mikhail Osipovich Gershenzon began to study Chaadaev at about the time of Stasov's death and went on to complete the work that had eluded the latter. In 1908 he published his book P. Ia. Chaadaev: Life and Thought, the first monograph ever written about the Russian critic. In 1913-14 Gershenzon's edition of The Works and Letters of P. Ia. Chaadaev appeared in two volumes. The latter is a work which, despite the discovery and publication of additional essays and letters by Chaadaev, remains today  the single most extensive selection of his writings. (Author's note: in 1991 a new and definitive two volume edition of Chaadaev's works appeared.)
Gershenzon's P. Ia. Chaadaev: Life and Thought is, as its title implies, a biography which attempts to portray Chaadaev's intellectual development and elucidate his philosophy of history and his religious views. However, new primary sources which have since been discovered and published have made Gershenzon's study obsolete. This study also suffers from at least two serious faults. First Chaadaev's life is not interwoven with the fabric of the developing intellectual disillusionment and criticism of the time. Gershenzon's spotlight focuses only on the skeletal details of Chaadaev's early life-- the stage on which it developed is at best a hazy blur. But the most serious fault is the fact that whether or not it was actually Professor Kirpichnikov who first attributed the "Memoire sur Geistkunde" to Chaadaev, Gershenzon made a major error in accepting it and in concluding that in the two years after Chaadaev left for Western Europe in July 1823, "he lived through a profound spiritual revolution . . . [and] became a mystic." From this point on, Gershenzon had no choice except to portray Chaadaev's intellectual outlook as the product of the murky shadows of the thought of Jung-Stilling and Eckartshausen. Having devoted only twenty-five pages to the first thirty years of Chaadaev's life, Gershenzon found himself compelled to consecrate the next twenty-five pages to the explanation of his sudden spiritual revolution. He asked: "What made Chaadaev a mystic?" The answer is a lame one: "Something compelled Chaadaev to adhere to the wholly absurd practice of mysticism, to hurry convulsively, to cripple within himself everything that was alive, and to chase his soul forcefully to the gates of heaven."
Once Gershenzon began to write of Chaadaev as a mystic, this view not surprisingly colored his whole approach to the Philosophical Letters. Virtually all he could say about their origin was that "for four years of gloomy seclusion, 1826-30, Chaadaev had sufficient time to evaluate the grand totality of the Russian past and the Russian future." In discussing the Philosophical Letters Gershenzon correctly pointed out that, on the basis of internal evidence, Chaadaev wrote more than the four Letters which he was able to republish in his study. He also published for the first time the letter of Chaadaev's friend Ekaterina Dmitrievna Panova that was the obvious catalyst that caused Chaadaev to begin to write the Philosophical Letters. But his focus on Chaadaev's mysticism caused him to place heavy emphasis on the religious thought of Louis de Bonald as the source of Chaadaev's philosophy of history as it is expressed in the Philosophical Letters, an emphasis which Quénet has since shown to be misguided. Gershenzon finally arrived at the following dubious conclusion.
At the end of this period [of seclusion], probably in 1829 and 30, were written his remarkable Philosophical Letters. In them cross the two tendencies which we observed in the history of the young Chaadaev: the intense social interest of the people of the 14th of December, and an extended Christian mysticism. The world outlook of Chaadaev may be characterized by the term social mysticism, the two parts of which conceal an irreconcilable contradiction.
Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, like his Russian contemporary Paul Miliukov, was a prominent historian and politician. Writing in German, he completed and published in 1913 the first major intellectual history of Russia to appear in the West. By 1919, when Masaryk's work had been translated into English and published in London as The Spirit of Russia. he had been elected the first president of the Czechoslovak republic. Though it too has been outdated, and suffers from poor organization, Masaryk's book is still considered a classic in its field.
In discussing Chaadaev, Masaryk accepted what Gershenzon had written about the "Memoire sur Geistkunde" and Chaadaev's mysticism of the early 1820s. This led him to write at length about Chaadaev's religious ideas and mysticism. However, it is to Masaryk's credit that he asserted that Chaadaev seemed to him to "have gotten the better of this mysticism," and pointed out that the content of the Philosophical Letters and most of Chaadaev's religious thought was not mystical. While Masaryk also stated that the First Philosophical Letter contains "the outline ; of a philosophy of history," he offers only a summary of its contents as a clarification of his statement.
In his conclusion Masaryk called upon Herzen to verify the "stupendous effect" of the First Philosophical Letter: "Herzen compared its effect with that produced by Griboedov's comedy. He exaggerated, but its influence was powerful and impressive like the cry of 'fire' in the quiet of the night." The metaphor has been slightly changed, but the fundamental error remains the same. Having invoked Herzen's sudden and unexpected "shot in the dark," Masaryk was spared the necessity of interrelating Chaadaev's cultural criticism with the indigenous intellectual currents out of which it developed. Finally, warning that he could "not attempt a decisive judgment" because of the scarcity of source materials, Masaryk came to the conclusion that Chaadaev "was in fact, the first Russian who endeavored . . . to attain a clear conception concerning the nature of the philosophy of history and of history in general."
In 1927 the German scholar, Martin Winkler, published Peter Jakovlevic Caadaev, Ein Beitrag zur russischen Geistesgeschichte des XIX Jahrhunderts, a very short monograph of little value. Winkler makes no serious attempt to depict the full range of social and intellectual forces which shaped Chaadaev's development. In his opinion the only major influences that molded Chaadaev's thought were those of de Maistre, the Catholic restoration, and Schelling. Accepting the validity of the "Memoire sur Geistkunde," Winkler then goes on to describe the thought of Jung-Stilling. Finally, he turns to a discussion of the content of the Philosophical Letters in which he emphasizes their religious content and the influence of Western European philosophy. His conclusion is one that looks forward: Chaadaev's "great task for Russian intellectual development" was that he formulated the ideas out of which the antithesis of the positions of the Westerners and Slavophiles grew. This is true enough, but it also came to typify the approach that many historians would adopt toward Chaadaev. They would study how his thought influenced others but they would refuse to try to reconstruct how he formulated his ideas.
The first definitive study of Chaadaev, Charles Quénet's Tchaadaev et les Lettres philosophiques was published in Paris in 1931. Even though it has been outdated by the appearance of new sources, it is a work of such thorough and detailed scholarship that it remains the absolute standard of comparison for any new study of Chaadaev. But impressive though Quénet's work ls, it too has lts faults.
First of all there ls the problem of the exact number of the Philosophical Letters. It had been known from the time of the publication of the Gagarin edition in 1862 that some Letters were missing, on the basis of references to them in the three authentic Letters published by Gagarin. By the time Quénet was nearing the completion of his research, the Russian hlstorian Dmitrii Ivanovich Shakhovskoi had finally located the manuscripts of five additional Philosophical Letters in Lenlngrad. Quénet does not explain the nature or closeness of hls contact with Shakhovskoi, which is apparent only from the fact that he acknowledges the receipt of copies of all eight Philosophical Letters from Shakhovskoi.
Apparently Shakhovskoi did not thlnk it necessary to lnform Quénet that these elght Letters formed the only authentic and complete collection of the Philosophical Letters. In addition, the cover sheet from the Sixth Philosophical Letter became transposed with that of the First Letter. This so confused Quénet that he went on to the unfounded conclusion that the famous First Philosophical Letter that was published in the Telescope in 1836 was probably not the first of the series of Philosophical Letters and that the Second Philosophical Letter, the initial two pages of which were missing in the copy supplied by Shakhovskoi, was written first. Having discussed the four Letters of which Nadezhdin spoke, the five Letters mentioned by A. I. Turgenev, the four published by Gagarin, and those received from Shakhovskoi, Quénet comes to the erroneous conclusion "that Chaadaev did not compose a unique collection of Letters but many different collections," that the letters of which Nadezhdin spoke form one collection, those published by Gagarin a second collection, those supplied by Shakhovskoi a third and that "without doubt others exist. There has not been a definitive compilation and it would be in vain to attempt to establish one." Only four years after the publication of Quénet's study, Shakhovskoi would achieve what Quénet believed was not possible.
The remaining problems with Quénet's work fall into the categories of organization, omission of some source materials, and his evaluation of Chaadaev's place in Russian history. Readers face two kinds of organizational hazards. Time and again Quénet clutters his narrative with all the details of every version of an event relating to Chaadaev's life; he then goes through these details sorting out those which seem to be the most accurate. The result often borders on confusion. Also because he divides his biographical treatment into two parts separated by a one-hundred-page discussion of the ideas of the Philosophical Letters and their place in Russian and Western intellectual history, important biographical facts sometimes are lost amidst this discussion.
Although Quénet's bibliography is vast, his work suffers from the omission of certain source materials which should have been available to him. The most significant of these is the publication of the documents relating to the government's investigation of the Semenovskii mutiny and the subsequent trial of some of the regiment's officers. This material offers information about Chaadaev's activities during 1822 and enables the historian to fill one of the blanks of which Pypin had complained.
Finally, Quénet's discussion of the Western European intellectual sources of Chaadaev's Weltanschauung is extremely detailed and virtually beyond reproach. His emphases on social, political and intellectual developments within Russia is broad. However, he does not single out the cultural criticism of the First Philosophical Letter as probably the single most important aspect of Chaadaev's thought. Consequently, when he writes about the events surrounding Chaadaev's life, he does not show the currents out of which the criticism grew.
In the 1920s the historian Dmitrii Ivanovich Shakhovskoi began work on a study of Chaadaev that he never lived to complete. However, Shakhovskoi's work did result in the publication of several major articles, each of which included hitherto unpublished primary source materials. Furthermore his papers, given to the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkinskii Dom) in Leningrad, contain a wealth of unpublished primary material which he had ferreted out from various Russian archives The first result of his work appeared in 1932 in the second volume of I (The Decembrists and Their Time) which contained his article, "Chaadaev and Iakushkin." In this article Shakhovskoi showed that the "Memoire sur geistkunde" was not written by Chaadaev but by his friend, Dmitrii Obleukhov. Shakhovskoi's next article: "Chaadaev on the Way to Russia in 1826" included the first complete publication of Chaadaev's interrogation at Brest-Litovsk in August 1826 as well as the first publication of the government reports detailing his surveillance. Finally, in 1935 there appeared Shakhovskoi's Russian translation of the five previously unpublished Philosophical Letters.
The first detailed study of Chaadaev in English was a Columbia University dissertation which was published by its author, Eugene A. Moskoff in New York in 1937. Moskoff's work does not succeed for many reasons, the most important of which is that it is little more than a patchwork of lengthy quotations, often from secondary sources, pieced together by transitional passages supplied by the author. Moskoff was either not aware of or did not care to use many of the most important Russian primary sources. He cites with abandon secondary sources (Wlnkler, Quénet, Gershenzon) as references for the biographical facts of Chaadaev's life. His most flagrant error, a serious misrepresentation of the source that he quotes, occurs in his introduction to his discussion of the First Philosophical Letter. He admits that Shakhovskoi had recently found what he calls "variants of the four Letters . . published . . . in Russia in 1913-14," and he concludes that: "these new variants . . . are in eight Letters which do not change substantlally the basic wording of the four well known Letters published by Gagarln and Gershenzon. Therefore, only the four Letters . . . are to be reviewed here." Moskoff cites the pages of Quénet which describe the various "collections" of the Philosophical Letters. To see the Shakhovskoi documents as variants of the four published Letters on the basis of what Quénet writes here requires a strong imagination. Finally, had Moskoff read the subsequent pages in which Quénet describes the content of the Letters in the Shakhovskoi collection, he would surely have recognized his error. All in all, as Professor V. V. Zenkovskii has stated: Moskoff's work is "of very limited value."
In the two decades between 1937 and 1956 there appeared four works, which offered evaluations of Chaadaev as a religious thinker. The first of these was by Father Georges Florovskii, who in his Puti Russkogo Bogosloviia (Paths of Russian Theology), found that the image of Chaadaev remains unclear and "that the most unclear aspect of it is his religiosity." He concludes '~t Chaadaev was an ideologue, not a church-go-er," and that "it would be in vain to search for a system" in Chaadaev's thought. "mere is a principle in it but no system. This principle is to postulate a Christian philosophy of history. For him history is the creation of the Kingdom of God in the world and only through this Kingdom could one enter into and be included in history." Thus, while Florovskii's examination of Chaadaev is perfectly in keeping with the outlook of his profession, it ignores many questions of interest to the historian.
Peter Scheibert is the author of the second of these works. In his survey of Russian intellectual history, Von Bakunin zu Lenin, he devotes an entire chapter to Chaadaev. After giving scanty biographical details and repeating Herzen's assertion about the unexpected nature of Chaadaev's Letter, he begins a lengthy discussion of Chaadaev's ideas. His concluding thesis is reminiscent of Florovskii's emphasis on Chaadaev's desire to create a Christian philosophy of history. For Scheibert sums up his understanding of Chaadaev's outlook as one founded on the political Christianity of St. Simon who offered "the Christian intellectualism of an individual religion [and emphasized] the insight of a chosen few who give impetus to the collective reason of the nation and think for the society "
In 1954 the Jesuit Heinrich Falk published a monograph which is primarily devoted to an analysis of the religious philosophy of the Philosophical Letters. Falk offers a fairly detailed biographical sketch of Chaadaev in which, like so many other scholars, he pays homage to Herzen's "shot in the dark." To avoid the problem of examining the origins of Chaadaev's cultural and historical criticism, Falk, early in his study, shifts his emphasis away from the cause and origins of the Philosophical Letters to their results, concluding that "Chaadaev's significance was not ln the founding of a new school ; of thought but in the fact that he inflamed his opponents." Pointing out that Chaadaev wanted to show that people should strive toward the unification of religion and philosophy, Falk discusses Chaadaev's general religious outlook, coming to conclusions not unlike those of Florovskii.
The last of these four "religiously oriented" studies is V. V. Zenkovskii's essay on Chaadaev in his History of Russian Philosophy. In his biographical sketch of Chaadaev, Zenkovskii repeats the familiar litany of "the shot in the dark" and unaccountably accepts the "Memoire sur Geistkund" as belonging to Chaadaev. Offering the thesis that "one may enter into Chaadaev's system only by placing his religious orientation at the center of the whole; his religious experiences are the key to all of his views," Zenkovskii asserts that "Chaadaev's originality and uniqueness lies wholly in his theurgical perception and understanding of history." He then concludes with a lengthy discussion of Chaadaev's view of the Christian church's role in shaping of Western culture.
It is this strong interest in Chaadaev as a religious thinker that, from the point of view of this study, typifies a major reason why many scholars have failed to place Chaadaev's thought and most especially his cultural critique within the mainstream of the development of Russian intellectual history, and to see it as the culmination in a chain of frustrations that had plagued Chaadaev and his generation since the Napoleonic invasion. For seeing a man as a religious thinker makes it all too easy to isolate him from the culture in which he developed and to elevate him to the level of some obscure, detached Christian worldview. Such an approach should be inadequate for the purposes of a historian.
General histories of Russia, written since the beginning of World War II, tend to display faults in their treatment of Chaadaev that are similar to those which this introduction has already discussed. That is to say, they regard the appearance of the cultural critique of Chaadaev's First Letter as a sudden, unprecedented phenomenon bursting forth from the period of intellectual darkness in which Russia was supposedly shrouded after the suppression of the Decembrist uprising. The characters on the historical stage are made to follow the scenario described by Aleksandr Herzen in his memoirs. The most lmportant time of Chaadaev's life is seen as occurring after the publication of the First Philosophical Letter in 1836. His Letter is seen as the document which expressed the questions and challenges around which the opposing camps of Westerners and Slavophiles coalesced. He is usually classed as a Westerner and his intellectual development in the 1820s is ignored, as is all the Russian intellectual hlstory of the 1820s not directly related to the Decembrist movement.
Chaadaev's treatment by recent Soviet historians suffers from the same attention to the superficial and the obvious given him by Western historians. In addition, however, the evaluation of his life is generally distorted by the need to perceive it from a Marxist-Leninist point of view; that is to say, Chaadaev's place in the revolutionary pantheon must be established. This is usually accomplished by placing heavy emphasis on the lengthy reminiscences of Chaadaev contained in Herzen's memoirs and the writings of G. V. Plekhanov, both of which place Chaadaev in the forefront of the revolutionary camp. Seeing Chaadaev as a revolutionary and a member of one or more Decembrist secret societies, as Soviet scholars almost invariably do, is to distort reality. Chaadaev was a liberal but not revolutionary; his sharp criticism of the Decembrist revolt in his First Philosophical Letter is but one important bit of evidence which belies this assertion. Also Chaadaev cannot be considered a Decembrist. When he went abroad in 1823 he had agreed to join a secret society that was not yet organized but, despite the 1822 report to the contrary by the police agent Gribovskii, there is no evidence that Chaadaev ever actually joined a secret society.
The recent History of the U.S.S.R. from Ancient Times to Our Days compiled by the Institute of History of the Soviet Academy of Sciences exemplifies most of these problems. Chaadaev's Letter is introduced by contrasting its pessimism to the optimism and patriotism of the government policy of Official Nationality. The impression is given that the First Philosophical Letter was written as a rebuttal to Official Nationality whereas it was completed more than three years before this government policy was first enunciated. Because Russian cultural development could hardly be seen by a Soviet scholar in such a way as to cast doubt upon the dialectical development of the economic stages of history, Chaadaev's critique of Russian culture and history is virtually ignored. Instead, great emphasis is placed on his opposition to serfdom and participation in the Decembrist movement. It should also be pointed out that the two Soviet studies which do portray the important development of socially oriented "civic" literary criticism in the first three decades of the nineteenth century fail to relate Chaadaev's cultural-historical criticism to these events.
M . M . Grigor'ian and P. S. Shkurlnov are Soviet scholars who have-recently completed studies of Chaadaev. Grigor'ian's unpublished dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophical Science, "Main Currents of Idealism in Russia in the 40s of the Nineteenth Century may be found in the collections of the Lenin Library in Moscow. It contains chapters on Stankevich, Granovskii, the Slavophile-Westerner conflict, as well as a chapter more than one hundred pages long, devoted to Chaadaev. On the source of the crisis which led to the writing of Chaadaev's First Letter, Grigor'ian offers the interesting hypothesis that Chaadaev, in debating within himself the cause of the Decembrists' failure, concluded that it was to be found in their taking "forceful means in the struggle against Tsarism. He then searched for other ways in which to realize his freedom-loving social ideals. The special memorial to these gloomy years was the well known Philosophical Letter of Chaadaev." Chaadaev, in other words, would fight tyranny with the pen instead of the sword. However, Grigor'ian's chapter on Chaadaev in general is a disappointment, offering little information about his youth and few original ideas. Most disappointing of all is the fact that Grigor'ian seems to have made no serious attempt to use archival materials readily available in Moscow and Leningrad.
Grigor'ian is also the author of a published article, "Chaadaev and his Philosophical System," which offers a detailed discussion of Chaadaev's thought as contained in the Philosophical Letters and some of his later writings. However, since Grigor'ian discusses Chaadaev in isolation from the thought of his Russian contemporarles, his article is of little value to the historian. Finally, P. S. Shkurinov in his short monograph P. Ia. Chaadaev seems at times more interested in picking apart the works and activities of certain Western scholars and politicians than in writing about Chaadaev. He fails to relate the development of Chaadaev's ideas to the Russian culture which surrounded him and his book degenerates into an attack on Western historiography. For example, he condemned the works of Falk and Hans Kohn as indicative of "the widespread falsification of the creativity of Chaadaev in contemporary bourgeois historiography, as examples of unceasing attempts to smear the name of a progresslve Russian thinker."
Flnally, the most slgnificant research on Chaadaev since Shakhovskoi's has been done by Professor Raymond T. McNally of Boston College. In 1961 McNally spent slx months working in the archives in Moscow and Leningrad. Some of the most valuable material that McNally obtained came from the archives of D. I. Shakhovskoi. The location of these archives had been generally unknown until 1959 when M. Sultan-Shakh published a brief article in Russkaia literatura in which he cited them as belonging to the Institute of Russian Literature in Leningrad.
In 1964 McNally published the first results of his research--an article "Chaadaev's Evaluation of Peter the Great," in the Slavlc Review. While four other articles followed this one during the next two years, only the last of the four, "The Books in Petr Ja. Caadaev's Libraries," was concerned with the pre-1829 period of Chaadaev's life. To date, the single most important result of McNally's work has been his publication in 1966 of an edition of the eight philosophical Letters in their original French, the first time that five of the eight had been published in the language in which they were written. Professor McNally will shortly publish a monograph entitled Chaadayev and His Friends. His publisher has sent me a set of the galley proofs of this study. McNally's monograph begins at approximately the point in Chaadaev's life where this study will end, and it discusses in detail: Chaadaev's reaction to the Slavophiles in the period between the late 1830s and his death; his reaction to what McNally calls "nationalistic exclusiveness"; his attitude toward the Western Christian Churches; and the Western European sources of his ideas. Much of McNally's material comes directly from the articles that he had published previously but he also presents a large amount of new material. In addition to sizeable quotations from hitherto unpublished works of Chaadaev, he offers at the end of his book a catalogue of Chaadaev's published and unpublished writings. This new primary material alone is sufficient to make his monograph a valuable contribution to our understanding of the development of Chaadaev's thought in the 1830s and the 40s.