The book, The Russian Idea, by Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov is a book that is at once both prophetic and mysterious. Translated and just published by Rev. Fr. John P. Rickert (FSSP), the long essay gives the reader wonderful insights into the workings of the Russian soul.
The author was a nineteenth century Russian philosopher and mystic who died in 1900. As such, Solovyov shared complex philosophical positions common to the times but he also knew the Russian soul well. He was not afraid to defend his country against the liberal trends of the times. He adopted an organic vision of Russian society characterized by family-like links, natural leadership, and a God-given mission. This vision ran contrary to the then-popular mechanical model of the Industrial Revolution which likened society to a machine.
Solovyov claims that Russia must seek out her role in the order of the universe. He believed Russia should follow in the plans of God and not in the plans of a secularized world. He wrote: “The idea of a nation is not what it thinks of itself in time but instead what God thinks of it in eternity.”
That is why Solovyov minced no words when criticizing the state of the Orthodox Church, which he saw as an obstacle to fulfilling the Russian mission. He quotes unbiased sources which show the Orthodox Church of that time to be full of corruption and sin as it remained under the control of the Russian government. Given its structure, it is clear that Russian orthodoxy is anything but orthodox. In a similar way, the author also criticized the brutal and narrow vision of Russian nationalism, which is especially revealing considering the rise of Putin. Finally, Solovyov emphasized the need for a Supreme Pontiff to provide a point of unity for Christendom that his church does not and cannot have.
While persecuted for his outspoken views, Solovyov nevertheless had the courage to openly proclaim his admiration for the Catholic Church and made known his desire to see Russia return to the Church. He amazingly perceived something of the conversion of Russia foreseen by Our Lady at Fatima in 1917.
By outlining the nation’s needs, The Russian Idea gives a brief glimpse of what Russia could and might yet be. Holy Mother Russia has always been turned toward grand, mysterious and marvelous places, liturgy and deeds, and so it should be in the future. Like an ancient icon, Russia has a side of captivating mystery shrouded in silence and penumbra awaiting the day when she might manifest herself to the world. When that day comes, Russia will display to the nations, the necessity, beauty and magnificence of her mysteries as a true expression of the Russian idea.