N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)
On Love for Russia
The love for one’s rodina, one’s native land, — is so immediate and elementary a feeling, that it would seem unnecessary to appeal to it, and necessary though merely to clarify and ponder it. But for us in Russia this — is a total problem, altogether not so elementary a matter, and even we have disputes possible upon this theme. The question regarding the love for Russia, about the immediate instinct, the impelling to defense of native land and service to it, evokes a struggle of various currents and teachings. The present day war has revealed a vexing dichotomy within the national consciousness. Very characteristic for Russian man, is that for him it is indispensably necessary to find justification and a basis to his love for Russia, though the justifications be quite very contradictory. We have great difficulty to find that primal instinct and primal consciousness, by virtue of which each Russian would essentially want to devote all his powers to Russia, its security, its unity, its greatness. We as it were lack that assertativeness of a national will in its primordial proclivity, without which there cannot be any sort of a national consciousness, any sort of national purposes, worthy of world significance. The disputes over the national consciousness and the national question shew the impairedness of our national sense of self. It is quite abnormal a thing, that the attitude towards native land should be rendered an object of struggle involving political parties and state ideologies, that a national issue should assume so subordinate a position in relation to the state-political issue. What we have are “defeatists” of the right and “defeatists” of the left, a phenomenon that only with difficulty is conceivable to the Frenchman, the Englishman or the German. It is only with difficulty to be conceived that perversion of a national feeling, which permits of the defense of one’s native land only under certain conditions, only under conditions of subordinating nationality to a certain state or social principle and demanding a guarantee, that the defense of native land should directly lead to the triumph of the desired principles. How can there be possible the haggling in our relation to native land in the moment of peril! Some love not Russia, but rather an old state order of things, dear to their heart, others love not Russia, but rather a new social order desired by them; and yet others are close to the interests of the nobility or the bureaucracy, and yet others — to the interests of the workers or peasants.
But still there is Russia as a certain wholeness and individualness, Russia as a living organism within the world, possessing its own essential fate. Russia is more profound a matter, and more enduring than this or that social group. It has its own living and individual soul, unlike any in the world. And herein this soul suffers and bleeds from the haggling over it, from an insufficiency of direct love for it in a difficult moment of its historical wanderings. In the strife of passions, in the struggle of interests and ideas, they too often tend to forget about Russia. For too many, Russia gets replaced by this or that private principle, involving some group, some party or abstract idea. Every great people has to have its unique own idea, which it conveys to the world, its vocation. It not only has to exist, but to exist pondering and worthily. This is indisputable the same, just as it is indisputable, that every individuality in the world has to ponder his existence, when it emerges beyond the elemental beastly condition. Each nationality, just like each individuality, possesses its own idea and it has to be resolved at the forefront of a national self-consciousness. his idea is its vocation, without which is impossible a worthy existence. And I believe, that Russia has its own great idea and great vocation. Each Russian is called to freely manifest this idea and fulfill this vocation. But there exists likewise the idea, that every nationality, just like every individuality, possesses an independent worth, that it has to exist, to reveal itself, to attain a maximum expression of its powers and flourishing. There exists not only the idea concerning nationality, but nationalness itself per se is an idea, is a self-value. Whereas non-love for the fatherland seeks to be justified by some whatever idea, the idea of love for the fatherland has to be admitted as great a value. Service to the idea, consisting of the vocation of our fatherland, is our duty to the fatherland, is a manifesting of its spiritual might to the world. And this means, that the love for Russia is a self-value, primordial, primal, that it demands no justification nor grounds.
© 2010 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
(1917 – 289 -en)
O LIUBVI K ROSSII. Article originally published in “Velikaya voina v obrazakh n kartinakh”, ? 13, p. 180-182. Republished in the anthology of N. Berdyaev articles entitled, “Padenie svyaschennogo russkogo tsarstva, Publitsistika 1914-1922”, Izdatel’stvo Astrel’, Moskva, 2007, p. 485-487.