Vekhi

Vekhi — Вехи — Signposts, Landmarks, Milestones — (1909)

I wish I could post the whole collection in Russian and English here on my site, but despite Vekhi’s publication date (1909), it has still not ascended into the public domain.  We are in progress investigating the copyright history and holdership of these works, but until they find otherwise, the only way for you to access the works will be through your public or university libraries or to purchase the collection directly.  I recommend the following versions:

Vekhi_book_cover

 In English: http://www.amazon.com/Vekhi-Landmarks-Collection-Articles-Intelligentsia/dp/1563243911

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In Russian: http://predanie.ru/lib/book/134344/

Table of Contents

  • “Preface: — Mikhail Osipovich Gershenzon
  • “Philosophical Verity and Intelligentsia Truth” — Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev
  • “Heroism and Asceticism: Reflections on the Religious Nature of the Russian Intelligentsia” — Sergei Nikolaivich Bulgakov
  • “Creative Self-Consciousness” — Mikhail Osipovich Gershenzon
  • “On Educated Youth: Notes on Its Life and Sentiments” — Aron Solomonovich Izgoev
  • “In Defense of Law: The Intelligentsia and Legal Consciousness” — Bogdan Alexandrovich Kistiiakovsky
  • “The Intelligentsia and Revolution” — Peter Berngardovich Struve
  • “The Ethic of Nihilism: A Characterization of the Russian Intelligentsia’s Moral Outlook” — Semen Ludvigovich Frank

Excerpt from Revolution from Within:

After the 1905 Revolution, these same thinkers again disrupted intellectual circles in St. Petersburg and Moscow, this time with their devastating collection of essays Vekhi (Signposts)[i] published in 1909.   In what has been called the most scandalous publication of the pre-revolutionary period, Vekhi criticized the entire Russian intelligentsia, from the Left to the Right, for recklessly inciting revolution without first establishing the necessary conditions in Russia to avoid civil war and the danger of an even more totalitarian, tyrannical government. [ii]

The reviews that Vekhi received surpassed that of even revolutionary manifestos. It quickly ran to five editions and elicited more than 200 letters in response; numerous societies debated it, and the main left wing and centrist parties produced five retaliatory collections of essays.[iii] These responses were almost all defamatory and few actually addressed the issues raised in Vekhi. As the journalist and symbolist poet Andrei Bely commented, “The tendency was less to analyze the book than to sentence it to a summary execution.”[iv]

Although each of the contributors to Vekhi held quite different beliefs, they all agreed with the central message as stated in the book’s foreword:

Their common platform is recognition of the theoretical and practical primacy of spiritual life over the external forms of community. They mean by this that the inner life of the personality is the sole creative force of human existence and that this inner life, and not the self-sufficient principles of the political sphere, is the only solid basis on which society can be built.[v]

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Vekhi has  had a tempestuous history since the colleciton was released in 1909.  Initially, as the description above bears witness, it received a flurry of retaliatory essays and publications in response to the message these writers expressed.  In the Weblinks on the main Biography page of this site, you can navigate to Lenin’s response at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1909/dec/13.htm.  This was but one of many condemnations of the essays — from both the Right and the Left.  In fact, the responses that Vekhi received illustrated why Personalist / Spiritual Philosophy is neither Right nor Left better than any justification that I or any other historian may offer — namely the adherents of the political dualities pilloried it!

You can also “like” / view Vekhi on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vekhi/107782062584355, browse the main Wikipedia entry on it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vekhi or visit what I find a more valuable website, the Russian online library: http://www.vehi.net/ (note: it may prove a bit daunting for non-Russian speakers, although the various online translating applications should help significantly).

As Revolution from Within chronicles, Vekhi enjoyed quite a renaissance in the late 1980s and 1990s thanks to the vast changes promulgated in the former Soviet Union.  It was, at last, freely published again in Russia in 1990 by no less than 3 separate publishing houses and the English version I reference above was produced in reaction to this in 1994 by M.E. Sharpe.  Much easier than trying to piece together bits of the essays from the chronicles in Soltzhenitsyn, Yakovlev, and all the various other commentators, both pro- and anti- Bolshevik….

This is not the first renaissance the collection has experienced.  Right around the time of Khrushchev’s stunning speach at the 20th Party Congress against the “Crimes of Stalin” (1956), American historians enjoyed a slight “thaw” of their own resulting in Leonard Schapiro’s article “The Vekhi Goup and the Mystique of Revolution” and Stuart Tompkins “Vekhi and the Russian Intelligentsia” in 1955 and 1957 respectively.

Just this month, a new study has been released: Landmarks Revisited: The Vekhi Symposium One Hundred Years On (Cultural Revolutions: Russia in the Twentieth Century).  December 16, 2013

Please let me encourage you to enjoy this phenomenal series of essays!  ~Catherine


Citations:
[i] The English equivalent to Vekhiwould be Signposts, Landmarks, or Milestones. The authors of this work were Nikolai Berdyaev, Sergei Bulgakov, Mikhail Gershenzon, A.S. Izgoev, Bogdan Kistiakovsky, Peter Struve, and Semen Frank. All except Gershenzon were at one time Marxists. See Marshall S. Shatz & Judith E. Zimmerman, trans. and eds., Vekhi (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1994).
Vekhi 115-129. “No one has ever called for massive political and social changes with such unbounded frivolity as our revolutionary parties and their organizations during the `days of freedom'” (123).
[iii]. Some of the societies that held meetings in 1909 to specifically discuss issues raised in Vekhi included the Society for the Dissemination of Technical Knowledge (met on April 14), the Religious-Philosophical Society (met on April 21), the Women’s Club (met on April 22 and November 1), the Literary Society (met on May 22), and the Société Savantes (met in Paris on November 13), where Lenin read a paper. See N.P. Poltoratzky, “The Vekhi dispute and the Significance of Vekhi,” Canadian Slavic Review 9 (1967): 90-91. This included “V zashchitu intelligentsii,” a collaboration between leftist liberals other radicals (including two Mensheviks), “Vekhi kak znamenie vremeni,” written by a collection of Social Revolutionaries and Populists, “Intelligentsiia v. Rossii,” published by the Kadets, “Po Vekham,” including twenty-one writers from various political camps, and finally “Iz istorii noveishei russkoi literatury,” produced by the Bolshevik party. See Poltoratzky, “The Vekhi dispute and the Significance of Vekhi 93.
[iv] A. Belyi, “Pravda o russkoi intelligentsii. Po povodu sbornika `Vekhi’,” Vesy (May, 1909) 65.
[v] Mikhail Gershenzon, “Preface to the First Edition,” Vekhi xxxvii.

One Response to Vekhi

  1. David Truman says:

    The Vekhi group and their articles address a problem which *today* confronts classical liberals in the form of highly illiberal tactics of the “progressive” Western Left. Utopian materialist and positivist ideas are pushed which suppress the dignity and worth of the human individual.

    Berdyaev’s essay on Philosophic Truth [istina] and
    the Moral Truth [pravda] of the Intelligentsia gets is right. He says “In the consciousness and emotions of the Russian intelligentsia, the interests of distribution and equalization have always prevailed over those of production and creation.” This applies just as much today in the mentality of the Western Left.

    He says the Russian intelligentsia’s “love for an equalizing justice, for the social good, and for the popular welfare paralysed its love of truth; it almost destroyed its interest in truth.” We see exactly this today with the attacks on free speech in the universities, and their dumbing down by Cultural Marxism.

    The deification of man and dethroning of God has consequences. Dostoyevsky has the leader of the revolutionary cell in Demons, Kirillov, say “If God doesn’t exist, then I am God.”

    Berdyaev channels pure Dostoyevsky when he writes “Political liberation is possible only in connection with and on the basis of a spiritual regeneration.”

    That’s the conflict between liberation theology (build a paradise on earth by political action) and Jesus’s statement “The kingdom of God is within you.”

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