Bibliographical Note:

Histories of the Russian Emigration Until 1996:

Study of the Russian emigration by and large remained a fringe interest in Western historiography until the late 1980s.  After all, who would want to devote much attention to the clear “losers” of the Russian Revolutions and resulting civil war?  Its undetermined demographic proportions may illustrate a testimony to the obscurity of the emigration.  Numbers for the emigration range from 800,000 to 3 million, rather a wide deviation, and the statistics show no signs of being resolved in the near future.[1]

Some scholars have examined the emigration issue because it had some direct relevance to their own interests.  Three Frenchmen during the inter-war years, for example, paid considerable attention to these foreigners in their midst.[2]  The vast and supposedly novel problem of refugees also interested those involved with the new League of Nations, and prompted studies intended to inform policy decisions.[3]  After World War II, the sporadic trend continued.  There were a few biographies of the more famous Russian émigrés, a few studies of specifically émigré institutions,[4] and one or two explorations per decade on singular émigré movements like the smenavekhovtsy,[5] the Eurasianists,[6] or the Russian Fascists.[7]

One exception to these specific-interest examinations was the 1963 study by a Russian émigré teaching at Oxford, Nicholas Zernov, who told the story of his people and his mentors in The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth Century.[8]  Zernov’s work, close in aim to this author’s own works, provided an illuminating view of the Orthodox influence on the emigration and especially upon the ideas they generated.  As a participant in the major religious movements of the émigrés, Zernov was able to augment his detailed knowledge of Orthodox theology with reminiscences of his personal development.  His focus was the Russian Student Christian Movement in the emigration, a role in which he personally had played a long and leading part.  This penetrating testimony to the strength of the émigrés’ faith and endurance is quite moving.[9]  He made no attempt, however, to place Religious Philosophy within the historical context of the emigration, nor to tell the wider story of the Y.M.C.A. involvement in supporting the continued evolution of this body of thought and accompanying written works.

The first systematic historical studies were undertaken only in the 1970s.[10]  Michèle Beyssac wrote a useful study of the phenomenon in France, La vie culturelle de l’émigration russe en France: Chronique 1920-1930,[11] and Robert C. Williams at Harvard completed an even more encompassing work, Culture in Exile – Russian Émigrés in Germany 1881-1941.[12]  Beyssac’s theme has since been revisited by Robert Johnson in New Mecca, New Babylon. Paris and the Russian Exiles,[13] which takes a more sociological approach, as it situates the Russians within the broader context of refugee history in the twentieth century.  Like Williams, Johnston still holds to the prevailing view—clearly indicated by the use of the term “exile” in their titles—that the émigrés were first and foremost the “vanquished,” and hence all of their activities must be viewed as desperate attempts to cope with “despair and ultimate defeat.”[14]

Until 1990, a study that might bring the diverse centers of the emigration and the full spectrum of their activities together in some coherent form was still lacking in Western historiography.  An attempt to do this was undertaken by the respected Russian historian at Columbia University, Marc Raeff.  With his book Russia Abroad, Raeff provided a valuable introduction to the entire emigration, which immediately places in perspective most movements or events that future historians might wish to explore at greater length.[15]  Raeff himself defined what he tried to do and what he thought should be done in these words:

“The aim of this book is quite modest; for a comprehensive history of Russia Abroad much monographic spadework is still necessary.  As noted, such work has been and will be carried out by a number of scholars in the fields of literature and the arts, but more historical and sociological study is still needed, so that Russia Abroad ceases to be somehow suspended in mid-air, independent of the existential circumstances and the host environment of Russian émigrés in the 1920s and 1930s.”[16]

In retrospect, his timing could not have been better.  By 1990, the extraordinary transformation in Russia was more than apparent.  Along with the need to reappraise the “Sovietology” approach to Russian politics, came a complementary resurgence of Western interest in émigré studies fuelled by the aspirations of Russian intellectuals today.[17]  Reviewing the literary landscape since 1990, there has been a veritable explosion of published monographs, articles, and other writings.  This is thanks to the increased accessibility that now exists to the diaries, journals, and official Soviet government records regarding the émigrés and the Filosofski Parokhod (Philosophers’ Steamer). It is also due to the resurgence of interest (and legitimacy as a valid theme for study), in subjects not solely devoted to explorations of the Soviet regime and the promulgation of the Cold War.   Finally, the Return has not only brought back the original works of the Spiritual Philosophers , but has also prompted Russian scholars to embark upon their own assessments of the emigration.[18]

The prevailing theme in most émigré studies prior to Raeff’s was that of the material hardship, defeat, and frustration from which these dispersed people suffered.  Even Russia Abroad largely focused upon the unrelenting isolation and alienation of the émigré communities.  It is undeniable that the difficulties faced by the emigrants in both reconciling themselves to their fate and in adjusting to their new foreign milieu often seemed to be insurmountable. Nevertheless, material circumstances and external conditions are not the only things that determine how people live and act.  Will, spirit, and ideas may flourish despite outside forces, and may even turn a difficult situation into one of unexpected advantages.

Moreover, all of these works are now being appraised by Russian scholars[19] and through the resurrection of old critiques from their contemporaries.[20]  Archival material is being retrieved and published in an attempt to resurrect the missing contextual background of which most contemporary Russians, including leading scholars, are almost entirely bereft.[21]  To date, few historical monographs, biographies, or analytical studies have appeared in Russia, but three new biographies of Berdyaev covering his years in Russia have been published: the most notable and innovative is that by Yuri Tsvetkov writing under the pen name A. Vadimov, that appeared in 1993 just before his tragically early death at the age of twenty-eight.[22]


     [1] For a discussion of the demographic debate, please see this

     [2] Charles Ledré, Les émigrés russe en France: ce qu’ils font, ce qu’ils pensent (Paris, L’Illustration, 1930); Jean Delage, La Russie en exile (Paris: Librairie Delagrave, 1930); J. Campcommunal, La condition des Russes à l’étranger et spécialement en France (Paris: Recueil Sirey, 1925).

     [3] W.C. Huntington, The Homesick Million. Russia-out-of-Russia (Boston: Stratford, 1933); Sir John Hope Simpson, The Refugee Problem: Report of a Survey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939).

     [4] Regarding religious institutions, an example is Donald Lowrie, Saint Sergius in Paris. The Orthodox Theological Institute (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1954). A book which did appear in the 1970s about St. Sergius, but should not be paid attention is Alexis Kniazeff, L’institut St. Serge – De l’académie d’autrefois au rayonnement d’aujourd’hui (Paris: Beauchesne, 1974). The reason for this caution lies in the fact that Kniazeff appears to have plagiarized Lowrie’s work on St. Sergius for the first three chapters, merely translating his description from English into French.

     [5] The first systematic study of this movement only occurred in 1994 as part of the “Return” phenomenon, although the movement did get brief mention in many studies of the early Soviet Union. See Hilde Hardeman, Coming to Terms with the Soviet Regime: The “Changing Signpost” Movement among Russian Émigrés in the Early 1920s (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1994).

     [6] Charles Halperin, “Russia and the Steppe: George Vernadsky and Eurasianism,” Forschungen zur osteuropäische Geschichte 36 (1985): 55-194. Nicholas Riasanovsky, “The Emergence of Eurasianism,” California Slavic Studies 4 (1967): 39-72. Another such “movement” which might be mentioned here is L. Hamilton Rinelander, “Exiled Russian Scholars in Prague, the Kondiakov Seminar and Institute,” Canadian Slavonic Papers 16.3 (1974): 331-352.

     [7] John J. Stephan, The Russian Fascists: Tragedy and Farce in Exile, 1925-45 (New York: Harper & Row, 1978). Related works are Catherine Andreyev, Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement – Soviet Reality and Empire Theories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); A. P. Stolypin, Na sluzhbe Rossii (Frankfurt: Possev Verlag, 1986); B. Prianishnikoff, Novopokolentsy (Silver Spring, Md.: Multilingual Typesetting, 1986). Also deserving of mention in this category is a study of just the White Russians with little reference to the fascists within their midst: Leonid K. Shkarenkov, Agoniia beloi emigratsii, 2nd ed. (Moscow: Mysl’, 1986).

     [8] Nicholas Zernov, The Russian Religious Renaissance of the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper & Row Pub., 1963). Some mention of philosophical developments made by Russians in the emigration was given in the final chapters of Vasily V. Zenkovsky, A History of Russian Philosophy, trans. George Kline, 5th ed., Vol 2. 5th ed. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953). See also Nicholas O. Lossky, History of Russian Philosophy (New York: International University Press, 1951), and in James M. Edie, James P. Scanlan & Mary-Barbara Zeldin eds., Russian Philosophy Vol 3. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987).

     [9] For more information on this movement see especially Chapter 3 in which archival material has been added to Zernov’s analysis.

     [10] About émigré literature, specific studies are too numerous to be cited here, but see particularly: N.P. Poltoratsky, ed., Russkaia literatura v emigratsii: sbornik statei (Pittsburgh: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972). Alfred Appel and Simon Karlinsky, The Bitter Air of Exile: Russian Writers in the West, 1922-1972 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973). Gleb Struve, Russkaia literatura v izgnanii: Opyt istoricheskogo obzora zarubezhnoi literatury (Paris: Y.M.C.A.-Press, 1984). Also deserving of attention is the unique archival material presented in Vladimir Gessen, V bor’be za zhizn’ : zapiski emigranta : Peterburg‑‑Berlin‑‑Parizh‑‑N’iu Iork (New York: Rausen Pub., 1974).

     [11] Michèle Beyssac, La vie culturelle de l’émigration russe en France: Chronique (1920-1930) (Paris: P.U.F., 1971). His work was expanded upon in Catherine Gousseff and Nicholas Saddier, “L’émigration Russe en France, 1920-1930,” Mémoire de Maitresse d’Histoire, Department d’histoire des slaves, University of Paris, 1983.

     [12] Robert C. Williams, Culture in Exile – Russian Émigrés in Germany 1881-1941 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972). Some other related studies which largely focus on a specific element of the emigration in Germany are L. Hughes Feishman and O. Raevskaya-Hughes, eds., Russkii Berlin, 1921-1923: po materialam arkhiva B.I. Nikolaevskogo v Guverovskom Institute (Paris: Y.M.C.A.-Press, 1983); Thomas R. Beyer, G. Kratz, and X. Werner, Russische Autoren und Verlage nach dem ersten Weltkriege (Berlin: Arno Spitz, 1987).

     [13] Robert Johnston, New Mecca, New Babylon: Paris and the Russian Exiles, 1920-1945 (Kingston, Ont.: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988).

     [14] Robert C. Williams, Culture in Exile 242.

     [15] Marc Raeff, Russia Abroad: A Cultural History of the Russian Emigration, 1919-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990). He has written other works on the subject: see Marc Raeff, “L’émigration et la cité nouvelle,” Cahiers du monde Russe et Soviétique 29.3-4 (1988): 543-552. Marc Raeff, “Novyi Grad and Germany: A Chapter in the Intellectual History of the Russian Emigration of the 1930s,” Felder und vorfelder russicher Geschichte, eds. I. Auerbach, A. Hillgruber, and G. Schramm   (Freiburg, Breisgau: Rombach, 1985) 255-265. Marc Raeff, “V pomoshch’ issledovaniiu zarubezhnoi rossii,” Novyi zhurnal 196 (1995) 348-358; Marc Raeff, “Institutions of a Society in Exile: Russia Abroad 1919-1939,” Rossia/Russia 6 (1988): 95-117.

     [16] Marc Raeff, Russia Abroad 14.

     [17] For example: Catherine Evtuhov, “Sergei Bulgakov: A Study in Modernism and Society in Russia, 1900-1918,” diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1992; Kenneth Clarke Wenzer, “The Transmigration of Anarchocommunism,” diss., The Catholic University of America, 1985; J. E. Hassell, Russian Refugees in France and the US between the World Wars (Philadelphia: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 1991); Temira Pachmuss, D.S. Merezhkovsky in Exile : The Master of the Genre of Biographie Romancée (New York : P. Lang, 1990); Temira Pachmuss, A Moving River of Tears : Russia’s Experience in Finland (New York : P. Lang, 1992); Temira Pachmuss, Russian Literature in the Baltics Between the World Wars (Columbus, Ohio : Slavica Publishers, 1988); George Kline, “Variations on the Theme of Exile,” Brodsky’s Poetics and Aesthetics, eds. Lev Loseff, and V.A. Polukhin (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990) 56-88; Aleksey Gibson, Russian poetry and criticism in Paris from 1920 to 1940 (The Hague: Leuxenhoff Publishing, 1990); John Glad, Conversations in Exile (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993); Inna Broude, Ot Khodasevicha do Nabokova : nostal’gicheskaia tema v poezii pervoi russkoi emigratsii (Tenafly, N.J.: Ermitazh, 1990); Arnold McMillin, ed., Under Eastern Eyes : The West as Reflected in Recent Russian Emigré Writing (London: MacMillan, 1991); Lawrence Senelick, ed., Wandering Stars : Russian Emigré Theatre, 1905‑1940 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992); Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal and Martha Bohachevsky-Chomiak, eds., and Marian Schwartz, trans., A Revolution of the Spirit: Crisis of Value in Russia (New York: Fordham University Press, 1990); Judith D. Kornblatt and Richard Gustafson, eds. Russian Religious Thought (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996).

     [18] See the recent collection that traces the dimensions of the Return with regards to philosophy, and describes which émigré authors are enjoying the most attention in their homeland today: James P. Scanlan, Russian Thought After Communism: The Recovery of a Philosophical Heritage (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1994).   Russian scholars have already produced works dealing with the emigration as a whole. See, Viacheslav Kostikov, Ne budem proklinat’ izgnan’e… Puti i sud’by russkoi emigratsii (Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1994). Additionally the Russian Academy of Sciences has prepared a two volume collection which contains many articles from scholars in Russia and throughout the world: Academician E. P. Chelyshi & Professor D.M. Shakhovski eds., Kul’turnoe nasledie rossiiskoi emigratsii, 1917-1940 2 Vols. (Moscow: Nasledie, 1994).

   [19] Examples of articles that appraise Berdyaev include: E.A. Stepanova, “Exhausted Marxism: An Examination of Marxist Doctrine in the Traditions of Russian Religious Philosophy,” Soviet Studies in Philosophy 29.4 (Spring 1991): 15-34; V.N. Adiushkin, “The Social Philosophy of N. Berdiaev in Light of Perestroika,” Soviet Studies in Philosophy 30.4 (Spring 1992): 50-62; P.P. Gaidenko, “Landmarks: An Unheard Warning,” Russian Studies in Philosophy 32.1 (Summer 1993) 34-51; Andrei Smirnov, “The Path to Truth: Ibn-`Arabî and Nikolai Berdiaev (Two Types of Mystical Philosophizing),” Russian Studies in Philosophy 31.3 (Winter 1992-93) 120-134; R.A. Gal’tseva, “Sub specie finis (Utopiia tvorchestva N.A. Berdiaeva,” Ocherki russkoi utopicheskoi mysli XX veka, ed. R.A. Gal’tseva (Moscow: Nauka, 1992) 10-76.

     [20] For example, in 1994 N.A. Berdiaev: pro et contra was released in St. Petersburg and contained a lengthy compilation of the many reviews and personal comments made between 1900 and 1940 by fellow Russians.   N.A. Berdiaev: pro et contra, Series Russkii put’, ed. A.A. Ermichev, Vol 1. (St Petersburg: Isdatel’stvo Russkogo khristianskogo gumanitarnogo instituta, 1994). This institute is planning the following future editions: Konstantin Leont’ev and Pavel Florenskii and O. Pavel Florenskii. Isbrannii sochineniia.

     [21] In regards to the preparation of the collection Vekhi, for example, the letters to and from its editor Gershenzon have been retrieved and are published in B. Proskurinaia and V. Alloi, “K istorii sozidaniia `Vekh’,” Minuvshee: Istoricheskii al’manakh, vol. 11 (Moscow-St. Petersburg: Atheneum Feniks, 1992) 249-291. The memoirs of Lossky, Reshchikova, Leont’ev and Serkov have also been published. See B.N Lossky, “Nasha sem’ia v poru likholet’ia 1914-1922,” Minuvshee: Istoricheskii al’manakh, vol. 11 (Moscow-St. Petersburg, Atheneum Feniks, 1992) 119-198; V.A. Reshchikova, “Vysylka iz RSFSR,” Minuvshee: Istoricheskii al’manakh, vol. 11 (Moscow-St. Petersburg, Atheneum Feniks, 1992) 199-210; A.V Leont’ev, “Nezapechatlennyi trud: iz arkhiva V. N. Figner,” Zven’ia: Istorichesii al’manakh Vol. 2 (Moscow-St. Petersburg, Atheneum Feniks, 1992) 424-488; A. Serkov, “Rasgovor cherez `reshetku’. Perepiska M.A. Osorgina i A.S. Butkevicha,” Zven’ia: Istorichesii al’manakh Vol. 2 (Moscow-St. Petersburg, Atheneum Feniks, 1992) 489-538.

     [22] Tsvetkov was also the compiler and curator of a Berdyaev Museum in Moscow. Aleksandr Vadimov (Tsvetkov), Zhizn’ Berdiaeva: Rossiia (Oakland, CA: Berkeley Slavic Specialities, 1993). See also N.K. Dmitrieva and A.P. Moiseeva, Nikolai Berdiaev: zhizn’ i tvorchestvo (Moskva: Vysshaia shkola, 1993).

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