Disenchanted Wanderer: The Apocalyptic Vision of Konstantin Leontiev by Glenn Cronin - review by Donald Rayfield

Donald Rayfield

Prophet of Doom

Disenchanted Wanderer: The Apocalyptic Vision of Konstantin Leontiev


Cornell University Press 276pp £40)

Russian philosophers have never been much interested in the basics, such as ontology and epistemology (which is why not a single Russian philosopher is examined in Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy). They tend to jump straight to questioning the meaning of life, the laws of history, the nature of God and the destiny of Russia. At their highest point of influence, in the last decades of tsarist rule, they were prophets apocalyptic enough to have a temporary impact on European readers: Vladimir Solovyov’s Three Conversations finishes with ‘A Tale of the Antichrist’, which predicts that after world wars Europe will form, for purely economic reasons, a federation of states ruled by the Antichrist and that the century will end in Armageddon; Vasily Rozanov in Apocalypse of Our Times (1919) invented the phrase later made famous by Churchill, ‘An iron curtain is descending over Europe.’

First of all, however, came Konstantin Leontiev, with his shocking denunciations of ‘rose-tinted’ Christianity and of the illusory rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. He summarised his views in a tract that will even today appeal to every reactionary: ‘The Average European as the Ideal and

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