Is Mikhail Prishvin a liberal or a conservative?
‘The Bard of Nature’ and his place in today’s ideological landscape
Boris Knorre
Russia’s current ideological landscape features several writers-cum-columnists who oppose liberal ideas, claim that state interests have priority over those of the individual, and also proclaim priority of the “traditional values” they correlate with Russia as the bulwark of Eastern Orthodoxy and anti-globalism in today’s world. Well-known and well-studied names include Alexander Dugin, Egor Kholmogorov, Alexander Prokhanov, Zakhar Prilepin, et al.1 Russian reference writers who are popular among the conservative patriotic camp include Konstantin Leontiev and Lev Tikhomirov for the tsarist period, Ivan Ilyin and Ivan Solonevich for the interwar emigration, Lev Gumilev and Alexander Solzhenitsyn for the dissidence, Alexander Panarin for the early post-Soviet times, etc.2

These authors, both historic and contemporary, can be seen as the “iconostasis” of Russia’s current ideological playbook. Yet, there are sometimes less famous thinkers whose influence on Russian culture is nonetheless quite significant. A careful consideration of their works reveals that today’s Russian ideological landscape is far more complex than it might appear to be if we confine ourselves only to the picture painted by the official propaganda.

One such thinker is Mikhail Mikhailovich Prishvin, a writer both Russian and Soviet, since he embarked on this writing career long before the 1917 Revolution and finished in the middle of Soviet history. His books informed the typical Soviet perception of him as a field naturalist picturing the world of nature. This reputation was solidified by his fairy tale The Sun’s Storehouse3 which was even placed on the Soviet school curriculum. In Russian culture, Prishvin was presented as the “bard of nature,” and his ideas contributed to the development of environmental movements. Russian biologists today are influenced by Prishvin’s ideas. For instance, Olga Grinchenko, chairman of the M. A. Menzbir Moscow Regional Department of the Russian Society for the Salvation and Study of Birds, curates a specially protected nature reserve “Crane Homeland,” named after the well-known Prishvin novel4, and is expanding the project into a national park with the same name. The territory of the park plans to include places from three districts of the Moscow and Yaroslavl regions in which Prishvin lived, hunted and made his observations of nature.

However, post-Soviet readers began to discover a Prishvin who was far more than merely a “bard of nature,” and even his philosophy of nature turned out to be much more multidimensional than it had appeared in the Soviet era. The change in the perception of Prishvin, who came to be seen as a philosopher and a religious thinker dwelling on the urgent political issues of his day, was largely influenced by the publication of his works discussing ‘god-seeking’ [bogoiskatel’stvo] in Russia and his search for God, which were printed only after the collapse of state-mandated atheism. In addition, Prishvin was seen in a radically new light thanks to the efforts of Lilia Riazanova and Yana Grishina, the head curators of the Mikhail Prishvin Museum in the village of Dunino in the suburbs of Moscow. They published 18 volumes of the diaries that Privshin kept for 50 years, from the age of 32 in 1905 until his death in 1954. After the publication of these texts, it became clear how multifaceted Prishvin’s views were.

Prishvin's works turned out to be in great demand in post-Soviet Russia because his reflections touch on almost all of the main painful issues of national identity, the history of Russia and political events of which he was a contemporary: issues of nationalism, liberalism and conservatism, the nature of power in Russia, Russian religiosity, the role of the Orthodox Church,the 1917 Revolution, messianism and the content of socialist ideas. Therefore, humanities scholars across various fields (philosophers, philologists, historians, etc.), who hold different ideological positions, actively appeal to Prishvin's work and discover interesting ideas and details from the history of Russian thought. However, there are also some researchers, cultural figures and employees of the Russian media who draw attention to Prishvin in order to confirm the official ideological line of the modern Russian regime.

In this article, I scrutinize the statements and ideas of Prishvin where he reflects on the problems of social structure, expresses dreams of an ideal human community, and focuses on issues of freedom, power and duty, from both a civil-political and a religious perspective. I am trying to answer the question of how liberal and conservative views correlate and intertwine in Prishvin's worldview. Was Prishvin more conservative or liberal? Therefore, I draw special attention to the analysis of those cultural attitudes inherent in the church tradition, which Prishvin spoke about when contesting the conservative ideas popular in Russian culture about the limits of human freedom and the social order.

In doing this, I highlight the works of Alexander Podoksenov, professor of Bunin Yelets State University, one of the main Post-Soviet researchers of Prishvin's oeuvres, who initially took an unbiased view of Privshin, but later switched to the ideological rails of Prishvin's interpretation. I also consider the explanations of Prishvin's ideas made by Alexey Varlamov, member of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art and rector of the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow, Yana Grishina, head curator of the Mikhail Prishvin Museum in Moscow suburbs, Elena Knorre, senior research fellow of the Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWL RAS) in Moscow, Natalia Borisova, professor at the Yelets Ivan Bunin State University and I emphasize the importance of the latest interpretations and disputes around the religiosity of Prishvin found in the works by Svetlana Poshina and Elena Borovskaya, associate professors from the Moscow City Teachers' Training University and a researcher Ivan Aleksandrov.

“Kashchey’s Kingdom.” The Evolution of Prishvin’s Ideas Against the Backdrop of his Development as a Writer

Prishvin is a thinker with a fairly rich and complex philosophical world whose components are difficult to fit into a simple outline. Throughout his lifetime, his views noticeably evolved in a non-linear manner.5 His mother came from a family of Old Believers who had converted to the official Orthodox Christianity. Some elements of the Old Believer tradition did survive in Prishvin’s family: from childhood, Mikhail was introduced to popular Old Believer myths and religious intuitions and the young writer was particularly affected by eschatological expectations widespread in the Orthodox milieu. 6

Even as a child, Prishvin perceived the social world as corrupt, depraved, and hostile to human beings, and he referred to it using the well-known folklore image of “Kashchey’s Kingdom.”7

Kashchey (or Koshchey) The Immortal is an evil and scary figure of East Slavic mythology, who appears often in Russian folk tales. He communicates with the world of the dead, thwarts the happiness of the living, and is invulnerable to ordinary people, as his death is enclosed in a mysterious needle hidden in several magical animals and objects nested within one another.8

Elena Balashova9 believes that the original impetus for choosing this personification of evil came from Alexander Veltman’s novel Kashchey the Immortal.10 The principles upon which this kingdom rests are many: they include trade based on the power of financial capital, enmity between people and communities, alienation that manifests in a variety of forms, etc. Prishvin sees these principles as links in a single corrupt “Chain of Kashchey,” “the symbol of isolation, unfreedom, of the evil that had bound the entire world.”11 That was the image Prishvin decided to use for the title of his biographical novel The Chain of Kashchey.12

Privshin sees the world as being symbolically separated, owing to Kashchey’s curse; all people are victims of this curse that transforms our existence into “shards of shattered life.”13 Therefore, the disharmony we see around us is inherent in human beings, that is, it has existed for as long as humans have been on Earth. However, a new era adds new shapes to this “traditional” evil: Kashchey locks all of humanity into the “egoism of property,” unfair distribution of land between people when the “haves” dictate what kind of life the “have-nots” will live. In his focus on this issue, Prishvin echoes popular social ideas of the pre-revolutionary era that had been voiced by the progressives of the time, criticizing the traditional order of property relations that hinge on the power of capital as an impermissible evil.

Some scholars did note that in Prishvin’s telling, the picture of the world cursed by Kashchey serves as a folklore analog of Adam’s Fall.14 Prishvin himself makes several mentions of Adam’s curse in The Chain of Kashchey. He imbues the Biblical text with a socialist interpretation that has Adam commit his sin twice: first when he tasted of the mythological “tree of knowledge of good and evil” and then, when he was already exiled from Paradise, instead of eating his bread by the sweat of his face (Gen 3: 19), he began using the toil of the second, “landless Adam.” That is, he started the practice of one person exploiting another and eating the bread that another person had toiled for.15 Such an understanding of Kashchey’s kingdom came from Prishvin’s personal situation: his father died when he was seven, and his mother was essentially held in bondage to banks by being forced to pay back the debts of her late husband.16

A serious manifestation of alienation and discord in Prishvin’s adolescence was also the conflict with his school teacher Vasily Rozanov, a famous Russian thinker who taught geography at the Yelets gymnasium, where Prishvin studied. The conflict led to Prishvin’s expulsion from the Gymnasium with a “wolf-ticket,”17 which almost drove Prishvin to suicide, but ultimately resulted in the young man leaving home and coming to his merchant uncle in Siberia, who managed to negotiate with the local school to continue the boy’s education.

Since childhood, Privshin perceived the institution of the Church as an integral part of the chain of Kashchey, not an exception from it. The novel The Chain of Kashchey mentions clerics either as Kashchey’s emissaries or as personifications of Kashchey himself. When, for instance, as a small child, Prishvin learned his family wanted to talk his distant relative Maria Ignatova (whom he called Marya Morevna18) into going to see an elder at a monastery19 he stated outright that he saw Kashchey himself in the elder’s image.

Ultimately, young Prishvin chose the task of breaking “the chain of Kashchey” as his most important life goal and objective: overcoming alienation and misunderstanding between people, thus liberating oneself from the bonds that shackle life and mind.20 In search for ways of handling this task, Prishvin started to adopt various ideological and political doctrines. At the start of his student years, he became interested in the idea of the Populists (narodniki) because he initially saw the people through a Romantic lens, believing that the Russian people, common peasants, had some hidden inherent religiosity, a desire to overcome evil and emerge from the cursed “Kashchey’s kingdom.” Quite soon after that, however, he began to doubt Populist ideas and abandoned them, although he continued to maintain friendships with some Populists. In particular, together with peasant poets, he continued to publish his works in the Scythians periodical published by the writer Razumnik Ivanov-Razumnik.21

Prishvin then turned to Marxism; after enrolling into the School of Chemistry at Riga Polytechnic, he joined the Fraternitas Arctica Russian student corporation, as well as a Marxist circle who inspired him to translate August Bebel's Women Under Socialism into Russian. At that time, Prishvin believed that he could find the truth that would help liberate the common people from the cursed “chain of Kashchey” in Marxism. He was struck by Bebel’s description of the imminent global disaster, as this idea aligned quite well with the fears of the end of the world that had been the bugbear of his childhood. Bebel helped Prishvin see an answer to his question and to his fears of the end of the world, since Marxists viewed this “end” of one social order as the “beginning of a new life.”22 In 1897, Prishvin was arrested for his Marxist ties and disseminating Marxist literature, and spent a few months in the Mitau prison in Livonia. Upon returning home from university, he abandoned Marxism.23

The world of sectarians and a quest for the invisible “City of Kitezh”

As a counterpoint to the cursed “Kashchey’s kingdom,” Prishvin develops the concept of a certain “invisible city” of Kitezh or the country of Belovodye (White Waters), and this idea will come to dominate his worldview. The myth of the “city of Kitezh” is an ancient Russian myth of a city that, during the Tatar-Mongol invasion, due to the righteousness of its people, was hidden by God in a place inaccessible by regular human beings and was thus protected from being raided by Tatar-Mongol Khan Batu.24The idea of a mysterious country called Belovodye is based on an Old Believer25 legend.26

Prishvin’s infatuation with the belief in the mythical Belovodye was greatly influenced by his mystical leanings and the loose interpretations of this myth he had encountered during his Populist “going to the people” [khozhdenie v narod]. Prishvin put great stock in all kinds of meetings with unusual “wanderers” (nomadic people who are “not of this world”).

In The Chain of Kashchey, he describes an encounter in Siberia with an unknown wanderer with the gigantic Book of Margarit, or the Book of Pearls,27 who gifted him the answer to his question about searching for a just kingdom, “If you go East with faith in your heart, you will find white waters, and golden mountains upon white waters.”28 Idealization of Belovodye is linked with the belief that this place of harmony between the heavenly and the earthly is still the “Kingdom of the ‘golden age.’”29

Yet for Prishvin, the city of Kitezh became the most relevant image and symbol, gaining even more importance than Belovodye. The myth is based on a source text, The Kitezh Chronicle,30 which names a specific site connected with the righteous city, Lake Svetloyar in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. By the late 19th century, the symbolic and metaphoric significance of the city of Kitezh had gone far beyond the location itself, and the Silver Age transformed the city of Kitezh into a symbol of the best part of Russia that is hidden from the eyes of earthly people. Some writers—Sergey Durylin, for instance—began to link the concept of the city of Kitezh with the image of the “invisible Church of Christ,” which can only be seen by the righteous; it is connected with the visible church, but is not identical with it.31 Unlike Prishvin, Durylin was a devout Orthodox Christian, but this did not prevent Prishvin and Durylin from finding points of connection in their ponderings of the “invisible city” and the “invisible church.”

Certainly, the significance of the city of Kitezh for Prishvin went far beyond the specific place in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. Consequently, in 1906 and 1907, Prishvin’s quest for the “invisible city” took the form of wandering the Russian North: for two years running, he traveled for months at a time in the thick forests of Karelia and the Arkhangelsk Region. On his first journey, he visited sketes32 on the river Vyg, where Priestless Old Believers and some sectarians lived. Both in the sketes on the Vyg and in other remote settlements in the Russian North, Prishvin encountered the most whimsical religious beliefs, traditions, legends, and superstitions. He included tales about them in his books In the Land of Unfrightened Birds. Sketches from the Land of the Vyg and The Bun that are of considerable ethnographic value. The first book even earned Prishvin a medal from the Russian Geographical Society. Materials collected during another journey to the Trans-Volga region formed the basis of At the Walls of an Invisible City,33 whose title alone reflects Prishvin’s interest in searching for the city of Kitezh. Out of all of Prishvin’s books, this one exhibits the greatest focus on searching for another, better faith, as well as the desire to understand the Russian religious mind.34

Prishvin’s quest for the “invisible city” manifests itself not only in his journeys through the real world, but also, to an equal degree in his philosophical quest; in other words, his search transpires both at the level of folklore material and at the level of symbols and ideas. 35 His ponderings are archetypical of many Silver Age philosophers, and that brings him in contact with Dmitry Merezhkovsky and Zinaida Gippius, who held meetings of the Religious and Philosophical Society (RPhS) in St. Petersburg. Prishvin began to frequent these meetings, and became a member of the Society in 1909. However, he did not agree with all the interpretations of the “invisible city” proposed by Silver Age thinkers. In particular, he did not find the idea of the mysterious kingdom of Inonia from Sergey Esenin’s eponymous poem to be particularly appealing. His disliked Inonia because, instead of Christian humility and conciliation, the concept of Inonia was based on common peasant all-permissiveness [muzhitskaya vol’nitsa] and attendant chaos, on going beyond the limits of the permissible, abandoning social norms, etc. 36

Prishvin met some urban sectarians directly upon recommendations of the RPhS. At some point, he became very interested in the Khlysty (flagellants), in particular in the well-known Cult of Legkobytov, leader of the sect embodying one of the variants of the Khlysty. He was invited to convert into their faith.37 Prishvin did not want to “jump into the vat,” as he himself framed it, but his great interest in religious life persisted.38 After the outbreak of the First World War, he distanced himself somewhat from the Religious and Philosophical Society. His 1914–1915 diaries contain contradictory assessments of decadent philosophers, and in 1916, he became a frontline war correspondent to gain his own idea of the conflict and of the life of people who fought in it. He distanced himself from the philosophers even more following the Bolshevik coup; he made an even more stringent revision of the worldview that had concerned him previously and even decided to become an agnostic—to declare “war on other’s thoughts in my mind,”[39] not to identify his worldview with any kind of doctrine.

He was openly contradictory in some of his opinions on religious and political phenomena, which his diary entries make particularly clear. It prompted his biographer Alexey Varlamov to offer the following description of Prishvin:
Prishvin’s Diary is the kind of thing where one could take their pick of any kind of artificially selected quotes that would paint Prishvin as a great fighter against the system, a conformist, a Christian writer, a pantheist, a pagan, or even a theomachist, a consistent realist or modernist, or even a postmodernist, a patriot, a Russophobe. Much depends on the reader’s and researcher’s own stance, and consequently, each one of us truly has their own Prishvin.40
Between “I want to” and “I must.” Critical re-thinking of liberal democratic ideas

Prishvin's opinion on the February Revolution was ambiguous, but he viewed it positively rather than negatively. However, after the Bolshevik coup in October, when Prishvin saw the lawlessness, banditry and cruelties stemming from the revolution, he, like many Russian writers, began to express a negative assessment of Bolshevism and to assume a more negative perspective on those ideas that had paved the way for the revolution. In the late of October 1917, he published the article about Vladimir Lenin titled “Murderer” in the Volya Naroda (Will of the People) newspaper. This piece described Lenin as both a “murderer” and a “thief” who robbed Russia and destroyed the achievements embodied in the “Constituent Assembly.”41

In 1918, the people’s gathering, acting under the Bolshevik’s auspices, took away Prishvin’s family estate—the house and manor in the village of Khrushchevo near the town of Yelets in the Lipetsk Region—the place where the writer had spent his childhood. This confiscation of his property was accompanied by threats to his life, an event which ended up causing severe mental trauma for Prishvin. He continued to relive this event throughout his entire life. Whenever he came upon former gentry estates demolished by Soviet authorities, whether intentional or not, he ended up associating their destruction with the plundering of his own family manor.

These reflections proved to be associated with his own trauma, evoking negative emotions not simply in relation to revolutionary events as such, but also to the liberal ideas and enlightenment movements in which he himself was, to some extent, involved. He reproached pre-revolutionary liberals for embarking on the mission of educating the people and for paving the way for the revolution because the liberals had an unrealistic and romanticized perception of the people, as they thought the educational system they had organized might bear fruit among the peasants. That is, Prishvin believed that the liberals’ mistake was in believing that the people were capable of receiving an education, as well as reforms and political freedoms. For instance, he notes in 1926:
I told Ialovetsky (a friend he went hunting with – B.K.) the thoughts I always had as I looked on the ruins of the estates that had once belonged to liberals, to people that had given their everything to the cause of the people’s education: the same happened to Vorgunin in the suburbs of Elets; he built many model schools in the district, and then was rewarded by being allowed to live in a single little room on the top floor of his own house. “Strictly speaking,” I said, “these were the people that paved the way for the revolution. Why, then, did it happen that way?” Ialovetsky was silent. “Maybe,” I ventured a guess, “they caught it so badly precisely because they had paved the way for the revolution!”42
That is, Prishvin began to justify the misfortunes suffered by former Enlightenment supporters under the terror of the new political regime. In 1927, while dwelling on some liberals who had shared his political views and rejected monarchy as a matter of principle, Prishvin stated that they deluded themselves twice in their views on the revolution: in 1905 by having taken liberal reforms seriously, and then in 1917 by believing that would be possible to take an uncompromising stance, to live in the new society without cooperating with the Bolsheviks and without taking food rations from them.

Prishvin explains his negative assessment of liberals by accusing them of lacking independent thinking, charging them with being a “product” of monarchy, of depending on it in their own way; without the monarchy, they begin to feel how groundless their ideals are and leave the political stage.
The Russian revolutionary is the flip side of monarchy, and liberal personages were double-dealers: they satisfied their revolutionary sentiments through their activities and had, therefore, to perish with the monarchy.43
And in 1933, he proclaimed the end of liberalism that had nourished the old revolution,” at the same time stating that his own books (connected with liberal aspirations) were now outdated and he therefore had “to search for a new outlet for his creative efforts.”44Later, as Stalin’s repressions became a political force to be reckoned with, Prishvin began to explain to himelf the totalitarian nature of Soviet power, collectivization, and inescapable duress [‘prinudilovku’] as a natural response to the chaos that engulfed Russia in the first years after the revolution. He sees the problem as people moving away from everyday Russian traditions when the rural way of life had been “inside people as their duties to the land (their family and kin).”45 Ultimately, “what has previously been done out of tradition now had to be done under duress.” As the writer was ruminating on this manner, he dared to view freedom not as the broadest range of choices, but as “inurement to necessity—so that, like it or not, it hearkens back to Anti-Duhring sensibilities46. Nevertheless, Prishvin himself stated that his view on freedom as “inurement to necessity” differs from that expressed in the philosophy of dialectical materialism where freedom is a “conscious necessity”.
Freedom is gained through long-standing inurement to necessity: having become used to necessity, people begin to carve out their freedom; therefore, freedom is insight into necessity, as dialectic materialism says, however, I say that freedom is inurement to necessity.47
He also launches into a criticism of individualism, believing it to have triggered such powerful centrifugal forces in society that it took major external coercion to pull society back to order from chaos. He believes such trends to have manifested both in Russia and the West.
The culture of the “personal” resulted in liberalism, in the decomposition of state, and hence the return to necessity (fascism in the West, Bolshevism in the East). Therefore, the decomposition of the culture of the personal resulted in the need for the “extra-personal” (“come hell or high water” etc.)48
Finally, he asks the dialectical question outright: how should the life of a society conform to the principles of “I want to” and “I must,” which, from a purely dialectical standpoint, means that if at some point in time, the life of a country is dominated by the principle of “I want to,” then afterwards, the time of the “I must” principle will inevitably come.
Generally, once you start remembering, thinking, asking questions of younger people who had been involved in the revolution body and soul, why, it would have been nice for everyone to be able to live as they want to. It was difficult later to obey the “Must” that arrived on the heels of “I want to.” Yet little by little, they came to realize: nothing could be done about it, no one can forever live as they want to. This is where obedience started, i.e. voluntary, conscious submission to necessity.49
Moreover, he even begins to justify Stalin’s era as “a school of obedience necessary for the Russian people.”
Now the entire issue of the possibility of revival and of revealing inner patriotism hinges on the matter of time: when the time of obedience is finished, then Stalin’s era will be understood as a school of obedience necessary for the Russian people. If the time of obedience is cut short, then Germans will inevitably subjugate us, and we will be in obedience to them until we overcome their imprisonment from inside. But who could know how long the time of obedience should be? No one can know it, and anyone who starts talking about the end of the time of obedience without overcoming their personal interests is not a prophet, but a claimant to the throne50.
Finally, Prishvin saw some kind of a Soviet-time substitution move in that the humanism that had previously been opposed to bio-struggle was now being paradoxically combined with that very struggle (under the slogan of the necessity of class struggle) and ultimately degenerated into some kind of “bio-humanism” that comprised “principles (words) that are human, and the power (cause) of the beast.” Prishvin, therefore, believed that “humanism (liberalism) was thoroughly defeated, and we see that.”51

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” On Prishvin’s inner rebelliousness

Keeping in mind Prishvin’s aforementioned anti-liberal statements, it would still be incorrect to draw any conclusions from them without taking into account other statements showing that while Prishvin did criticize liberals, he largely adhered to a liberal stance.

In The Early Century, a novel that Prishvin had planned as his autobiography, he notes the loss “of the native God Whom people are consistently attempting to replace with the dominant doctrines of the century, trying out those doctrines one after another.”52 Hence the question of how Prishvin saw this “native God.” We could suppose that when Prishvin speaks of the “native God” he regrets the loss of Russia’s native religious tradition. More likely, however, he regrets the loss of the way of life he remembered since childhood, including the way of life of people who were more thoroughly embedded in the cycle of nature, in tilling the land. Let’s note therefore, that the “native God” of whose loss Prishvin speaks is a certain totality of culture broadly understood, a culture that had emerged in Russia before the revolution, a complex of a way of life that is institutionalized or generally accepted by society.

However, if we consider this loss of the “native God” as a rejection of the ecclesiastical tradition that was taking place in the early 20th century and ultimately peaked in the destruction of churches, then Prishvin’s attitude is far more complex than mere regrets. Let’s leave outside of our consideration the question of how much of a practicing Christian Prishvin was, and let’s focus on a crucial leitmotif that Prishvin reiterates virtually throughout his diaries. These are the words of Christ, spoken in response to Jews who demanded He tell them by what power He worked His miracles, i.e. prove His right to drive merchants out of the Temple of Jerusalem and to call for the spiritual revival of the Jewish people.
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. (John. 2: 16-21).
Prishvin repeats the words “Destroy this temple” quite frequently when reflecting on destroyed churches by the early Soviet regime. Repeating Christ’s words while discoursing on Bolshevik Church-destroying campaigns, Prishvin appears to apply Christ’s judgment to the Russian ecclesiastical tradition and to the way of life associated with it, thus hinting that they deserve to be destroyed as much as the Old Testament tradition. Therefore, churches being destroyed and bells being toppled is a sad thing, but it had to be expected. In 1930, Prishvin recalls these words of Christ as he watches a Church bell being broken into pieces.
I have spent the entire day working on the bell’s photographs. “Destroy this temple”… It’s only [heard for] some 30 versts, while my bell will toll throughout the earth, in all tongues. But… This “but” draws into the subject: what my word should be like to toll like bronze! 53
We see that just as Prishvin alludes to Christ’s words about “destroying the temple,” he also adds some rather (ecclesiastically) audacious thoughts on his literary works and his life being somehow able to recreate this temple in a manner similar to what Christ had said. The “bell” of his word, of this writing will toll in place of church bells. And it gives an explanation why Prishvin quite frequently adds a conclusion to the cited above words of Christ, “and in three days I will raise it up.”54 However, as he spoke about “raising up” the temple, he meant not his literary work alone, but also his life experience of being in communication with wild nature. He perceived communication with wild nature as something sacred, transcendent, religious, mysterious—something bordering upon liturgy.55 Some places in his diaries attest to that, and it may explain Prishvin’s religiosity that is profoundly individualistic and impossible to categorize.
My friend, the edifice of our church has been razed to the ground, brick by brick, and I have been all my life collecting the bricks and assembling them into a monument. There are moments, and these are the moments that sustain me, when my effort is successful, and I even think proudly that I am doing this: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Still, I could not admit it so clearly, it is as if I am just putting my feet in someone else’s right steps. I am not Czar Berendey in this great Berendey’s realm around me, but still, I go daily down Berendey’s path to the swamp and I frequently recognize myself in Berendey.56
This attitude to nature influenced Prishvin’s perception of the Church. He believes that the good and the positive that the Church possesses has been taken from nature
and the Church laid it up within herself (the Fathers had a sense of nature and included it in the ecclesiastical rhythm), but the Church ultimately presents the things it has borrowed from nature in some dried, museumified, refined, non-living state. The Church cannot convey the natural good in a living state, it cannot convey the very original to people.57 Prishvin categorizes believers in Christ into two groups: “truly divine believers find Christ in nature, discover Him in something close to them, while others get to know Christ through the Church and worship Him in their own way, following the accepted norm.”58 He also posits for himself the concepts of the “natural Christ” and the “artificial Christ” with the first one linked to nature and the second - to the Church. Therefore, for Prishvin, the Christ that the Church preaches is artificial.

Now let us describe in more detail both what it is that makes Prishvin unhappy about the Church tradition and the related behaviors.

The Church’s “Original Sin”

Prishvin’s criticisms of the Church and churchmen have a clear common theme: the Russian Church tradition being so devoted to anthropological pessimism. Clerics are fixated on human sinfulness and on preaching suffering as the integral and principal element of life. For Prishvin, the Church calling upon people to suffer and mortify the joys of life nearly equals negating it. Consequently, Prishvin feels this mortification and negation of life in the Orthodox liturgies themselves. In 1932, for instance, he offers the following description of his impressions of Vespers:
…In the evening, during my ramblings, I followed the sound of bells and walked into a church – it was Candlemas… The singing was good, and the priest said sensible things. And it struck me that it was the same throughout the entire country, including the tundras: the same wished-for play was performed everywhere… This theater piece teaches us the proper way to die… But why is there no piece that would teach us the proper way to live?59.
Here, Prishvin’s criticism of Christianity comes quite close to that of Vasily Rozanov, known for his criticism of Christianity and particularly of Russian Orthodox theologians’ teaching on sin that emphasizes the sinful and distorted human nature.60 However, while criticizing Christian asceticism in general, Rozanov did find positive aspects in the Russian Church tradition, noting that it adjusts Christ’s teaching by justifying somewhat the joys of living.61 Prishvin, on the contrary, finds the Church tradition mostly to deny living.
Christians have a sin, they hasten to suffer: why should everyone living life to the hilt hasten that way when suffering will certainly come all by itself. Second, they call upon the little ones (people who aren't experienced in different complexities of life - B.K.) to follow them while these little ones might have lived their lives without suffering.62
The bard of nature openly admits that “the Church binds peoples to sin by constantly speaking about sin.”63 Moreover, he claims that the Church is not only fixated upon sin, but also essentially has people fixate more on manifestations of evil than on manifestations of good: speaking about the Antichrist, they gear people toward the Antichrist, not toward Christ, the Church teaches the proper way to die, but not the proper way to live… etc…
Once I was given some Christian book… it had one subject only: sin, sin, and sin again… The fool who keeps repeating “I am bound, I am bound” remains bound forever. The person who repeats day and night “I am a sinner, I am a sinner” does, indeed, become a sinner… the person who affirms with strong conviction, “I am not bound, I am free” becomes free.64
As Prishvin dwells critically on the “original sin” as the leitmotif of church sermons, he arrives at an unusual conclusion. He believes that Bolsheviks succeeded in Russia because they attempted to eliminate this leitmotif from the people’s mind. Prishvin thinks that Bolsheviks attempted to remove the idea of the original sin from the mind of the Russian person.
It was not Christ, but Bolsheviks who removed the original sin from humankind: Bolsheviks’ optimism lies precisely in a new human being, and the new human being (without the original sin) lives according to the human being’s own plan.
Therefore, Prishvin believed that the anthropological pessimism that the Church had been imposing on humanity for a long time played a dirty trick on the Russian people, and the Church is responsible for the collapse of monarchy and for Bolsheviks counting to power. The bard of nature considered Bolsheviks to have thus attempted to respond to the urgent existentialist and anthropological demand that people’s mind be freed from being subject to the “original sin” and thus to be freed from anthropological pessimism, and consequently - from social passivity and submission to injustice. In his opinion, the fundamental flaw in the ideology of socialism promoted by the Soviet authorities is eliminating the human personality, replacing the personal principle in human beings with the mass element, with the statist (état) element.
Prishvin discovers an attempt of such a transformation of the anthropological conscience not only in the political dimension, but also in the religious realm - in the phenomenon of the Fedorovians. There are followers of Nikolay Fedorov whose ideas had been titled as Philosophiya obshchego dela (“Philosophy of the Common Task”), who preached physical immortality and resurrection of the dead on earth as a commandment for humanity; ultimately, Fedorov preached apocatastasis, or universal salvation in eternity for every person who has ever lived on earth, and not just salvation of the few elect righteous.65 Social justice was an important message of Fedorov’s soteriology. The traditional teaching of the Church states that people will be inevitably divided into the righteous elect and the sinful who are to suffer for all eternity, and Fedorovians proclaimed this doctrine to be socially bankrupt and demanded that it be amended.

However, the ideas of resurrection on earth suggested by Fedorov’s followers attracted Prishvin with its emphasis on the value of life as such thereby opposing the traditional ecclesiastical fixation on sin and suffering, on denying the joys of life, and on preaching dying. It is no accident that the Fedorovians’ criticism of the Orthodox church tradition used the term “deathgodhood” [smertobozhnichestvo]. That is, they reproached the Church for emphasizing death instead of life.

Prishvin openly admits that Fedorov’s doctrine is essentially a variant of the communist idea: “the Philosophy of the Common Task is our communism” and claims that “Fedorov is a Christian Orthodox Bolshevik, that the Philosophy of the Common Task is essentially a communist idea wrapped in religion.” Accordingly, Prishvin addresses to Fedorov’s followers the same rebukes he had addressed to socialism. For instance, he reproaches the Fedorovians for neutralizing the personal principle in the “Common Task,” and he levels a similar charge against socialism.

Appropriating Prishvin in today’s Russia

After the so-called political “conservative turn” of 2012, there were several attempts to make Prishvin suitable for the ideological paradigm of Putin’s time that strives to present Russia’s pre-revolutionary and Soviet periods as mutually binding links in a single historical chain. Several publications have tried to present Prishvin as a protagonist of the “Russian world,” a proponent of “traditional values,” a promoter of the centralization of state power, etc.

For instance, Alexander Podoksenov’s66 works of the last ten years present Prishvin as an author who used his mythopoetic language to assert the priority of a national state-building idea, painting Prishvin as an admirer of Stalin. While analyzing At the Walls of the Invisible City (1908),67 one of Prishvin's pre-revolutionary god-seeking books, Podoksenov attempts to demonstrate that even back then Prishvin was a critic of the liberal pre-revolutionary reforms. In particular, according to Podoksenov, Prishvin was opposed to the Decree on Strengthening the Foundations of Religious Tolerance, issued on 17 April of 1905) , the Manifesto on the Improvement of the State Order issued on 17 October of 1905 , that granted to the population the essential foundations of civil freedoms, in particular, the freedom of conscience and religion, and he was a fierce opponent to all new religious movements.68

At the conference “Mikhail Prishvin in the Context of Today’s Humanities Knowledge” held early 2023 at Yelets Ivan Bunin State University, the university’s vice rector Svetlana Dvoryatkina noted that “in the view of Russia’s current foreign political and economic situation” Prishvin’s works are particularly important for “fostering spiritual riches, love for one’s ‘little Motherland,’ or birthplace, and carefully preserving the traditions of one’s own people.”69 Natalia Borisova, a professor at the same university, suggested relying on Prishvin in defending the “Russian world”.70

She noted the invariable monarchism of Prishvin’s thought, claiming that he perforce asserted that monarchism and centralized rule are right for Russian culture. A renowned Russian literature scholar Ivan Esaulov said at the same conference that Prishvin today has to help understand the Christian foundations of Russian literature and this needs to be reflected in the school literature curriculum.71

Elena R. Borovskaia and Svetlana A. Poshina72 attempt to showcase Prishvin as a proponent of traditional values with a particular focus on Eastern Orthodoxy as the ideological foundation of ethnically and culturally important linchpins of today's Russia. They attempt to interpret the plot of Prishvin’s most famous story for children, which had been included in USSR school curriculums, in the spirit of ideas that help “align Christian values and Russia’s traditional values,” especially refusing the freedom of all-permissiveness that is condemned by the Church.73

On May 6, 2022 at the Graduate Student Conference held at the Moscow Theological Academy at Sergiev Posad, Deacon Sergei Krasnikov also painted Prishvin as an official proponent of the church (even if he was only represented by secular clergy). The image of Prishvin as practicing Eastern Orthodox is only being asserted in video and radio Orthodox broadcasts. For example, the program on the Orthodox radio station "Radio Vera" stated that "Prishvin came to the Church in his later years."74 This conclusion is actually made by many analysts who base it on the fact that Prishvin’s second wife Valeriya D. Prishvina (Liorko) was a practicing Orthodox believer and had an influence on the writer.

Even the official Russian propaganda turns to Prishvin. For instance, the news program Vesti on the state-owned Russian television channel “Russia-1” (the flagship channel of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK)) dedicated an episode to him on February 4, 2023. The show used Prishvin’s out-of-context anti-liberal snippets to present him as an outright anti-liberal. For instance, they declared that Prishvin “sharply calls to account idle liberals who chatted and dreamed Russia away” and quoted Prishvin's other statements concerning the dishonesty of liberalism. At the same time, the host insisted that Prishvin had seen Stalin “not as a blind accident, but as a logical response of Russian history to the tragic errors and lies of Russian liberalism.”75

How substantial are these attempts to interpret Prishvin from this perspective? Based on the outline of Prishvin's worldviews, such attempts are clearly at odds with the complex world described by his ideas. Indeed, in 1914-1915, Prishvin seeks to distance himself from the liberal intelligentsia, while after the revolution, he makes fragmentary critical statements against liberals, populists, and various ideologues who make the claim of trying to educating the people, but this alone does not justify calling Prishvin a statist, anti-liberal, or supporter of the systemic Orthodox religion. His stance remains equivocal. His critical thoughts on educationists and liberals express Prishvin’s grievance against them, but not a wholesale rejection of their ideas. In the 1920s, while entertaining such critical thoughts, Prishvin ruminates on how to rehabilitate the intelligentsia, and Yana Grishina, in opposition to those researchers trying to appropriate Prishvin ideologically, draws special attention to this line because “throughout its history, the intelligentsia has been in spiritual opposition to the authorities.”76

Prishvin, however, did not significantly change his negative opinion of the pre-revolutionary system. He did not lapse into romantic nostalgia for pre-revolutionary Russia and church life, but neither did he become a run-of-the-mill practicing Orthodox in the 1940s, under the Soviet authorities, when he resumed his interest in church life under the influence of his second wife. He continued to treat the church with critical mistrust, both because he could not accept its anthropological pessimism and because the Orthodox tradition came to submit to the state (even though the state generally remained godless). It is no accident that in the 1940s, when the authorities assumed a more lenient stance toward the church, intending to use it for their political goals, Prishvin accused the church of “Sergianism.”77 That is, he continued the line of criticism leveled against the Moscow Patriarchy by the Russian Church abroad and by underground religious communities, who rebuked the church for conformism and submission to the authorities.

It is even less appropriate to attempt to paint Prishvin as a monarchist by citing his anti-revolutionary and anti-Bolshevist statements, as does the aforementioned Yelets University Professor Natalya Borisova. Prishvin’s negative attitude to the monarchy is evidenced in his recollection of the feeling he experienced when he heard the news of Nicholas II having been dethroned—it was an unequivocal feeling of relief: “I recalled the awakening of 1917, when the shooting in the street and it suddenly felt as if a huge burden, the load of an entire lifetime, had fallen off my shoulders: it was that there was no longer a czar.”78 Prishvin recounts this recollection in a diary entry from 1930, that is, when he had already seen all the misfortunes of the revolution and had assumed a more critical attitude toward the revolution.

Prishvin also had an extremely negative view toward the imperialistic war Nicholas II had dragged Russia into in 1914, even though he had seen the events of the war first hand as a war correspondent. He also viewed the church as a crucial social force bearing responsibility for the war, since Orthodoxy (and other Christian denominations, too) tended to fixate upon enemies and manifestations of evil:
The name of God splits the world asunder: one half, angels, saints, and various acceptable people, assembles around God, while the other half assembles around the Enemy: his supporters, demons, devils, evil spirits, imps; and a war starts. Well, if there is a cause for war and war is inevitable, let it be! But more frequently, it so happens that human beings barely have time to handle their earthly affairs and are not prone to war and, most importantly, they have no cause for war, but the ecclesiastical superstructure forces them also to see the world as split into hostile parts…79
As for Prishvin’s few complimentary and positive remarks about Stalin mentioned above, we should side with Yana Grishina, who notes that “Prishvin, like all or many of his contemporaries, fell under the spell of Stalin’s speeches…and still could shake Stalin’s influence off.”[80] Quite opposite to Podoksenov, she notes that Prishvin’s few positive remarks about Stalin had never been consistent or systematic and had been instead fragmentary, accidental, and mandated by the need to understand life around him. She notes that in the context of totalitarianism “the writer found it the hardest to believe in absolute evil; he resists, he cannot help hoping, he seeks at least some meaning in what is happening, at least some chance, but he allows himself to ponder the time and the authorities only in his diaries; never did he publish a single word about Stalin.”81

Finally, after World War II, in 1950, when the USSR had proven its right to existence, Prishvin made a very sharp statement incompatible with any kind of etatist or imperial convictions—a statement that can be seen as essentially prophetic. Observing the triumphalist statements of the Soviet authorities and individual cultural figures Prishvin states:
My homeland will say a new word, thereby indicating the way for the entire world. Didn’t Germans, the English and the French think the same way? This way of believing in one’s country’s mission is bound to end in a war…82

A consideration of Prishvin’s critical statements concerning both supporters of socialism and the church yields one common denominator: a refusal to accept those things that are forced upon people, massification, and subjugation to the official ideology, be it pre-revolutionary, Bolshevik, or Stalinist. Clearly, Prishvin intended to protect his own personality and creative works from being subsumed by totalitarian norms, be they secular or ecclesiastic.

Both his political and religious statements manifested his protest against oppression. For instance, while criticizing the church, he spoke against ideational and ascetic oppression based on the teaching of the original sin and distorted human nature, while his criticism of the Soviet authorities mostly concentrated on direct physical and ideological oppression that denied human dignity and individual people’s personal freedom of choice.

For Prishvin, therefore, the principles of humanism, personal freedom, human rights, and the possibility of personal fulfillment were his highest values, shaping him as a person of liberal convictions. When he criticized liberalism, his focus was not on liberal principles as such, but on certain liberal notions divorced from reality and presenting themselves as standardized problem-solving formulas. Therefore, we can suppose that attempts made in light of the current Russian political situation to parade Prishvin as an argument in favor of state patriotism are unsuccessful. They proceed from a black-and-white, simplified and schematic picture of the world, while Prishvin is a thinker who is too complex and non-linear to be fit into any scheme or to serve as a foundation for any simplified picture.


The author would like to express his gratitude to Elena Knorre, Senior Research Fellow at the Gorky Institute of World Literature for her recommendations, inspiring discussions and encouragement throughout this research.
[1] Marlène Laruelle, Russian Eurasianism: And Ideology of Empire (Washington D.C., Baltimore MD: Woodrow Wilson Center Press: Johns Hopkins University Press); Mariya Engström, Contemporary Russian Messianism and New. Contemporary Security Policy. 2014. 35:3. 356 – 379; Andreas Umland, Post-Soviet “Uncivil Society” and the Rise of Aleksandr Dugin: A Case Study of the Extraparliamentary Radical Right in Contemporary Russia (Ph. D. in Politics, University of Cambridge, 2007); K.U. Roman, Zwrot polityczny w literaturze rosyjskiej, czyli „Lewy Front Sztuki” według Zachara Prilepina. Poznanskie Studia Slawistyczne PSS NR (June, 2014): 229 – 241.
[2] Julia Zlatkova, Byzantism and Slavdom: Political Ideology of Constantine Leontiev. Cyril and Methodius: Byzantium and the World of the Slavs International Scientific Conference Thessaloniki (2015): 121 – 131; Marlene Laruelle, In search of Putin's philosopher Why Ivan Ilyin is not Putin’s Ideological Guru. Intersections (March 2017); Anastasiya Mitrofanova, Politizatsiia “pravoslavnogo mira” [Politicization of the Orthodox world]. (Moscow: Nauka, 2004); Alexander Buzgalin, Ivan Il’in i Postsovetskiy Konservatizm. Predislovie k stat’ye Kh.R. Petera. Al’ternativy (2012), no 4.
[3] Mikhail Prishvin, Kladovaya solntsa (Moscow: ‘Sovetskaya Rossiya’, 1977).
[4] Mikhail Prishvin, “Zhuravlinaya rodina,” in Sobranie sochineniy v 8 tomakh. vol. 3 (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaya literatura, 1983): 30 – 160.
[5] Varvara Burtseva, “‘A Soviet Piece, but Without Sycophancy’: ‘The Sun’s Storehouse’ as a Philosophical Manifesto,” Proceedings of the International academic conference “Literary heritage of M.M. Prishvin: the context of national and world culture," dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the writer. (Russian Federation, Moscow, February 20 – 22, 2023).
[6] Alexey Varlamov, Okhotnik za schast'em (Moscow, 2021): 10.
[7] Prishvin frequently turns to the idea of Kashchey’s kingdom in his diaries, but The Chain of Kashchey is the principal vehicle of this idea.
[8] Anna Zhuchkova, Karina Galay, “Funktsional'noye znacheniye mifologicheskogo obraza Koshcheya bessmertnogo i yego otrazheniye v russkikh volshebnykh skazkakh,” Vestnik slavyanskikh kul'tur (2015), no 3: 165 – 175.
[9] Elena Balashova, “Ideya roda i ’Kashcheeva tsep'‘ M. Prishvina,” Lit-info.Ru.
[10] Alexander Vel'tman, Romany. (Мoscow, 1985).
[11] Natal’ya Lishova, “Motiv puti v romane «Kashcheeva tsep'” M. Prishvina: kompozitsionno-strukturnoe svoeobrazie”. Philologos (2011), № 8: 48-54.
[12] Mikhail Prishvin, Kashcheeva tsep'. (Мoscow, 1984).
[13] This image suggests that Prishvin alludes to the Cabbalistic picture of the world as a shattered vessel. But there is not enough evidence that Prishvin consciously used this reference.
[14] See: Elena Balashova, “Ideya roda i ’Kashcheeva tsep'‘…
[15] The second Adam personifies those peasants who had no land and who ultimately had to beg to scraps of land from those who had it, and consequently, “those peasants” had to toil both for themselves and for the rich. See: Mikhail Prishvin, Kashcheeva tsep'.
[16] Alexey Varlamov, Okhotnik za schast'em, 15.
[17] A ”wolf-ticket” in pre–revolutionary Russia was the colloquial nickname of a document with a mark of unreliability, which prevented admission to educational institutions, public service, etc.
[18] Marya Morevna – is also a mythological personage, princess, heroine of Russian folk tales, who has great magical power and fettered Kashchei the Immortal.
[19] An elder in the Orthodox church practice is a special spiritual monk who is particularly close to God and can see the future and help handle crucial turning points in people’s lives. Such an elder could help connect the destinies of different persons by pointing out to a young man and a young girl that they should marry.
[20] Petr Maslyuzhenko, “Kashcheeva tsep' v kladovoy solntsa. K 135-letiyu Mikhaila Mikhaylovicha Prishvina,” Russkaya narodnaya liniya. 05.02.2008.
[21] Alexey Varlamov, Okhotnik za schast'em, 298.
[22] Ibid., 55.
[23] Ibid., 56.
[24] Vladimir Komarovich, Kitezhskaya legenda. Opyt izucheniya mestnykh legend. (Moscow, Leningrad, 1936).
[25] Old Believers are one of the variants of Russian Orthodoxy, formed in the second half of the 17th century due to the rejection by part of the Orthodox population of the church reform of Patriarch Nikon and Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. The Old Believers themselves are not a monolith, but are a complex of movements and organizations confessing the preservation of ancient Russian pre-reform rites and rituals. See in more details: Elena Yukhimenko, Staroobryadchestvo: Istoriya i Kul’tura (Moscow, 2016).
[26] Alexander Chuviyurov, “Legenda o Belovodye v pismennoy i ustnoy traditsii,” in Ustnoe i knizhnoe v slavyanskoy i evreyskoy kul'turnoy traditsii. Sb. statey. iss. 44 (Moscow, 2013): 86 – 122.
[27] The Book of Margarit is a collection of excerpts from the works of St. John Chrysostom.
[28] Mikhail Prishvin, Kashcheeva tsep' (Мoscow, 1984): 107.
[29] Natalya Borisova, Zhizn' mifa v tvorchestve M. M. Prishvina (Yelets, 2001): 68.
[30] Marina Urtmintseva, “Kitezhskiy letopisets v literaturnoy i zhivopisnoy traditsii (P.I. Melnikov i M.V. Nesterov),” Vestnik Nizhegorodskogo universiteta im. N.I. Lobachevskogo. no. 4 (2011): 322–327.
[31] Sergey Durylin, Stat'i i issledovaniya 1900-1920 godov (St. Petersburg, Vladimir Dal, 2014): 120; Anna Reznichenko, “Sergey Nikolaevich Durylin. Prozaik, poet, filosof, bogoslov, iskusstvoved, etnograf,” in Russkaya literatura XX veka. Prozaiki, poets, dramaturgi. Bibliographicheskiy slovar’. vol.1 (Мoscow, 2005): 672.
[32] Skete [skit] - is a hermitage place of residence for monks, remote from cities and large human settlements. However, the Old Believers, not only monks, but also secular clergy and family communities chose secluded, such remote places from civilization, due to the fact that they were fleeing from persecution by the state authorities.
[33] Mikhail Prishvin, “U sten grada nevidimogo (Svetloye ozero),”in Sobranie sochineniy v 8 tomakh. vol. 1 (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaya literatura, 1982): 387–474.
[34] Alexey Varlamov, Okhotnik za schast'em, 95.
[35] Elena Knorre, Syuzhet «puti v Nevidimiy grad» v tvorchestve M.M. Prishvina 1900 — 1930 gg. Thesis for obtaining the degree of candidate of philological sciences (Moscow, 2019).
[36] See also an annotation on this point: Elena Knorre, Syuzhet «puti v Nevidimiy grad»…, 133 – 136; Sergey Yesenin, Polnoye sobraniye sochineniy v semi tomakh, vol. 1. Preparation of texts and comments by A. Kozlovsky (Moscow, 1995): 346 – 362.
[37] Alexander Etkind, Khlyst (Moscow, NLO): 454-482.
[38] Alexey Varlamov, Okhotnik za schast'em, 95.
[39] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1920 – 1922 (Moscow: Moskvskiy rabochiy, 1995): 157.
[40] Alexey Varlamov, Okhotnik za schast'em, 208 – 209.
[41] Mikhail Prishvin, “Ubivets”. Volia naroda. 31.10.1917. no. 159: 6,
[42] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1926 – 1927 (Mocow: “Russkaya kniga," 2003): 408.
[43] Ibid., 421.
[44] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1932 – 1935. (Saint-Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo “Rostok," 2009): 262.
[45] Ibid., 586
[46] Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring. Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science. (Moscow, 1977): 134 – 146.
[47] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1932 – 1935, 586.
[48] Ibid., 313.
[49] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1940 – 1941 (Moscow: ROSSPAeN, 2012): 478.
[50] Ibid.: 479.
[51] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1932 – 1935, 81.
[52] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. Ranniy dnevnik. 1905 – 1913 (Saint-Petersburg: “Rostok” 2007): 301.
[53]Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1930—1931 (Saint-Petersburg: “Rostok” 2006): 12.
[54] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1926 – 1927 (Mocow: “Russkaya kniga," 2003): 392.
[55] Ibid., 392.
[56] Ibid.
[57] See for details: Ivan Aleksandrov, “«Razmyshleniya» M.M. Prishvina o pravoslavii v rannem dnevnike 1905 -1913 gg.,” Molodoy uchenyy(2012), no 5 (40): 275-277; Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. Ranniy dnevnik. 1905 – 1913, 591, 636.
[58] Ibid., 591.
[59] Michail Prishvin, Dnevniki 1932—1935, 62.
[60] Vasiliy Rozanov, “Zloye legkomysliye,” in Literatura i zhizn',
[61] Alexey Varlamov, Rozanov. (Moscow, 2022): 308 – 311.
[62] Michail Prishvin, Dnevniki 1923 – 1925 (Saint-Petersburg, 2009): 30.
[63] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1926 – 1927 (Mocow: “Russkaya kniga," 2003): 523.
[64] Ibid., 523.
[65] See in more details about Fedorovians: Boris Knorre, V poiskakh bessmertiya. Fedorovskoye religiozno-filosofskoye dvizheniye: istoriya i sovremennost’ (Moscow, 2008).
[66] He is a professor of Bunin Yelets State University, one of the main researchers and rehabilitators of Prishvin’s oeuvres.
[67]Mikhail Prishvin, “U sten grada nevidimogo (Svetloye ozero),” in Mikhail Prishvin, Sobranie sochineniy v 8 tomakh. vol.1 (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaya literatura, 1982): 387–474.
[68] Aleksander Podoksenov, “O Probleme "bogoiskatel'stva" v mirovozzrenii i tvorchestve M.M. Prishvina,” Religiovedenie, no.4 (2007): 79 – 89. There are inaccuracies in the text of A.Podoksenov. When mentioning two liberal government regulations of 1905, Podoksenov non-critically reproduces inaccuracies in the titles and an error in the date of one of the regulation made by A.L. Kiselev, commentator of Prishvin in the publication of “At the Walls of the Invisible City” in the 8-volume Collected Works issued in 1982. In particular Podoksenov (following Kiselev) points out 1908 year of the April Decree instead of 1905.
[69] Nataliya Borisova, “Russkiy mir v tvorchekom nasledii Mikhaila Prishvina,” Paper presented at the Conference “M.M. Prishvin in the context of modern humanitarian knowledge,” Yelets (3 – 4 of February 2023).
[70] Ibid.
[71] Ivan Esaulov, “‘Rassmotret' khristianskoye osnovaniye russkoy literatury’ (M.M. Prishvin): nasha zadacha,” Paper presented at the Conference “M.M. Prishvin in the context of modern humanitarian knowledge. Yelets (3 – 4 of February 2023).
[72] Now these authors are associate professors at the Moscow City Teachers' Training University.
[73] Elena Borovskaya, Svetlana Poshina, “Khristianskiye tsennosti v ‘Kladovoy solntsa’ M.M. Prishvina,” Vestnik PSTGU. iss.4(19) (2010): 38, 41-42;. Alexander Zelenenko, “Vazhneyshiye printsipy khristianskoy pedagogiki i utrata ikh sovremennoy shkoloy,” in Traditions of Education in Karelia. (Petrozavodsk, 1995): 105–109.
[74] «Nevidimyy grad» Mikhaila Prishvina. Radio Vera (22 of January, 2022),
[75] Ispolnilos' 150 let so dnya rozhdeniya Mikhaila Prishvina. Vesti (TV-broadcast) (04 February 2023, 20:58).
[76] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1920—1922, 298.
[77] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1940 – 1941, 579-580. The term “Sergianism” was coined when the Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) signed the Declaration on loyalty toward the USSR in 1927, at the height of Bolshevik persecutions of the Church. Accordingly, the name “Sergius” in this context became a by-word for all kinds of ecclesiastical opportunism.
[78] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1930—1931, 249.
[79] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki 1928 – 1929 (Moscow: Russkaya kniga, 2004): 454.
[80] Yana Grishina, Kommentarii, In Mikhail Prishvin. Dnevniki 1936 – 1937. (Saint-Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo ‘Rostok’, 2010): 841.
[81] Ibid., 842.
[82] Mikhail Prishvin, Dnevniki. 1950 – 1951 (Moscow: “Rostok," 2016): 101.
  • Boris Knorre

    Non-Resident Fellow, Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES), George Washington University

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