'God has granted to me to make friends with two of the people here: one is Orlov, and the other and principal one is Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov. He is a librarian at the Rumyantsev Library... He has
devised a plan for a common task for humanity, the aim of which is the bodily resurrection of all humans. First, it is not as crazy as it sounds (don't worry, I do not and never have shared his views, but I have understood them enough to feel capable of defending them against any other beliefs of a similar material nature). Secondly, and most importantly, because of these beliefs he leads the purest Christian life... He is sixty, a pauper, gives away all he has, is always cheerful and meek.' L.N. Tolstoy writing to V.I. Alexeev, 1881
'I accept your project unconditionally... I have much to say to you. But for the time being I will say only that since the emergence of Christianity your "project" is the first step forward of the human spirit along the path of Christ. As to myself, I can only recognise in you my teacher and spiritual father.'
Vladimir Solov'ev writing to N.F. Fedorov, 1881
'He was a Russian searcher for universal salvation. In him the feeling of responsibility of all for all reaches the ultimate and acutest expression... What was that "project" of Fedorov ? What were these striking ideas that impressed some of the most outstanding Russians? At the basis of his philosophy was his grieving for the human predicament, and there was no man on earth who felt such sorrow at the death of people and such thirst to return them to life.'
Nicholas Berdyaev, The Russian Idea (N.Y., 1948)
Introduction by Elisabeth Koutaissoff....... 11
The Philosophy of the Common Task
Part I ....................................................... 33
Part II ...................................................... 65
Part III ..................................................... 77
Part IV..................................................... 89
Essays and other writings
Supramoralism ........................................ 105
Ways of solving the paschal questions ...... 137
Disarmament ............................................. 144
Foreword to a letter from F.M. Dostoevsky ..... 159
Faith, deed and prayer ..................................... 169
Weather regulation... 'Give us this day our daily bread'.......... 173
The Orthodox burial rite and its meaning ........ 175
The daughter of humanity as reconciler ........... 178
The agapodicy and the theodicy ..................... 180
Physical and moral sinlessness......................... 182
How did art begin... ? ..................................... 184
The art of imitation and the art
of reality ........... 187
Parents and resurrectors .................................. 191
On the unity of the meteorological and cosmic processes ....... 195
What the most ancient Christian monument in China
can teach us ..................................................... 196
On Turkestan .................................................... 205
Paradise and hell ? Or purgatory ? ..................... 220
The conditionality of prophecies concerning the end of the world ............... 222
Appendices ...................................................... 227
Select Bibliography ............................................ 237
Index ................................................................ 245
Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov (1828-1903), one of Russia's most original thinkers, lived at a time of
intense intellectual controversies, artistic creativity and scientific 'take-off' in Russia. Yet it was also a time of growing worldwide militarism when increasingly lethal weapons were being developed, of civic strife, of labour unrest in the rapidly industrialising countries of the West, and of revolutionary rumblings in Russia. Fedorov was deeply distressed by this state of discord and lack of brotherly feeling, which was bringing so much misery to the common people. How could brotherhood be achieved? Would it be possible to divert human energies from wars and dissension towards measures for protecting mankind against natural disasters such as floods, droughts, earthquakes and hurricanes, and to transform nature from 'a temporary enemy into an eternal friend'?
Fedorov believed that if the causes of disunity, discord and war were elucidated and a common purpose found to deflect human energies away from dissensions towards a common goal of overwhelming importance to all human beings, it would fire their imaginations, enlist all their energies and bring about universal cooperation. This goal, of concern to all, was nothing less than to rationalise the blind forces of nature 'which bring famine, disease and death'. Since death is a natural phenomenon it, too, could and should be overcome by 'knowledge and action'. God had not created mortals. Death was the wages of sin, the penalty inflicted by nature for man's slothful ignorance and discord. In the absence of a common cause peace was impossible, because inaction is contrary to human nature.
Man is an active creature and cannot not act. If he does not know what to do, he will do what he should not do. We will cease doing what we should not do only when we know what to do. Then we will give our energies to a cause which we will regard as a duty. We will stop fighting when we acknowledge it as possible, and therefore obligatory, to redirect our energies now squandered on wars and mutual struggles towards the act of universal salvation. 1
1. Filosofiya obshchago dela The Philosophy of the Common Task). All references are to the reprint of the first edition, vol. I, Verny, 1906, and vol. II, Moscow, 1913, reprinted by L'Age d'Homme, Lausanne, 1985. Hereafter referred to as FOD.
This duty, this Common Task, this universally accepted 'project', was to regulate the forces of nature, to defeat death and bring ancestors back to life, so that they too would participate in the general
resurrection. Fedorov's views could be described as Promethean utopianism because of his faith in science and human reason. Moreover, his utopianism went far beyond most Utopias, which envisage equitable and rationally organised societies, healthy, prosperous and happy, living within a natural environment which they are capable of exploiting wisely for their economic needs. Such Utopias do not question what purpose these good societies should serve apart from the welfare of their own citizens; whereas Fedorov, who was a deeply religious man, believed the world had been created by God to some purpose and that man, endowed with reason and consciousness, had a divine mission to accomplish.
What was that mission? And, more generally, 'What was man created for?', as the age-old Russian phrase would have it, and as quoted by Fedorov on pages 128 and 142.
The spectacular advances of modern science such as the landing of men on the moon, spare-parts surgery, genetic engineering, and so on, make many ideas put forward by Fedorov in the nineteenth century sound less extravagant than they seemed to his contemporaries. Indeed, it is increasingly felt that humanity is taking over from nature the course of evolution and the fate of the planet Earth. To use the word coined by P. Teilhard de Chardin, our era is that of the noosphere. Hence the growing interest in Nikolai Fedorov, this much neglected Russian thinker, both in the USA and – despite his religious views – in the Soviet Union. For the first time since the Revolution, a 700-page volume of his selected works was published in 1982 on the initiative of the Soviet astronaut V.I. Sevast'yanov, under the auspices of the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. However, when this came to the notice of M.A. Suslov, then member of the central Committee of the CPSU in charge of ideology, he declared this publication to be 'untimely' and 'misguided', and all
unsold copies were withdrawn and probably destroyed. 2
2. Stephen Lukashevich, N.F. Fedorov (1828-1903), A Study in Russian Eupsychian and Utopian Thought, Newark, 1977; George M. Young Jr, Nikolai F. Fedorov: An Introduction, Belmont, 1979; Liudmilla Koehler, N.F. Fedorov : The Philosophy of Action, Pittsburg, 1979 ; Ayleen Teskey, Platonov and Fyodorov: The Influence of Christian Philosophy on a Soviet Writer, Avebury (England), 1982; S.G. Semenova (ed.), Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov: Sochineniya (Works), Moscow, 1982; Literaturnaya gazeta, 18 January 1989, p. 5.
For recent articles see the Bibliography and for a complete list of Fedorov's writings see George Young, op. cit., pp. 248-55.
Several causes contributed to Fedorov's earlier neglect: the boldness and eccentricity of his 'project', his religious and monarchical convictions, so completely alien to the political radicalism and philosophical materialism prevalent among the Russian intelligentsia of the second half of the nineteenth century, and the fact that he published very little during his lifetime, and always anonymously and mostly in provincial journals. His heavy repetitive style did not help matters.
His friend and later editor, N.P. Peterson³, explained Fedorov's reluctance to publish as resulting from his innate modesty, his realisation that the time was not yet ripe for his project to be understood and accepted, and from his inability to present it in a systematic and streamlined form, and in particular to provide sufficient scientific evidence to support his forecasts.
3. N.P. Peterson, N.F. Fedorov i ego kniga 'Filosofiya obshchago dela' v protivopolozhnost' ucheniyu L.N. Tolslogo o neprotivlenii i drugim ideyam nashego vremeni N.F. Fedorov and his Book The Philosophy of the Common Task in Opposition to the Teaching of L.N. Tolstoy on Non-Resistance and to other Ideas of our Time), Verny, 1912, p. 89.
Nikolai Pavlovich Peterson (1844-1919) was, like Fedorov, the illegitimate son of a wealthy landowner. When a student at Moscow University he joined a revolutionary group and was expelled, though later he was allowed to complete his course. For a short time he taught at the school for peasant children organised by Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana, then at Bogorodsk (now Noginsk). There he met Fedorov and became his lifelong friend and first disciple. He had been impressed by Fedorov's statement that the slogan of the French Revolution — liberty, equality, fraternity — was self-contradictory because 'liberty for all to follow their personal inclinations and envious equality could engender only discord and not fraternity* (restated in FOD ; see page 85). In 1869 Peterson moved to the Ministry of Justice and for twenty years worked at the law courts in Kerensk, Perm' province, then in Voronezh, and eventually became a district judge in Askhabad and Verny. Fedorov often spent his holidays in these places with Peterson and very occasionally contributed to local publications. There is reason to believe that Tolstoy had Peterson in mind when he created the character of Simonson in his novel Resurrection.
It was in fact without the consent of Fedorov that in 1897 Peterson sent to the journal Don (published in the provincial town of Voronezh) a copy of a letter he had received from Dostoevsky in 1876, together with a foreword to it written by Fedorov. It was in that year that Peterson had first approached Dostoevsky, sending him an exposition of Fedorov's ideas and asking him to have them discussed in the Diary of a Writer published by Dostoevsky during the 1870s. Dostoevsky complied partially with this request by publishing in the March 1876 (volume 2) issue a long extract about associations and trade unions, which Fedorov regarded as unbrotherly since they catered for their own members to the exclusion of everybody else. Dostoevsky asked Peterson for more details about the author,4 whose ideas fascinated him so much that he discussed them for two hours with the philosopher Vladimir Solov'ev. Solov'ev also became enthusiastic, but later raised serious objections which
infuriated Fedorov.5 It has been suggested that the scene at Ilyusha's graveside in The Brothers Karamazov echoes Fedorov's faith in bodily resurrection. 6
Biographical data about Fedorov are scanty and uncertain. He was probably the illegitimate son of a Russian diplomat. Prince Paul Gagarin, and a girl of humble birth about whom nothing is known. His origin deprived him of his patronymic, let alone his father's surname. Instead he was given those of the man who stood godfather to him. At the age of four he lost his father and a few months later his grandfather. Prince Ivan Gagarin, a distinguished eighteenth-century freemason, book collector and patron of the arts, whose second wife was the famous dramatic actress – much admired by Pushkin and others – Catherine Semenova. Presumably, Fedorov, his mother and two little sisters now had to leave the Gagarins' fine country house, Okna (Kherson province).7
4. See Appendix I.
5. See Appendix II. Fedorov was particularly incensed that at the 1891 October meeting of the Psychological Society Solov'ev should have given a watered down account of his ideas. The letter that he then wrrote to Solov'ev, but apparently did not post, has been published by Semenova, op. cit., p. 651. For other critical remarks, see FOD, vol. I, pp. 479-90 and (three unfinished drafts: FOD, vol. II, pp. 163-75, the shortest of which is included in the present volume on p. 180.
6. R. Lord, 'Dostoevskii and N.F. Fedorov', Slavonic and East European Review, June 1962, pp. 409-30; A.K. Gornostaev (pseudonym of A.K. Gorsky, another admirer of Fedorov who had not emigrated), Rai na zemle : k ideologii tvorchestva Dosloevskogo: F.M. Dostoevsky i N.F. Fedorov Paradise on Earth: Some Ideological Aspects of the Works of Dostoevsky: F.M. Dostoevsky and N.F. Fedorov). Harbin, 1928,
pp. 37-6 7.
7. A. Ostromirov (another pseudonym of A.K. Gorsky). biographical preface to the 2nd edn of FOD, Harbin, 1928. See also Russky biografichesky slovar', Moscow, vol. 4, 1914, pp. 67-8 and vol. 18, St Petersburg, 1904, pp. 299-304; Semenov Tyan'-Shansky, Rossiya, vol. 14, St Petersburg, 1910, p. 521. In an unpublished letter from Peterson to Kozhevnikov, dated 26 December 1903, Peterson mentions meeting Fedorov's sisters and having mistakenly thought that the husband of one (Astaf'ev) was a brother of Fedorov, whereas he was his brother-in-law. The other sister was married to a man called Poltavtsev. Neither seems to have had close relations with Fedorov. Lenin Library Archives, f. 657.
Some provision must have been made, however, for the boy's education, since he first studied at the Tambov secondary school, then at the Richelieu Lyceum in Odessa. He left without completing the course, allegedly after quarrelling with his examiners. For several years he taught history and geography in various provincial schools.
Later he became a librarian at the Rumyantsev Museum Library (now the Lenin Library, Moscow), and he then worked as the librarian in charge of the reading room of the Moscow Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The painter Leonid Pasternak (father of Boris, the poet) was so fascinated by Fedorov's austere features and fiery eyes, which reminded him of St Francis of Assisi, that he surreptitiously drew a sketch of the old librarian, later using it for his painting The Three Wise Men, the two other wise men being Tolstoy and Vladimir Solov'ev, both of whom admired Fedorov though disagreeing with many of his ideas.
Fedorov's work in public libraries brought him into contact with some of his most distinguished contemporaries. He impressed Tolstoy by the intensity of his religious faith, his ascetic life and legendary erudition – he was reputed to have read all the books he catalogued. When he noticed that a reader was a serious research worker he would bring him books whose existence the specialist did not suspect.
Among the readers whom he helped most, and even coached in mathematics, was K.E. Tsiolkovsky, now regarded as the forefather of Soviet space rocketry. Tsiolkovsky was partially deaf, so his parents sent him, aged sixteen, to Moscow to complete his education by private study, since his poor hearing handicapped his school progress. Did the two men ever discuss space flights? Did Fedorov see any drafts of Tsiolkovsky's science-fiction story Outside Earth, written in 1898 though not published until 1910, or of his seminal article 'The probing of space by jet devices', published in 1903, the year of Fedorov's death? 8
Fedorov's ideas became more widely known after the posthumous publication of two volumes of his works entitled (by their editors, V. A. Kozhevnikov 9 and N.P. Peterson) The Philosophy of the Common Task Filosofiya obshchago dela), sometimes translated as The Philosophy of the Common Cause.
8. M. Arlazorov, Tsiolkovsky, Moscow, 1962, p. 28. K. Altaisky, 'Moskovskaya yunost' Tsiolkovskogo' (‘Tsiolkovsky's youth in Moscow’), Moskva, 1966, n° 9, p. 181. Tsiolkovsky's article appeared in Nauchnoe obozrenie, St Petersburg, 1903, n° 5.
9. Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kozhevnikov (1852-1917), philosopher and religious writer ; his most important works are Filosofiya chuvstva i very (The Philosophy of Feeling and Faith), Moscow, 1897, and a two-volume Buddizm v sravnenii s khristianstvom (Buddhism in Comparison with Christianity), Moscow, 1914.
The editors had sorted out Fedorov's numerous notes, drafts and unpublished articles and put them together in some sort of order – which was no easy job, since Fedorov wrote in response to a variety of contemporary events. There were critical essays on, or rather against, German philosophical systems, especially Kant's school of criticism, and against Nietzsche and Schopenhauer
as well as the positivism of Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer; there were disquisitions on the changing style of handwriting in ancient manuscripts, on the role of museums in education, on the card-indexing of library catalogues and on the then novel idea of international library loans ; on the need for the Russian Autocrat to become the Father of all nations ; on negative and positive chastity, the former being merely abstinence from sexual intercourse while the latter was the redirection of sexual energy towards 'knowledge and action'; on Constantinople as the link between Asia and Europe and hence the natural Christian Orthodox capital of the world; on the struggle of the settled agricultural peoples, symbolised by Iran, against the predatory nomads (Turan), a conflict which had had its effect on Russia who had suffered throughout her history from the incursions of various steppe peoples – Pechenegs, Khazars, Polovtsy – even before the Mongol invasion and the long Tartar domination, and later from the depredations of the Crimean Tartars, who were not subdued until the end of the eighteenth century. Since Chinese, Indian and Semitic myths about the origins of their respective nations seem to point to the Pamir (that mountainous region of Central Asia, often referred to as 'the roof of the world', which may have had a less forbidding climate in an earlier geological era), it has been thought that the cradle of the human race might have been located there; so Fedorov advocated sending an Anglo-Russian scientific expedition – uniting two usually hostile nations in a joint venture – to discover the bones of these early men and provide a tangible proof of human kinship. Like many Russians of his time he bitterly resented and often referred to the role of the Western powers, especially Great Britain during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8, fought for the liberation of the Balkan Slavs from Turkey. The Russian victory had been difficult and costly in lives, but the aim was achieved when Turkey agreed to grant independence to Serbia, Romania and Montenegro by the treaty of San Stefano. It was then that the Western powers intervened, depriving Russia of the fruits of her hard-won victories and limiting the independence of her Balkan brothers at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.
Whatever topic he wrote about, Fedorov brought in his main idea of the Common Task – how to achieve universal brotherhood, rationalise nature instead of merely exploiting y her bounties, overcome death, resurrect the ancestors and create a united humanity worthy of governing the universe. The obsessive emphasis on the duty of the sons to resurrect their forefathers can possibly be ascribed to his traumatic childhood experience of losing both his father and his grandfather at the age of four, and to a subconscious guilt complex for having failed to keep them alive through adequate love. However, there is also a theoretical reason for his emphasis on filial love; for although
humans share with other animals both sexual love and love for their offspring, only human adults remain tied by affection to their parents when they no longer need their protection in order to survive.
Whilst preparing the first volume of The Philosophy of the Common Task, Kozhevnikov also published, between 1904 and 1906, a series of articles on Fedorov in the journal Russky arkhiv, which appeared in book form in 1908. The first volume of Fedorov's works was published in 1906 in the remote town of Verny, then a frontier fortress, now known as Alma-Ata, capital of Kazakhstan, where Peterson was a district judge at the time. The edition was limited to 480 copies, which were not for sale but were available to friends and libraries. A second volume came out in Moscow in 1913 in an edition of 620 copies. The third volume was never published, Kozhevnikov having died of cancer in July 1917 and Peterson in March 1919, though parts of it saw the light later. 10
10. Parts of the third, unpublished, volume appeared in the Paris dmigre" journals Put' (The Way), 1928. n" 10, 1929. n" 18. 1933, n" 40 and Versty, 1928, n" 3. Other items came to rest in the archives of the Lenin Library in Moscow. A few are included in the volume of Fedorov's works edited by Semenova, op. cit., pp. 607-57. She also published an article by Fedorov on Goethe's Faust, in Konlekst, 1975. pp. 312-32. In the 1920s N.A. Setnitsky, lecturer at the Russian Faculty of Law in Harbin, attempted a second edition of FOD with a biographical introduction by A. Ostromirov. Only three out of the planned twelve parts appeared in Harbin, between 1928 and 1930. In 1970 FOD was reprinted by Gregg International. Farnborough. England, with a foreword in English by N.M. Zernov, under the title The Philosophy of the Common Cause, and in 1985 by L'Agc d'Homme. Lausanne (without any preface).
Among the first to review the book was Nicholas Berdyaev, in 1915, in an article entitled 'The religion of resurrection' ('Religiya voskreseniya') in the journal Russkaya mysl', and he often referred to the subject later. In his 1928 article 'Three jubilees: L. Tolstoy, H. Ibsen and N.F. Fedorov', 11 he wrote:
The novelty of Fedorov's idea, one which frightens so many people, lies in the fact that it affirms an activity of man incommensurably greater than any that humanism and progressivism believe in. Resurrection is an act not only of God's grace but also of human activity. We now come to the most grandiose and bewildering idea of N. Fedorov. He had a completely original and unprecedented attitude towards apocalyptic prophecies, and his I doctrine represents a totally new phenomenon in Russian consciousness and Russian apocalyptic expectation. Never before in the Christian world had there been expressed such an audacious, such an astounding concept, concerning the possibility of avoiding the Last Judgement and its irrevocable consequences,
by dint of the active participation of man. If what Fedorov calls for is achieved, then there will be no end to the world. Mankind, with a transformed and definitively regulated nature, will move directly into the life eternal.
Another ex-Marxist, later to become an Orthodox priest, Father Serge Bulgakov, was fascinated by Fedorov's vision of a solar economic system. He wrote of him enthusiastically: 'A most original mind and a most original man speaks to you from these pages, so variegated in theme, but imbued throughout with a unity of thought. An extraordinary feeling takes hold of you at once – a reverence and awe before a greatness that is genuine and unassertive in our vain, clamorous age.' 12
11. N.A. Berdyaev, Tri yubileya : L. Tolstoy, Gen. Ibsen, N.F. Fedorov', Put', 1928, n" 11. pp. 76-94. English translation of the section on Fedorov, Russian Review, New York, 1950, n° 9, pp. 124-30.
12. S.N. Bulgakov, Svet nevecherny (Unfading Light), Moscow, 1917, pp. 358-9. Quotation from 'Zagadochny myslitel" ('An enigmatic thinker'), Dva grada (Two Cities), Moscow, 1911, vol. 2, p. 260 ; first published in Moskovskie vedomosti (Moscow Gazette), 5 December 1908.
Nor was Fedorov's impact limited to religious writers. Traces of many of his ideas can be found in Russian poets such as Mayakovsky, Bryusov, Andrei Bely and Klyuev, and in the Soviet short-story writer Platonov. The prototype of the character Varsonof ev in Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 may have been Fedorov himself. The Soviet agricultural economist A.V. Chayanov, who paid with his life for opposing collectivisation, published in 1920 a novelette entitled Journey of my Brother Alexei to the Land of Peasant Utopia. The story is set in Russia in 1984. All towns have been abolished and the people live in prosperous rural communities reminiscent of William Morris's News from Nowhere. When the Germans try to invade Russia, her scientists bring about such terrible storms that German planes have to be grounded and tanks sink in the mud. The German advance is halted and peace restored. The proletarian writer Maxim Gorky, though he regarded Fedorov as a religious eccentric, was impressed by the activism of his philosophy and by his view that in capitalist societies women are the promoters of consumerism, of 'toys'. 13
13. V.V. Mayakovsky knew about Fedorov from the painter Chekrygin, whom he had met at his art classes; see V.B. Shklovsky, O Mayakovskom, Moscow, 1940, pp. 30 and 89-100. In his 1923 poem Pro eto (About This), lines 1681-1710, a scientist ponders on whom to resurrect.
V.Ya Bryusov had once met Fedorov personally. In his poem Khvala cheloveku (Praise to Man), 1908, he forecasts that man will direct the course of his planet among other stars; Bryusov also contributed a note, ‘O smerti, voskresenii
i voskreshenii’ ('On death, resurrection and resuscitation'), to the first issue of Vselenskoe delo (The Ecumenical Task), Odessa, 1914, p. 49. This publication was designed to propagate Fedorov's ideas, but only two issues came out, the 2nd in Riga in 1934.
Apparently in 1912 Andrei Bely (pseudonym of B.N. Bugaev) had thought of writing a book on Fedorov, but left for Basle and turned to anthroposophy. On returning to Russia in 1916 he wrote a novel, Moskva, featuring the character of a Professor Korobkin vaguely modelled on Fedorov : see S.S. Grechishnikov & A.V. Lavrov, 'Andrei Bely i N.F. Fedorov', Toimeti-ged: acta et commentationes Universitatis Tartuensis, Tartu, 1979, n" 459, pp. 147-64.
On Klyuev, see I mil mi I la Koehler, op. cit., p. 95; on Platonov, A. Teskey, op. cit. ; on Solzhenitsyn, Aleksei Kiselev, 'Varsonofev i N.F. Fedorov, Novy zhurnal. New York, 1977, n° 110, pp. 296-9.
For A.V. Chayanov, writing under the pseudonym Ivan Kremnev, see his Puteshestvie moego brata Alekseya v sir una krest'yanskoi utopii, Moscow, 1920, translated into English by R.E.F. Smith, 'The journey of my brother Alexei to the land of peasant Utopia', in Journal of Peasant Studies, 1976, n° 1, pp. 63-117; and in the same issue devoted to 'The Russian peasant 1920 and 1984', also by R.E.F. Smith, a 'Note on the sources of George Orwell's 1984', pp. 10-11.
On Maxim Gorky, see L.I. Sukhikh, 'M. Gor'ky i N.F. Fedorov', Russkaya literatura, 1980, n" 1, pp. 160-8; 'Gor'ky i sovetskie pisateli; neizdannaya perepiska' ('Gorky and Soviet writers: unpublished correspondence'), Literaturnoe nasledstvo Literary Heritage), vol. 70, Moscow, 1963, pp. 134-6, 335, 584, 587 and 589; Michael Hagemeister, 'Neue Materialen zur Wirkungsgeschichte N.F. Fedorovs, M. Gor'kii und die Anhanger Fedorovs in Moskau und Harbin", Studio Slavica, Beitrage zum VIII Interna-tionalen Slawistenkongress in Zagreb 1978, Giessen, 1981, pp. 219-43.
Most of these authors picked out only some of Fedorov's – always controversial – views, and not always the same ones. Possibly the most interesting are the similarities and contrasts between Fedorov's vision and the preaching of the later Tolstoy. Both were religious thinkers, both were hostile to the secular industrialised society and longed for a return to the simpler village life of the peasantry with its traditional healthy moral values : for both, the ethical message of art was more important than aesthetic virtuosity, and both were hostile to the commercialisation of literature. A God-given talent should not be sold for money. After 1877 Tolstoy ceased to accept royalties for his works, except, for very special reasons, for the novel Resurrection – these royalties were to finance the emigration of the Dukhobors who, as conscientious objectors, had been in trouble with the Tsarist regime since the introduction of compulsory military service for all young men in the 1860s.
sought to counter the efforts of Emile Zola, then President of the French Society of Men of Letters, to get Russia to sign the International Copyright Agreement, which Fedorov deemed to be detrimental to the spread of knowledge, since knowledge should be available to everybody free of charge. Above all, both Tolstoy and Fedorov were distressed by the growing militarisation of nations.
Yet they differed on many points. Tolstoy eventually rejected faith in life after death, whereas for Fedorov the cornerstone of Christianity was immortality and physical resurrection. They disagreed also on ways to achieve peace among nations. Tolstoy preached non-resistance to evil by force in accordance with Gospel teaching – Whosoever shall strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. This entailed non-participation in any form of institutionalised violence, such as military or jury service. It was essentially a form of passive resistance and non-cooperation with the powers that be which so impressed Gandhi, then a very young man. Fedorov argued that disarmament was not possible so long as the causes of mutual distrust and hostility persisted. He proposed that armies and their expensive and sophisticated equipment be put to a better use, such as the modification of the weather, designed to benefit agriculture and increase crop yields. This would put an end to one of mankind's scourges – famines resulting from droughts or floods. To control cloud formation and redirect winds over vast expanses would require the cooperation of the armies of neighbouring states, thus diverting them from mutual extermination towards the common beneficial task of 'irrigating and ventilating' the Earth.
Homo sapiens was a weak animal at the mercy of the forces of nature, subjected to a senseless and endlessly recurring cycle of birth, procreation, death and disintegration. Yet God had endowed him with Reason and it was, therefore, his duty to introduce some rational order into this irrational universe. He could and should further transform nature from 'a temporary enemy into an eternal friend'. Unfortunately – and this was one of the major causes of human disunity – knowledge had become divorced from action. The 'learned' were concerned with abstract speculations (Fedorov had Kant and other philosophers in mind), while the 'unlearned' toiled in the fields without active help from them. (It should be remembered that in nineteenth-century Russia there was a great gap between the highly educated upper classes and the largely illiterate peasantry.) Like Karl Marx, Fedorov thought that savants should not merely study nature, but change it, and Fedorov was equally dissatisfied with their inaction. However, he envisaged changes quite different from those propounded by Marx.
The 'learned', according to Fedorov, studied nature as it is without giving any thought to what it should be in order for the world to become perfect. They studied causes without considering
the ends. No higher purpose guided their often random scientific research. So whenever the learned acted and applied their knowledge, it was to promote industry which manufactured unnecessary consumer goods (the possession of which merely increased the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'); or, worse still, they applied their knowledge to devise abominable weapons which increased distrust and hatred beween nations. Universities were nothing more than 'the backyards of factories and army barracks, that is, serving industrialism and militarism'.14 To protect their wealth, the rich promulgated laws, set up courts of justice, established police forces and other unbrotherly institutions. As to the poor, they rationalised their envy, greed and frustration by turning to socialist theories and violent revolution. Fedorov was equally critical of both capitalism and socialism because both institutionalised the struggle for mere material possessions. Wealth and poverty were surely less important than life and death, and humanity's childish lust for 'toys' was the sign of its mental and spiritual immaturity.
14. FOD, vol. I, p. 198.
To reintegrate knowledge and action a complete reform of the educational system was necessary. Knowledge should cease to be the privilege of 'some people carrying out observations and experiments sometimes and in some places'. It should be the concern of 'all, always and everywhere'. Even teachers and pupils in rural schools could observe and record local climatic conditions, study local flora and fauna, do their own research and add their modest contributions to the pool of general knowledge, instead of swotting up information from textbooks compiled by town-dwellers. Thus, 'everyone should be a student and everything an object of study'.
The study of the Earth's magnetism might lead to an understanding of the force which propels the planet through space and, perhaps, to the utilisation of that force for space travel and emigration to other planets from an eventually overpopulated earth. It was time we stopped being 'idle passengers' on our planet and became 'the crew of our celestial craft'. Indeed, the potential of humankind is boundless, provided men stop wasting their energies on discord and dissension which are both the consequence and the manifestation of immaturity, and unite in a common cause that will lead mankind to adulthood and participation in the creation of a New Heaven and a New Earth.
The present cosmos, which it would be more correct to call chaos, will cease to be a desert strewn with worlds, like sparse oases, most of which are probably inanimate, apart from one small planet destined perhaps to populate the other worlds.15 For the resources of any planet, however great, are eventually limited, and consequently an isolated world cannot maintain immortal beings. And why should they not be immortal? Death is inevitable today
because of man's ignorance and consequent helplessness. Death is a form of epidemic disease. Sometimes it is even difficult to diagnose at what moment a human being is actually dead. The only certainty comes with the decomposition of the body. A better knowledge of physiology and psychology should make it possible to prevent the decomposition of corpses and achieve bodily immortality – and immortality could not be the privilege of one generation only. So the ultimate goal of the Common Task was to achieve, scientifically and in accordance with God's design, the resurrection of the dead.
15. FOD, vol. I, p. 613.
As a preliminary to the resuscitation of earlier generations, the memory of the departed should be kept alive by lovingly preserving their graves and artefacts as well as their thoughts embodied in their writings. So alongside rural schools there should be churches where prayers would be said for the souls of the departed, as well as graveyards forming a link between the dead and the living. The adjoining library and museum would preserve both their thoughts and the work of their hands. The early histories of primitive people consist of genealogies (similar to those of the Bible). Russian peasants still religiously tended the tombs of their forefathers, where they brought Easter eggs and sang 'Christ is risen', and they still attended the early morning liturgy when the names of the dead are remembered during the proskomidia. If they were leaving their village for good, they would take with them at least a handful of dust from the cemetery, to be thrown later into their own graves. Thus the symbolic chain of filiation was never broken. In Fedorov's scheme, apart from the history museum every school would have, adjoining it, a museum of natural history with an observatory, however modestly equipped. These museums would not be store-rooms of antiquated curios and lifeless exhibits, but centres of research run by teachers, pupils and local inhabitants. Eventually they would lure back 'the learned' out of their urban ivory towers to the countryside, to a simpler, harder and more communal way of life which, hopefully, would revive in them a sense of kinship with other people.
The resurrection of the dead was the supreme act of love of the living for the deceased fathers and ancestors : a love approaching the divine love which binds together God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit into a Trinity which is One in Three. Just as the three Persons within the Holy Trinity are unmerged, so would humanity be united without individuals being depersonalised. In its growing wisdom and power of love mankind would at last reach adulthood. People would cease to be governed by childish desires of domination over kith and kin, sexual impulses and other 'natural' instincts. From being zoo-anthropic, morality would become theo-anthropic. Men would become God's conscious and willing
tools, His co-workers in the creation of a universe that God, from the beginning of time, could only have destined to attain incorruptible beauty and ineffable perfection.
This grandiose project was no mere day-dreaming. Fedorov advanced various practical schemes, such as methods of artificial rain-making and the use of atmospheric electricity as a source of energy. In his stress on the transforming power of human reason and collective toil, Fedorov differs from other authors, like Winwood Reade16 and Charles Stoffel, 17 who also foretold a united and immortal humanity floating through outer space, but without any attempt to indicate the long and difficult steps by which this could be achieved. Even Teilhard de Chardin, who comes so close to Fedorov's vision of universal scientific research and the unification of mankind, emphasises the cosmic forces of evolution rather than human endeavour in the achievement of human love (amorisation) and the eventual divinisation of humanity at 'point omega', where God becomes 'all in all'.
The first glimmer of hope that rain might be produced by human agency came in 1891, coinciding with a terrible famine, caused by drought, in Russia. That same year Edward Powers, an American engineer, published a revised and enlarged edition of his book entitled War and the Weather, 18 describing experiments to induce rainfall by shooting at the sky with guns. He contended that the pressure engendered by the explosions would condense the aqueous vapours dispersed in the atmosphere. His small-scale experiments proved inconclusive, and the US Congress refused a further grant of $20,000 needed to fire up to forty thousand rounds of ammunition. Fedorov argued that further investigations on a much larger scale should be carried out during army manoeuvres. However, although Powers' experiments had been discussed by the Russian Technological Society, no action was taken.
16. Winwood Reade, The Martyrdom of Man, Trubner, London, 1872, pp. 514-15.
17. Charles Stoffel, Resurrection, Paris, 1840 ; especially p. 97. Contrary to his principle of never quoting his sources, Fedorov gives an actual reference to this strange book.
18. Edward Powers, War and the Weather, Chicago, 1871, 2nd rev. edn 1890; see also Horace E. Byers, 'The history of weather modification' in W.N. Hess (ed.). Weather and Climate Modification, New York, 1974, chap. 1.
Back in 1814 the scientific elite had similarly failed to test another, possibly seminal, idea put forward by V.N. Karazin, founder of the University of Kharkov and an amateur meteorologist.19 Karazin had proposed raising lightning conductors on balloons to bring down lightning from thunder clouds and to use it as a source of energy, and possibly as a method of altering air currents and eventually redirecting the moisture of the atmosphere to wherever it was most needed. Atmospheric electricity and rain formation had
been studied also by Sir Oliver Lodge, professor of physics and first vice-chancellor of Birmingham University. The rejection without trial of projects of such momentous importance to mankind was proof of scholars' callousness and indifference to the needs of the toiling masses. Thus, while men laboured in dark and dangerous mines and though coal itself was the product of solar energy, no serious endeavour was being made to harness solar energy itself.
19. V.N. Karazin (1773-1842) put his idea in a letter dated 9 April 1814 to A.A. Arakcheev, the notorious favourite of Emperor Alexander I. Arak-cheev dismissed it with contempt. The letter was later published in Sbornik istoricheskikh materialov, izvlechennykh iz pervago otdeleniya sobstvennoi Ego Imperatorskago Velichestva kantselyarii (Collection of Historical Materials from Department I of His Imperial Majesty's Private Chancery), St Petersburg, 1891, p. 461. Fedorov devoted three articles to Karazin and his invention. According to Fedorov, similar proposals were put forward by Arago, Bernard and Lodge. The only precise reference is to Arago in Annuaire pour Van 1838, prtsenti au Roi par le bureau de longitudes, p. 570. Bernard may refer to Claude Bernard, the famous physiologist, and Lodge to Sir Oliver Lodge, Lightning Conductors and Lightning Guards, 1892, chap.1.
The century that has elapsed since Fedorov's days makes many of his ideas obsolete. The political map of the world has changed out of all recognition – India is no longer a British colony; China is no longer on the verge of partition into spheres of Western influence; Constantinople, now Istanbul, has lost in the eyes of a Russia officially atheist and culturally uprooted the aura of ‘Tsargrad’, the cradle of Orthodox Christianity, its faith and traditions. Fedorov's scientific ideas are also out of date and may even sound naive. But he raised the fundamental and increasingly urgent questions regarding the responsibility of scientists and the aims of scientific research. Even more than in his day, the lack of any higher purpose results in science being geared to military objectives or to the commercial production of consumer goods (with inbuilt obsolescence), the 'toys' of mass culture, while people in the Third World remain at the mercy of droughts, floods and desertification.
For the modern reader Fedorov's work is valuable because of its unusual treatment of problems that are still with us: how to achieve disarmament and to manage (not merely to exploit and pollute) nature; how to determine the purpose of scientific research in general and the conquest of outer space in particular; how to achieve, if not brotherhood, at least friendly cooperation by working together on projects important to all – such as the elimination of smallpox sponsored by the World Health Organisation and other projects financed by the United Nations Environment Programme. He anticipated the question so neatly expressed by the Soviet
geographer Igor Zabelin in an article entitled ‘Humanity – what is it for?’20 Indeed, has 'the planet of reason' 21 any mission to carry out? Are the prophecies concerning the Last Judgement conditional on mankind reaching adulthood, as Fedorov hoped, or will men fall victim to their childish lust for domination over each other and to a man-made nuclear annihilation?
As George M. Young says in his excellent book Nikolai F. Fedorov: An Introduction,22 modern technology has given As George M. Young says in his excellent book Nikolai F. Fedorov: An Introduction,22 modern technology has given us the power to alter life itself, but 'just what we should do with this Godlike power is a question that someone is going to have to answer. Fedorov's answer may not be the best one that will ever be proposed, but so far it seems the most thorough and deepest attempt at one.
20. I.M. Zabelin, 'Chelovechestvo – dlya chego ono?' (Humanity – what is it for?), Moskva, 1966, n° 8, pp. 173-86; especially with reference to Fedorov, ibid., 1968, n° 5, pp. 147-61.
21. I.D. Laptev, Planeta razuma, Moscow, 1973.
22. George Young, op. cit., p. 198.