Inleiding: Ivan Ilyin

Ivan Alexandrovich Ilyin also known as Il’in (RussianИванъ Александровичъ Ильинъ, 9 April [O.S. 28 March] 1883 – 21 December 1954) was a multifaceted Russian figure, a jurist, religious and political philosopher, publicist, orator, and staunch conservative monarchist. His perception of historical events was distinctive: while he saw the February Revolution as a “temporary disorder”, the October Revolution, in his view, marked a “national catastrophe”. This conviction propelled him into active opposition against the Bolshevik regime.[1] He became a white émigré journalist, aligning himself with Slavophile beliefs and emerging as a key ideologue of the Russian All-Military Union. This organization firmly believed that force stood as the sole means through which the Soviet regime could be toppled.[2]

As an ardent anti-communist,[3] Ilyin found himself initially sympathetic to Adolf Hitler but his staunch critique of totalitarianism was not embraced by the Nazi regime. In 1934, his refusal to comply with Nazi directives to spread propaganda led to his dismissal from the Russian Academic Institute, stripping him of employment opportunities.[4] Financial support from Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1938 allowed Ilyin to remain in Switzerland albeit barred from work or political engagement.[5] This phase of restriction led him to delve deeper into studies encompassing aesthetics, ethics, and psychology.[6]

Despite battling chronic illness, Ilyin was remarkably prolific, authoring over 40 books and numerous articles in Russian and German. His works predominantly revolved around religion and Russia, although he diverged from Vladimir Solovyov’s ideologies, advocating a global theocracy with whom the Russian religious and philosophical Renaissance of the early 20th century is usually associated.[1] Instead, Ilyin championed a patriarchal model of governance for Russia, rooted on Orthodoxy and unwavering faith in the autocratic tsar, distinguishing between autocracy and tyranny.[7][8][9] His writings echoed calls for heroism and moral aristocracy,[10] while cementing his role as a proponent of Western Russophobia.[11]

Remaining true to Right Hegelianism throughout his life, Ilyin explored themes of statehood, law, and power in world history.[12] He staunchly opposed federalism and neutrality,[13] harboring a deep disdain for Western analytic philosophy. As an ultranationalist, Ilyin was a fervent critic of Western-style democracy, advocating instead for a robust government aligned with Russia’s autocratic heritage.[14][15] His prediction of the Soviet state’s collapse remains a testament to his prescience.

Ilyin’s views on Russia’s social structure and world history held significant sway over post-Soviet intellectuals and politicians, including notable figures like Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Russian President Vladimir Putin.[16][17][18]