The Ecology of History: Russian Thought on the Future of the World

Oliver Luke Grenville Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Contemporary moves toward doing theology in a ecological key have been underway now for some decades. The various achievements of Russian thought, however, still await acceptance into our conceptual apparatus for tackling such problems. This chapter looks at the problematic of the interaction between humanity and the world, central to Russian thought, and seeks to understand its perspective by drawing on two distinct but interrelated movements: Russian sophiology, which grew out of the religious thought of Vladimir Solov’ev (1853-1900) and Russian cosmism which, in figures such as Vladimir Vernadskii (1863-1945) and his concept of the noosphere, transitions into a broadly scientific, if speculative, framework. Fundamental to an understanding of the Russian tradition from an environmental perspective, it will be argued, is the dynamic nature of its central postulates – humanity, Sophia, noosphere – and the thoroughgoing historicization of its ecological vision. In both sophiology and cosmism, history is conceived as a unitary process moving toward an ideal goal, which can be described as the actualized oneness of the world in whose realization humanity plays an active role. Parallels with uniformitarianist perspectives in the earth sciences are discussed, alongside the openness of current trends in these sciences to concepts from the Russian tradition. The chapter attempts to arrive at an articulation of what I have called ‘an ecology of history’ within the Russian context, an envisioning of the unity of the world, and the significance of human nature, within a dynamic and historical schema that moves in a direction generally favourable to life and the perpetuation of life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcological Awareness
Subtitle of host publicationExploring Religion, Ethics and Aesthetics
EditorsSigurd Bergmann, Heather Eaton
Place of PublicationBerlin
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)978-3-8258-1950-7
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Publication series

NameStudies in Religion and the Environment/Studien zur Religion und Umwelt


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