Nikolai Biryukov

Soborností in the Russian Philosophical and Political Tradition


The notion of soborností is often treated as something like a ďtrade markĒ of Russian philosophical and political culture. It is used to express a vision of some kind of mystic unity that presumably characterises the Church and, by analogy, the social body and (ideally) all of humanity. In this use the concept of soborností has had a profound impact on the Russian political mentality. When applied to political life, soborností is basically a demand to make decisions and act ďall in commonĒ. The demand implies the community in question is an intrinsically integral entity. It is also the only legitimate political agency. Autonomous actions of any other agency within the community are condemned as a violation of unity and an outrage against soborností. An important consequence of this attitude is the hypertrophy of institutions of power. Russian political thinkers have suggested various explanations (justifications) for this which varied from the sinful nature of all politics and all power (whence the Slavophiles inferred autocratic monarchy as a means to minimise the number of persons involved in this evil, albeit indispensable job) to Leninís doctrine of ďthe revolutionary vanguardĒ (meaning the Bolshevik Party) that, having mastered the only true science of social development, is entitled to supervise that development, i.e. to rule. In so far as ďclassless societyĒ may be seen as a Marxist equivalent for the ideologically alien term of soborností, the Soviet regime was also an attempt, even if futile, to realise the national political Utopia.

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