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Research Initiative for the Study of Russian Philosophy and Religious Thought



Critical new approaches to the study of Russian philosophy and religious thought in their global contexts and meanings

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Russian philosophy and religious thought are part of the world's cultural heritage and have deeply enriched our understanding of what it means to be human. The defense of human dignity and human rights resounds in the Russian religious-philosophical tradition. The NU RPRT Research Initiative deplores the weaponization of Russian culture for the sinister purposes of authoritarianism and violence, just as it opposes “cancel Russia” sentiments abroad.

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Nicolas Berdyaev and Russian Philosophy in the West

Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow, Poland, June 12–14, 2024

2024 will mark the 150th year since Nicolas Berdyaev’s birth. On 12–14 June 2024 the Krakow Meetings on Russian Philosophy and the Northwestern University Research Initiative for the Study of Russian Philosophy and Religious Thought will sponsor a conference commemorating Berdyaev and assessing his philosophical legacy in Russia and the West. The conference will be held at the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow, Poland.

Among the most influential of Russian philosophers, Berdyaev had an exceptional role in promoting the development of Russian philosophy, both in Russia and in the West after his exile in 1922. In Russia, having travelled the path “from Marxism to idealism,” he became one of the main organizers of the Russian religious renaissance. In 1916, he published The Meaning of the Creative Act, which he regarded as his most important work. In European exile, he led the “Paris school” of Russian émigré religious thought and edited its journal, The Way (1925–1940). His international fame spread with a whole series of books, beginning with The New Middle Ages (1924). Subsequent works, such as The Destiny of Man (1931) and Slavery and Freedom (1939), established Berdyaev as a leading European philosopher of Christian existentialism and personalism. In works like The Origin of Russian Communism (1937) and The Russian Idea (1946), he deepened Western understanding of Russian culture and intellectual history. Through his friendship with Jacques Maritain, he played a part in the twentieth-century history of human rights.

This conference will explore Berdyaev’s multifaceted importance as one of the major philosophical thinkers of the twentieth century. Papers are invited on all aspects of his work and legacy.

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What’s New about the New Atheism? The Enduring Relevance of Russian Philosophy

Northwestern University, Evanston, April 21–23, 2023

The NU RPRT Research Initiative fosters scholarship about the global relevance of Russian philosophy and religious thought. Our inaugural conference will take place at Northwestern University in April 2023. It will focus attention on how Russian writers—artists, philosophers, and religious thinkers—have reflected on the fate of the transcendent in modernity. We invite papers exploring any aspect of this topic, including the role of faith and reason in human self-understanding, in social philosophy, and in the search for an integral worldview. Conference participants should aim to produce papers suitable (in their final form) for publication in Northwestern University Studies in Russian Philosophy and Religious Thought, an online platform that will exist in two forms, an annual journal and a “research series” for works longer than journal articles.

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Russian Literature, Philosophy, and Religious Thought in a Time of Catastrophe

Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP), Lisbon, March 14–16, 2023

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the atrocities it has committed raise an urgent question for students of Russian culture: What does it mean to study Russian literature, philosophy, and religious thought in a time of catastrophe? Russian intellectual and cultural history is rich, diverse, and complex. There are illiberal, indeed toxic forces within in that have served and continue to serve the sinister purposes of enmity and violence, whether in the form of nationalism and other varieties of tribalism, imperialism and militarism, authoritarianism and autocracy, or, in general, the denial of human dignity, equality and freedom. But there are also liberal, life-affirming forces in Russian culture that defy violence, lift the human spirit, and serve the transcendent purposes of truth, the good, and beauty. 

This symposium will foster discussion of the ideological roots and antecedents of today’s authoritarianism and violence, together with reflection on the intellectual and spiritual resources within Russian literature, philosophy and religious thought for the defense of human dignity, human rights, and universal human values. We invite participation in any form: papers, talking points, or conversation.


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Russian Literature and Philosophy: Religion, Nationalism, and Dissidence

In November 2022, the NU RPRT Research Initiative co-sponsored an international symposium at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil. The symposium was organized by Professor Jimmy Sudario Cabral (Religious Studies), in collaboration with Susan McReynolds. It hosted a global cohort of interdisciplinary scholars from North and South America and Europe, with backgrounds in Slavic literatures and cultures, philosophy, and theology and religious studies, as well as prominent translators of Russian. Presentations were organized around the following topics: religion, nationalism, and literature; dissidence and totalitarianism; Ukrainian and Russian voices; the dissemination of Russian literature in modern philosophy; and the work of Svetlana Alexievich. The November 2022 conference in Brazil was conceived as the first in a series of two, with Lisbon hosting the continuation in March 2023.
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Student Working Group
The Research Initiative for the Study of Russian Philosophy and Religious Thought student working group provides an interdisciplinary space for graduate students to share their research projects and to discuss critical new approaches to the study of Russian philosophy and religious thought in their global contexts and meanings.

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Who we are


The NU RPRT Research Initiative promotes free and open inquiry and diverse perspectives. It seeks to forge and occupy a unique space: secular and non-confessional but welcoming of colleagues with deeply-held religious convictions or commitments.

Meet the Participants



There are no upcoming events at this time