Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Listes des autres pages théologiens et philosophes

Page information

Vladimir Ilyine

Vladimir Ilyine


Vladimir Nikolaevich Ilyin was born on August 28, 1891 in the family estate of Vladovka in the province of Kiev. He graduated from secondary school in Slutsk. After graduation, he entered Kyiv University, where he graduated from the faculties of physics, mathematics, history, philology and philosophy. He also completed the composition class at the Kyiv Conservatory. His interests were many and most unexpected. So, for example, he became interested in steam locomotives, after studying their whole mechanism in great detail, he got an idea of every part of this complex machine and was even able to theoretically solve a very difficult problem of how to make a locomotive move only two centimeters forward. In 1918 he became a lecturer at the same Kyiv University and taught there until 1919. The events of the Civil War and the Revolution interrupted his academic career, which began brilliantly in his native country.

He left Russia in the winter of 1919 and found himself in Constantinople. There he lectured on philosophy at various educational institutions. In 1923, with the help of the American Byzantine Society, he managed to settle in Berlin, where he began to teach logic, psychology, Latin and published several books on philosophy. He entered the University of Berlin, followed the courses of the famous professor von Harnack and perfected his theology.

In 1925, he joined in Paris as a member of the faculty council of the newly created Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge. He was responsible for teaching liturgical theology, apologetics, psychology and medieval philosophy. In all of these areas he has done a very thorough job. In liturgical theology, he was interested in religious symbolism and the theological content of Orthodox worship. From 1926, his research on this subject began to appear. “The Vigil”, “The Sealed Tomb. Easter of incorruptibility "(on the meaning of the offices of Holy Week and Easter). A whole series of articles also appeared, including the study on the symbolism of the Cross, which appeared in 1923 in the first issue of the journal "Orthodox Thought" (Proceedings of the ITO). He published an important work on Saint Seraphim of Sarov (1925), the second edition of which appeared after the war, in 1949. His works of apologetics are also very valuable, since he used the latest data from the experimental sciences to defend the Christian faith and Revelation: physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology. In 1929, appeared his work "The mystery of life and the origin of living creatures", and in 1930 his other great apologetic work, "The six days of Creation". In theology, he became passionate about the concepts of Fr. Serge Bulgakov and developed them creatively in articles, where he expounded his views in the field of metaphysics. In general, his literary heritage is very extensive. A complete list of his works related to the time of teaching at the Theological Institute, is published in the "Catalog of printed works of professors of the Russian Theological Institute", edited by Professor Leon Zander in 1936,1947 and 1954. At the same time, V. Ilyine began to gain recognition as a publicist. These speeches were brilliant, but the harshness of his words and the extreme nature of his positions caused him a lot of concern.

Long before the war he began to take an active part in the work of ACER. He held lectures at conferences, led discussions in circles, gave public lectures and delivered speeches at public meetings. He was invariably invited as a speaker at the youth camps that ACER organized every summer on the shores of the Mediterranean. Vladimir Ilyine was a dazzling orator. The former participants of these camps still remember his brilliant lectures on literature, the history of Russian culture and Russian holiness, his ardent talks on philosophical or apologetic subjects, his inspired words around the campfire on the most varied subjects. It is unlikely that those who were in the summer of 1934 in the student camp near Sainte-Maxime will one day forget his ingenious improvisation on the fire, which he spontaniously held by the light of a campfire on the beach, at night, by the sea ...

After the war, the ACER summer camps in southern France were moved to the mountains, to Saint-Théoffrey, above the Napoleonic road and three large mountain lakes.

Vladimir Nikolaevich was invited to the camp again and brought to the cultural life of the camp the same inspiration and the same brilliance as before the war. He went to the camp as long as his strength and health permitted. There he didn't just give lectures and lectures. He liked to participate in student hikes. Like the others, he spent the night under the stars, and during difficult climbs, he spoke to other hikers about Beethoven, he recited poems by Pushkin or Goethe or reproduced by heart pages of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gogol or other writers. He also participated with enthusiasm in theatrical performances, staged by students and adolescents under the direction of V. Soubbotin, first in the camp, then in Paris in winter. Everyone remembers how in "The Night of May", according to Gogol, he played the role of a distiller, and in Ostrovsky's play "Poverty is not vice" he played the role by Chorchunov.

Vladimir Nikolaevich's creativity was not limited to the field of science, philosophy and religious thought. As stated above, he wrote poetry and was a composer. He left three symphonies, plays, melodies and two operas: one after Andreev's "Black Mask", the other after Gogol's "A Terrible Vengeance".

In his philosophical, literary and musical work, the rebellious spirit of Vladimir Nikolaevich Ilyin sought a way out of the questions that tormented him about the manifestation of evil in the fates of Russia and the whole world, as well as in his own destiny. He sought a solution to these mysteries, often resorting to the sacrament of repentance. He was particularly close to Father Alexander Eltchaninoff, one of the emigration's most prominent priests and confessors, who died prematurely in 1934. In the last years of his life, Vladimir Ilyine was very ill and suffered a number of serious operations. But he died suddenly and painlessly. Death took him away on October 23, 1974 as he sat in front of his typewriter.