Alexei Stepanovich Khomiakov

From OrthodoxWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Alexei Stepanovich Khomiakov, Russian: Алексей Степанович Хомяков, was a Russian intellectual and religious writer of the nineteenth century who espoused an ecclesiology centered around the idea of Sobornost and gave rise to the Slavophile movement.


Alexei Khomiakov was born on May 1, 1804 in Moscow, Russia into a family of a wealthy nobleman. His ancestors as well as his parents lived on their estates and led a patriarchal life in intimate and unusually close friendship with their peasants. Interestingly enough, the branch of the family to which Alexei Khomiakov belonged actually owed its wealth to these peasants.

The great grandfather of Alexei Khomiakov, Theodore, although an officer of the Guards, had but a very limited fortune. A very rich distant relation, Cyril Khomiakov, having lost his wife and only daughter, assembled his peasants and proposed that they select one of his relatives as heir to his estates. A delegation of peasants inquired about different members of the Khomiakov family. They returned after several months of investigation, having chosen Theodore Khomiakov. Cyril met Theodore soon after that, found him worthy of being his heir - and left all his property to him. Alexei Khomiakov grew up with these simple people in an atmosphere of mutual respect and confidence.

The Khomiakov family was a very cultured one. Alexei's mother also belonged to a family (Kireyevsky) whose members were educated and endowed with wide scientific interests. Her nephews, Ivan and Peter Kireyevsky, like their cousin Alexei Khomiakov, had marked influence on Russian philosophical thinking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Khomiakovs were also a harmonious family. Alexei, an obedient son, admired and revered his mother. After the death of his brother, Theodore, he retired from military service just to be near her and comfort her in her grief.

After his marriage to Katherine Yazykov, who was the sister of the famous poet Nikolai Yazykov, Alexei became a loving and devoted husband and the father of nine children of which two, Steven and Theodore, died in their infancy. However, the premature death of his wife was a great shock, from which Khomiakov never recovered.

Khomiakov's life centered on Moscow. He viewed this "thousand-domed city" as an epitome of the Russian way of life. Equally successful as a landlord and conversationalist, he published little during his lifetime. His writings were published posthumously by his friends and disciples and came to exert great influence on the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian lay philosophers, such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Constantine Pobedonostsev, and Vladimir Solovyov.

For Khomiakov, the ideologies of socialism and capitalism were equally repugnant offspring of Western decadence. The West failed to solve human spiritual problems, as it stressed competition at the expense of cooperation. In his own words, "Rome kept unity at the expense of freedom, while Protestants had freedom but lost unity."[1]

Khomiakov's own ideals revolved around the term sobornost, being the Slavonic equivalent of catholicity found in the Nicene Creed and loosely translated as "togetherness" or "symphony". Khomiakov viewed the Russian obshchina as a perfect example of sobornost and extolled the Russian peasants for their humility.

Khomiakov died on September 23/25, 1860 (os) from cholera, infected by a peasant he had attempted to treat. [1]


Further reading

  • Joseph L. Wieczynski. Khomyakov's Critique of Western Christianity. Church History. Vol.38, No.3, Sep., 1969. pp.291-299.
  • E. Skobtsova (Mother Maria). The Crucible of Doubts -- Khomyakov, Dostoevsky, Solov'ev, In Search of Synthesis, Four 1929 Works. (frsj Publications, 2016). ISBN 9780996399234
  • Nicholas Berdyaev. Aleksei Stepanovich Khomyakov. (frsj Publications, 2017). ISBN 9780996399258


  1. History of Russian Philosophy by Nikolai Lossky ISBN 978-0-8236-8074-0 p. 87


External link