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Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 32, Issue 1, 2022

Do We Need a New Enlightenment for the Twenty-First Century? Part III

Igor Kaufman
Pages 81-102

The Reception of Spinoza and Mendelssohn in the Russian Enlightenment and the Russian-Jewish Haskalah

My general objective in this paper is to provide (1) the outlines of the reception of Baruch Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn in the Russian Enlightenment of the late 18th century as well as (2) in the Russian-Jewish Haskalah. In part (1) of the paper I consider Gavrila (Gavriil) Derzhavin’s mention of Mendelssohn in his “Opinion,” the translation of Mendelssohn’s Phaedon in Nikolay Novikov’s Masonic-inspired journal Utrennyi Svet, and the readings of Spinoza’s view on God and then-shared interpretation of his views as an “atheism” in Feofan Propovich, Vasily Trediakovskiy, and Alexander Sumarokov. In the part on the late Russian-Jewish Haskalah of 1860s I examine two intellectual biographies appeared in the period—Saveliy (Saul) Kovner on Spinoza and Yakov Gurliand on Mendelssohn, which aim to interpret positions of Spinoza and Mendelssohn as exemplary strategies of the Jewish emancipation within the framework of claims and prospects of the modern European culture. I also rediscover and reinterpret Spinoza’s approach to religion as the late Russian Haskalah’s authors strongly object to label Spinoza’s philosophy of religion as “atheistic” and consider it as close to the “pure, or true Judaism.”