Salvaging Soviet Philosophy (1)

by Ralph Dumain

The philosophical legacy of the defunct USSR (and the other Soviet bloc nations) should not be left for dead without a serious salvaging operation to assess what it did and did not accomplish and to preserve what was valuable in it.

First, what can we expect of Soviet philosophy? One way to approach the subject would be to divide Soviet Marxism-Leninism into the three areas to be found in innumerable introductions and textbooks: dialectical materialism, historical materialism, and scientific communism. The further we move away from the first of these, the less worthwile the literature is likely to be. The regime had an incentive to showcase its goods in the one area in which it could at least potentially manifest some dimension of superiority, in the philosophy of science, i.e, an area in which creativity could be tolerated with the least threat to the regime. When we move into historical materialism, we enter a rigid framework and schema for the analysis of historical development and social structure, though it is still possible to be scientific up to a point as well as overly scientistic in pretension. And when we get to scientific communism, we can dismiss it as apologetics for the Stalinist regime.

Another approach would be through various schools of thought over the decades. One could follow schools of thought in philosophy proper, or one could follow schools of thought in the special sciences, including the human sciences, such as psychology and semiotics. One cannot overestimate the historic import of the work of Lev Vygotsky in psychology, for example.

What about the shortcomings in the core areas of philosophy? First, there is a lot of propagandistic work, and quite a bit of formulaic and unoriginal work, as one might expect from coercive bureaucracies. Secondly, there is a certain narrowness, most telling in the tendentious and dishonest treatment of schools of Marxist thought disapproved of by the regime, including much of what gets classified as "Western Marxism", dissident and anti-Soviet schools of Marxist thought.

However, there are some nuances here. There were original and not entirely "orthodox" philosophers who managed to survive in the Eastern bloc and in Western Communist Parties whose work was thus not completely excluded from the tradition, such as Lukács in Hungary and Gramsci in Italy. In the Soviet Union itself certain tendencies flourished or at least survived which share common ground with dissident and non-orthodox schools elsewhere, such as the work of the most influential Soviet philosopher of our era, Evald Ilyenkov. And, because of the abstract nature of the subject, certain aspects of subjectivity and dialectics could be treated in an interesting fashion without being fingered as dissident, such as the concept of the ideal in Soviet philosophy.

If it did nothing else, Soviet philosophy played a critical role in the critique of various schools of bourgeois philosophy, whether irrationalist or positivistic, esp. when in those cases where it shed the crudity of the Stalin era. Again, this is an area in which there would be a great incentive to show superiority of a Marxist philosophical perspective over the world views promoted in the West.

On a positive note, there would also be an incentive to develop areas in philosophy of science, epistemology, logic, semiotics, various special sciences, and related topics. While there is a limited amount of this work available in English, there is some worth reading, and presumably much more that was never translated, as well as a large body of mediocre work.

Finally, because of the inherently sociological conception of philosophy inherent in Marxism, one can expect some interesting work in the historiography of philosophy itself.

My main task for now is a bibliographical one. Let me outline very informally how I conceive of approaching it.

First, there is the language question. I want to concentrate on the material published—mostly in translation—in English, as I don't read Russian. I would also leave to the side for the time being works published in other languages such as French or German, whether translations or originals. There is much that was never translated from Russian, much of it good as well as bad. It is reasonable to suppose that, in choosing material for translation, there was an incentive to highlight some of the better and more prominent Soviet philosophers, as well as to pass on propaganda and hack-work.

Also, the intellectual life of the Soviet Union, of which most of us are acquainted with small pieces if anything at all, involves more than the official, dominant Marxist-Leninist tradition. There is also highly specialized, untranslated work in the areas of mathematics and the sciences, that was allowed to proceed apart from the main channels of production and dissemination of Marxist-Leninist philosophy. Then of course there are underground pedagogical and intellectual efforts.

There is also the question of comparable works published in the Soviet bloc, in Yugoslavia, and perhaps other "socialist" countries, in a variety of languages. In Eastern Europe, in addition to officially sanctioned or tolerated schools of thought, there is the huge category of dissident Marxist schools, in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere, reviled and persecuted by their respective regimes.

Then there is the question of periodization. There is pre-revolutionary (marxist) philosophy—and its relation to 19th century Russian thought—much of which continues through the early Soviet years, including Lenin, Deborin, and many others. I don’t know whether this can be sharply separated from the period of the early Soviet regime up through 1930, in which competing Marxist schools (in the 1920s, chiefly the Deborinists vs. the Mechanists) flourish until Stalin and his henchmen institute the New Turn in 1931. There is then the largely sterile period of Stalin's totalitarian grip on the cultural life of the nation. Then in the 1950s after Stalin's death the field begins to blossom again, gaining new life in the 1960s until the demise of the USSR. There is also the need to assess the course of philosophy in the post-Soviet period in Russia and the other post-Soviet states.

Limiting ourselves now to the English language, there are further subdivisions one can make in the pursuit of bibliographical aims.

Bibliographies, reference guides, dictionaries and encyclopedias are always entry points into the literature.

There are/were at least two English-language journals devoted to Soviet philosophy, and a few more of relevance.

In book form there are several surveys of Soviet philosophy, written by a variety of people ranging from sympathizers to opponents, covering the whole range up to the date of publication, or various periods, or topics, or individual thinkers, or various Eastern bloc nations. A few of the names that appear in this category are Wetter, Jordan, Scanlan, Bakhurst. There is a voluminous series, Sovietica, now published by Springer.

There are Soviet and Eastern European authors appearing via Western publishers, in journals, conference proceedings, and monographs. Just to give one interesting example, various technical philosophical works from Eastern Europe, some authored by dissidents, were published in the series Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, or in the Synthese Library.

There are a few outfits in the USSR that published Soviet philosophical literature in English (translation), but most of the books came from Progress Publishers in Moscow. The USSR Academy of Sciences published symposia and conference papers. Raduga Publishers put out a number of works on aesthetics. First I will concentrate on Progress Publishers.

Let me break down the literature into a number of sub-categories for my purposes:

  1. reference books (esp. dictionaries)
  2. textbooks, introductions to philosophy, Marxism, dialectical materialism, specific philosophers, and related topics
  3. various works of a propandistic nature for the general public
  4. various works seemingly specialized in character, but either propagandistic or vacuous in content
  5. classic authors: Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, etc., and favored thinkers of the pre-revolutionary era
  6. works in social sciences, political economy, law, education, linguistics, psychology, history
  7. serious works in what are for me hard-core (and overlapping) areas of philosophy:
    1. core philosophy: epistemology, ontology, logic, semantics, etc.
    2. (other) Marxist philosophy
    3. philosophy of science
    4. history of philosophy (general and specific topics and philosophers)
    5. aesthetics

I want to concentrate first on #7. Aesthetics is a big category by itself , and the quality of publications in this area is so wildly uneven, ranging from indigestible propagandistic trash up to serious works, I wish to put this aside until later.

I want to begin with Soviet philosophers of the contemporary era, from the 1960s onward, and I want to approach them first via Progress Publishers, whose publications are not easily at hand in local bookstores in the USA. So in the first installment of my bibliography I will concentrate on my core areas, excluding aesthetics, specialized non-natural sciences, dictionaries and other reference works, introductions and textbooks, classic authors, books of propagandistic or otherwise dubious import, books not published by Progress Publishers, non-book items such as journal articles, and all surveys of Soviet philosophy not by Soviet philosophers themselves. After that, I will proceed onward as time and opportunity permit.

It is impossible for me to establish this site as a headquarters for the study of Soviet philosophy. That belongs to much more ambitious projects in this area, such as the Marxists Internet Archive. It is even more difficult to cover all the interesting schools of Eastern European Marxist thought, such as the Hungarian school, the Praxis School of Yugoslavia, the Poznan school of Poland, etc., and a panoply of dissident philosophers such as Karel Kosik of Czechoslovakia. However, this being a resource of obscure and neglected sources, I do want to provide some entry points into what is for Americans the most obscure of all the areas of Eastern European thought: Soviet philosophy.

I welcome the suggestions and collaboration of my readers in developing this project here and/or on other sites.

Addendum: Please note that the links below are not limited to Soviet philosophy, but include related Eastern European philosophy as well as dissident and anti-Stalinist thinkers not considered part of the same Marxist tradition.


Soviet Historiography of Philosophy: Review Essay by Ralph Dumain

New Year's Resolution: Exploring Philosophical Cultures (December 2003 - January 2004)

Soviet Philosophy from Progress Publishers: Selected Bibliography, 1968-1990 (1)

Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science & Synthese Library

Merab Mamardashvili: Selected Bibliography & Web Links

Lenin on Aristotle (Bibliography)

V. I. Lenin: Collected Works, Volume 38: Philosophical Notebooks: selections from writings of 1914-1916

V.I. Lenin: Their Abstraction & Ours

V.I. Lenin on Idealism & the Spiral of Knowledge

Plekhanov on “Bourgeois” Science

Amor Dei Intellectualis (Baruch Spinoza)” by Nikolai Bukharin

Mad Prophet (Friedrich Nietzsche)” by Nikolai Bukharin

‘The Colossal Old Fellow’ (Hegel) by Nikolai Bukharin

Spinoza’s World-View by A. M. Deborin

"Reader Know Thyself" by Nicholas (Nikolai Aleksandrovich) Rubakin

Short Handbook of Communist Ideology: Contents

Short Handbook of Communist Ideology: The Philosophic Principles of The Marxist-Leninist World-View

David-Hillel Ruben on Materialism & Praxis

Review of David-Hillel Rubin, Marxism and Materialism: A Study in Marxist Theory of Knowledge by R. Dumain

"The Concept of the Ideal" by E. V. Ilyenkov

"The Universal" by E. V. Ilyenkov

"From the Marxist-Leninist Point of View" by E. V. Ilyenkov

"Humanism and Science" by E. V. Ilyenkov

Evald Ilyenkov's Philosophy Revisited

"On Trends in the Status of Dialectical Logic: A Brief Study of Lefebvre, Ilyenkov and Wald" by Claude M. J. Braun

The Problem of the Ideal: Contents by David Dubrovsky

The Problem of the Ideal: Introduction

The Problem of the Ideal (Extracts)

Subject, Object, Cognition: Contents & Preface to the English edition by V. A. Lektorsky

Idealised and Real Objects by V. A. Lektorsky

The Collective Subject. The Individual Subject by V. A. Lektorsky

"Cognition in the Context of Culture" by Vladislav Lektorsky

Activity Theory: A Marxist Approach to Psychology by Carl Shames

Alternatives to Positivism by Igor Naletov (entire book)

"The Image of Science and Metaphysics" by Nina Yulina

"The Relationship Between Science and Morality (Philosophical Aspects)" by A. Arsenyev

Robert S. Cohen's Introduction to The Social and Economic Roots of Newton's 'Principia' by Boris Hessen

"Cultural Impasse & the Changing Forms of Ideality" by R. Dumain

Man in the “Industrial Society”: Is Herbert Marcuse’s “Critical Theory of Society” Critical? by Yuri Zamoshkin & Ninel Motroshilova

Denis Diderot by Tamara Dlugach

"On the Comic" by Tatyana Lyubimova

Soviet Aesthetics & Humor: The Societalists & Naturists by Edward M. Swiderski

"Man as the Object of Cognition in Arts Subjects" by L. I. Novikova

Carnap’s ‘Elimination of Metaphysics’ by V. Brushlinsky

"Matter and Motion" by L. Bazhenov

On Revolution in Epistemology by V. Kurayev

Skepticism in Soviet Philosophical Dictionaries

Humanism, Atheism: Principles and Practice, by Inga Kichanova, Boris Grigoryan, et al: Introduction

Christ: Myth or Reality? by I. Kryvelev

Religion in the World Today by M. Mchedlov

Mankind and the Year 2000 by V. Kosolapov

Problems of the History of Philosophy by Theodore Oizerman

Problem of Wisdom as a Real Problem
Review by Ralph Dumain
Wisdom and Abstract Thought by R. Dumain

The Main Trends in Philosophy by Theodore Oizerman

Dialectical Materialism and the History of Philosophy by Theodore Oizerman
Philosophy and Everyday Consciousness
Dialectical Materialism and Hegel's Philosophy of the History of Philosophy

"A Scientist, or a Man of Wisdom?" by Galina Kirilenko & Lydia Korshunova

Principles of the Theory of Historical Process in Philosophy by T.I Oizerman & A.S. Bogomolov

Review by R. Dumain

"Hegel's Method of Doing Philosophy Historically: A Reply" by James Lawler & Vladimir Shtinov

Criticism of “Contemporary Society” and “Negative Dialectics” (Excerpts on Adorno) by E. Batalov

The American Utopia by Eduard Batalov
(Entire book on other site)

Chapter II.5:  The Technocratic Utopia
Chapter III.2: The Technocratic Utopia
Chapter 4:    "From Utopia to Antiutopia"

Eduard Batalov and the Philosophy of Revolt: The New Left through Soviet Eyes” by Ileana Rodríguez

On the Language of the Future by M. I. Isayev

Man and Culture, Language, Esperanto by Pavel Gurevich

Marx and the Western World, edited by Nicholas Lobkowicz


Crisis Consciousness in Contemporary Philosophy by András Gedö:
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: "Two Aspects of Bourgeois Crisis Consciousness"
Chapter 2: "The Contemporary Crisis in Bourgeois Philosophy"
1. Neopositivism: Linguistic Philosophy and Critical Rationalism
2. Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie)

"The Contemporary Attack on Science" by Andras Gedo: Parts one and two

"The Historical Character of the Concept of Nature" by András Gedö

"Why Marx or Nietzsche?" by András Gedö

Paul Szende on ideology & reification

Review of Béla Fogarasi, Logik by Alonzo Church

Alienation, Utopia, & Hungarian intellectuals: Madách, Ady, Karinthy, Fogarasi, Nádor, Lukács, Mannheim by Joseph Gabel

Lukács’ Lost Manuscript Tailism and the Dialectic Reviewed by R. Dumain

The Question of Educational Work by Georg Lukács

On The Fiftieth Anniversary of Feuerbach’s Death” by Georg Lukács

The Two Epochs of Bourgeois Materialism: On Moleschott’s Centenary” by Georg Lukács

The History of Hegel’s Youth: Review of Wilhelm Dilthey’s collected writings, Vol. IV” by Georg Lukács

Simple and Higher Categories of the Dialectic by Georg Lukács

Georg Lukács on Relativism, Feuerbach, Nietzsche & Spengler

"Existentialism" by Georg Lukács

Georg Lukacs on Nazism & Irrationalism: The Unity of Cynicism & Credulity

Lukács on Futurology

Lukács on Wittgenstein

"Lukács' and Husserl's Critiques of Science" by Mihály Vajda

Nature, Society, and Praxis” by Mihály Vajda

Theory and Practice from the Point of View of Human Needs” by Agnes Heller

Arta partikulareco kaj Esperanto [pri teorio de Georg Lukàcs] de R. P. Nogueira (in Esperanto)


Humanist Ethics: Dialogue on Basics, edited by Morris B. Storer

“Does Humanism Have an Ethic of Responsibility?”: Comments by Kai Nielsen & Mihailo Marković, & Responses by Paul Kurtz

Historical Praxis as the Ground of Morality” by Mihailo Marković, with Comment by Paul Kurtz

Tolerance and Revolution: A Marxist-non-Marxist Humanist Dialogue, edited by Paul Kurtz and Svetozar Stojanović

Revolutionary Teleology and Ethics” by Svetozar Stojanović

Perspectives and Contradictions in the Contemporary Development of Man” by Niculae Bellu and Alex. Tanase; Commentary by Andre Niel

Human Nature and Present Day Possibilities of Social Development” by Mihailo Marković, Commentary by Mathilde Niel

Marxist Humanism and Praxis, edited, with translations, by Gerson S. Sher


Reason and Historical Praxis” by Mihailo Marković

Ideology as a Form and Mode of Human Existence” by Milan Kangrga

The State of Humanity and the Transition from Communism to Capitalism” by Svetozar Stojanović

Is Systematic Philosophy Possible Today?” by Mihailo Marković

Mihailo Marković on systematic philosophy in 1975 by R. Dumain

“Marx and Critical Scientific Thought” by Mihailo Marković

"The Concept of Critique in Social Science" by Mihailo Marković

Dialectical Theory of Meaning: Part One (Extracts) by Mihailo Marković

Dialectical Theory of Meaning: Part Two: Linguistic Meaning (Extract) by Mihailo Marković

Dialectical Theory of Meaning: Part Three:
General Definition of Meaning: The Interrelationships of the Individual Dimensions of Meaning

by Mihailo Marković

History and Class Consciousness by Gajo Petrović

"Freedom and Polydeterminism in Cultural Criticism" by Rudi Supek


"On the Dialectico-Materialist Type of Rationality" by Jindrich Zeleny

"Man and Philosophy" by Karel Kosík

The Individual and History” by Karel Kosík

The Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Observations from the 1968 Era (Contents), by Karel Kosík, ed. James H. Satterwhite

The Perspectives of Philosophy (1956) by Ivan Sviták

"Anthropological Conditions of Modern Culture" (1964): Conclusion by Ivan Sviták

The Sources of Socialist Humanism” (1963) by Ivan Sviták

"Toward a Materialistic Foundation of Logic" by Karel Berka


The Alienation of Reason (Extract) by Leszek Kolakowski

"What Philosophers Do" by Adam Schaff

"Wittgensteinian Foundations of Non-Fregean Logic" by Boguslaw Wolniewicz


"Doubt and Atheism" by Evlogi Dankov

The Main Principles of David Hume's Epistemology as a Source of Contemporary Positivism” by Elena Panova


"Negativity" by Henri Wald

"The Graphic Figure & the Philosophical Abstraction" by Ion Banu


What Is Dialectical Logic?” by Franz Loeser

Yevgeny Zamyatin on Revolution, Entropy, Dogma and Heresy

Jevgenij Zamjatin pri Revolucio, Entropio, Dogmo & Herezo (en Esperanto, trad. Ralph Dumain)

The Second International: A Reexamination” by Andrew Arato

On the Origin of Language and Consciousness” by Jacinthe Baribeau

On the "Not Necessarily Atheist" Nature of Kwame Nkrumah's Philosophical Consciencism’ by Alexander Wooten

Science and Nature, Table of Contents, issues #1-10 (1978-1989)

Reflections on American Philosophy From Within: Chapter 8—Intersecting Dialectical Materialism by Roy Wood Sellars

Review of John Ryder, Interpreting America: Russian and Soviet Studies of the History of American Thought by R. Dumain

Modern Science and Its Philosophy by Philipp Frank
Introduction - Historical Background
Chapter 5: Is There a Trend Today Toward Idealism in Physics?
Chapter 10: How Idealists and Materialists View Modern Physics
Chapter 11: Logical Empiricism and the Philosophy of the Soviet Union

Emergence Blog


Selections from Contemporary East European Philosophy, Revolutionary World, B. R. Grüner Publishing Co, & Related Publications:
Bibliography & Web Links

The Poznan School (Poland)

Georg Lukács’ The Destruction of Reason: Selected Bibliography

Neo-Kantianism, Its History, Influence, and Relation to Socialism: Selected Secondary Bibliography

Second International Marxism, German Social Democracy, Austro-Marxism: Selected Secondary Bibliography

Marx and Marxism Web Guide


Marxists Internet Archive: Soviet Philosophy

Marxists Internet Archive: Psychology & Marxism

The Value of Knowledge: a Miniature Library of Philosophy
(also part of Marxists Internet Archive)

TRANSLATIONS AND ARTICLES ON MARXIST PHILOSOPHY (on dialectical contradiction) (Soviet titles & e-books)

Abram Moiseevich Deborin (Ioffe) (1881-1963)

Liubov Isaakovna Akselrod (Ortodoks) (1868-1946)

Sofya Yanovskaya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philosophy in the Soviet Union - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: stub only

Marxist Educational Press

Diccionario soviético de filosofía / 1965 [in Spanish]

Nietzsche as Founder of Irrationalism in the Imperialist Period (Chapter III of The Destruction of Reason) by Georg Lukács

Philosophy in Soviet Russia by John Lewis (orig. 1946, reprint 1999)

Marxism and the Philosophy of Science: A Critical History by Helena Sheehan

Bibliography for Historical Materialism By Haines Brown

Bibliography of the History of Russian and Soviet Science and Technology

Russian Philosophy [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Soviet Philosophy (Oxford Companion to Philosophy)

Dialectical Materialism (Oxford Companion to Philosophy)

Sovietica series (Springer)

Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science

Review of John Ryder, Interpreting America: Russian and Soviet Studies of the History of American Thought
by Peter T. Manicas

The American Utopia by Eduard Batalov

Problems of the History of Philosophy by Theodore Oizerman

The Problem of the Scientific Philosophical World-Outlook by T. I. Oizerman

“Kant’s categorical imperative as a subject of critical analysis” by Theodor I. Oizerman, in
Kantovsky Sbornik
, Selected articles, 2008-2009
[Academic journal] (Kaliningrad: Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University Press, 2011), pp. 31-39

Skepticism (Skeptikoi: The Free Online Encyclopedia: TheFreeDictionary)
includes entry from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979).

Humanism: Its Philosophical, Ethical and Sociological Aspects by M. Petrosyan

Science at the Cross Roads; Papers Presented to the [2nd] International Congress of the History of Science and Technology Held in London from June 20th to July 3rd, 1931 by the delegates of the U.S.S.R.

Einstein and Soviet Dogma; An Elusive Relationship [review of Alexander Vucinich, Einstein and Soviet Ideology] by Alexei Kojevnikov

The Ilyenkov Internet Archive

Reading Ilyenkov [mostly in Russian, some English, & photo gallery]

«The problem of contradiction in logic» [fragment] by E. V. Il’enkov

"From the Marxist-Leninist Point of View" by E. V. Ilyenkov (also on this site, see above)

Vygotsky and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory

Bakhurst, David J.

Peter Jones, "Ideality, Symbols, and the Mind (Response to David Bakhurst)"

Peter E Jones, “Symbols, Tools, and Ideality in Ilyenkov

Peter Jones profile

Ilyenkov - a philosopher under suspicion

James Scanlan – Ilyenkov (Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Philosophers)

Symposium on Evald Ilyenkov

Activity Theory

Mind, Culture, and Activity Summer 1995

Activity, Consciousness, and Personality by Aleksie Nikolaevich Leont'ev

Activity and Consciousness by A. N. Leontyev

Psychological Conditions of the Origin of Ideal Acts
V.V. Davydov and V.P. Andronov

The Dialectic of Subject and Object and some Problems of the Methodology of Science by V. A. Lektorsky
Also at &
Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition: Mind, Culture, and Activity

The Problem of the Ideal by David Dubrovsky

Subject, Object, Cognition by V. A. Lektorsky (entire book)

The Vygotsky Project

MCA: Research Paper Archive

Leontiev's Activity Theory Approach to Psychology: Activity as the "molar unit of life" and his "levels of psyche" by Paul F. Ballantyne,
with several links. See also Ballantyne's publications page.


ISCAR - International Society for Cultural and Activity Research

Russian ISCAR section

Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Sciences [in Russian; see next link for English texts]

ABC list of texts in English and other languages

Igor I. Kondrashin - Dialectics of Matter

Nevajay I. - How is it Possible to Conceive Being in Science

Logic [in Russia] [3 links dead]

Department of Logic. Moscow State University

Department of Logic. History (Moscow State University)

"Wisdom and Knowledge" [abstract] by L. N. Stolovich [ghost web link works]

The Chair of Social Philosophy of Ural State University

Globalistica (Russian Philosophical Society)

Voprosi Filosofii English Page

Background, Present State, and Prospects?


The Poznan School (Poland) (<— click for links)

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Uploaded 9 October 2001
Last update 29 March 2017
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