Sergei Sergeevich Averintsev is reported to have passed away in Vienna. He was 66.
A distinguished Russian scientist, a philologist, a historian of culture, a translator, a poet, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. According to his will, his body will be cremated and the ashes will be entombed at the Danilovskoe cemetery in Moscow. The cremation will take place on March 4, 2004.
It would take us quite awhile just to list all the accomplishments and scientific titles of Sergei Averintsev. The listing itself speaks of a true recognition of his scientific authority not only in Russia, but at a world-wide level as well. The Chairman of the Russian Biblical Society, Chairman of the Osip Mandelstam International Society, a member of Academia Europaea, a member of Academie Universelle des Cultures, a Honorary Doctor of Scientarum Ecclesiasticarum of the Papal Eastern Institute in Rome, a winner of numerous international and Russian prizes, and so long and so forth.
Sergei Averintsev graduated from the classical philology department of the Moscow State University. He held posts with the Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of History of World Culture of the Moscow State University. He wrote a number of scientific monographs, a few articles for encyclopedic publications. He was a senior editor of a 3-volume encyclopedia ?Christianity?. He also penned a multitude of forewords, translations and original poetry pieces.
His scientific interests were equally multifarious. They ranged from the Byzantine literature and the literature of Medieval Christianity to German romanticism and Russian symbolism. There was certain regularity in his scientific pursuits regardless of a seemingly universal status of his knowledge and a great variety of research subjects he was engaged in.
In theory, any scientist is supposed to pursue a scientific career using his knowledge, working for those who can appreciate his expertise in a specific branch of science. On the contrary, Sergei Averintsev advocated the spreading of a fine knowledge. He was trying to narrow the area of the ?profane?, to ?legitimize? it, to justify the spheres and territories of the humanities that hadn?t been clarified due to some reasons. It can be seen in his scientific works e.g. ?The Poetics of Early Byzantine Literature?.
A scandal broke out in 1970 following the publication of the 5th volume of ?The Encyclopedia of Philosophy?. The authorities regarded ?Christianity?, an article authored by Sergei Averentsev, as an act of ideological subversion. Averintsev wasn?t following the rules of the official scientific atheism while preparing the article. He was writing it as a theologian, as a believer thus making theology more accessible, more open to ordinary readership.
Publishing ?The Bead Game? by Hermann Hesse with a foreword by Averintsev and a collection of poetry by Vyacheslav Ivanov with Averintsev?s article on the poet was also a revolution of sorts, though of a different kind.
A list of the writers and philosophers Averintsev wrote about and whose works he translated says it all: Brentano, Hesse, Helderlin, Schpengler, Jung, Heisinga, Mandelstam. The above names sounded pretty exotic in the Soviet era, even now they?re hard to find among the best-selling top ten.
The same painstaking efforts toward the delicate fabric of spiritual knowledge can be seen in Averintsev?s poetry created for the discriminating reader.
Aza Taho-Godi, professor with the Moscow State University:
?He was my student?
?I was rather absolutely devastated at the news, though I knew that Sergei Sergeevich had been recently sick. I phoned his wife Natalia Petrovna in December last year. She told me that he would be brought home shortly. A week before the terrible news came I saw a dream. In it a young and serene Sergei was crossing the road to talk to me. And he couldn?t speak at the time. So I called his wife up and she told me that Sergei had died last Saturday...
This is a huge blow, especially to me. For Sergei Averintsev was the only person who regarded himself as Losev?s disciple. He wrote a large article titled ?In memory of the teacher? in lieu of an obituary when Alexei Fedorovich Losev passed away. Losev?s range of scientific pursuits is reflected in that of Averitsev?s, save Byzantium, Losev never studied it. Just like Losev, he was studying religious issues related to the relationship between Catholicism and the Orthodox Church.
He was my student. He failed to enroll in it straightaway, though. He got the evening department first, then he got transferred to the daily one. I remember him well at that time. He looked awkward and lanky, always wearing scarves round his neck. He was always unwell. And he was very inquisitive. He kept asking all the time what book he should read. He began visiting Alexei Fedorovich.
I remember Serezha and Sasha Mikhailov paying us regular visits, especially at the time of ?The Encyclopedia of Philosophy?.
All the articles on religion were discussed in Losev?s office. We were afraid to write, afraid to print. Later Sergei began giving lectures of his own in the different places. He was propagating philosophical and religious issues in our society.
He had difficulties with spoken language, but his writing was outstanding. The wording of his ?The Poetics of Byzantine Literature? is incredible suave. He had a very fine handwriting too. I keep a lot of the postcards that he sent me. The show his elegant handwriting with ligatures stylized after the Byzantine characters. Just like Losev, he considered himself a disciple of Vyacheslav Ivanov. Without any hesitation he accepted an invitation to take part in a conference dedicated to Ivanov held in our Losev House. It was attended by Ivanov?s son, Dmitry. Averintsev delivered a surprise report called ?On humor in the works of Vyacheslav Ivanov?. Last time I spoke with him a year ago. He told me that he was going to read a report ?The genre of Christian philosophizing in the works of Vladimir Soloviev and his successors in comparative perspective? at the Losev conference. It was before his departure to Rome. The tragedy happened on May 3 this year. He spent some 40 or 50 minutes in a state of clinical death.
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