Grigory Solomonovich Pomerants
Григорий Соломонович Померанц
Pomerants at a talk in 2009
Born(1918-03-13)13 March 1918
Died16 February 2013(2013-02-16) (aged 94)
Alma materMoscow State University (1940)
SpouseZinaida Mirkina
AwardsOrder of the Patriotic War, Order of the Red Star, the Bjørnson Prize of the Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression
Main interests
philosophy, culturology, essays

Grigory Solomonovich Pomerants (also: Grigorii or Grigori, Russian: Григо́рий Соломо́нович Помера́нц, 13 March 1918, Vilnius – 16 February 2013, Moscow[1]) was a Russian philosopher and cultural theorist. He is the author of numerous philosophical works that circulated in samizdat and made an impact on the liberal intelligentsia in the 1960s and 1970s.

Early life

Grigory Pomerants was born in 1918 to a Polish Jewish family[2] in Vilnius, Lithuania. His family moved to Moscow in 1925. Pomerants graduated in Russian language and literature from the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History [ru] (IFLI, MIFLI). His thesis on Fyodor Dostoyevsky was condemned as "anti-Marxist" and as a result he was barred from admission to post-graduate studies in 1939. He went on to lecture at the Tula Pedagogical Institute in 1940.[3]

During the Second World War, Pomerants volunteered to the front, where he fought as a Red Army infantryman. He was wounded in the leg, as a result of which he was assigned as a writer to the editorial office of the divisional newspaper. He was awarded the Order of the Red Star.[3]

In 1946, he was expelled from the Communist Party for "anti-Party statements". Three years later he was arrested and sentenced to five years' imprisonment for anti-Soviet agitation. After Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, he was released due to a general amnesty. He did not rejoin the Party, which prohibited him from teaching at tertiary level. He was also denied Moscow residence.[2] From 1953 to 1956, Pomerants worked as a village school teacher in the Donets Basin and later, upon his return to Moscow, as a bibliographer in the Fundamental Library of Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences.[4][5]

Dissident activities

Under the impression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the persecution of Boris Pasternak, Pomerants became active as a dissident. In 1959–1960, he led semi-secret seminars on philosophical, historical, political and economic issues. During this time he established contact with dissidents such as Vladimir Osipov and the editors and contributors of the dissident magazine Sintaksis Alexander Ginzburg, Natalya Gorbanevskaya and Yuri Galanskov. He also became close to the painters of the underground Lianozovo group.[6]

On December 3, 1965, Pomerants gave a lecture at the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow publicly denouncing Stalinism.[7][8] It caused a sensation and became one of the early pieces of samizdat literature.[5] In 1968, he co-signed a petition in support of the participants of the 1968 Red Square demonstration against the introduction of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia. He also put his signature to Larisa Bogoraz and Pavel Litvinov's "Appeal to the World Public Opinion" in protest of Trial of the Four. As a result, he was deprived of any opportunity to defend his thesis on Zen Buddhism at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies.[3][6]

In addition to official articles, which focused on the spiritual traditions of India and China, Pomerants began to write essays on historical and social topics. While his works were soon stopped from being printed in the Soviet Union, they were widely published in samizdat.[9] They were also reprinted in the western émigré magazines Kontinent, Sintaksis and Strana i Mir, and a collection of essays under the title Neopublikovannoe (Unpublished Works) was published in 1972 in Frankfurt.[10]

Pomerants' political and social articles as well as his public conduct attracted the attention of the KGB. On November 14, 1984, Pomerants was officially warned in connection with his publications abroad. On May 26, 1985, KGB agents searched his flat and confiscated his literary archive.[6]

Philosophical positions

Andrei Sakharov, who had met Pomerants in an informal seminar at Valentin Turchin's flat in 1970, describes his interests as follows:

The most stimulating speaker at Turchin's seminar was Grigory Pomerants, a former political prisoner and a specialist in Oriental philosophy. I was astounded by his erudition, his broad perspective, his sardonic humor, and his academic approach (in the best sense of that term). Pomerants's three of four talks paid homage to the civilization created by the interaction of all nations, East and West, over the course of millennia. He praised tolerance and compromise, deploring (as I do) the poverty and sterility of narrow chauvinism, dictatorships, and totalitarian regimes. Pomerants is a man of rare independence, integrity, and intensity who has not let material poverty cramp his rich, if underrated, contribution to our intellectual life.

— Andrei Sakharov, Memoirs[11]

Pomerants was among the first Russian disciples of cultural and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin.[12]

For many years, Pomerants was involved in polemics with Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Pomerants strongly criticized what he saw as Solzhenitsyn's dogmatic Christian nationalism and positioned himself closer to the liberal, internationalist wing of the intelligentsia. He countered Solzhenitsyn's notion of "evil" as an unavoidably global, well-established phenomenon, associated with Communism, by citing Eastern traditions which reject the notion of an inherently permanent, ontological evil.[13][14]

Pomerants himself stated that he preferred to be called a "thinker" (myslitel') rather than a "philosopher", since this term does not imply the academic discipline of philosophy, which he felt was merely neighboring his own work (po sosedstvu).[15]

One of the most quoted pieces in Russian by Pomerants reflected his views on the nature of social debate:

The devil is born from an angel spitting in rage… People and systems crumble to dust, but the spirit of hate, bred by the champions of good, is immortal and thus evil on Earth knows no end. In the debates of the 1970s I stubbornly went against all my instincts and impulses to spit in rage, and in this struggle, I found another truth – the manner of the debate is more important that the object of the debate. Objects come and go, while manners form the building blocks of civilizations.

— Grigory Pomerants, Dogma of Debate[16]


Pomerants' lectures and a rejected thesis on Zen Buddhism were studied by filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and composer Eduard Artemyev during their work on Stalker.[17][18] Pomerants also appears in the 2008 documentary Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky.[19]

In 2009, The Bjørnson Prize of the Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression was awarded to Pomerants and Mirkina "for their extensive contribution to strengthening the freedom of expression in Russia."[20]

Pomerants was married to Russian poet Zinaida Mirkina. He died, aged 94, in Moscow, Russia.

Major works



  1. ^ "Death of Grigory Pomerants – great loss for whole human rights movement". ITAR-TASS. 2013-02-17. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  2. ^ a b "Становление личности сквозь террор и войну", by Grigory Pomerants, Вестник Европы, 2010, no. 28-29
  3. ^ a b c "In memory of Grigory Pomerants". Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  4. ^ The International Who's Who 2004, Europa Publications, Routledge, London 2003, p. 1342. ISBN 978-1-85743-217-6
  5. ^ a b "Russian Thinker Grigory Pomerants' Caux Lecture". Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "Grigory Solomonovitch Pomeranz". Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  7. ^ Pomerants, Grigory (3 December 1965). "O roli nravstvennogo oblika lichnosti v zhizni istoricheskogo kollektiva" (in Russian). Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  8. ^ Zubok, Vladislav (2009). Zhivago's Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 263. ISBN 9780674033443.
  9. ^ Alexeyeva, Lyudmila; John Glad (1987). Soviet Dissent: Contemporary Movements for National, Religious, and Human Rights. Carol Pearce (trans.). Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-8195-6176-3.
  10. ^ Pomerants, Grigory (1972). Neopublikovannoe. Bol'shie i malen'kie esse. Publitsistika. Possev. OCLC 353359.
  11. ^ Sakharov, Andrei (1990). Memoirs. Richard Lourie (trans.). London: Hutchinson. p. 306. ISBN 978-0091746360.
  12. ^ Mihailovic, Alexandar (1997). Corporeal Words: Mikhail Bakhtin's Theology of Discourse. Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-8101-1459-3.
  13. ^ Boobbyer, Philip (2005). Conscience, Dissent and Reform in Soviet Russia. Routledge. pp. 125–126. ISBN 978-0-415-33186-9.
  14. ^ (in Russian) «Сон о справедливом возмездии (затянувшийся спор с Александром Солженицыным)», Григорий Померанц, «Век ХХ и мир», #11, 1990
  15. ^ Interview with Pomerants on NTV's School of Slander, November 24, 2008 (English subtitles)
  16. ^ Григорий Померанц. Догматы полемики (in Russian).
  17. ^ Turovskaya, Maya (1991). "Eduard Artemyev talks to Maya Turovskaya". 7½, ili filmy Andreia Tarkovskovo. Moscow: Iskusstvo. ISBN 978-5210002792.
  18. ^ Naumenko, Oleksiy-Nestor; Eduard Artem'ev (April 2007). "Eduard Artemyev. Kak poyut derev'ya". Iskusstvo Kino (in Russian). 4.
  19. ^ "Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky (2008)". Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  20. ^ "The Bjørnson Prize Archived 2011-07-24 at the Wayback Machine", Bjørnson Academy (2009). Retrieved 1 September 2010.