“Nature is All Personal”: St Francis of Assisi in the Ontology of Mikhail Prishvin





M. M. Prishvin, St Francis of Assisi, Silver Age, ontologism, personalism, “life creation”


This article analyses Franciscan ideas in the work of M. Prishvin from 1908–1953 in the context of European and Russian Francisciana of the Silver Age. The texts reveal direct and hidden references to the image of St Francis of Assisi and Franciscan texts (The Canticle of Brother Sun and Vita Prima by Thomas of Celano, and Little Flowers of St Francis). It is shown that Franciscan texts become a source of direct, ontological, and personalistic experience of the world as a beautiful and miraculous integrity for Prishvin, creating a paradisiacal harmony between man and creation. St Francis’ compassion for nature became one of Prishvin’s creative impulses in Ginseng (1933) and The Golden Horn (1934). The Franciscan experience of nature in its living reality and personalist uniqueness (nature as subject, not object) is one of the main sources of “kindred (merciful) attention”, Prishvin’s main ontological and life-creating principle. Prishvin polemicised against the opposite of Franciscanism, the utilitarian, object-oriented attitude towards nature in Soviet practice, in which the living, ontological, and personal reality of nature was perceived as an object and replaced by a “patriotic” and utilitarian ideology. In the 1940s, Prishvin returned to the cultural myth of St Francis as a renaissance figure, which emerged in the Russian religious and philosophical renaissance at the turn of the twentieth century; in this myth, St Francis, through his acceptance and justification of the world as God’s creation, overcomes medieval ascetic dualism (matter as evil, the gap between flesh and pirit) and expresses humanistic values (personalism and ontologism), thus uniting God and the world, Christianity and nature, Christianity and culture. For Prishvin’s concept of the integrity of being (the unity of the earthly and the heavenly, the flesh and the spirit), St Francis becomes one of the main sources. What also makes Prishvin similar to St Francis is the concept of joy, which the writer experiences ontologically as the essential basis of being. The image of St Francis becomes not only a literary but also an existential, ontological and creative response of the writer to the challenges of his time. Summing up his life, Prishvin defines his life-creative strategy and mission in the tragic twentieth century in the spirit of St Francis (‘life is happiness’).

Author Biography

Aleksandr Medvedev

PhD (Philology), Head of the Department of Russian and Foreign Literature, Tyumen State University.

23, Lenin Str., 625003, Tyumen, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-7450-5373



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How to Cite

Medvedev, A. (2024). “Nature is All Personal”: St Francis of Assisi in the Ontology of Mikhail Prishvin. Quaestio Rossica, 12(2), 506–522. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2024.2.892



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