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Galcheva T., Golubovich, I. «Little by Little I Adapt Myself to the ‘Circumstances beyond Control’»: Petr Mikhailovich Bitsilli and the Florovsky Family in the Early Years of Emigration. – Sofia: Sluntse, 2015, 320 p.: http://bitsilli.com/



Professor Petr M. Bitsilli (1879–1953) was a foremost Russian historian in exile, one of the founders of contemporary culturology.The main events in the private  biography of the scholar have already been duly recorded and classified, his lifetime being provisionally divided into periods and «framed» into three stages coinciding with the geographical «displacement» of the historian based on his addresses of residence: the «Odessa» period (1879–1920), the «Skopje» period (1920–1924) and the «Sofia» period (1924–1953).

The least explored is in fact the relatively short time of about four years when the historian was lecturing at the newly opened (in 1920) subsidiary of Belgrade University’s Faculty of Philosophy in the city of Skopje (at that time a city in the Serbo-Croato-Slovene Kingdom). It is precisely this biographical segment that has become the focus for researchers Tanya Galcheva and Inna Golubovich, authors and compilers of the volume «Little by Little I Adapt Myself to the ‘Circumstances beyond Control’»: Petr Mikhailovich Bitsilli and the Florovsky Family in the Early Years of Emigration, Sofia. 2015. This is the first autonomous publication that focuses entirely on unpublished and in part previously unknown historical sources used for the reconstruction of events in the scholar’s biography, his relationships with colleagues and moments from the creative process.

The volume consists of three parts featuring two types of documentary sources: epistolary units (letters and postcards) and a manuscript.

          Part One of the publication incorporates an arrangement and commentaries of epistolary units from the family archives that have been known to exist for more than two decades but have never been published so far. These include nineteen letters and postcards of Professor P. M. Bitsilli addressed to Klavdiya Vasil`evna Florovskaya (1883–1965), the first woman to become privatdozent at the Imperial Novorossiysk University in Odessa.

          Though the shortest in volume, the second section of the book is indisputably the most valuable as a source. Central to it is the letter of Prof. Bitsilli to George V. Florovsky found and identified by I. Golubovich a few months ago in the private archives of Russian philosopher and theologian Fr. George Vasil`evich Florovsky (1893–1979) kept at the St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. It is the first epistolary evidence from the correspondence between the two scholars that has been known to exist but has been unexplored so far. Even more intriguing is the content of the letter that commentators describe as the P. M Bitsilli’s undelivered «personal speech» at the suspended defense of G. V. Florovsky’s MA dissertation on Alexander Herzen which was considered lost, and the «personal» review of the professor about the work of his former student is a source permitting the formulation of certain assumptions and hypotheses such as the reasons for the change in the date of G. V. Florovsky’s defense that have not been established so far. The document found in 2013 has for the first time elucidated the circumstances surrounding this academic event of major importance in the history of Russian emigrant science. At the beginning of 1920s P. M. Bitsilli shifted the focus of his research interests: he moved from medieval history to the foundations of historiosophical thinking and the letter to G. V. Florovsky is an important source in analyzing the selected methodological position.

          Almost half of the volume is devoted to an unexpected find dug out in the private archives of Prince Meshchersky in Sofia: an unsigned manuscript with the title «The Historical Philosophy of Danilevsky». An even more curious fact has been established by co-author T. Galcheva: an archival unit with the same title is part of the archives of Fr. G. V. Florovsky kept at the archives of the Princeton University Library, USA. In this way the geographical realities of the findings expand to step on two continents. The joint work of the publishers of the manuscript and the chance to work «live» with the discovered copies have rendered mandatory the investigation of any trace left from this text. The publishing of the document complies with the detailed requirements of the archeographic perusal built on the sequence that editorial changes to the manuscript followed. The detailed analytical study assumes that the author of the discovered article is Professor Petr M. Bitsilli and that the manuscript may be part of an array of texts gathered in the early 1920s and aimed at one of the planned though never carried out Eurasian publications.

          The book «Little by Little I Adapt Myself to the ‘Circumstances beyond Control’»: Petr Mikhailovich Bitsilli and the Florovsky Family in the Early Years of Emigration is quite an original, very important, competent and creative scientific research. It is an important contribution to the study of Professor Bitsilli ‘s  works, to the comprehension and systematic scrutiny of the destinies and intellectual wanderings of Russian emigration over the Balkans at the beginning of the XX century.

The book can be ordered by http://bitsilli.com/ .