Interview with Dr.Sc. Nikolai Rozov (Розов Николай Сергеевич) – Principal Research Scientist, Institute for Philosophy and Law (Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences); Head, Department for Social Philosophy and Political Sciences, Novosibirsk State University

by | July 2, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Dr.Sc. Nikolai S. Rozov is a Professor of Philosophy at the Novosibirsk State University. He is the Head of Department for Social Philosophy and Political Sciences. As well, Rozov is the Principal Research Scientist in the Institute for Philosophy and Law (Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences). 

Here we talk about his life, work, and views.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you, e.g., geography, culture, language, religion or lack thereof, education, and family structure and dynamics?

Dr.Sc. Nikolai Rozov: I was born in Novosibirsk (Western Siberia) and I live in Novosibirsk Academy-town (Akademgorodok – circa 30 km from the center of Novosibirsk). My father (surgeon) and my mother (geologist) studied at Tomsk University. My grandfather (anthropologist) ran away from Leningrad to Tomsk in the early 1930s because his teachers and older colleagues (among them was an outstanding researcher David Zolotarev)  had been repressed. He was an atheist. My father only in late age became religious under the influence of my mother. She is from the family of Siberian Old Believers (‘schismatics’ – raskol’niki). She was traditionally religious in childhood, then in student years and later until the age of 40, she was indifferent to religion (or almost atheist) but then became religious again. Now she is 90, she prays each day for some hours.

Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of life for you? How have you informally self-educated?

Rozov: I graduated in 1983 from Moscow State University (Psychology), then I wrote a Candidate thesis in a traineeship in the Institute of Philosophy in Novosibirsk, also after gaining the degree of Doctor of Sciences I visited for 3 months the Fernand Braudel Center in Binghamton (NY) under supervision of Immanuel Wallerstein. During student years and later, I read a lot in philosophy, history, semiotics, sociology, political sciences, cultural studies, etc.

Jacobsen: As a Professor of Philosophy, what arguments for theism do not seem sounds to you? What arguments do not seem valid to you?

Rozov: Main arguments for theism are usually the following: 1) the ancient authoritative tradition cannot be wrong, 2) the necessity of religion for moral norms and behaviour, 3) impossibility to tolerate full end (extermination) for the human soul after death, i.e. necessity for the hope of post-mortal life. All these ideas are not valid for me.

Jacobsen: As you work on the intellectual side or the philosophy-argumentation side of the secular work, you will have some unique insights. What is the general view of the philosophical community – even consensus – of the traditional arguments given for theism?

Rozov: Philosophical community everywhere and in Russia especially is very heterogeneous. There is no consensus at all in any questions and spheres, particularly in religion, politics, and morals. It seems that in the West there is a trend to realism and atheism. But in modern Russia, it is the reverse trend to religiosity (from my viewpoint it is very conformist and hypocritical).

Jacobsen: How many philosophers are more secular oriented? How many are more religious oriented?

Rozov: I have no idea about Western and world philosophy. Among my close colleagues something like 70-80% are atheists, 1-3% is really religious (who regularly goes to a church, prays, takes part in all regular rituals), and 20-30% do not confess in atheism, they can name themselves ‘agnostics’, or say that ‘Maybe there is something’ etc. But I live in a specific intellectual area. Among Russian philosophers, the ratio is 3-7% open atheists (including me), 90% conformists (who are not religious in fact but who never confess in atheism) and 3-7% who are more or less religious. Sure, there is no real statistics, these numbers just reflect my intuitive feeling.

Jacobsen: How important is secular activism in Russia in a context of the political influence of the Russian Orthodox Church?

Rozov: Is has almost no importance. Now the Orthodox religion became almost official state ideology. That’s why such activism is socially dangerous. There are some atheistic sites and groups, there is a lot of irony and even hate speech against the Russian Orthodox Church (ROCh) in the Internet (in the Facebook et al). But all official media (TV, newspapers) are fully conformist.

Jacobsen: What is the view of the religious general culture of the secular sub-culture in Russia?

Rozov: There is a general respect to the European and world Christian tradition. But the most actual feeling concern the ROCh as a tool of the repressive political regime.

Jacobsen: Who are prominent, outspoken, and articulate secular authors, speakers, and organizations in Russia?

Rozov: In fact, I do not know much about them. Our Russia Humanist society is rather small and not popular in fact. Google gives a dozen Russian atheistic sites in the Internet:

Jacobsen: How can people become involved through the donation of time, the addition of membership, links to professional and personal networks, giving monetarily, exposure in interviews or writing articles, and so on?

Rozov: No idea, sorry. Probably mostly people do it by personal ties and networks (as everything works in Russia).

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts based on the conversation today?

Rozov: As an atheist I have my small personal theory which explains why religions and religiosity are eternal (as far as the human race is alive). There is one universal feature of all people in the world, in all previous and future generations: first each human being is a child. For each child his/her parents (or/and older relatives) form something like a mental protective dome that saves a child from fears, anxiety and loneliness. Later this dome disappears: we realize that our parents are just ordinary people without any metaphysical protective strength. Religion is the best and a very efficient substitute of the destroyed ‘mental dome’. Religion and faith become even more significant and valuable when a human being realizes his/her mortality and must live with this knowledge that is not easy in fact. That is why we – atheists – should realize the social, emotional, psychotherapeutic functionality and historical eternity of religion. That is why we should not struggle against religion but we must protect those who turn to atheism from repressions, we must stand against any violation of rights and freedoms, especially from states, including repressions against religious people (particularly sectarians and infidels). The anthroprostasia (protecting of human beings from violence and repressions)  is a real humanism in my viewpoint.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Rozov.

Rozov: Thank you also. It was a pleasure to talk about these significant and actual issues. I invite you and readers to my publications (mostly in Russian but there are some papers in English) here:

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Photo by A. L. on Unsplash

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