Social-Philosophic Content In Works Of Ossetian Enlightener Kosta Levanovich Khetagurov


The article discusses social and philosophical issues posed by great Ossetian poet, humanist, philosopher K.L. Khetagurov, who influenced the formation, evolution and development of the Ossetian national culture. Socio-political, religious, ethical, aesthetic, legal and philosophical ideas were stated in his works. The great-value issues are devoted to moral, patriotic, ethical, ethnographic points, enlightenment, and spiritual culture of the Ossetians, aimed at solving relevant challenges that the society of that time faced. A big role Kosta Khetagurov was assigned to education. The Kosta’s philosophical worldview was associated with the challenges, typical of that epoch. In the traditional religious-mythological worldview the Ossetian people of that time had the predominant customs described by the poet. Socio-philosophical ideas of Kosta contributed to gradual transfer of the Ossetians from the old stereotypes to a more progressive stage. The paper describes ‘a new chapter’ in poet’s career – religious-philosophical themes. Religious and philosophical ideological ideas are reflected in his poetic works. A characteristic feature of his poetry is appealing to divinity or existence of God and the authors’ willingness to reveal the highest Christian values. Religious and philosophical ideas of K. Khetagurov reflect his aspire to higher ideals and values, celebrating patriotic feelings in appealing his people (the Ossetians). The great merit of K.L. Khetagurov in the history of the Ossetian religious and philosophical school of thoughts at the end of the 19th century is determined by the fact that he was one of the first Ossetian scholars who were brought up within Christian values.

Keywords: Spiritual enlightenmentKL KhetagurovChristianity


In the growth of the national philosophical ideas, the contribution from Kosta Levanovich Khetagurov was very significant. The second half of the 19th century in Ossetia is characterized by the national awakening, by the rise in number of progressive leaders and progressive ideas. The revival of the national culture and the growth of the national identity resulted in divergent research approaches towards studying the heritage of K.L. Khetagurov. The reforms of the second half of the 19th century had a huge impact on many aspects of economic, social, cultural, and spiritual life of the Ossetian ethnos. Global progressive changes took place in the field of culture and society spiritual state. These reforms or changes can be described by the national Renaissance of the certain historical stint. This time was associated with the growth of the progressive ideas of the Ossetian enlighteners, who advocated the vital interests of the Ossetian people. The mountain intellectuals acted in defense of the interests of their people, promoted the Ossetian culture identity, and affirmed the ideals of moral being (Bestaeva, 2017).

The scientific worldview of Kosta was shaped in the wake of Russian science. The great value have the issues devoted to socio-political, moral, patriotic, religious, legal, spiritual aspects – awakening the feeling of the national dignity among native people; and introduction and dissemination of the education and culture to population, alleviating the plight of the people.

Problem Statement

The national culture renascence and the growth of the national identity were the key factors in developing scientific insights towards studying Khetagurov's works. Currently, this is becoming very relevant for the Ossetian philosophical school of thoughts evolution. The social and philosophical issues are discussed that once posed by the great Ossetian poet, humanist and philosopher, who had a significant influence on the formation and development of the Ossetian national culture. Socio-political, religious, ethical, aesthetic, philosophical ideas were shaped in his works. The great value have the issues devoted to socio-political, moral, patriotic, religious, legal, spiritual aspects of the Ossetians and targeted at solving important challenges facing the society of that time.

Research Questions

When considering the socio-philosophical content of Kosta’s works, it is worth mentioning that bourgeois epoch of a certain historic period was connected with shattering the fundamentals of the Ossetians’ national being that appeared to be a catalyst in reorganizing the national identity. Therefore, the author of this paper pays great attention to the challenges facing the society of that time: education, enlightenment, moral, legal, ethnic, socio-political, religious-philosophical, aesthetic, humanistic aspects and etc.

Purpose of the Study

The main aim of the work is to conduct a comprehensive and holistic analysis towards the social and philosophical ideas of Khetagurov’s works; to consider the role of education and enlightenment in the scope of the national culture renascence that either touched by the great poet in his writings. The synthesis of the most important priorities of the two great cultures, Ossetian and Russian, was able to bring the Ossetian people to a qualitatively new level in development inter alia due to Kosta’s creative abilities. The second aim is to reveal the moral and aesthetic features discussed in his literature and art works which had a tremendous impact on the further moral and cultural development of the Ossetian people. It is also important to determine the place of Christian ideals in his religious and philosophical views. This area is currently little studied, because until recently, Kosta’s ideas were exclusively considered from a materialistic point of view.

Research Methods

The author drew on the relevant, within the topic, the Khetagurov's works, taking into account the modern publications. The methodological basis of the study consisted of the analytical, comparative historical methods, as well as, axiological and humanistic approaches, according to which Kosta’s social and philosophical views were analyzed, with further analysis on how they influenced the national philosophical culture evolution and development.


The resurgence of interest to historical past has always been the key in understanding the present and the future. The issues of preserving their originality and continuity of the tradition, the search for the best public institutions facing the modern Russian society require the comprehensive study. At the end of the 19th century, the cultural and political realities confronted the mountain people the requirement to preserve socio-cultural continuity, to acquire their cultural and historical independence and identity. These challenges are reflected in the worldview of the foremost thinkers of Ossetia during the period under review. Their activities were aimed at solving issues related to needs in education towards the mountain people, to necessities in reforms touching the development of the national ethnic culture. One of the universal minds of this period was K.L. Khetagurov (as cited in Chelekhsaty, 2009).

Kosta Levanovich Khetagurov entered the history of the national culture not only as the founder of the Ossetian literature, a poet, an eminent publicist, painter, educator of the late XIX – early XX century, but also as a philosopher who, in his works, considered the axiological features of his ethnic group. Kosta is not only a national classic, but a cult figure that forms important areas of the spiritual life of his people.

As one of the brightest representatives of the Ossetian enlightenment, Kosta Khetagurov had a great influence on all spheres of the spiritual life of his people and his epoch. As the social life developed, human cognitive abilities, which exist in the basic forms of social life in a specific historical period, appear and become enriched. Therefore, in shaping the consciousness and self-consciousness of his people, Kosta in his works touches the basic moral, ethnic, aesthetic, religious, political, legal, scientific and philosophical problematic aspects. It follows that Kosta made a significant contribution to the Ossetian philosophical school of thought, and practically laid the foundations of the Ossetian religious philosophical tradition, philosophy of education, law, philosophy of culture and art, the Ossetian philosophy of history. His main works, which reflect all the issues listed above, are: a book of poems ‘Ossetian Lyre’(Osetinskay Lira), poems ‘Before Court’(Pered Sudom), ‘Fatima’ (Fatima), ‘Weeping Rock’ (Plachushaya Scala), ‘Khetag’ (Khetag); the story ‘Hunting for Wild Ox’ (Ohota na Turov); the plays ‘Dunya’ (Dunya), ‘Attic’ (Cherdak) and ‘Late Dawn’ (Posdniy Rassvet) and others. Being raised from early childhood by the works of oral folk art, he fully embraced the cultural and moral heritage of his people, and these highest ideals became the basis of his own world perception.

The philosophical ideas of K. Khetagurov were extremely clearly reflected in his works. The scientific worldview was formed in line with the Russian science, where the great value is given to the problems of education, religion and the ways of developing both education and culture among people. Enlightenment is the most important value category in Khetagurov's worldview and it is considered by him as the path to freedom. By putting forward ambitious and innovative ideas in the field of public education, Kosta proposed to the Ossetians to study the Russian Language. The issues of public education were paramount for the philosopher. Particularly through education he saw the further progressive development of the people through the release from old outmoded traditions and integration into the Russian culture. He believed that education is the key condition for the Ossetian people to transfer towards a qualitatively new level of development. The poem ‘As a Man’ (Kak Muzhchina) Kosta dedicated to topical issues of moral and spiritual development and education: “Hurry to run and learn and do not forget your bag! If you are not lazy, you will find the right path. Learn, my friend, willingly, to know all wisdom, and work with joy to become an individual” (Khetagurov, 1954, p. 106).

In his development in publicist worldview, the ethnic values of the Ossetians play the decisive role in shaping the national mentality. Being brought up by Russian literature and having received many of his ideas from the works of Russian and foreign authors, Khetagurov remained an Ossetian who absorbed all the diversity of the customs and traditions of the Ossetian people. The growing tendency for them to lose their identity prompted Khetagurov to create the ethnographic essay ‘The Person’ (Osoba) (1894) (Khetagurov, 2001), which was a kind of attempt to preserve the historically established customs of the Ossetians, their traditions, moral and ethical standards, and the national values. A number of poems and journalistic speaks is also dedicated to the traditions of the Ossetians, the poem ‘Weeping Rock’, the poem ‘At the Cemetery’ and others, the articles ‘Ziu’, ‘Help to a Person Struck by Lightning’, etc. that shaped the Ossetians’ perception of the world and influenced their world insights.

The Ossetian philosophical thought was conceived first as unity of dialectics, logic and theory of knowledge. Within the framework of philosophy, the basic concepts and the national traditions were shaped up; customary rules were being formed that regulated the ethical-legal norms and standards, which further were the basis for the national forms of human mentality and behavior development. A special place in his work was given to an issue of politics and justification of an ideal humanity being. Kosta in his works advocated for happiness and freedom of the Ossetian people. His work is imbued with the spirit of internationalism among fraternal nations. In this sense, when analyzing Kosta’s poetry, I.S. Khugaev rightly notes: ‘Dramatic feelings and thoughts of the poet about the meaning of the world history and about a place and a role of a person in it resonate with the image of Kosta’ (Khugaev, 2014). Kosta's patriotic ideas were not limited within the narrow national framework, “who became a person able to reveal the secret thoughts of the Caucasian people” (Khugaev, 2014, p. 4). And he promotes these ideas in the poem ‘I am not a Prophet’: “The whole world is my temple, love is my shrine, the Universe is my fatherland” (Khetagurov, 2001, p. 52) and all these ideas allow to judge him as an outstanding Ossetian humanist thinker of the 19th - early 20th century.

Kosta is considered to be the founder of the Ossetian national painting. As unsurpassed artist, he most clearly and authentically reflected in his works the objective trends in social development. The art of the artist had a pervasive effect on the fundamental principles of both verbal and pictorial aesthetics. Kosta in his art relied on the experience of the Russian and world literature. Deep knowledge of the European literature, familiarity with masterpieces of musical culture allowed Kosta, as a talented painter, to create a whole series of paintings reflecting the diversity of his ideological views. His aesthetic ideals are revealed most fully through his paintings, where he sought to penetrate dialectically into the essence of phenomena, to understand their interconnections, to grasp their typical features. Particularly interesting in this respect there are his paintings in which he seeks to realistically depict objective life. He does not idealize the reality; he faithfully reproduces it in his paintings describing the nature originality and moments from the traditional Ossetian life. He is the author of several portraits, and some paintings, such as: ‘On school bench of life’, ‘Over the water’, ‘Race of Arak’, ‘Portrait of Anna Tsalikova’, ‘Portrait of Tkhostova’; landscapes ‘Mountain-canteen’, ‘Zikara Pass’ , ‘Natural Bridge’, ‘Teberda Valley’, ‘The Vernicle’, ‘Grieving Angel’, ‘Praying for Bowl’, ‘In Ossetian Rock, ‘Children in Quarry’ and others. Being a person who impacted strongly the aesthetic worldview development not only the Ossetian people, but also the entire North Caucasus, Kosta was one of the first who organized twice the exhibition of his paintings and the paintings other artists.

Kosta connects the anthropological concept in the philosophical and aesthetic sense with spirituality. He believes that each person possesses spirituality as a carrier of social experience and this experience exists as spiritual life of an individual in society. Only in this historical experience, a person can comprehend what love, truth, kindness and beauty mean. And, then, on its basis, he is able to form own values. The most profound and important source of spiritual experience in the poet's philosophical and aesthetic insights is love. According to Kosta, the life-affirming feeling of a person is largely determined by his ability to love. Therefore, the subject we study in his works is love to a person, to music, to mountains panorama, to nature. These all are becoming a living objective real center of human soul. “Better tell me the mighty word, with which I could convince the whole world, and there is no other happiness in the world than forever love and forgive” (Khetagurov, 2015, p. 283). This is the nature and essence of the concept of love in the philosophical worldview of Khetagurov. The life priorities of the eminent publicist still influence the formation of the value-based thinking of a contemporary person and his ideas about the foundations of social being.

The main socio-historical prerequisite in shaping Kosta Khetagurov’s religious and philosophical views was Ossetia joining to the Russian Federation. This was able to open up new possibilities for cultural and socio-economic development of the mountain people in the Caucasus within the framework of Orthodox Christian civilization. It should be noted that the work of many scientists of the Soviet period, such as: S.Sh. Gabaraeva ‘Kosta Khetagurov's Worldview’, N. Jussouity ‘Kosta Khetagurov’, P.C. Kabisova ‘Atheism of Khetagurov Kosta’ and many others characterize K. Khetagurov as the atheist, i.e. all they consider his works from the materialistic point of view, which radically distinguishes them from scientific views of modern researchers. Obviously, these fundamental differences were due to the ideological positions of the authors themselves as agents of the Marxist theory that was typical to philosophical worldview of the early 20th century (Bestaeva, 2017).

And only at the beginning of the 21st century the first scientific, theological studies, devoted to the Christian theme of Costa, appeared. In 2005, a book of the priest of Vladikavkaz’s diocese of Father Sergius (in the world, Sergey Maltsev) was published ‘Costa Khetagurov. Spiritual Poetry’. Considering the creative heritage of Costa, with full justification it might be emphasized about his true commitment to the Christian traditions, which clearly can be traced through direct appeal to divinity. In the essay ‘The Person’, Costa describes his birth ‘in a feeding rack and cow barn’ (Khetagurov, 1999-2001), identifying his birth with the birth of Christ. It was also emphasized by Father Sergius: ‘I felt a spiritual link with the one who was also born in the barn and their mothers had the same name – Mary ... Costa is penetrated with the great love to Jesus Christ and literally feels His sufferings’ (Maltsev, 2014). In his religious and philosophical views we can see an appeal to the highest Christian values. The poem ‘Christ is resurrected’ is imbued with Christian humanism: ‘The world rejoices, the nature blooms, the light is everywhere, love and freedom, the firmament of heaven has opened, and angels by eternal clergy over the resurrected world are singing – Jesus has risen’ (Maltsev, 2014).

Complex approach to Khetagurov heritage reveals that most of his writings in (Khetagurov, 1999-2001) addressed the religious theme – orthodox Christianity. Poem ‘Remembrance’ (1889), ‘Jesus is Resurrected’ (1893), ‘Holy Week’ (1895), ‘on Easter’ (1899), and others; paintings ‘the Vernicle’, ‘Grieving Angel’, ‘Praying for Bowl’ reflect the religious nature of his works.

Scientific and theological comprehension of the Christian aspects in Kosta’s works justifies that the image of Christ for him is the highest body of justice, love, mercy and saving human entity. Religious and philosophical ideas of Khetagurov (1954) reflect his aspire to higher ideals and values, celebrating patriotic feelings in the message – ‘Brothers, live in love with each other’, where he is trying to call the young for creating fraternal piece between people.

The great merit of Khetagurov in the history of the Ossetian religious and philosophical school of thoughts at the end of the 19th century is determined by the fact that he was one of the first Ossetian scholars who were brought up within Christian values. Through their public activities and creativity they had a great influence on the development of the whole generation of enlightened and educated representatives of the Ossetian people.

Highlighting the world-meaning contributed by Kosta to science and art development, Korzun (1960) writes: “A hand of talented genius, who is talented in poetry and painting, gave the birth to new esthetic values of non-transferrable nature. They have become the key ones in determining the world meaning of Kosta Khetagurov’s heritage and contribution towards a new development in the world progressive art” (p. 194).


The great merit of Khetagurov in the history of the national philosophical thought of Ossetia at the end of the 19th century is determined by the fact that he was one of the first Ossetian enlighteners who made a significant contribution to the Ossetian philosophical ideas and created the foundations of the Ossetian religious and philosophical traditions, philosophy of law, morality, philosophy of education, philosophy of culture and art, and the Ossetian philosophy of history. His works were devoted to moral, patriotic, legal, spiritual issues, celebrating the feelings of the national dignity of the Ossetians. He was the first of the Ossetian scholars who raised the Christian values.

When analyzing the philosophical ideas of Kosta, we conclude that the merit of him is much deeper than it seems at first glance. He succeeded in revealing the national identity of the Ossetians and made a great impact in their socio-cultural development. Life values of Kosta still influence the value system development of a modern person and the insights about the bases of social being.

Today in the conditions of the spiritual and moral revival the heritage of Kosta Khetagurov opens up in a new way. This applies to such relevant issues as humanization in education and upbringing, harmonious development of an individual, cultivating the culture of interethnic relations and upbringing based on universal human values. In his works the civil position and value-based thinking were clearly reflected that had a great influence on the development of the national identity of the Ossetians and their socio-cultural insights in the new historical conditions of the 21st century.


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28 December 2019

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Bestaeva*, E. (2019). Social-Philosophic Content In Works Of Ossetian Enlightener Kosta Levanovich Khetagurov. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 409-415). Future Academy.