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Slavophilia was an intellectual movement originating from 19th century that wanted the Russian Empire to be developed upon values and institutions derived from its early history. Slavophiles were especially opposed to the influences of Western Europe in Russia.[1] There were also similar movements in Poland, Hungary and Greece. Depending on the historic context, its opposite could be termed Slavophobia -- i.e., a fear of Slavic culture -- or it could be what some Russian intellectuals called zapadnichestvo, "pro-Western-ism."


Slavophilism, as an intellectual movement, was developed in the 19th-century Russia. In a sense there was not one but many Slavophile movements, or many branches of the same movement. Some were to the left of the political spectrum, noting that progressive ideas such as democracy were intrinsic to the Russian experience, as proved by what they considered to be the rough democracy of medieval Novgorod. Some were to the right of the spectrum and pointed to the centuries-old tradition of the autocratic Tsar as being the essence of the Russian nature. The Slavophiles were determined to protect what they believed were unique Russian traditions and culture. In doing so, they rejected individualism. The role of the Orthodox Church was seen by them as more significant than the role of the state. Socialism was opposed by Slavophiles as an alien thought, and Russian mysticism was preferred over "Western rationalism". Rural life was praised by the movement, opposing industrialization as well as urban development, while protection of the "mir" was seen as an important measure to prevent growth of the working class.[2]

The movement originated in Moscow in the 1830s. Drawing on the works of Greek patristics, the poet Aleksey Khomyakov (1804–60) and his devoutly Orthodox colleagues elaborated a traditionalistic doctrine that claimed Russia has its own distinct way, which doesn't have to imitate and mimic "Western" institutions. The Russian Slavophiles denounced modernization by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, and some of them even adopted traditional pre-Petrine dress.

Andrei Okara argues that the 19th century classification of social thought into three groups, the Westernizers, the Slavophiles and the Conservatives also fits well into the realities of the political and social situation in modern Russia. According to him, examples of modern-day slavophiles include the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Rogozin and Sergei Glazyev.[3]


The doctrines of Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireevsky (1806–56), Konstantin Aksakov (1817–60) and other Slavophiles had a deep impact on Russian culture, including the Russian Revival school of architecture, The Five of Russian composers, the novelist Nikolai Gogol, the poet Fyodor Tyutchev, the lexicographer Vladimir Dahl, and others. Their struggle for purity of the Russian language had something in common with ascetic views of Leo Tolstoy. The doctrine of Sobornost, the term for organic unity, intregration, was coined by Ivan Kireevsky and Aleksey Khomyakov. This was to underline the need for cooperation between people, at the expense of individualism on the basis that the opposing groups focus on what is common between them.

In the sphere of practical politics, the Slavophilism manifested itself as a pan-Slavic movement for the unification of all Slavic people under leadership of the Russian tsar and for the independence of the Balkan Slavs from Ottoman rule. The Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 is usually considered a high point of this militant Slavophilism, as expounded by the charismatic commander Mikhail Skobelev. The attitude towards other nations with Slavic origins varied, depending on the group involved. Classical Slavophiles believed that "Slavdom", that is the alleged by Slavophile movement common identity to all people of Slavic origin, was based on Orthodox religion.[4]

The Russian Empire, besides containing Russians, ruled over millions of Ukrainians, Poles and Belarussians, who had their own national identities, traditions and religions. Towards Ukrainians and Belarussians, the Slavophiles developed the view that they were part of the same "Great Russian" nation, Belarussians being the "White Russians" and Ukrainians "Little Russians". Slavophile thinkers such as Mikhail Katkov believed that both nations should be ruled under Russian leadership and were an essential part of the Russian state.[5] At the same time they denied the separate cultural identity of Ukrainian and Belarussian people,[5] believing their national as well as language and literary aspirations were a result of "Polish intrigue" that aimed at separating them from Russians.[6] Other Slavophiles like Ivan Aksakov recognized the right of Ukrainians to use the Ukrainian language, however seeing it as completely unnecessary and harmful.[7] Aksakov, however, did see some practical use for the "Malorussian" language: it would be beneficial in the struggle against the "Polish civilizational element in the western provinces".[5]

Besides Ukrainians and Belarussians, the Russian Empire also included Poles, whose country had disappeared after being partitioned by three neighboring states, including Russia, which after decisions of the Congress of Vienna expanded into more Polish-inhabited territories. Poles proved to be a problem for the ideology of Slavophilism.[8] The very name Slavophiles indicated that the characteristics of the Slavs were based on their ethnicity, but at the same time Slavophiles believed that Orthodoxy equaled Slavdom. This belief was belied by very existence of Poles within the Russian Empire, who - while having Slavic origins - were also deeply Roman Catholic, the Catholic faith forming one of the core values of Polish national identity.[9] Also, while Slavophiles praised the leadership of Russia over other nations of Slavic origin, the Poles' very identity was based on Western European culture and values, and resistance to Russia was seen by them as resistance to something representing an alien way of life.[10] As a result Slavophiles were particularly hostile to the Polish nation, often emotionally attacking it in their writings[11]

When the Polish uprising of 1863 started, Slavophiles used anti-Polish sentiment to create feelings of national unity in the Russian people,[12] and the idea of cultural union of all Slavs was abandoned.[13] With that Poland became firmly established to Slavophiles as symbol of Catholicism and Western Europe, that they detested,[14] and as Poles were never assimilated within the Russian Empire, constantly resisting Russian occupation of their country, in the end Slavophiles came to believe that annexation of Poland was a mistake due to the fact that the Polish nation could not be Russified.[15] "After the struggle with Poles, Slavophiles expressed their belief, that notwithstanding the goal of conquering Constantinople, the future conflict would be between the "Teutonic race" (Germans), and "Slavs", and the movement turned into Germanophobia.[16]

It should be noted that most Slavophiles were liberals and ardently supported the emancipation of serfs, which was finally realized in the emancipation reform of 1861. Press censorship, serfdom, and capital punishment were viewed as baneful influences of Western Europe.[17] Their political ideal was a parliamentary monarchy, as represented by the medieval Zemsky Sobors.

Post serfdom

After serfdom was abolished in Russia and the end of the uprising in Poland, Slavophilism began to degenerate and turned into narrow-minded Russian aggressive nationalism. New Slavophile thinkers appeared in the 1870s and 1880s, represented by scholars such as N. Danilevsky, who expouded a view of history as circular, and K. Leontiev. Danilevsky promoted autocracy and imperialistic expansion as part of Russian national interest. Leontiev believed in a police state ideology aimed at preventing European influences from reaching Russia.[18]


Main article: Pochvennichestvo

Later writers Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Konstantin Leontyev, and Nikolay Danilevsky developed a peculiar conservative version of Slavophilism called pochvennichestvo (from the Russian word for soil). This teaching, as articulated by Konstantin Pobedonostsev (Ober-Procurator of the Russian Orthodox Church), was adopted as the official Tsarist ideology during the reigns of Alexander III and Nicholas II. Even after the Russian Revolution of 1917, it was further developed by the émigré religious philosophers like Ivan Ilyin (1883–1954).

Many of the Slavophiles influenced prominent Cold War thinkers such as George F. Kennan, instilling in them a love for the Russian Empire as opposed to the Soviet Union. This in turn influenced their foreign policy ideas, such as Kennan's belief that the revival of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate in 1943 would lead to the reform or overthrow of Joseph Stalin's dictatorship.

See also


External links

  • An Interpretation of Slavophilism
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