A NOTE TO THE READERS
In the light of the recent Russian invasion and bloody war against Ukraine, an overview of the Panslavic movement(s) in the 19th century might add to a better understanding of today’s tragic events
A short review of its development and meaning(s)
Over a century or so ago there was much talk about the unity of all Slavs and that turned into an intellectual movement known as Panslavism. It was a dream about a new and glorious future for the Slavic race. On the other hand, some other races (as at the time linguistic families were referred to) were fearful of the possible threat that might come out of such a unity. But neither the dreams nor the fears came to reality.
The term Panslavism implied a Slavic solidarity in many areas of life and not just a political unity. It was an attempt to find common roots among different Slavic nations. Although linguistic and cultural similarities were obvious, the whole movement was based on idealistic feelings and, as such, the Slavs never came to any kind of brotherly unity. Though, some did attempt to use it for their immediate political interests. Instead of Slav unity, we are witnessing much animosity among the Slavic nations because of some forced unions created in recent history. One can reasonably say that even the idealism of the Panslavists contributed to the hostilities among some of today’s Slavic peoples.
The movement of Panslavism had been strongly influenced by 19th century Romanticism. It developed among the intellectuals and it never gained popularity or even understanding neither among the common people nor among those that controlled the political power at the time. Furthermore, Panslavism did not mean the same thing even to the Panslavists coming from different Slavic nations. All of them looked at it from their own perspective and saw in it their own dreams and projections regarding possible Slavic unity.
The origins of Panslavism
The word Panslavism was introduced by the Slovak attorney and writer, Ján Herkeľ (1786–1853). He used it for the first time in his treatise Elementa Universalis Lingue Slavicae, published in Budapest in 1826. In this work, he did not discussed the Slavic political unity but only the linguistic common grounds. On the basis of such conclusion, he advocated a universal Slavic language.(1) But later on, after 1848, the word began to be used for political designs too.
Even-tough the word Panslavism was new in the vocabulary, the idea of the Slavic ethnic, linguistic, religious, and even political unity preceded Herkel for several centuries. He was the father of the word but not of the idea. The Slavs, especially the Western and Southern Slavs, for a long time were threatened by the Ottoman invasions, and some of them had already been conquered and occupied by this leading superpower of the time. On the other hand, there had been a desire on the part of Germanic powers to extend their border more and more eastward. Russia among the Slavs was the only power that could challenge those threats, although some of the brother-Slavs already felt the heavy weight of Russian power.
Besides the political situation, there had been a feeling that the Slavs were rich in culture and in spirit although the other races were looking down upon them, or even some were open enemies of the Slavic culture. So this richness and power, many thought, should be unified and brought forth to the world stage where the Slavs would be appreciated, and be even superior to the others. According to that vision, by being united they would be able to stand up to the Turks, the Germans, and other non-Slavs.
The first published writings about the ethnic unity and an all Slavic feeling are found among the Croatian humanists. Some of them were: Juraj Šižgorić from Šibenik (c. 1445-1509), Vinko Pribojević, a Dominican friar from Hvar (mid-15th c. – after 1532), and Mavro Orbini, a Benedictine abbot from Dubrovnik (mid-16th c. – 1614). They glorified their Slavic heritage and history. Orbini wrote a book entitled Il Regno degli Slavi (The Realm of the Slavs), published in 1601. It was a history book mixed with legends. He envisioned the glorious past of the Slavs and their common heritage. The work became very popular and it was even translated into Russian in 1722 by the order of Peter the Great.(2)
Another important Croatian writer who wrote on the subject was Ivan Gundulić (1589-1638). He dreamed of a mutual assistance among the Slavs in order to get rid of the Turks from the occupied Slavic lands and to regain their freedom.(3) His inspiration came from the Polish-Lithuanian victory over the Turks at Chocim/Khotyn (1621). After so many years of war with the Turks, a Slavic nation defeated the much feared Janissaries. He praised Poland and her ruler for this brave victory. For him, Poland was the glory of the Slavs. In the famous epic “Osman”, he poured out his love for Poland and her prince Vladislav, and gave his heartfelt support to the idea of Slavic solidarity.(4)
However, the father of the Panslavic idea was another Croatian, Juraj Križanć. He was the first man who not only talked about the idea of a Slav union, but he did something about it. He had two main goals in life: Slavic unity and bringing all Slavs to the fold of the Catholic church. But his zeal and idealism had not been shared by others, and neither of his two goals ever came to be realized.
Križanić was born near the city of Karlovac in Croatia in 1617 or 1618. He studied philosophy and theology in Zagreb, Graz, Bologna and Rome, and became a priest. While serving as a parish priest in the diocese of Zagreb, he began to dream about missionary work among the Orthodox Russians that included not only religious but also political aspects. He wanted to promote an all-Slavic unity. In 1646, he went to Poland to prepared his way to Russia. In February 1647, we find him in Smolensk and in October of the same year in Moscow. Then, he came back to Poland and in March of 1650 he came to Vienna, then he traveled to Istanbul. From there Križanić traveled to Rome and went back to Moscow in 1659.(5)
While traveling, Križanić wanted to learn about Russians (and the others in the region) as much as possible and to make some contacts for a possible future work. He was interested in the Russian Orthodox church, their liturgy, customs, language, politics, and other facts of Russian national life. He considered all the Slavs as one nation. Only the Greeks led some of them astray, he believed. They were responsible for the schism and not the Russians. He thought if the Russians could just see this fact they would accept Catholicism and keep Slavic tradition within the Church. They would also see their role among the Slavs, unite all of them and lead them to a cultural and political renaissance, where all of them would share the glory that they justly deserved.
Križanić’s plan of action was to go to the Moscovite court and slowly gain their confidence. By his writings, teaching, and other activities he planned to influence their thinking and in this way they would see the true light of their mission among the Slavs and in the world as a whole. Once they comprehend these ideas they would become the leaders of the Slavic movement and a new future would dawn for all of them.
Križanić came to Moscow for the second time on September 27, 1659 and introduced himself to the officials as “Sbrljanin Juraj Ivanov Bilis” from the Bosnian town of Bihać.(6) He covered up his true identity because if he had stated his real name and profession he would have been rejected right away. He worked for a while for the government but it did not take too long for the Russians to suspect his origins and his real profession. For that reason they exiled him to Tobolsk in Siberia. He stayed there from 1661 to 1676, fifteen long years!
While in Tobolsk, Križanić wrote several works on different subjects but the best know is Politika. After his exile he went to Poland where he became a Dominican friar and an army chaplain. He saw the glory of Jan Sobieski in his victory over the Turks near Vienna in 1683. However, he was killed during the siege of Vienna, serving as a chaplain in the Polish military forces. Križanić’s ideals about the Slav unity and the great role of the Russians in it were completely ignored in Russia and his writings were forgotten. Several centuries later, however, Russian Panslavists will recognize and use him for their own purposes.
Some facts should be pointed out in order to see the importance of Križanić. He was the first one to show the way for Slavic unity beyond poetic expressions. Also, he did not turn to Poland as the leader of the Slavs but to Orthodox Russia. Although a Catholic priest, he was a Russophile. He wrote in a mixture of Croatian and Russian languages, hoping to start a linguistic unity among the Slavs. While Gundulić saw Turks as the enemy, Križanić looked at both, the Turks and the Germans, as the enemies of the Slavs. Some scholars of the Nineteenth century considered him as a pioneer of Russian Panslavism, or one could say Panrussianism. However, he did not advocate Russian domination among the Slavs but imagined the Russian tzar as a big brother and a helper to other Slavs.(7) Križanić’s ideas and his vision of Slavic and Church unity, as well as the cultural and political rebirth of the Slavs, did not find fertile grounds. He was much ahead of his time. It was only after the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, and German Romanticism that a new feeling and a sense of identity among the Slavs began to emerge, and Panslavism was a byproduct of that national reawakening.
Panslavism of the Nineteenth century
German Romanticism had a strong influence among the European intellectuals as a whole, and among the Slavic educated circles in particular. It helped them to rediscover the pride in their common Slavic past. The German scholar Johann G. Herder (1744-1803) had the biggest share of influence on the future Panslavists. He wrote about the Slavs and saw in them something new; something that would refresh the whole European culture. He even envisioned a new mission and a glorious destiny for the Slavic race.(8) Herder rediscovered and recognized the common Slavic cultural unity and its potentiality. The idea came at the right time and it spread among the Slavs very fast.
One of the first Slavic scholars to inaugurate inter-Slavic studies and to establish intellectual contacts among the different Slavic nations was a Czech scholar, Josef Dombrovsky (1753-1829). His works dealt mostly with linguistic and cultural subjects and not with political problems or designs.(9) Another Czech Panslavist of the time was Josef Jungmann (1773-1847). He too pleaded for a common Slavic language.
Two well-known Slovak Panslavists were Jan Kollar (1793-1852) and Paul Josef Šafárik (1795-1861). Both were Lutherans by religion. Kollar was a Lutheran minister and a poet who preached not only the Gospel but also the cultural unity of the Slavs. His tombstone bears an inscription which calls him the “High Priest of Panslavism”.(10) These two Slovak Panslavists laid the groundwork and helped to create an atmosphere for future studies of the common Slavic past from which a new future, they hoped, would raise.
Kollar’s works influenced many intellectuals in other Slavic nations. The national movement in Ukraine, for example, was strengthened by Kollar’s Panslavistic ideas. The greatest of the Ukrainian poets of the time, Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) was one of the Panslavists. He and his friends, like Izmail Ivanovich Sreznevsky (1812-1880) and Nikolay Ivanovich Kostomarov (1817-1883), organized the “Brotherhood of St. Cyril and Methodius” in 1845. The brotherhood, however, was soon suppressed by the Russian government but the idea of unity of all the Slavs based on federalist principles was kept alive.(11)
Polish Panslavism developed in specific political and religious circumstances and, therefore, had its own characteristics. The Poles at the time lived in three different countries (Prussia, Russia and Austria). The Russians, their “brother-Slavs”, were one of the oppressors and Poles could not look to them for help. In regard to the Ukrainians, the Poles were seen as past oppressors and could not be trusted. A traditional strong Catholicism among the Poles was a source of strength and a refuge for them but a resentment for others.
Among the first Polish intellectuals to talk about Slav reciprocity was Jan Kossakowski (1755-1810), the bishop of Vilnius. He even influenced Kollar and his Panslavism. His lecture “A Glance at Czech Literature and the Relations between Slave Tongues,” which he delivered at Warsaw in 1804, became well publicized and much talked about.(12)
After the defeat of Napoleon, another Polish Panslavist, a priest and one of the greatest Poles of the Enlightenment, Stanisław Staszic (1775-1826) turned to the Slavs and particularly to the Russians. He advocated Slavic union and accepted a Russian primacy in the future brotherly equality. The Slavic union, according to him, would lead to a federation of Europe and also to a permanent peace. He envisioned this new Europe shaping up in which the Slavs would play a great role, especially the Russians in the political and the Poles in the cultural field.(13)
Another example of Polish Panslavism is Count August Cieszkowski (1814-1894). He saw that the third and final stage of history belonged to the Slavs, who would practice real Christian love for all of mankind. The Slavs were called to this because they were peace and freedom loving people. Bronisław Ferdynand Trentowski (1808-1869) was a Panslavist who believed that Polish and Russian cooperation would guarantee the success of the union. For Joachim Lelewel (1786 – 1861) a new social order would be established in the Slavic union. It would be a kind of peasant democracy. In such a democratic union Poland would be the head of the Slavs. Prince Adam Czartoryski (1770-1861, a friend and a former adviser to Alexander I, also advocated the unity of the Slavs. But after the Polish uprising of 1830, as a leading Polish emigrant, he sought to utilize the Slav movement for the cause of Polish liberation.
The leading men of Polish messianism were people like: Kazimierz Brodziński (1791-1835), Adam Mickiewicz (1789-1855), Juliusz Słowacki (1809-1849), and Zygmunt Krasiński (1812-1859). Although there were some differences among them concerning Panslavism and the Polish role among the Slavs and in Europe, basically they not only envisioned the unification of the Slavs but also that the salvation of the world would come through Polish Catholicism. They saw Poland as the most faithful nation to Christ. Poland was “the Christ of the Nations,” being sacrificed for the universal liberty and equality. The Slavs shared in this Christian mission, but Poland was the leader of this universal redemption.
In 1848, Mickiewicz proclaimed his new program in which he advocated the union of all Western Slavs under the Polish leadership against the Russians and their imperialism. He and his followers dreamed of the Slavic federation which presumed a radical change in the existing European political order. But, as it is well-known, nothing came out of such fantasies that were based on the romantic idealism of the time.(14)
Among the Slavs in Southern Europe, Panslavism was seen both in the cultural and political light. It was a mixture of rising nationalism after the Napoleonic wars, cultural renaissance, and romantic Panslavism, as well as the political struggle against the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian oppression. All of these and other factors played a role in the Panslavistic movement among the Croats, Slovenes, and Serbs.
One of the most important names of Panslavists among the Croats was Ljudevit Gaj (1809-1872), a poet and a visionary with great political dreams. He organized the first “Illyrian club” (1828) among the students in Graz and soon after in Pest, where he met Jan Kollar. The term Illyrian signified first of all the Croatian but also the Slavic solidarity on a wider scope. The Illyrian movement had a “minimal and maximal” program. The minimal plan consisted of defending the national independence and gathering of the national Croatian lands, and the maximal was the liberation and union of all the Slavs, first in the Balkans and then in other parts of Europe.(15) One of the reasons why the Illyrian movement had been so strong in Croatia was a desire among the Croatians for independence and cultural revival. Gaj and other Croatian Panslavist saw a future political union of the Slavs as a federation based on equality. Other Croatian leaders of the movement were Count Janko Drašković (1770-1856), Josip Juraj Strossmayer (1815-1905), Franjo Rački (1828-1894), and Ivan Kukuljević (1816-1889), among others.
France Prešern (1800-1849) played an important role in the national awakening among the Slovenes. But he stressed the importance of national identity and did not pay much attention to Panslavic interests. Dr. Janez Bleiweis (1808-1881), Valentin Vodnik (1758-1819), Bartolomej Kopitar (1780-1844), and Fran Levstik (1831-1887) were inspired by the general Slavic revival and the ideal of Slavic unity. But the Slovene leaders basically looked for the cooperation and unity of the Slavs within the Austro-Hungarian empire.(16)
Among the Serbian writers of the time we find Vuk Karadžić (1787-1864) and later on Branko Radičević (1825-1863), Đuro Jakšić (1832-1878), and Zmaj Jovan Jovanović (1833-1904). All of them played an important role in the cultural awakening of the Serbs, especially those outside Serbia. But among the Serbs in general a strong nationalistic feeling prevailed over the wider concept of Slavism. The Serbs looked always more to Russia and to their common Orthodox religion than to other Slavs. In the political plans, the Serbs were thinking more about Greater Serbianism and Russian protection than about a Slavic federation.
Once more, we turn to the Slovaks and the Czechs, and their activities in the Panslav movement. One of the leading Czech scholars of the time was Karl Havlicek-Borovsky (1821-1856). He visited Poland and Russia. In his assessments of the reality and idealism in the Panslavist movement of the time, he came to the conclusion that unbridgeable problems existed between the Poles and the Russians, especially in regard to the question of Ukraine. He saw that Slavism for them was just the means for achieving their own goals. He even openly stated that he preferred the Magyars, who were open enemies of the Slavs, than Russian Judah embrace. He, therefore, advocated a Slavic cooperation and unity within the Austro-Hungarian empire, so that the empire might be transformed into a federation.(17) This came to be known as Austroslavism.
Another Czech scholar, a historian, František Palacký (1798-1876) was influenced by Herder and some other fellow Panslavists. But he did not look to Russia for leadership either. He found strength in the Czech Reformation and in national history. So he focused his studies on the Czechs alone. He was the realist of his time. Seeing a threat in the so-called Russian Panslavism, he advocated federalism but without Russia. For him Russian Panslavists or German and Magyar fanatics were all the same. Both groups desired to “absorb and to destroy our nationality.”(18)
L’udovit Štúr (1815-1856), a Slovak, was one of the very active Panslavists. He stood for political union with Russia and even advocated acceptance of the Orthodox religion and the Russian language by all the Slavs. He thought that this was the only way to save the Slavic nations from annihilation. He did not have first hand knowledge of Russia and he viewed it as an idealist, similar to the Russian Slavophiles. This mystical Panslavism led him to reject federalism, Austroslavism, and every other form of union but a union with Russia as the mother country and protector.(19)
Many of the Panslavistic ideas were shared by the intellectuals of different Slavic nations but there was no common plan of action, no organizational stricture, no leadership and no means to bridge the differences among the proponents of Slavic unity. The first occasion to make some tangible moves and lay the foundations for a Panslavic movement came at the Slav Congress of Prague in 1848.
The Prague Congress
In May 1848, there was a meeting of the German Diet in Frankfurt. Its aim was to bring about the German territories into a closer union. That also meant that some Slavic lands would become a part of the envisioned German state. The Hungarians were willing to cooperate with the Germans against the Slavs. The Magyars appealed to the Diet not to allow the formation of the Slav federation. This was an immediate reason for calling the Slav representatives to a Congress. There was a need to discuss the existing revolutionary situation and to bring about a possible united stand.
The Congress met in Prague at the beginning of June 1848. There were 363 delegates, out of which 237 were Czech and Slovaks. The Congress was more a meeting of the Austrian Slavs rather than of all Panslavs. The only Russian among them was Michael Bakunin (1814-1876), a well-known Russian anarchist. He took an active part in the Congress deliberations and advocated his brand of revolutionary Panslavism: “a Slav Federation led by Russia made free by the free Slavs.” For him Moscow was to be the center of this new universal and revolutionary rule.(20)
The Polish delegation, which was very small, was dissatisfied with the Congress because they saw it as a gathering of Austro-Slavs in which their voice could not be heard. They accused the Czechs of trying to save Austria and, thus, undermining Slavic unity and cooperation. Furthermore, the Congress was condemned by many outsiders, including the Germans, Magyars, and Russians. Karl Marx called it “an anti-historical movement.” Tzar Nicholas I (reign 1825-1855) stated that an All-Slav union would bring the destruction of Russia. For him, Panslavism carried liberal ideas and therefore it was an anathema.
The Congress ended abruptly. On June 12, there were student demonstrations in Prague, the Austrian army intervened, and the Congress had to end. Although the Congress delegates issued a “Manifesto to the European Nations,” a common political platform or a plan of action did not result from the meeting. This gathering was a clear indication that Panslavism meant different things to different Slavic nations. The Slavs from the Austro-Hungarian empire had common problems and were trying to make a united block. The Poles were looking after their own political interests and preached the primacy of Poland among the Slavs. And, Bakunin, although a revolutionary anarchist, looked at Panslavism through Panrussian glasses.
Panslavism in Russia
In order to understand the Russian Panslavism one has to take a quick look into Russian history, culture, religion, and sense of messianism. One should also keep in mind that Panslavism did not originate in Russia but in Croatia and among the Western Slavs. That means it began in a different atmosphere, culture, and political circumstances than those in Russia.
The Russian expansionism dates back to the early Moscovite rulers and continued through the centuries to come. The country expanded in all directions. The southern expansion was very important in more ways than one. Russia inherited the Byzantine culture and religion. But beside strong cultural links with the Greeks and some of the Balkan Slavs, there was a dream of revival of the Byzantine glory under the Russian domain.
Already Peter the Great initiated closer relations with the Balkan Orthodox Slavs, especially the Montenegrins. But his mission was stopped in 1711 when he was defeated by the Turks. Catherine the Great, however, started to play the role of protector of the Orthodox in the Ottoman empire. The treaty of Kuchuk Kainardji (1774) gave the right to Russians to be “the Mother Russia” to the Balkan Orthodox, even-tough she did not respond to their cries every time they were in need of help. So the Russian policies in the Balkans were based on the idea of the “Greek Project,” restoring old Byzantium under the Russian scepter. Slavism and Orthodoxy were used for this purpose.(21)
The Russian expansionist policies were also accompanied with the special feeling of their mission in Europe and in the world. There was a school of thought in Russia, known as the Slavophiles, that preached Russian and Slav glorious mission in the struggle for a better future. In order to understand Russian Panslavism one should take a look at Slavophilism, because their Panslavism had strong roots in this popular school of thought.
The basic ideas of the Slavophile school was that the West was in a process of decay. Its moral, religious, political, and cultural life was rapidly deteriorating. On the other hand, Russia was new and pure. She preserved true Christianity, true morals, more humane principles, original culture, and even divinely ordained rulers. So Providence assigned her the role of bringing a new and better world based on love and not on materialism and rationalism. This kind of feeling and reasoning resembled Hegelian philosophy of history, but was not entirely based on it. The role that Hegel assigned to the Germans, the Slavophiles attributed to the Russians and the Slavs, as the late comers to European history.(22) It should be noted, however, that non-Orthodox Slavs were not considered as “pure” for this world-saving mission, unless they returned to Orthodoxy and to the “true Slavic culture.” For Slavophiles there was a fundamental division between Western and Russian culture, and it was not just a matter of degree. So one could not be a true Slav and belong to Western culture. Moscow was the center of Slavophile activity while the so-called Westernizers in Russia were gathered more at the capital, St. Petersburg.
The Leading members of the Slavophile school were, among others: Mikhil Petrovich Pogodin (1800-1875), professor of history at the University of Moscow, Alexei Stepanovich Khomyakov (1804-1860), Ivan Vasilevich Kireyevsky (1806-1859), Yurij Fedorovich Samarin (1819-1876), Konstantin Aksakov (1817-1860), Vladimir Lamansky (1833-1914), and Ivan Aksakov (1823-1886).(23)
The Slavophiles were not many in numbers nor were they a party. They were a group of educated men who were more concerned about the ideas and philosophy of history and culture than about the reality or practicality of their ideas. We do not find among them a specific political plan for implementation of the Russian and Slav mission, but just a romantic vision of the future world. They were not much concerned about the other Slavs either. They did express their sympathies in their writings for the fate of the Slavs under the Turks and the Germans but they remained very much Russian centered.(24)
There had been some contacts between Slavophiles and Panslavists from other Slavic nations, but not as much as one would expect. One of the basic reasons for not having a closer cooperation was the fact that Panslavists looked at Slavism as an instrument of cultural revival and eventual liberation and freedom, while the Slavophiles regarded Slavism as the means of challenging the Western thought and culture. Another good reason for the lack of contacts between the two groups was tzar Nicholas I himself. During his reign Slavophilism reached its peak but he looked at Panslavism as a potential carrier of revolutionary ideas, so it was not welcomed to Russia.
It is not easy to distinguish between the Russian Slavophilism and their Panslavism. The latter grew out of the first, and a clear breaking point did not take place. So, no wonder that the non-Slavs of Europe identified Slavophilism with Panslavism, even though the two had some essential differences. In Russia Panslavism became a kind of modified Slavophilism. Political dimensions were added to the prior religious and cultural feelings. This modification of Slavophilism and the emerging of Panslavism in Russia came around the time of the Crimean War (1853-1856) and the death of tzar Nicolas I (1855).
The Crimean War started in 1853. It caught Russia unprepared militarily and diplomatically. Turkey, England and France were united against Russia. Austria remained neutral and even she put pressure on Russia concerning Moldavia and Wallachia. The Russians saved the Habsburgs in 1849 but now in return the best they got was neutrality. Besides that, there was rivalry between the two empires concerning the future of the Balkans. It was clear that the Ottoman empire had been declining and the question was who would fill in the future political vacuum in the region. Both empires were eager to gain by the Ottoman decadence.
After the Crimean War, the Russians were taking a second look at their political situation and their unstable allies of the recent past. Some influential Russians began to look to other Slavs as their natural allies. But this was based not so much on common Slavic heritage but on the resentment of the Germans, Magyars and Turks. This was, therefore, more of a political move on the part of Russians in order to put pressure on her enemies than a real Panslavistic orientation. Some of them began to argue that the so-called Eastern Question could be solved only in Austria and not in Turkey – “the way to Constantinople lies through Vienna.”(25) Furthermore, one should take into account that the new tzar, Alexander II, was not as conservative as Nicholas I and Panslavism was not considered a dangerous ideology.
Thus, in such a political situation, Juraj Križanić and his Panslavistic ideas, with the Russians as the leaders of all the Slavs, were rediscovered and utilized. The Slavophile overemphasis on Orthodoxy slowly eased; it started to be blended with nationalism and a wider Slavic feeling. The needs of other Slavs were taken into consideration but only if they fitted Russia’s goals. As an example of this concern for others, the Slavic Benevolent Committee was organized in 1857 to provide help to the Balkan Slavs.
There were two different approaches among the Russian Panslavs to the question about how to achieve a future Slavic union. One advocated a cultural path: language, “Slavic church”, literature, and other cultural expression as the bases for unity. After the cultural unity, they believed, the political one would come naturally. The old Slavophiles, like Pogodin, Lamansky, Popov and some others were advocating this road to unity. The other path, was military. Even Pogodin, for example, sent a memorandum to the tzar during the Crimean War in which he expressed a belief that it was Russia’s role to liberate all the Slavs and unite them around herself.(26) This approach to the unity came to the public attention in 1867 when Ivan Aksakov, one of the very active Panslavists in Russia, published an article in which he advocated political union before a long process of cultural unification. He looked at the Germans and the gathering of their lands, and he read about Napoleon III and his dreams of Latin unity. So he did not see any reason why Russia should not unite the Slavs. However, the Russian government did not care for his advice and did not make any moves in that direction, although some Russian politicians did have an interest in Panslavism and its activities.
The Moscow Congress
The Society of the Friends of Natural Science, which was active at the University of Moscow, organized an ethnological exhibition in Moscow in 1867. While preparations for the exhibition were taking place, the idea was born that at the same time a Slav Congress could be also held hoping that it would give a new impetus to Panslavism and, some hoped, that Russian role in it would be strengthened. Invitations were sent to leading Panslavists among various nations. The Friends of Natural Science were the official hosts of the Congress, but actually the Slavic Benevolent Committee played the leading role in organizing and running the Congress. Men like Nil Popov, Lamansky, Pogodin, N. Katkov, editor of the “Moscow News,” and Ivan Aksakov, editor of “Moscow,” were among the leading organizers.
For the Russians this was the first important Slav gathering. The Congress in Prague was not attended by the Russian Slavophiles and therefore that congress did not have any meaning for them. At the Moscow Congress there were representatives from all Slavic nations except Poland. The Poles did not come to the Congress because of the intensified Russian oppression in Poland after the Polish rebellion of 1863.
Most of the delegates from outside Russia gathered in Vienna and from there they proceeded to the Russian empire. They crossed the boarder on May 4, 1867 and stayed in Russia till June 3 of the same year. Most of the time they spent traveling, sightseeing, and attending official receptions. They went to various cities, including St. Petersburg where they were received in an audience by tzar Alexander II (reign 1855-1881) himself. After much of parading they finally came to Moscow where the show continued.
During the Congress itself there was a lot of talk about the Slavic cultural similarity, common interests, political enemies, and many other common concerns. However, behind the celebrations and the big show, there were major divisions that could not be even papered over. The absence of the Poles alone was an obvious sign of disunity. Some smaller nations were talking about Slav unity on the bases of the equality and independence of their nations. The Russians, on the other hand, were propagating their own idea of Panslavism, which embodied the old Slavophile principles. Pogodin, for example, advocated a common faith (meaning Orthodoxy), Cyrillic script, and the Russian language for all the Slavs.(27) The Congress did pass a few meaningless resolutions and it was a big show without any meaningful content or results.
However, the Congress did cause a reaction in Vienna, Budapest, and in German lands. The non-Slavs of Europe exaggerated the importance of the Moscow meeting and portrayed it, and the gathering of a Slavic unity, as a real danger to European order. On the other hand, the Russian government did not really care much about all this parading of Panslavism in their land. That may be seen clearly from an event that took place in St. Petersburg. The tzar granted an audience to the Czech and Slovak delegates to the Congress but the delegates were introduced to him by the Austrian ambassador at the Russian capital. Afterwards, the tzar even apologized to the ambassador for having anything to do with the delegation. For him and for the top Russian officials Panslavism did not have much real political weight. The non-Russian Slavs of the West were Catholic or Protestant liberals who were disturbing good relations with the Habsburgs, with whom Russia had much in common, most of all in international relations at the time.(28) The Russian government, however, did not condemn Panslavism as such because they saw its potential for their foreign policy purposes.
Leading Panslavists in Russia
Among the Russian Panslavists of the second half of the 19th century there were some old Slavophiles, like Khomyakov, Samarin, Aksakov or those that came from the school of Slavic studies, like Pogodin and Popov. They progressed from pure Slavophilism to a Russian type of Panslavism. Among these, the most active in the movement was Ivan Aksakov. For him, all of the Slavs were a single nationality. Only Russia among them was independent, while others were oppressed by the Turks, Germans or Magyars. (Naturally, he would not admit that some were under Russian occupation also!) It was, according to him, Russia’s mission to liberate them and put them under the protection of “the mighty wings of the Russian eagle.” Aksakov was against Austroslavism because it would lead to Germanization of the Slavs. Some others, like Lamansky, rejected any form of Slavic union from which the Russians would be excluded. For them the Slavs should gather around the Slav, that is the Russian tzar, any other option was not acceptable.(29) At first, Aksakov envisioned this union to come about through the purity of the Russian Slavic culture, which would draw other Slavs to Russia. But later on, as it has been mentioned, he advocated military means to settle the Eastern and the Slavic Question at the same time.
There were also new activists who were a little younger than the old Slavophiles, and came from a different professional background. One of them was General Rostislav Andreyevich Fedeyev (1823-1884). He saw Panslavism in the light of the Western powers. He stated: “We should never destroy Europe’s fear of us.” He believed that Europe wanted to Germanize the non-Russian Slavs and to make them all Catholic. And he was one of those that saw the enemy in the Germans and not in the Turks. So for him the road to Constantinople led through Vienna. He looked at Slavic unity from a political and strategic point of view.
Another man that advocated political union first, but recognized the spiritual importance in principle, was Nikolay Yakovlevich Danilevsky (1822-1885). He was a scientist and, at first, did not have much interest in religion or Panslavism. After his exile to Siberia, however, he became a “true Russian.” His book Russia and Europe, an Inquiry into the Cultural and Political Relations of the Slav to the Germano-Latin World, published in 1869, became to be regarded by some as the catechism of Russian Slavophilism. For him history moved in cycles. He identified ten civilizations. The tenth one was the European, which was declining. Signs of the decay were materialism, democracy, rationalism and Protestantism. The Orthodox church was neither a system nor a firm doctrine, but it was based on love renunciation, and a spartan way of life. In his view, Islam actually protected the Balkan Orthodox from the decaying Western Church.
Politically, he advocated a Panslavistic union from the Adriatic Sea to the Pacific and from the Adriatic to the Archipelago. This would include also the non Slavic nations in the area. The city of Constantinople, or as they called it Tzarigrad, would become the capital of the Union. The Russian tzar would become the supreme ruler of all the Slavic lands and peoples.(30) Poland would be admitted into the union if she renounces “Europe”. In this union he envisioned not only the salvation of the Slavs but the beginning of a new and better future world.
The man that played one of the most important roles in Panslavism on the political level was Count Nicholay Pavlovich Ignatiev (1832-1908). He was a diplomat and not a scholar by profession. He served at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later on he became Russian Ambassador in Istanbul (1864-1877). His political program was based on three principles: the end of the Treaty of Paris (1856), Russian control of Constantinople and the Straits, and a united front of all Slavs under the Russian leadership. While the Russian ambassador in Vienna favored the status quo in the Balkans, Ignatiev recommended that Russia alone should solve the Eastern Question. He believed that the common cause of self-defense against the common enemies (Ottomans and Habsburgs) would help to unite the Slavs. This meant that Russia would help to liberate the Slavs and then keep them for herself. The first plan of action should be the defeat of the Ottomans, then the creation of the Serbo-Bulgarian state under the Russian protection. Bosnia would be given to this newly founded Serbo-Bulgarian state and Hercegovina would go to Montenegro.(31)
Ignatiev had working relations with different revolutionary committees in the Balkans. He also cooperated with the Slavic Benevolent Committee in Russia. But his political proposals did not find understanding at St. Petersburg even though he had some influences on the tzar, at least from time to time. The Russian foreign policies remained outside the Panslavistic thinking and far from their desires. But Igantiev’s work, however, was not without any results. His activities helped to raise revolutionary feelings and hopes among the Balkan Slavs. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 in a sense was the result of Panslavistic reasoning, Igantiev’s activism, and Russian geopolitical plans. However, Panslavists and the entire movement remained divided and without a common understanding what Panslavism should be and what were its ultimate goals.
It is very hard, if not impossible, to define Panslavism beyond the literary meaning of the word. The real essence of the movement was never defined or even agreed upon. Every group of Slavs, better said their intellectuals, had their own idea of what Panslavism should be. For Croats, Slovenes, Czechs or Slovaks it meant political liberation and a revival of their native cultures. For the Poles it included the liberation and unification of Poland. It also implied a Polish leading role among the Slavs and their religious (Catholic) messianism in Europe. Both Russians and Serbs were interested in expansionism and in promoting the purity of the Slavic Orthodox Church and culture. The Bulgarians remained on the sidelines and did not show much interest in the Panslavist movement. The non-Slavs of Europe, on the other hand, looked at Panslavism as a potential threat, or at least it was used as such for anti-Slavic propaganda at the time.
The Slav unity as it had been envisioned by Križanić, and others after him, was an idealistic dream, far away from the existing political realities in the second half of the 19th century. It was such a dream that even in those cases where some sort of Slavic unity was achieved it turned to be a nightmare.
1 – Albert Mousset, The World of the Slavs. New York, 1950. p. 10.
2 – Thomas Eekman and Ante Kadić, Juraj Križanić. The Hague: 1975, 150-152.
3 – Mousset, The World, 10.
4 – Eekman, Kadić, Juraj Križanć, 154.
5 – V. Jagić, Život i rad Juraja Križanića. Zagreb, 1917, 46-109.
6 – Jagić, Život, 109.
7 – Eekman, Kadić, Juraj Križanić, 162.
8 – Hans Kohn, Pan-Slavism. New York: 1960, IX.
9 – John Erickson, Panslavism. London: 1964, 6.
10 – Thomas Capek, The Slovaks of Hungary. New York: 1906, 18.
11 – Vladimir Clementis, Panslavism. London: 1943, 37.
12 – Ibid., 36.
13 – Kohn, Pan-Slavism, 31.
14 – Ibid., 40.
15 – Milorad Živančević and Ivo Frangeš, Povijest hrvatske književonst. Zagreb: 1975, 17-19.
16 – Kohn, Pan-Slavism, 63.
17 – Clementis, Panslavism, 34.
18 – Kohn, Pan-Slavism, 22.
19 – Erickson, Panslavism, 19.
20 – Ibid., 19
21 – B. H. Sumner, A Short History of Russia. New York: 949, 227-230.
22 – Mousset, The World, 16.
23 – Kohn, Pan-Slavism, 139.
24 – Michael Boro Petrovich, The Emergence of Russian Panslavism 1856-1870. New York: 956, 38-39.
25 – Sumner, A Short History, 232.
26 – Petrovich, The Emergence, 244.
27 – Kohn, Pan-Slavism, 173
28 – Clementies, Panslavism, 50.
29 – Petrovich, The Emergence, 249.
30 – Salme Pruuden, Panslavism and Russian Communism. Richmond: 1976, 2.
31 – David MacKenzie, The Serbs and Russian Pan-Slavism. New York: 1967, 10.
Capek, Thomas. The Slovaks of Hungary – Slavs and Panslavism. New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1906.
Clementis, Vladimir. “Panslavism” Past and Present. London: Williams, Lea and Co., 1943.
Eekman, Tomas and Ante Kadić. Juraj Križanić (1618-1683) Russophi and Ecumenic Visionary. A symposium. The Hague: Mouton and Co., 1975.
Erickson, John. Panslavism. London: Cox and Wyman, 1964.
Jagić, V. Život i rad Juraja Križanića. Zagreb: JAZU, 1917.
Kohn, Hans. Pan-Slavism – Its History and Ideology. New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1960.
MacKenzie, David. The Serbs and Russian Pan-Slavism 1875-1878. New York: Cornell University Press, 1967.
Mousset, Albert. The World of the Slavs. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1950.
Petrovich, Michael Boro. The Emergence of Russian Panslavism 1856-1870. New York: Columbia University Press, 1956.
Pruuden, Salme. Panslavism and Russian Communism. Richmond, England: Foreign Affairs Publishing Co., 1976.
Sumner, B. H. A Short History of Russia. New York: Harcourt, Bruce and World, 1943.
Zivančević, Milorad and Ivo Frangeš. Ilirizam, Realizam – Povijest hrvatske književnosti. Zagreb: Liber-Mladost, 1975.
A seminar presentation – John Carroll University, 1982