From New World Encyclopedia

A Slavophile was a member of an intellectual movement in nineteenth century Imperial Russia that wanted the Russian Empire to be developed upon values and institutions derived from its early history. Slavophiles were especially opposed to Western European culture and its influences in Russia.[1] From the time of Peter the Great and his "window on the West," Russia began a process of Westernization intended to bring the benefits of Western political and social institutions to Russia. This created an ongoing tension between those wished to integrate Russia into Western culture and those who saw the resisted Westernization in favor of Russia's own national traditions.

Even some of the Slavophiles wished to have for Russia the benefits of Western democracy, but they saw in Western culture a tendency toward individualism which they considered to be anathema to the Russian spirit. Many saw in the Russian peasant commune an idealistic model that could serve as the basis for Russian society.


As an intellectual movement, Slavophilism was developed in nineteenth 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 and the Russian Orthodox Church as expressing the essence of the Russian душа, or soul. The Slavophiles were determined to protect what they believed were unique Russian traditions and culture. In doing so they rejected the individualism of Western culture. The role of the Orthodox Church was considered even 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 мир (mir), or peasant commune (rural society) was seen as an important measure to prevent growth of the proletariat.[2]

The movement originated in Moscow in the 1830s. Drawing on the works of Greek patristics, the poet Aleksey Khomyakov (1804-1860) 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 Western culture and "westernizations" by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, and some of them even adopted traditional pre-Petrine dress.



The doctrines of Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireevsky (1806-1856), Konstantin Aksakov (1817-1860) and other Slavophiles had a deep impact on Russian culture, including the Russian Revival school of architecture, The Mighty 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 aesthetic views of Leo Tolstoy.


The term Соборность, or Sobornost', was coined by the early Slavophiles, Ivan Kireevsky and Aleksey Khomyakov, to designate cooperation within the Russian Община, or obshchina, the peasant commune. This term was used 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. Slavophiles saw in the peasant commune a community united by a set of common convictions and Orthodox Christian values, as opposed to the cult of individualism in the West. Khomyakov believed the West was progressively losing its unity. According to Khomyakov this stemmed from the west embracing Aristotle and his defining individualism, although Kireevsky believed that Hegel and Aristotle represented the same ideal of reconciliation.


In the sphere of foreign relations, 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 liberation of the Balkan Slavs from the Ottoman yoke. The Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878 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 common identity to all people of Slavic origin alleged by Slavophile movement, was based on Orthodox religion.[3]

The Russian Empire ruled over millions of Ukrainians, Poles and Belarussians, that had their own national identities, traditions and religions. Towards Ukrainians and Belarussians, the Slavophiles developed the view that they are part of the same "Great Russian" nation, Belarussian translates to "White Russian" and Ukrainians were "Little Russians." Slavophile thinkers such as Mikhail Katkov believed that both nations should be ruled under Russian leadership and are an essential part of Russian state.[4] At the same time they denied the separate cultural identity of Ukrainian and Belarussian people,[4] believing their national as well as language and literary aspirations are result of "Polish intrigue" that aims at separating them from Russians.[5] Other Slavophiles like Ivan Aksakov recognized the right of Ukrainians to use Ukrainian language, however seeing it as completely unnecessary and harmful.[6] Aksakov however did see some use of "Malorussian" language as practical, it would be beneficial in struggle against "Polish civilizational element in the western provinces"[4]

Besides Ukrainians and Belarussians, the Russian Empire also included Poles, whose country was gone after being partitioned by three neighboring states, including Russia, which after decisions of Congress of Vienna expanded into more Polish inhabited territories. Poles proved to be a problem for the ideology of Slavophilism[7]

The very name Slavophiles indicated that the characteristics of the Slavs were based from their ethnicity, but at the same time Slavophiles believed that Orthodoxy equaled Slavdom. This belief was opposed by very existence of Poles within Russian Empire, who while having Slavic origins were also deeply Roman Catholic, the catholic faith forming one of core values of Polish national identity[8]

Also while Slavophiles praised the leadership of Russia over other nations of Slavic origins, the Poles very identity was based on West European culture and values and resistance to Russia was seen by them as resistance to something representing alien way of life.[9] As a result Slavophiles were particularly hostile to Polish nation often emotionally attacking it in their writings[10]

When the Polish uprising of 1861 started, Slavophiles used anti-Polish sentiment to create feelings of national unity in Russian people,[11] and the idea of cultural union of all Slavs was abandoned.[12]

With that Poland became firmly established to Slavophiles as symbol of Catholicism and Western Europe, that they detested,[13] and as Poles were never assimilated within the Russian Empire, constantly resisting Russian occupation of their country, in the end Slavophiles came to belief that annexation of Poland was a mistake due to fact that Polish nation couldn't be russified.[14]

"After the struggle with Poles, Slavophiles expressed their belief, that notwithstanding the goal of conquering Constantinopol, the future conflict would be made between "Teutonic race"(Germans), and "Slavs," Chief and the movement turned into Germanophobia[15]

It should be noted that most Slavophiles were liberals and ardently supported the emancipation of serfs, which was finally realized in emancipation reform of 1861. Press censorship, serfdom, and capital punishment were viewed as baneful Western influences[16]. Their political ideal was a parliamentary monarchy, as represented by the medieval Zemsky Sobors.


New Slavophile thinkers appeared in 1870s and 1880s represented by scholars like Nikolay Danilevsky 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. [17] This new generation adopted the term pochvennichestvo.

Pochvennichestvo (from the Russian word for soil) was a late nineteenth century Russian nativist movement tied in closely with its contemporary ideology, the Slavophile movement. Both were for the complete emancipation of serfdom, and both campaigns stressed a strong desire to return to the idealized past of Russia's history, and both were driven towards anti-Europeanization. In addition, they also chose a complete rejection of the Nihilist and radical movements of the time. The primary focus was instead to change Russian society through the humbling of the self, and social reform through the Russian Orthodox church, rather than the radical implementations of the intelligentsia.

The major difference between the Slavophiles and the Pochvennichestvo was that the Slavophile group detested the reforms of Peter the Great while the latter recognized the benefits introduced by the notorious ruler, while still maintaining a strong patriotic mentality for the Russian people. Another major difference was that some of the movement's supporters adopted a strong [[antisemitism}anti-semitic]] stance.

The concept had its roots in the works of the German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder which focused primarily on emphasizing the differences amongst people and regional cultures. In addition it rejected the universalism of the Enlightenment period. The most prominent Russian intellectuals who founded this ideology were Nikolay Strakhov, Nikolay Danilevsky and Konstantin Leontyev. The ideology was later adopted by Alexander III and Nicholas II. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, it was further developed by émigré religious philosophers like Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954).

See also


All links Retrieved July 7, 2008.

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica Slavophile
  2. Yale Richmond. From Nyet to Da: understanding the Russians, 3rd ed. (Intercultural Press, 2003), 65. From Nyet to Da: understanding the Russians, 65 googlebooks.
  3. Martin W. Lewis, Kären E. Wigen, "Classical Russian Slavophiles often conflated language and religion, equating Slavdom with Orthodoxy." in The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 230. The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography page 230googlebooks.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Volodymyr A. Potulnytskyi, "The Image of Ukraine and the Ukrainians in Russian Political Thought (1860-1945)" ACTA SLAVICA IAPONICA 16 (1998) (Journal of Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University) [1]
  5. Dimitri Von Mohrenschildt. Toward a United States of Russia: Plans and Projects of Federal Reconstruction of Russia in the Nineteenth Century. (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1981) Toward a United States of Russia: Plans and Projects of Federal Reconstruction of Russia in the Nineteenth Century page 137.googlebooks.
  6. Sovremennaia Letopis', No. XVII, (1861), 124-125. "I do not believe in a possibility of creating a Malorussian common literary language, except for purely popular works of art, and I do not see any possibility of that, and I do not want and I cannot want any artificial attempts to destroy the wholeness of common Russian development, the attempts to lead the Malorussian artists away from writing in the Russian language. Thank God, that Gogol' had lived and worked before these demands appeared: we would have no "Mertvye Dushi" [Dead Souls]; you, or Kulish, would have fettered him with a tribal egoism and would have narrowed his horizon with the outlook of a single tribe! But, of course, no one of us has ever wanted or intended to stand in your way. Write as much as you please, translate Shakespeare and Schiller into the Malorussian dialect, dress Homer's characters and Greek gods in a Malorussian free-and-easy sheepskin coat (kozhukh)!"
  7. Dmitry Shlapentokh, "Reassessment of the Relationship: Polish History and the Polish Question in the Imperial Duma." East European Quarterly 33 (1999) "For generations Poles had been a sort of embarrassment for Russian nationalism. Indeed the core of Russian nationalism since the middle of the nineteenth century was an idea of Slavophilism. This ideology (as many others) was inconsistent. On the one hand their representatives emphasized Orthodoxy as the essential characteristic of the Slav, credited for the Slavs' benign characteristics. On the other hand, the very term Slavophilism implied that the benign characteristics of the Slavs stemmed from their ethnicity which had nothing to do with Orthodoxy. This explanation also implied the political unity of the Slavs, or at least their mutual gravitation Cliff Hanger to each other, and here Poles were an endless embarrassment."
  8. "It was after the partitions that the Polish church became the symbol of Polishness in the eyes of practically all Poles. Massive Russification following the uprising in 1832 practically eliminated all Polish institutions and made Russian dominance of public life in Russian life in the Russian areas practically universal. What was left was the Catholic church. It became the symbol of Polishness and Polish resistance, with every move taken by St. Petersburg to weaken it interpreted as a further attempt to eradicate the Polish nation from the face of the earth …. Under those circumstances being Catholic was not only a religious but also nationalistic "duty"." Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics Page 51 by Pedro Ramet, (Duke University Press, 1989).
  9. "From its beginning, Poland drew its primary inspiration from Western Europe and developed a closer affinity with the French and Italians, for example, than with nearer Slavic neighbors of Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine heritage. Gladas Hanger This westward orientation, which in some ways has made Poland the easternmost outpost of Latinate and Catholic tradition, helps to explain the Poles' tenacious sense of belonging to the "West" and their deeply rooted antagonism toward Russia as the representative of an essentially alien way of life." U.S. Library of Congress, Country Study Poland
  10. "The Slavophiles were quite virulent in their attacks on the Poles. According to Iurii F. Samarin, Poland was transformed into a "sharp wedge driven by Latinism" into the very heart of the Slavonic soul with the aim of "splitting it into fragments."(1) Nikolai Ia. Danilevsky, the late Slavophile, dubbed Poland the "Jesuitical gentry state of Poland" and that "Judas of Slavdom," which he compared to a hideous tarantula greedily devouring its eastern neighbor but unaware that its own body is being eaten by its western neighbors.(2) Fedor I. Tiutchev, one of the leading Russian poets, also called Poles "Judas of Slavdom."(3)" Reassessment of the Relationship: Polish History and the Polish Question in the Imperial Duma Journal article by Dmitry Shlapentokh; East European Quarterly 33 (1999)
  11. The popular anti-Polish and anti-European feelings were captured by Slavophile writers such as Katkov, to create national solidarity. Russian Imperialism: Development and Crisis page 54 Ariel Cohen, (Praeger Publishers, 1996)
  12. …rather than emphasizing the cultural union of all Slavs (as the Slavophiles did until the idea fell apart amid the Polish uprisings of the 1860s) Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland: The Reemergence of Geopolitics Charles Clover March/April 1999
  13. "The Polish nation from this The Boss time forward was to Slavophiles the embodiment of the detested Western Europe Dale and of the detested Catholicism." Impressions of Russia by Georg Morris Cohen Brandes, T. Y. Crowell & co 1889
  14. "Of course, the Poles wBernard matthews ere never really integrated, and were a constant thorn in the side for St. Petersburg. Regular uprisings and revolutions made Russian control of the Vistula provinces tenuous at best. True Slavophiles like Nikolai Danilevsky regarded the annexation of Poland as a mistake, saddling Russia with a powerful and hostile element, never to be truly Russified." The End of Eurasia: Russia on the Border Between Geopolitics and Globalization by Dmitri Trenin, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  15. "Once the Polish threat was over, the Slavophiles formulated another set of goals. Without renouncing the 300-year-long objective of seizing Constantinople and the Straits, they argued that the coming clash would be between the Slavs and Teutons(Germans)." Russian Imperialism: Development and Crisis page 54, "Thus Slavophilia transformed itself into Germanophobia."page 55 by Ariel Cohen, Praeger Publishers 1996
  16. Nikolai Lossky. History of Russian Philosophy. (New York: International Universities Press, 1951), 87
  17. "After abolition of serfdom in 1861, and the Polish rebellion of 1863 Slavophilism began to degenerate and became narrow-minded and aggressive kind of Russian nationalism. The second generation of Slavophilism appeared in the 1870s and 1880s in the shape of N. Danilevsky and K. Leontiev. The former equated Russia's national interests with autocracy and expansionistic imperialism. K. Leontiev-the leading ideologist in the 1880s-launched some kind of police state ideology in order to save Russia from West European influences." The Extreme Nationalist Threat in Russia: The Growing Influence of Western Rightist Ideas page 211 by Thomas Parland Routledge 2005

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Brandes, Georg Morris Cohen. Impressions of Russia. T. Y. Crowell & co, 1889. OCLC 1102061
  • Clover, Charles. "Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland: The Reemergence of Geopolitics." Foreign Affairs (March/April 1999)
  • Cohen, Ariel. Russian Imperialism: Development and Crisis. Praeger Publishers 1996. ISBN 9780275953379
  • Lewis, Martin W. & Kären E. Wigen, "Classical Russian Slavophiles often conflated language and religion, equating Slavdom with Orthodoxy," in The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. ISBN 0520207432
  • Lossky, Nikolai. History of Russian Philosophy. New York, International Universities Press 1951. ISBN 9780823680740
  • Parland, Thomas. The Extreme Nationalist Threat in Russia: The Growing Influence of Western Rightist Ideas. RoutledgeCurzon, 2004. ISBN 0415341116
  • Potulnytskyi, Volodymyr A. "The Image of Ukraine and the Ukrainians in Russian Political Thought (1860-1945)." ACTA SLAVICA IAPONICA 16 (1998) Journal of Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University.
  • Ramet, Pedro. Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics. Duke University Press, 1989.
  • Richmond, Yale. From Nyet to Da: Understanding the Russians. Intercultural Press, 2003. ISBN 1877864161
  • Shlapentokh, Dmitry. "Reassessment of the Relationship: Polish History and the Polish Question in the Imperial Duma." East European Quarterly 33 (1999)
  • Trenin, Dmitri. The End of Eurasia: Russia on the Border Between Geopolitics and Globalization. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002. ISBN 0870031902
  • Von Mohrenschildt, Dimitri. Toward a United States of Russia: Plans and Projects of Federal Reconstruction of Russia in the Nineteenth Century. Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1981.


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