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Panslavism in a general sense refers to the belief in a collective destiny for the various Slavic peoplesgenerally, but far from always, under the leadership of Russia, the largest Slavic group or nation. Thus the seventeenth-century author of Politika (Politics ), Juraj Krizanic (16181683) is often regarded as a precursor of Panslavism because he urged the unification of all Slavs under the leadership of Russia and the Vatican. His writings were largely unknown until the nineteenth century. The Czech philologist Pavel Jozef Safarik (17951861) and his friend, poet Jan Kollar, regarded the Slavs historically as one nation. Safarik believed that they had once had a common language. However, despite his belief in Slavic unity, he turned against Russia following the suppression of the Polish rebellion in 1830 and 1831. The Ukrainian national bard, Taras Shevchenko (18141861), also hoped for a federation of the Slavic peoples.

In a narrower and more common usage, however, Panslavicism refers to a political movement in nineteenth-century Russia. Politically, Panslavism would not have taken the shape it did without the Russian claims of tutelage over the Slavic populations of the declining Ottoman Empire. Intellectually, however, Panslavism drew on the nationalist ideas of people such as Mikhail Pogodin (18001875), the most important representative of "Official Nationality" and especially of the Slavophiles. Slavophilism focused critically on Russia's internal civilization and its need to return to first principles, but it bequeathed to Panslavism the idea that Russia's civilization was superior to that of all of its European competitors. Of the early Slavophiles, Alexei Khomyakov (18041860) wrote a number of poems ("The Eagle"; "To Russia"), which can be considered broadly Panslav, as well as a "Letter to the Serbs" in the last year of his life, in which he demanded that religious faith be "raised to a social principle." Ivan Aksakov (18231886) actually evolved from his early Slavophilism to full-blown Panslavism over the course of his journalistic career.

The advent of Alexander II and the implementation of the so-called Great Reforms began the long and complex process of opening up a public arena and eventually a public opinion in Russia. Ideas stopped being the privilege of a small number of cultivated aristocrats, and the 1870s saw a reorientation from philosophical to more practical matters, if not precisely to politics, a shift that affected both Slavophiles and Westernizers. It is against this background that one needs to view the eclipse of classical Slavophilism and the rise of Panslavism.

It is plausible to date the beginning of Panslavism as a movementalbeit a very loose and undisciplined oneto the winter of 18571858, when the Moscow Slavic Benevolent Committee was created to support the South Slavs against the Ottoman Empire. A number of Slavophiles were involved, and the Emperor formally recognized the organization, upon the active recommendation of Alexander Gorchakov, Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1861 Pogodin became president and Ivan Aksakov secretary and treasurer, and for the next fifteen years the Committee was active in education, philanthropy, and a sometimes strident advocacy journalism.

In 1867 the committee organized a remarkable Panslav Congress, which went on for months. It involved a series of lectures, an ethnographic exhibition, and a number of banquets, speeches, and other demonstrations of welcome to the eighty-one foreign visitors from the Slavic worldteachers, politicians, professors, priests, and even a few bishops. But the discussions clearly demonstrated the suspicions that many non-Russians entertained of their somewhat overbearing big brother. No Poles attended, nor did any Ukrainians from the Russian Empire. Even to the friendly Serbs the Russian demands for hegemony seemed excessive.

Panslav agitation was growing at the turn of the decade, partly due to the bellicose Opinion on the Eastern Question (1869) by General Rostislav Andreyevich Fadeev (18261884). In that same year appeared a more interesting Panslav product, Russia and Europe, by Nikolai Yakovlevich Danilevsky (18221885). It charted the maturation and decay of civilizations and foresaw Russia's Panslav Empire triumphing over the declining West. The aims of the Slavic Benevolent Committee seemed closest to fulfillment during the victorious climax to the Russo-Turkish War of 18771878, when Constantinople appeared within the grasp of Russian arms. Yet, despite the imperial patronage that the Committee had enjoyed for over a decade, the government drew back from the seizure of Constantinople, and then was forced by the European powers at the Congress of Berlin (1878) to minimize Russian gains. Aksakov's subsequent tirade about lost Russian honor resulted in the permanent adjournment of the Committee. Panslav perspectives lingered, but the movement declined into political insignificance during the course of the 1880s.

See also: nationalism in tsarist empire; official nationality; slavophiles


Fadner, Frank J. (1962). Seventy Years of Pan-Slavism in Russia: Karazin to Danilevskii, 18001870. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Geyer, Dietrich. (1987). Russian Imperialism: The Interaction of Domestic and Foreign Policy in Russia, 18601914. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Greenfeld, Liah. (1992). Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kohn, Hans. (1953). Pan-Slavism: Its History and Ideology. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame.

Petrovich, Michael Boro. (1956). The Emergence of Russian Panslavism 18651870. New York: Columbia University Press.

Tuminez, Astrid. (2000). Russian Nationalism Since 1856. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Walicki, Andrzej. (1975). The Slavophile Controversy: History of a Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth-Century Russian Thought. Oxford: Clarendon.

Abbott Gleason

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Pan-Slavism, theory and movement intended to promote the political or cultural unity of all Slavs. Advocated by various individuals from the 17th cent., it developed as an intellectual and cultural movement in the 19th cent. It was stimulated by the rise of romanticism and nationalism, and it grew with the awakening of the Slavs within the Austrian and Ottoman empires. Slavic historians, philologists, and anthropologists, influenced by Johann Gottfried von Herder, helped spread a national consciousness among the Slavs, and some dreamed of a unified Slavic culture to replace an allegedly declining Latin-German culture. The first Pan-Slav Congress, held at Prague in 1848 and presided over by František Palacký, was confined to the Slavs under Austrian rule and was anti-Russian. The humiliating defeat suffered by Russia in the Crimean War (1853–56) helped transform a vague, romantic Russian Slavophilism into a militant and nationalistic Russian Pan-Slavism. Prominent among the Russian Pan-Slav publicists were Rotislav Andreyevich Fadeyev and Nikolai Yakovlevich Danilevsky. Fadeyev claimed that it was Russia's mission to liberate the Slavs from Austrian and Ottoman domination by war and to form a Russian-dominated Slavic federation. Danilevsky predicted a long conflict between Russia and the rest of Europe, to be followed by a federation of states including the Greeks, Magyars, and Romanians as well as the Slavs. In the reign of Czar Alexander II, the foreign minister, Aleksandr Gorchakov, opposed Pan-Slav aspirations, although many officials were Pan-Slavist. Pressures from the Pan-Slavs probably helped provoke the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 but afterward declined. In the decade preceding World War I, Pan-Slav agitation again increased and played a role in the growing conflict between Russia and Austria in the Balkan peninsula, where the Serbs opposed Austria. In 1908, Russia was forced to allow Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in 1914 Russia supported Serbia in the crisis that began World War I. After the Bolsheviks triumphed in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet government renounced Pan-Slavism. In World War II, however, Pan-Slavist slogans were revived to facilitate Slavic and Communist dominance of Eastern European countries. Both in the 19th and 20th cent. Pan-Slav aspirations were limited by the conflicting political and economic hopes of the various groups of Slavs.

See studies by A. Kostya (1981) and M. B. Petrovich (1956, repr. 1985).

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