views updated May 09 2018


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


views updated May 09 2018


Originating in the first half of the nineteenth century, Pan-Slavism was a current of thought envisioning the various Slavic peoples of east-central and eastern Europe uniting to promote their common interests. Its first proponents were intellectuals living in the Habsburg Monarchy. After a political brotherhood of Slavs failed to materialize in the Habsburg lands in 1848, support declined there, but during the last third of the century, it gained new life in Russia, where the Russians' role as a protector of the other Slavs became its main emphasis.

The idea of a Slavic unity can be traced to the creation of Old Church Slavonic, an invented language that could be understood by all the Slavic tribes and that was promulgated by St. Cyril and St. Methodius in the ninth century. As an ideology, however, Pan-Slavism emerged only at the beginning of the nineteenth century as a response to German nationalism. While German literary culture was already well developed, many Slavic languages had not yet been codified in their modern form, and their literatures were weak. The similarity of Slavic dialect made unifying the various Slav peoples in the Habsburg realms seem a plausible means to challenge German cultural dominance.

Pioneering work by the linguist Josef Dobrovský (1753–1829), who codified Czech after more than a century of neglect, made Czech the main candidate for a unifying language. But indicative of the attraction of bringing Slavs together, the most influential figures in Habsburg Pan-Slavism were two ethnic Slovaks. Jan Kollár (1793–1852) wrote the sonnet cycle Daughter of Sláva (1824), the greatest literary expression of the Pan-Slav idea. Meanwhile, Pavel Šafařík (1795–1861) gave a scholarly basis for Pan-Slavism with an ethnography of the Slavs published in 1842.

Despite Slavic intellectuals' attraction to Pan-Slavism, there were always tensions. Another Slovak, L'udovít Štúr (1815–1856), rejected Czech in favor of codifying a distinct Slovak tongue, and Ukrainians living in the Austrian Empire likewise defended the distinctiveness of their language. Kollár, however, advocated "Slavic reciprocity" such that would allow for common interest without threatening each group's individuality. This notion found its ultimate expression when a Slav congress convened in Prague on 2 June during the revolution of 1848. Shortly before, prominent Czechs, most notably the historian František Palackš (1798–1876), had rejected appeals to attend the German pre-parliament then meeting in Frankfurt, and ensuring the survival of the Habsburg Monarchy, albeit with a new constitutional structure, was an important goal of those at the Slav congress. Habsburg's traditional supporters overlooked that, and the gathering broke up prematurely when conservative pro-Habsburg forces bombarded Prague on 12 June.

Although negotiations during the conference suggest Slavic reciprocity was not necessarily an idle dream, in retrospect the differences between various groups stand out. Polish interest in reviving an independent Polish state undercut the Habsburg orientation of the Czech Pan-Slavs. The various groups also had different views of Russia, with Czechs seeing Russia as a relatively benign force, something Poles could not accept. Reconciling Galician Poles' and Ukrainians' interests also presented problems, while some Slovaks' protection of their own linguistic traditions also weakened the Pan-Slav project.

Reimposition of absolute rule in the Habsburg lands in 1851 reinforced these differences. Habsburg absolutist policies frustrated the ambitions of Czechs and Poles to play a greater role in government without their shared disappointment bringing the Poles and Czechs closer together. Meanwhile, threatened by Polish ambitions, Ukrainians viewed the reestablishment of absolutism more favorably, as did the Slovaks and Croatians who felt similarly threatened by Hungarian aspirations for independence. Šafařík rightly opined that the Habsburg Slavs would never unite again as they had in Prague.

In the Russian Empire, Pan-Slavism developed later. In 1846 the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius, which included the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861), was founded around the principle of unity among independent Slavic peoples, a stance similar to that of Kollár. The brotherhood did not participate in the Prague conference though; the only Russian figure of stature to attend was Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), who just happened to be in the vicinity. Before the brotherhood could promote its idea widely the Russian government cracked down in 1847. At the end of the 1860s, however, a new Pan-Slavism more acceptable to Russian authorities emerged. It emphasized the obligation of the Russians to protect their Orthodox Slav brothers living outside the empire. In this guise Pan-Slavism finally reached people beyond narrow intellectual circles for the first time, as became apparent during the Balkan crisis of the mid-1870s and at the out-break of World War I. That belief reverberates to this day in Serbians' and Bulgarians' continued close cultural bonds with Russia.

See alsoNationalism; Palacký, František; Prague Slav Congress; Slavophiles.


Agnew, Hugh LeCaine. Origins of the Czech National Renascence. Pittsburgh, Pa., 1993.

Kirschbaum, Joseph M. Pan-Slavism in Slovak Literature: Ján Kollár—Slovak Poet of Panslavism (1793–1852). Cleveland, Ohio, 1966.

Kohn, Hans. Pan-Slavism: Its History and Ideology. 2nd ed. New York, 1960.

Milojkovic-Djuric, Jelena. Panslavism and National Identity in Russia and the Balkans, 1830–1880. Boulder, Colo., 1994.

Orton, Lawrence D. The Prague Slav Congress of 1848. Boulder, Colo., 1978.

Sydoruk, John P. Ideology of Cyrillo-Methodians and Its Origin. Winnipeg, Man., 1954.

Walicki, Andrzej. The Slavophile Controversy: History of a Conservative Utopia in Nineteenth-Century Russian Thought. Translated by Hilda Andrews-Rusiecka. Oxford, U.K., 1975. Reprint, with a new introduction, Notre Dame, Ind., 1989.

Hugo Lane