AskDefine | Define Slavophile

Extensive Definition

A Slavophile was a member of an intellectual movement 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 Western European culture and its influences in Russia.


As an intellectual movement, Slavophilism 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" (rural society) was seen as an important measure to prevent growth of the proletariat.
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 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 (1806-56), 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 aesthetic views of Leo Tolstoy.
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 liberation of the Balkan Slavs from the Ottoman yoke. 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. Russian Empire besides containing Russians, 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, Belarussians being the "White Russians" Ukrainians "Little Russians". Slavophile thinkers such as Mikhail Katkov believed that both nations should be ruled under Russian leadership and are essential part of Russian state. At the same time they denied the separate cultural identity of Ukrainian and Belarussian people, Other Slavophiles like Ivan Aksakov recognized the right of Ukrainians to use Ukrainian language, however seeing it as completely unnecessary and harmful. 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" 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 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. As a result Slavophiles were particularly hostile to Polish nation often emotionally attacking it in their writings When the Polish uprising of 1861 started, Slavophiles used anti-Polish sentiment to create feelings of national unity in Russian people, and the idea of cultural union of all Slavs was abandoned. With that Poland became firmly established to Slavophiles as symbol of Catholicism and Western Europe, that they detested, and as Poles were never assimiliated 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. "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
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. Their political ideal was a parliamentary monarchy, as represented by the medieval Zemsky Sobors.

Post Serfdom

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


Later writers Fyodor Dostoevsky, Konstantin Leontyev, and Nikolay Danilevsky developed a peculiar conservative and anti-Semitic version of Slavophilism called pochvennichestvo (from the Russian word for soil). This teaching, as articulated by Konstantin Pobedonostsev (secular head of the Russian Orthodox church), was adopted as the official imperial ideology in 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 "Old" Russia as opposed to Soviet Russia. This in turn influenced their foreign policy ideas, such as Kennan's belief that the revival of the Eastern Orthodox Church in WWII would lead to the reform or overthrow of the Soviet Union.


External links

Slavophile in German: Slawophile
Slavophile in Finnish: Slavofilia
Slavophile in Polish: Słowianofilstwo
Slavophile in Romanian: Slavofil
Slavophile in Russian: Славянофильство
Slavophile in Slovak: Slavianofilstvo
Slavophile in Swedish: Slavofil
Slavophile in Ukrainian: Слов'янофільство
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