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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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a nationalistic ideology and political current among the Russian nobility and bourgeoisie in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th. The ideas of Pan-Slavism were shared by Slavic political figures of different political biases (for example, L. Ŝtúr, and later K. Kramář). At various times the term “Pan-Slavism” connoted altogether different phenomena: the ideas of mutual ties among Slavs and of a common Slavic culture; projects for federations and confederations of Slavic peoples, proposed by various figures in the Czech and Polish liberation movements; and tsarist Russia’s plans to use the national movements of the Slavic peoples for its own purposes. The vague, tendentious character of the term, which was apparent from the beginning, often led to attempts to divide Pan-Slavism into “literary” and “political” currents and to subdivide the latter into “democratic” and “reactionary” groups, thus only increasing the confusion over the term’s interpretation.

The term “Pan-Slavism,” which originated before the phenomenon it designated, was extremely indefinite and contradictory. It was introduced into the political vocabulary in late 1840 to 1841 by bourgeois nationalist circles in Hungary and Germany, who considered the Slavic national liberation movement a threat to their own chauvinist aspirations. On the eve of the Revolution of 1848–49 it was widely used as a means of falsely accusing the national movements of the Slavic peoples of a desire to form an “All-Slavic monarchy” or a “worldwide Russian Empire.” The term was also used in a calculated campaign against the “Pan-Slav threat.”

In Russia Pan-Slavism developed as an ideology in connection with the country’s defeat in the Crimean War (1853–56) and under the influence of the suppression of the Polish Uprising of 1863–64. The nationalistic reaction of the Russian nobility to these events was reflected in the views of N. Ia. Danilevskii, N. N. Strakhov, A. I. Koshelev, and other public figures, who became objectively the ideologists of emergent Pan-Slavism. Underlying the ideology was an idealistic conception of cultural-historical types of peoples, one of which was alleged to be the Slavs, who were said to be distinct from the “Europeans” (that is, the Romano-Germanic type) and obliged to preserve their distinctiveness. The theoretical premises concerning the uniqueness of Slavic historical development served as the basis for the political conclusion that it was necessary to form a league of all

Slavic peoples, headed by Russia and excluding Poland, which, by virtue of its historical fate, was said to have lost its Slavic character and become part of the “West.” The “Eastern question,” which was regarded as the concrete confrontation of “Slavdom” and “Europe,” played a very important role in shaping the world view of the ideologists of Pan-Slavism. They developed ideas favoring active support for the liberation struggle of the southern Slavic peoples, and they made plans to capture Constantinople.

Pan-Slav ideology did not attain a highly structured, finished form. Different aspects of it were emphasized by various of its exponents, whose political projects were often contradictory. As a political movement, Pan-Slavism was elitist, embracing only a portion of bureaucratic circles (Count N. P. Ignat’ev and Prince V. A. Cherkasskii, for example), military circles (Generals M. G. Cherniaev, M. D. Skobelev, and R. A. Fadeev), and the intelligentsia (the writer I. S. Aksakov and the Slavicists V. I. Lamanskii and O. F. Miller).

Pan-Slavism attained its greatest political influence in the 1860’s and 1870’s, particularly during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, when it pushed the government toward more vigorous foreign policy actions. As a social current, however, it encountered a suspicious attitude on the part of the government and its ideologists (M. N. Katkov and K. P. Pobedonostsev). In addition, it was subjected to sharp criticism by representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie, and especially by revolutionary democratic currents. Pan-Slavism went through a period of crisis and decline in the late 19th century, degenerating either into ultranational-ism (K. N. Leont’ev) or into theocratic philosophizing (V. S. Solov’ev). Its crisis was a consequence of the sociopolitical development of Russia, which by the late 19th century stood on the threshold of a bourgeois democratic revolution, with signs of serious contradictions between the bourgeoisie and the autocracy.

The leading role of the proletariat in the Revolution of 1905–07 prompted a crisis in bourgeois ideology in general and in Pan-Slavism in particular. On the eve of World War I (1914–18), Pan-Slavism showed some signs of revival, but this was associated with the neo-Slavic movement. A phenomenon of the first decade of the 20th century, neo-Slavism, which emerged among bourgeois-landlord circles in Russia and bourgeois strata among other Slavic peoples, was a nationalistic reaction to the intensification of German imperialist expansion in eastern and southeastern Europe, as well as to the activity of the Pan-German League. During World I the Russian bourgeoisie used various elements of Pan-Slavism in military propaganda. Pan-Slavism underwent its final crisis and died out after the victory of the October Revolution of 1917.


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