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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the exponents of Slavophilism, a trend in Russian social and philosophical thought in the 1840’s and 1850’s. The Slavophiles maintained that Russia’s path of historical development was fundamentally different from that of Western Europe.

The Slavophiles believed that Russia’s uniqueness lay in the absence of a class struggle in its history, in its land communes and artels, and in its religion, Orthodoxy, which they viewed as the only true form of Christianity. They also saw the same unique historical development among other Slavs, especially the South Slavs. Their sympathy with other Slavs was one of the reasons that they were called Slavophiles (“Slav lovers”), the name given them by the Westernizers. The Slavophile world view was characterized by a negative attitude toward revolution, by monarchism, and by a religious mode in their philosophical concepts. By origin and social status most of the Slavophiles were middle landowners descended from the old service nobility. Some were the sons of merchants or raznochintsy (intellectuals of no definite class).

The ideology of the Slavophiles reflected the contradictions in Russian life—the disintegration and crisis of serfdom and the development of capitalist relations in Russia. The views of the Slavophiles crystallized in the course of sharp ideological disputes provoked by P. Ia. Chaadaev’s Philosophical Letter.

The principal role in formulating the Slavophile outlook was played by four literary figures, poets, and scholars: A. S. Kho-miakov, I. V. Kireevskii, K. S. Aksakov, and Iu. F. Samarin. Other prominent Slavophiles included P. V. Kireevskii, A. I. Koshelev, I. S. Aksakov, D. A. Valuev, F. V. Chizhov, I. D. Be-liaev, A. F. Gil’ferding, and later V. I. Lamanskii and V. A. Cherkasskii. During the 1840’s and 1850’s the writers V. I. Dal’, S. T. Aksakov, A. N. Ostrovskii, A. A. Grigor’ev, F. I. Tiutchev, and N. M. Iazykov held socioideological views close to those of the Slavophiles. Slavophile thought exerted great influence on the historians, Slavists, and linguists F. I. Buslaev, O. M. Bo-dianskii, V. I. Grigorovich, I. I. Sreznevskii, and M. A. Maksi-movich.

During the 1840’s the center of Slavophilism was Moscow, where at the literary salons of A. A. Elagin and A. P. Elagina, D. N. Sverbeev and E. A. Sverbeeva, N. F. Pavlov and K. K. Pavlova the Slavophiles carried on their disputes with the Westernizers. Many Slavophile works were suppressed by the censor, and some Slavophiles were placed under police surveillance or arrested. Chiefly because of the censorship, the Slavophiles for a long time had no permanent press organ, publishing chiefly in the Moskvitianin (The Muscovite). They also issued several collections of articles: the Simbirsk Collection (1844), the Collection of Historical and Statistical Data on Russia and Peoples of the Same Faith and Nationality (1845), and the Moscow Collections (1846, 1847, and 1852). After the censorship eased in the late 1850’s, the Slavophiles published the magazines Russkaia beseda (Russian Conversation, 1856-60) and Sel’skoe blagoustroistvo (Rural Improvement, 1858–59) and the newspapers Molva (Rumor, 1857), and Parus (Sail, 1859).

During the 1840’s and 1850’s, in dealing with the vital question of Russia’s path of historical development, the Slavophiles, unlike the Westernizers, opposed the adoption of the forms and methods of Western European political life. The Slavophiles’ conservatism was manifested in their resistance to Europeani-zation. However, since they represented the interests of a considerable portion of the landed gentry, which was experiencing the growing influence of developing capitalist relations, the Slavophiles deemed necessary the development of trade and industry, the expansion of stockholding and banking, the building of railroads, and the use of machinery in agriculture. They advocated the abolition of serfdom “from above,” enabling the peasant communes to buy up tracts of land. Samarin, Koshelev, and Cherkasskii helped prepare and promulgate the Peasant Reform of 1861.

The Slavophiles attributed great importance to public opinion, by which they meant the opinion of the educated liberal-bourgeois propertied classes. They urged the convocation of a zemskii sobor (duma) composed of elected representatives of all the social strata, but they were opposed to a constitution and any formal limitation of autocracy. The Slavophiles sought the elimination of censorship, the establishment of public courts in which elected representatives of the population would participate, and the abolition of corporal and capital punishment.

The Slavophiles’ philosophical views, constituting a distinct religiophilosophical doctrine, were developed chiefly by Khomiakov, I. V. Kireevskii, and later Samarin. Slavophile philosophical concepts harked back to Eastern Patristic thought, but they also reflected the influence of F. W. J. von Schelling’s “philosophy of revelation,” Western European irrationalism and romanticism of the first half of the 19th century, and the views of G. Hegel. The Slavophiles contrasted “willing reason” and “vital knowledge” (Khomiakov) with one-sided analytical reason, embodied in both rationalism and sensationalism, which, they believed, had led to the loss of man’s spiritual wholeness in the West. They maintained that the full and highest truth was not given to logical reasoning alone, but rather to the mind, feelings, and will together—to the spirit as a living whole.

For the Slavophiles, the integrated spirit, ensuring true and full knowledge, was inseparable from faith and religion. The true faith, which came to Rus’ from its purest source, the Eastern Church (Khomiakov), determined the Russian people’s unique historical mission. They held that the principle of sobornost’ (free communality), which was characteristic of the Eastern church, was at work in the Russian commune as well. The Slavophiles believed that Russian communal peasant land-ownership would bring to the science of political economy “a new and original economic view” (I. S. Aksakov). To the Slavophiles, the Orthodox Church and the commune were the wellsprings of the Russian soul. In general, the Slavophile philosophical outlook was opposed to materialism.

In the spirit of romantic historiography, the Slavophiles idealized the old, pre-Petrine Rus’, which they envisioned as a harmonious society, devoid of contradictions, free of internal upheavals, and constituting a unity of people and tsar, of “populace” and “authority.” According to the Slavophiles, since the time of Peter the Great, who had arbitrarily violated Russia’s organic development, the state had gained ascendancy over the people, and the nobility and intelligentsia, after having superficially adopted certain aspects of Western European culture, had become alienated from the people. Idealizing the patriarchal mode of life and traditionalism, the Slavophiles ascribed an essentially ahistorical quality to the Russian “folk spirit.”

The Slavophiles called upon the intelligentsia to draw closer to the common people, to study their daily life, culture, and language. They initiated the study of the history of the Russian peasantry and were active in collecting and preserving outstanding works of Russian culture and language. (P. V. Kireevskii collected folk songs, and Dal’ compiled a dictionary of the living Russian language.) The Slavophiles made an important contribution to the development of Slavic studies in Russia and to the expansion and strengthening of the literary and scholarly ties between Russian society and other Slavs. They were instrumental in establishing and running the Slavic Committees, which functioned in Russia from 1858 to 1878.

The Slavophiles influenced many prominent leaders of the national revival and national liberation movements among the oppressed Slavic peoples within the Austrian and Ottoman empires, notably the Czechs V. Hanka, F. Čelakovský, and, for a time, K. Havliček-Borovský, the Slovaks L. Štúr and A. Sladkovič, the Serbs M. Nenadović and M. Miličević, the Bulgarians R. Zhinzifov, P. Karavelov, and L. Karavelov, and, to some extent, the Pole W. Maciejowski. The journeys made by I. S. Aksakov, Valuev, V. A. Panov, Chizhov, A. I. Rigel’man, P. I. Bartenev, Lamanskii, and other Slavophiles to various Slavic lands promoted the acquaintance of the South and West Slavs with Russian culture and literature.

The aesthetic and literary views of the Slavophiles were most fully expressed in articles by Khomiakov, K. S. Aksakov, and Samarin. Although they criticized V. G. Belinskii and the “natural school” in Russian literature (Samarin’s “On the Historical and Literary Views in Sovremennik,” 1847), they opposed “pure art” and showed the need for an independent path of development for Russian literature, art, and science. These views are found in Khomiakov’s article “On the Possibility of a Russian Artistic School” (1847), K. S. Aksakov’s “On the Russian View” (1856), Samarin’s “A Few Words on Nationalism in Science” (1856), and A. N. Popov’s “On the Contemporary Trend in the Plastic Arts” (1846). For the Slavophiles, artistic works had to reflect the aspects of reality that corresponded to their theoretical aims—communality, a patriarchal way of life, and the “humility” and religiosity of the Russian people.

The Slavophiles’ literary works—the lyrics, narrative poems, and dramatic works of Khomiakov, K. S. Aksakov, and I. S. Aksakov and the novellas of N. Kokhanovskaia—are publicistic and reflect a lively interest in ethical problems. Khomiakov’s poem “To Russia” (1854) had a strong impact on Russian society, as did K. S. Aksakov’s “The Return” (1845). “To Peter” (1845), and “Free Speech” (1853) and I. S. Aksakov’s narrative poem The Tramp (1848). These poems were critical of serfdom and denounced unjust courts, bribe-taking, and the alienation of the gentry intelligentsia from the common people. Blocked by the tsarist censorship, such works were widely disseminated in manuscript form; many were printed by A. I. Herzen’s Free Russian Printing House as works of Russian “secret literature.”

During the revolutionary situation of 1859-1861 the Slavophiles and Westernizers drew closer together under the influence of liberalism. In the postreform period, a time of capitalist development, Slavophilism as a distinct trend in social thought ceased to exist, although several of its exponents continued to be active. I. S. Aksakov published the journals Den’ (Day, 1861-65, with the newspaper Aktsioner [Shareholder] as a supplement), Moskva (Moscow, 1867–68), Moskvich (The Muscovite, 1867-68), and Rus’ (1880-85). I. S. Aksakov, Samarin, Koshelev, and Cherkasskii shifted to the right, and their views increasingly diverged. Pochvennichestvo evolved under the influence of the Slavophiles. The conservative traits of the Slavophile doctrine, in hypertrophied form, were reflected in the nationalism and Pan-Slavism of the “late Slavophiles” N. Ia. Danilevskii and K. N. Leont’ev. The revolutionary-democrats Belinskii, Herzen, N. P. Ogarev, N. G. Chernyshevskii, and N. A. Dobroliubov were critical of the Slavophile ideology.


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S. S. DMITRIEV [23–1637–]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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