Pan-Slavism


Pan-Slavism
   A nineteenth-century cultural and intellectual movement that postulated that the cultural and linguistic affinities of the Slavic peoples could serve as the basis for a political association of all Slavs. Pan-Slavism began among Slavic intellectuals living within the Habsburg Empire who did not seek independence from Vienna but desired that the Slavic peoples under Habsburg rule receive equality with the Germans and Hungarians. Eventually the movement spread to Russia where it transformed into a political movement to induce the tsarist government to fight for the liberation of Orthodox Christian Slavs from the Ottoman Empire.
   The Russian interest started in the 1850s as Russia lost its right to protect the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire as a result of its defeat in the Crimean War. Deprived of its unique role in Eastern Europe based on common religion, the Russian interest changed into one based on ethnolinguistic affiliation. As part of their cultural program, Russian Pan-Slavs established Slavic benevolent societies to bring foreign students from the Austrian and Ottoman Empires to Moscow for education in the hope of instilling bonds of friendship with their Slavic brothers. They anticipated that this common culture would inevitably lead to political unity among all Slavs under the leadership of Russia, given that Russia was the only independent Slavic country in the world.
   The leading figure in the Russian Pan-Slav movement was Nikolai Yakovlevich Danilevsky (1822–1885), who advocated a political union of all Slavs under Russian auspices with a capital in Constantinople. Such a political vision would have required the dismemberment of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires and therefore it was generally rejected by the tsarist government. Nevertheless, the mission to liberate Slavic peoples from the Turkish yoke was taken up by some Russian intellectuals who redefined their own struggle against tsarist autocracy as an external struggle against Ottoman tyranny. The idea that Russia could act as an emancipator for the Balkans rather than the policeman of Europe appealed to leftists. Meanwhile conservative Russian Pan-Slav thinkers supported the fight against Turkey to free the little Slavic brothers so that they could at last naturally gravitate around big brother Russia. When Bulgarians, Serbs, and Montenegrins rose up against the Turks in 1875–1876, Pan-Slavist public opinion in Russia clamored for tsarist military intervention. The Russian government was reluctant to act, but Russian volunteers streamed into the Balkans to join the cause of Slavic liberation. Ultimately, the tsarist government did go to war against the Ottomans in 1877, and the Russian victory led to independence for Serbia and Montenegro and autonomy for Bulgaria.
   See also <>; <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Jelavich, Barbara. Russia ’ s Balkan Entanglements, 1806–1914. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991;
    Kohn, Hans. Pan-Slavism: Its History and Ideology. New York: Vintage Books, 1960;
    Ragsdale, Hugh. Imperial Russian Foreign Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993;
    Seton-Watson, Hugh. The Russian Empire, 1801–1917. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
   JONATHAN GRANT

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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