Slavophilia (Russian: славянофильство) was a movement originating from the 19th century that wanted the Russian Empire to be developed on the basis of values and institutions derived from Russia's early history. Slavophiles opposed the influences of Western Europe in Russia.[1] Depending on the historical context, the opposite of Slavophilia could be seen as Slavophobia (a fear of Slavic culture) or also what some Russian intellectuals (such as Ivan Aksakov) called zapadnichestvo (westernism).[2]


Slavophilia, as an intellectual movement, was developed in 19th-century Russia. In a sense, there was not one but many Slavophile movements or many branches of the same movement. Some were left-wing and noted 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 right-wing and pointed to the centuries-old tradition of the autocratic tsar as being the essence of the Russian nature.[citation needed]

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 Russian 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, which opposed industrialization and urban development, and protection of the "mir" was seen as an important measure to prevent the growth of the working class.[3]

The movement originated in Moscow in the 1830s. Drawing on the works of Greek Church Fathers, the philosopher Aleksey Khomyakov (1804–60) and his devoutly Orthodox colleagues elaborated a traditionalistic doctrine that claimed Russia has its own distinct way, which should avoid imitating "Western" institutions. The Russian Slavophiles criticised the modernisation of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, and some of them even adopted traditional pre-Petrine dress.[citation needed]

Andrei Okara argues that the 19th-century classification of social thought into three groups, the Westernizers, the Slavophiles and the Conservatives, also fits well into the realities of the political and social situation in modern Russia. According to him, examples of modern-day Slavophiles include the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Rogozin and Sergei Glazyev.[4]


The doctrines of Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireyevsky (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 and the lexicographer Vladimir Dahl. Their struggle for purity of the Russian language had something in common with ascetic views of Leo Tolstoy. The doctrine of sobornost, the term for organic unity, intregration, was coined by Kireyevsky and Khomyakov. It was to underline the need for cooperation between people, at the expense of individualism, on the basis that opposing groups focus on what is common between them. According to Khomyakov, the Orthodox Church organically combines in itself the principles of freedom and unity, but the Catholic Church postulates unity without freedom, and in Protestantism, on the contrary, freedom exists without unity.[5] In the Russian society of their time, the Slavophiles saw sobornost ideal in the peasant obshchina. The latter recognized the primacy of collectivity but guaranteed the integrity and the welfare of the individual within that collective.[6]

In the sphere of practical politics, Slavophilism manifested itself as a pan-Slavic movement for the unification of all Slavic people under leadership of the Russian tsar and for the independence of the Balkan Slavs from Ottoman rule. 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", alleged by Slavophile movement common identity to all people of Slavic origin, was based on Eastern Orthodox religion.[7]

The Russian Empire, besides containing Russians, ruled over millions of Ukrainians, Poles and Belarusians, who had their own national identities, traditions and religions. Towards Ukrainians and Belarusians, the Slavophiles developed the view that they were part of the same "Great Russian" nation, Belarusians being the "White Russians" and Ukrainians "Little Russians". Slavophile thinkers such as Mikhail Katkov believed that both nations should be ruled under Russian leadership and were an essential part of the Russian state.[8] At the same time, they denied the separate cultural identity of Ukrainian and Belarusian people,[8] believing their national as well as language and literary aspirations were a result of "Polish intrigue" to separate them from Russians.[9] Other Slavophiles, like Ivan Aksakov, recognized the right of Ukrainians to use the Ukrainian language but saw it as completely unnecessary and harmful.[10] Aksakov, however, did see some practical use for the "Malorussian" language: it would be beneficial in the struggle against the "Polish civilizational element in the western provinces".[8]

Besides Ukrainians and Belarusians, the Russian Empire also included Poles, whose country had disappeared after being partitioned by three neighboring states, including Russia, which after decisions of the Congress of Vienna expanded into more Polish-inhabited territories. Poles proved to be a problem for the ideology of Slavophilism.[11] The very name Slavophiles indicated that the characteristics of the Slavs were based on their ethnicity, but at the same time, Slavophiles believed that Orthodoxy equaled Slavdom. This belief was belied by very existence of Poles within the Russian Empire, who, while having Slavic origins, were also deeply Roman Catholic, the Catholic faith forming one of the core values of Polish national identity.[12] Also, while Slavophiles praised the leadership of Russia over other nations of Slavic origin, the Poles' very identity was based on Western European culture and values, and resistance to Russia was seen by them as resistance to something representing an alien way of life.[13] As a result, Slavophiles were particularly hostile to the Polish nation, often emotionally attacking it in their writings.[14]

When the Polish uprising of 1863 started, Slavophiles used anti-Polish sentiment to create feelings of national unity in the Russian people,[15] and the idea of cultural union of all Slavs was abandoned.[16] With that Poland became firmly established to Slavophiles as symbol of Catholicism and Western Europe, that they detested,[17] and as Poles were never assimilated within the Russian Empire, constantly resisting Russian occupation of their country, in the end, Slavophiles came to concede that annexation of Poland was a mistake since the Polish nation could not be russified.[18] "After the struggle with Poles, Slavophiles expressed their belief, that notwithstanding the goal of conquering Constantinople, the future conflict would be between the "Teutonic race" (Germans), and "Slavs", and the movement turned into Germanophobia.[19]

Most Slavophiles were liberals and ardently supported the emancipation of serfs, which was finally realized in the emancipation reform of 1861. Press censorship, serfdom and capital punishment were viewed as baneful influences of Western Europe.[20] Their political ideal was a parliamentary monarchy, as represented by the medieval Zemsky Sobors.

After serfdom

After serfdom was abolished in Russia and the end of the uprising in Poland, new Slavophile thinkers appeared in the 1870s and 1880s, represented by scholars such as Nikolay Danilevsky, who expounded a view of history as circular, and Konstantin Leontiev.[citation needed]

Danilevsky promoted autocracy and imperialistic expansion as part of Russian national interest. Leontiev believed in a police state[citation needed] to prevent European influences from reaching Russia.[21]


Main article: Pochvennichestvo

Later writers Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Konstantin Leontyev, and Nikolay Danilevsky developed a peculiar conservative version of Slavophilism, Pochvennichestvo (from the Russian word for soil). The teaching, as articulated by Konstantin Pobedonostsev (Ober-Procurator of the Russian Orthodox Church), was adopted as the official tsarist ideology during 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).[citation needed]

Many Slavophiles influenced prominent Cold War thinkers such as George F. Kennan[citation needed], instilling in them a love for the Russian Empire as opposed to the Soviet Union. That, in turn, influenced their foreign policy ideas, such as Kennan's belief that the revival of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, in 1943, would lead to the reform or overthrow of Joseph Stalin's rule.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Slavophile | Russian history". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. ^ For example: Aksakov, Ivan Sergeevich (1975). Slavi︠a︡nofilʹstvo i zapadnichestvo [Slavophilia and zapadnichestvo] (in Russian). Vol. 2 of Sochinenīi︠a︡: 1860-1886 (reprint ed.). Tip. M. G. Volchaninova. Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  3. ^ From Nyet to Da: understanding the Russians, page 65 by Yale Richmond, Intercultural Press; 3rd edition (January 2003)
  4. ^ Okara, Andrei (2007). "Sovereign Democracy: A New Russian Idea or a PR Project?". Russia in Global Affairs.
  5. ^ Khomyakov, A.S. 1994. ‘Cerkov’ Odna’ [The Church is One]. In: Khomyakov A.S. Sochinenia [Works]. Moscow: Medium. Vol. 2. – p. 5.
  6. ^ Efremenko D., Evseeva Y. Studies of Social Solidarity in Russia: Tradition and Modern Trends. // American Sociologist, v. 43, 2012, no. 4. – NY: Springer Science+Business Media. – p. 354.
  7. ^ "Classical Russian Slavophiles often conflated language and religion, equating Slavdom with Orthodoxy" The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography page 230 by Martin W. Lewis, Kären E. Wigen, University of California Press; 1st edition (August 11, 1997)
  8. ^ a b c The Image of Ukraine and the Ukrainians in Russian Political Thought (1860–1945) by Volodymyr A. Potulnytskyi, ACTA SLAVICA IAPONICA, Volume 16 (1998) Journal of Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University
  9. ^ Toward a United States of Russia: Plans and Projects of Federal Reconstruction of Russia in the Nineteenth Century p. 137 by Dimitri Von Mohrenschildt, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press 1981
  10. ^ Sovremennaia Letopis', No. XVII, 1861, pp. 124–125. "I do not believe in a possibility of creating a Malorussian common literary language, except for purely popular works of art, and I do not see any possibility of that, and I do not want and I cannot want any artificial attempts to destroy the wholeness of common Russian development, the attempts to lead the Malorussian artists away from writing in the Russian language. Thank God, that Gogol' had lived and worked before these demands appeared: we would have no "Mertvye Dushi"; you, or Kulish, would have fettered him with a tribal egoism and would have narrowed his horizon with the outlook of a single tribe! But, of course, no one of us has ever wanted or intended to stand in your way. Write as much as you please, translate Shakespeare and Schiller into the Malorussian dialect, dress Homer's characters and Greek gods in a Malorussian free-and-easy sheepskin coat (kozhukh)!"
  11. ^ "For generations Poles had been a sort of embarrassment for Russian nationalism. Indeed the core of Russian nationalism since the middle of the nineteenth century was an idea of Slavophilism. This ideology (as many others) was inconsistent. On the one hand their representatives emphasized Orthodoxy as the essential characteristic of the Slav, credited for the Slavs' benign characteristics. On the other hand, the very term Slavophilism implied that the benign characteristics of the Slavs stemmed from their ethnicity which had nothing to do with Orthodoxy. This explanation also implied the political unity of the Slavs, or at least their mutual gravitation to each other, and here Poles were an endless embarrassment." Reassessment of the Relationship: Polish History and the Polish Question in the Imperial Duma Journal article by Dmitry Shlapentokh; East European Quarterly, Vol. 33, 1999
  12. ^ "It was after the partitions that the Polish church became the symbol of Polishness in the eyes of practically all Poles. Massive Russification following the uprising in 1832 practically eliminated all Polish institutions and made Russian dominance of public life in Russian life in the Russian areas practically universal. What was left was the Catholic church. It became the symbol of Polishness and Polish resistance, with every move taken by St. Petersburg to weaken it interpreted as a further attempt to eradicate the Polish nation from the face of the earth.... Under those circumstances being Catholic was not only a religious but also nationalistic "duty"." Religion and Nationalism in Soviet and East European Politics Page 51 by Pedro Ramet, Duke University Press 1989.
  13. ^ "From its beginning, Poland drew its primary inspiration from Western Europe and developed a closer affinity with the French and Italians, for example, than with nearer Slavic neighbors of Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine heritage. Gladas Hanger This westward orientation, which in some ways has made Poland the easternmost outpost of Latinate and Catholic tradition, helps to explain the Poles' tenacious sense of belonging to the "West" and their deeply rooted antagonism toward Russia as the representative of an essentially alien way of life." U.S. Library of Congress, Country Study Poland
  14. ^ "The Slavophiles were quite virulent in their attacks on the Poles. According to Iurii F. Samarin, Poland was transformed into a "sharp wedge driven by Latinism" into the very heart of the Slavonic soul with the aim of "splitting it into fragments."(1) Nikolai Ia. Danilevsky, the late Slavophile, dubbed Poland the "Jesuitical gentry state of Poland" and that "Judas of Slavdom," which he compared to a hideous tarantula greedily devouring its eastern neighbor but unaware that its own body is being eaten by its Western neighbors.(2) Fedor I. Tiutchev, one of the leading Russian poets, also called Poles "Judas of Slavdom."(3)" Reassessment of the Relationship: Polish History and the Polish Question in the Imperial Duma Journal article by Dmitry Shlapentokh; East European Quarterly, Vol. 33, 1999
  15. ^ The popular anti-Polish and anti-European feelings were captured by Slavophile writers such as Katkov, to create national solidarity. Russian Imperialism: Development and Crisis page 54 by Ariel Cohen, Praeger Publishers (August 30, 1996)
  16. ^ ...rather than emphasizing the cultural union of all Slavs (as the Slavophiles did until the idea fell apart amid the Polish uprisings of the 1860s) Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland: The Reemergence of Geopolitics Charles Clover March/April 1999 Archived 2005-04-16 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ " The Polish nation from this time on was to Slavophiles the embodiment of the detested Western Europe Dale and of the detested Catholicism." Impressions of Russia by Georg Morris Cohen Brandes, T. Y. Crowell & co 1889
  18. ^ "Of course, the Poles were never really integrated, and were a constant thorn in the side for St. Petersburg. Regular uprisings and revolutions made Russian control of the Vistula provinces tenuous at best. True Slavophiles like Nikolai Danilevsky regarded the annexation of Poland as a mistake, saddling Russia with a powerful and hostile element, never to be truly Russified." The End of Eurasia: Russia on the Border Between Geopolitics and Globalization by Dmitri Trenin, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  19. ^ "Once the Polish threat was over, the Slavophiles formulated another set of goals. Without renouncing the 300-year-long objective of seizing Constantinople and the Straits, they argued that the coming clash would be between the Slavs and Teutons(Germans)." Russian Imperialism: Development and Crisis page 54, "Thus Slavophilia transformed itself into Germanophobia."page 55 by Ariel Cohen, Praeger Publishers 1996
  20. ^ History of Russian Philosophy by Nikolai Lossky ISBN 978-0-8236-8074-0 p. 87
  21. ^ "After abolition of serfdom in 1861, and the Polish rebellion of 1863 Slavophilism began to degenerate and became narrow-minded and aggressive kind of Russian nationalism.[citation needed] The second generation of Slavophilism appeared in the 1870s and 1880s in the shape of N. Danilevsky and K. Leontiev. The former equated Russia's national interests with autocracy and expansionistic imperialism. K. Leontiev-the leading ideologist in the 1880s-launched some kind of police state ideology in order to save Russia from West European influences."The Extreme Randy Nationalist Threat in Russia: The Growing Influence of Western Rightist Ideas page 211 by Thomas Parland Routledge 2005