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N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)
Slavophilism and the Slavic Idea
(1915 - #202) I The war has set fully before the Russian consciousness and the Russian will all the painful Slavic questions -- the Polish, the Czech, the Serbian, it has led to momentum and has forced tormentive pondering over the fate of the Slavic world within the Balkan peninsula and Austria Hungary. Everything is ailing within Slavism at the present time. And sometimes it seems almost impossible to reconcile the old disputes of the Slavs amongst themselves. The worldwide clash of the Slavic race with the Germanic race, which the whole of history has led to and which was not unforeseen, cannot, it would seem. but lead to a Slavic self-awareness. The Slavic idea had to be conceived in facing the threatening danger of Germanism. But the feuds in the Slavic family all continue. The Balkan peninsula is demoralised by disputes amongst its Slavs. Poland is in tatters, and in it brother is compelled to fight against brother. The mutual mistrust and suspicion are truly frightening. But is our Russian societal consciousness prepared to be the bearer and expresser of the Slavic idea? Has this idea come to maturity? Is it so popular, as to be strong and transformative of life? The Slavic idea among us is in a very sad position, it -- is as though caught in the jaws of a vise and cannot be freely expressed. I believe, that subconsciously the Slavic idea is alive at the core of the soul of the Russian people, it exists, as an instinct, all still obscured and not having found itself authentic expression. But a genuine Slavic consciousness, a genuine Slavic idea we do not have. The Russian national self-consciousness and the AllSlav selfconsciousness was born for us within the disputes of Slavophilism and Westernism. The Slavic idea could be sought for only in Slavophilism, in Westernism there were no traces of this idea. But in our classical Slavophilism, with Kireevsky, Khomyakov, the Aksakovs, Samarin, it is difficult to find a pure expression of the Slavic idea. Slavophilism more accurately might be called Russophilism. Slavophilism affirmed first of all the unique type of Russian culture upon the soil of Eastern Orthodoxy and contrasted it to the Western cultural type and its Catholicism. In Slavophilism there was still much of the provincial isolation. The Slavophils were all still good Russian
only they acknowledged the reality of the soul of the people. The weak sides of the Slavophil ideology. But their consciousness did not contain world perspectives. and their ideas often were but the fine feelings of Russian man. or abroad. of the familial. the first national awakening from sleep. but rather a German inspiration. a first attempt at self-definition. Our Westernising thought did not deal with work over the issue of a national consciousness. The . they are ill-suited for a free and broadly historical life. in them is felt a sense of surrender. They did not appeal for the realisation of their ideas. Power was held only by the official state nationalism. were all insufficiently apparent namely because that Slavophilism did not possess any real power in life. loving their native-land and captivated by its unique soul. very intelligent. The Slavophil ideology was moreso disuniting. And Slavophilism subsequently and in a fatal manner deteriorated prior to its identification with the official state nationalism. the customary mode of life of Russian man. The old Slavophil ideals first of all were ideals of the private. than unifying. its hothouse effect with the old-style landowners.landowners. and which failed to mature even for a talented existence. But the attitude of the Slavophils towards the most painful and most important Slavic question for us as Russians -. What prevailed was not a Slavic. But any attempt at the realisation of the Slavophil programme of ideas revealed either its utopian aspect and artificiality of life. and by it was poisoned the very descendants of the Slavophils themself. in their own way they were the first to express this Russian sense of self. talented. There was formed an official state Slavophilism. This was still a childish consciousness of the Russian people. educated.was at its root false and not Slavic. and actually was made to assume an oppositional posture. The Slavophils sensed something in the Russian national soul. The Slavophil outlooks matured during a time of servitude. who was not given to emerge into the breadth of historical existence. it had no need for any such ideologies. II Only with the Slavophils had there been a national idea. for which the Slavic idea and Slavic politics were transformed into a rhetorical terminology and to which no one still gives credence whether in Russia. being out of touch with life. For the Westernisers there did not exist a soul of the people. Slavophilism thus was rendered powerless for influencing the ruling powers in any direction of creative Slavic politics. or else its falling into line with the official political powers.1 The lack of freedom rendered the Slavophils irresponsible. and in this was their enormous service. But the Slavophil ideology cannot yet correspond to a mature historical existence for the Russian people. and it had no need for the suspect services of the Slavophils.the Polish question -.
The intellectual Slavophilism was also bereft of any idea of the power of rule and it concurred in this. that they preferred Protestant Germany over Catholic lands and peoples. And they could not forgive the Polish people its Catholicism. before which we ought to atone for our own historical guilt. The hostility towards Poland and friendship with Germany -. The Polish seemed first of all to be Latins. Indeed not only the Polish -. that the Russians ought first of all to liberate their own oppressed Slavs. Polonism represented the Catholic danger. The Orthodox engrafting is to be discerned also in the moral stance of the Russian Intelligentsia-atheists and the reviling of Orthodoxy by L.are Catholics within the Slavic world. He saw within Catholicism the spirit of the Anti-Christ and together with Protestant Germany he wanted to crush Catholicism. They could not understand and love the Polish soul. But this Russian soul can in a brotherly . And the old-Slavophil attitude towards Catholicism has made impossible a sincere Slavic unity. and it was almost forgotten. The Slavic idea and Slavic unity are impossible. Poland was that West within the Slavic world. Tolstoy. because they could not understand and love the Catholic soul. that in it Catholicism is focused within the Slavic soul. In their repugnance towards Catholicism the Slavophils went so far. Rightfully it has been pointed out. an altogether unique SlavicCatholic visage. a Slavic brotherhood. if the Russian and Orthodox type of Slavism be taken as the full and exclusively true. There was formed a quite strong Slavophil-conservative tradition.were two sides of one and the same matter for us. In an even more extreme form with Dostoevsky was expressed the hostility towards Catholicism and towards Poland. The Russian soul remains forever a Slavic soul. But everything unique to Polish culture is defined by this. distinct also from the visage of the Romance Catholic peoples. and they often stood at the helm of government.Slavophils never felt in their relation to the Polish people any Slavic unity. But such a politics is incompatible with the Slavic idea. has rendered our Slavophilism hypocritical. For the Slavophils. to which they always set in opposition the Russian Orthodox East. The Lutherans in Russia occupied a privileged position in comparison with the Catholics. that our politics came to be always dependent upon Germany. that they were Slavs. needing no other sort of complementation nor the existence of other types of Slavic culture. and from the visage of the Slavic Orthodox peoples. the bearer of an higher spiritual type and the fullness of religious truth. For the Slavophils the Slavic world in its spirit ought first of all to be Orthodox. before moving on to liberate the foreign Slavs. which was accepted by our ruling authorities and led in practise to this. They felt the non-Orthodox Slav to be a traitor to Slavic matters. having accepted the engrafting of Orthodoxy into it. Thus it was forged out of the Polish national visage. The hostility towards the Polish people. There would then remain only the politics of Russification and forceful conversion to Orthodoxy.
or the progressive elements of Russian society. The attitude towards the Balkan Slavs amongst the Slavophils was different and it was better. that Russia should ultimately renounce the frightful and repulsive idea. Dostoevsky and Vl. be it the Polish. too ingrown with Russian officialdom. Slavophilism frightens off. with which the Orthodox world ought to be united. With a brotherly love love he turned his gaze towards the Polish people and bestowed it a great positive significance for the fate itself of the Russian people. Solov'ev represents already an enormous step forward in comparison with the old Slavophils. than towards the Polish. than did the old Slavophils. that "the Slavic branches should themselves flow together into a Russia sea". The soul of Russia can love the soul of Poland.was worldwide. The question rather is in this. that Russia should play a foremost role in the Slavic world. Solov'ev there was already an altogether different attitude towards Catholicism. unselfish and patient. And in Vl. just as with Dostoevsky -. and it is impossible to call him an herald of the Slavic idea. but it was enveloped by a decrepit and decaying covering. to allow for brotherly and equal relations. which has . which is not free of idealisation of the sense of our state power. [Andrzej] Towianski. as something of value in itself. We know shamefully little of the Polish messianists and we ought now to recourse to the study of them. it should admit the eternal rights of every national individuality and relate to such. From such an unity of different souls and Slavs. magnanimous. or the Slavs. Solov'ev. which the Slavs all do not realise. giving. the Slavic world can only benefit. And it is indisputable. such as have accepted an other spiritual engrafting and represent a different cultural type. In Slavophilism there was a true kernel of a Slavic idea. the Slavic consciousness was weakly expressed in Vl. And therefore he relates to the Polish question otherwise. Vl. than the Russian messianism. and not taking.e. Polish messianism is more pure and more sacrificial. [Zygmunt] Krasinski. The messianic consciousness of Vl. since it is concealed from them by our state politics which is not of the people. small Serbia cannot pretend to an equal significance with Russia. And such an attitude would fully accord with the soul of the Russian people. He transcends the provincial nationalism of the Slavophils. The question is altogether not in this. i. and from this be still moreso itself. Solov'ev because of the universal character of their messianic consciousness could be set alongside the great Polish messianists: with [Adam] Mickiewicz. [August] Cieszkowski. In the messianic consciousness of Dostoevsky it is impossible to find that pure sense of sacrifice. [Juiliusz] Slowacki. Certainly. another great Slavic people. [Jozef Hoene-Wronski] Wronski. But here also the Slavophils were too much exclusively the Russophile. He sees in Catholicism a righteous truth. Solov'ev. The horizons are expansive. But the Slavic feeling.way co-exist with other Slavic souls.
In the Russian liberal and radical circles only during the time of war has there begun to awaken the national consciousness. In the Westerniser leftist camp. but they do not consent to acknowledge the Russian nationality. nationality is acknowledged only as something negative. but this is always inspired by the cosmopolitan idea. since it dominates the state. -. Wronski long ago predicted the world war in almost suchlike a form. But a foreign national soul can be sensed and recognised only by one. It is impossible indeed to call the Slavophils messianists in any strict sense of the word. as now at present is occurring. the clash of the Slavic world with the German and the inevitability of the uniting of Poland with Russia in its struggle with Germany (vide his "Le destin de la France. which has always conceived itself as Westernisers. The tragic fate of the tearing apart of Poland and Serbia forces us to turn our will and our attention to the Slavs and the Slavic idea. new ideas. Regretably. Dostoevsky got himself too tied up with the aggressiveness of the Russian ruling authorities. Wronski considers the Russian people a God-bearing people.inspired the messianic consciousness of the Poles. who has confessed a Russian. Our leftist currents are prepared to admit the right to existence of the Polish nationality or the Gruzinian-Georgian. and not Polish messianism. and it presupposes a new consciousness. who senses and knows his own national soul. But we have to recognise. and they do not admit of creative national tasks. Thinking has begun to mull over the national self-definition and the national acknowledgement of Russia with a push towards the Slavic idea. and the Slavic idea has been foreign to both the Russian liberals and the Russian revolutionaries. Among the Polish messianists there is one. It is impossible to assert the AllSlav idea upon the grounds of acknowledging Eastern Orthodoxy as the sole and complete source . de l'Allemagne et de la Russie comme Prolegomenes du Messianisme"). who have to be acknowledged as the foremost proclaimers of the Slavic idea. that Slavic unity is impossible upon the soil of the traditional Slavophilism and traditional Westernism. the ultimate tragic fate of Poland has led to the supplanting of the Slavic messianism by an exclusionary Polish nationalism. most reknown. III Westernism has not at all acknowledged the value of nationality. they were moreso nationalists. Some elements of Slavophilism have to be assimilated also by that part of society. They consider it necessary to take the oppressed nationalities under their wing. But about Wronski we have heard almost nothing. insofar as they are oppressed. and only insofar as it is persecuted and in need of liberation.Wronski. and as regards their consciousness they stand many heads lower than the Polish messianists.
-. whilst consigning to oblivion and forgiving the historical sins of our ruling authorities. we have re-evaluated too much. in order to deal with the tasks in front of us. than from our fathers and grandfathers. politicised calculations. It will lead to a replacing of the dominance of the German ethnos and conceive its own unity and its idea in the bloody struggle with Germanism. shifting military successes. in order that there should be visible the Russian supra-nationalism and Russian unselfishness.of an higher spiritual culture. to push the vision of our "idea". when the Slavic ethnos ought to have its own say in the arena of world history. We are already neither Slavophils nor Westernisers. At the basis of the Slavic idea. they had not yet overcome the greedy national selfassertion. oriented forward. frightens off and evokes horror. which face us in life. and not backward. the cunning of international diplomacy. since by this is cut off from spiritual interaction all the Polish and Catholic Slavs. The idea of Slavic unity. a creative idea. And this presupposes a surmounting of the Russian religious nationalism. just as in general at the basis of the Russian messianic idea. We have experienced too much. a transforming of inner life. in the purity of our national consciousness. I think. It is clear. and for us there is no return to the old ideologies. We have to inspire confidence in ourself. the Russian all-humaness.it ought first of all to be spiritual. At present we are entering into a new period of Russian and world history. which we convey to the world. There is necessary a new Slavic and a new Russian idea. And every Slavic idea. since that hour of world history has struck. All the slumbering powers of the Russian people have to be brought into action. since we are living in an unprecedented course of events in the world. and it ought not to be externally political. and not the Russian national limitedness and self-conceit. and there is being demanded of us incomparably more. in the strength of our national will. the Russian search for the City of God. a matter of mere utility for the state. is first of all a Russo-Polish unity. but all too well known is the heavy hand of our state. The fate of the Slavic idea cannot stand in a servile dependence upon the unsteady elements of the world. and the old. that the spiritual basis of the Slavic idea ought to be broad and encompass within itself some several religious types. that even the Slavophils have not expressed this depth of the Russian soul. Our depths are not known. Just . which is tied in with this heavy hand. They did not yet lift themself to the level of all-humaness. there can be posited only the Russian spiritual universalism. the traditional ideas have already become ill-suited for the world's new tasks. Our national thought ought creatively to rework a new Slavic idea. not the Russian provincialism. It is necessary to love the soul of Russia and intimately know it. Slavic unity has to proceed along a completely new path. unknown to other peoples.
and in the final end this movement will exert an influence also on our politics. for it counts upon more distant perspectives. And it is such a truth that both we and the other Slavs expect.as with any profound idea. politically useful alliances and combinations. connected with the spiritual fundaments of life. Such truth is in the nature of Russian man. having inherited so grievous a legacy from the past. Nikolai Berdyaev 1915 . We are weary of the lies of the politicians and we want to breathe in the free air of truth. rather instead from a sincere and deep seeking for unity. There has to begin among the people and in society a spiritualcultural AllSlav movement. it cannot perish under external failures. But from the onstart everything ought not to be out of external.
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