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