Slavophile

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A Slavophile was an advocate of the uniqueness (and according to some critics, superiority) of Slavic culture compared with others, especially Western European culture. The word Slavophile can also be applied to an admirer of Slavic culture.

As an intellectual movement, Slavophilism was developed in the 19th-century Russia. In a sense there was not one but many slavophile movements, or many branches of the same movement. Some were to the left of the political spectrum, noting 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 to the right of the spectrum and pointed to the centuries old tradition of the autocratic Tsar as being the essence of the Russian nature.

The movement originated in Moscow in the 1830s. Drawing on the works of Greek patristics, the poet Aleksey Khomyakov (1804-60) and his devoutly Orthodox friends elaborated a traditionalistic doctrine that Russia has its own distinct way and doesn't have to imitate and mimic Western institutions. The Russian Slavophiles denounced Western culture and "westernizations" by Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, and some of them even adopted the traditional pre-Petrine dress.

The doctrines of Khomyakov, Ivan Kireevsky (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, the lexicographer Vladimir Dahl, and others. Their struggle for purity of the Russian language had something in common with aesthetic views of Leo Tolstoy.

In the sphere of practical politics, the Slavophilism manifested itself as a pan-Slavic movement for the unification of all Slavic people under leadership of the Russian tsar and for the liberation of the Balkan Slavs from the Ottoman yoke. The Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 is usually considered a high point of this militant Slavophilism, as expounded by the charismatic commander Mikhail Skobelev.

It should be noted that most Slavophiles were liberals and ardently supported the emancipation of serfs. Press censorship, serfdom, and capital punishment were viewed as baneful Western influences. Their political ideal was a parliamentary monarchy, as represented by the medieval Zemsky Sobors.

Later writers Fyodor Dostoevsky, Konstantin Leontyev, and Nikolay Danilevsky developed a peculiar conservative and according to some, anti-Semitic version of Slavophilism called pochvennichestvo (from the Russian word for soil). This teaching, as articulated by Konstantin Pobedonostsev (secular head of the Russian Orthodox church), was adopted as the official imperial ideology in 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).

Many of the Slavophiles influenced prominent Cold War thinkers such as George F. Kennan, instilling in them a love for "Old" Russia as opposed to Soviet Russia. This in turn influenced their foreign policy ideas, such as Kennan's belief that the revival of the Eastern Orthodox Church in WWII would lead to the reform or overthrow of the Soviet Union.

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Slavophile

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