Written by Vladimir Moss



     If liberalism, socialism, anarchism and other false beliefs were sapping the foundations of Holy Russia in the nineteenth century, a different, albeit related disease was corrupting the rest of the Orthodox oikoumene: nationalism. Like many in the West, the Orthodox nations of the Balkans and the Middle East were thinking of one thing: freedom! The Balkan Orthodox had already started to liberate themselves from the weakening Turks. And the Greeks in the Free State of Greece wanted freedom for their fellow countrymen still under the Ottoman yoke in accordance with their "great idea" of the re-establishment of the Byzantine Empire. Whether the Greek dreams of the resurrection of Byzantium were compatible with the Slav dreams of their own liberation was a moot point...


     These winds of freedom were less strongly felt by the Greeks still under the Ottoman yoke (as by the Serbs still under the Habsburg yoke). For one thing, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with the monks of Mount Athos over whom it had jurisdiction, stood for strict, traditional Orthodoxy, for which spiritual freedom is much more important than national freedom. As such, it resisted the liberal, westernizing trends that were gradually gaining the upper hand in Athens, Belgrade, Sophia and Bucharest. Another reason was that they already had considerable power. The Ecumenical Patriarch was the civil as well as the ecclesiastical head under the Sultan of all the Balkan Orthodox, and the rich Phanariots that supported the Patriarch were among the most privileged citizens of the Ottoman empire.


     Orthodox traditionalism and anti-liberalism made the patriarchate a natural ally of the Russian government. However, after the Crimean War, Russia was no longer protector of the Christians at the Sublime Porte - and the Greeks felt the difference. And not only the Greeks. Thus in 1860 the Orthodox of Damascus were subjected to a massacre which the Russians were not able to prevent or avenge. According to A.P. Lopukhin, "the Christian subjects of the Sultan, whatever oppression and humiliation they were suffering, were now unable to rely on any outside help but were obliged to rely solely on their own resources... During the last years of the reign of Abdul Mecid [1839-61],... the Greeks... not only remained in a dreadful social and economic state, but even lost many of their former rights and privileges."[1]


     The reason for this was a series of liberal reforms that the Western Powers imposed on Turkey at the Treaty of Paris in 1856, and which the Ottomans issued in the form of an Imperial Rescript. These were seen as supplementing and strengthening the policy of reform known as tanzimat that Turkey had begun in 1839. Their aim was to improve the lot of the Christians under Ottoman rule.


     In fact, however, they made it worse. Thus both Christians and Muslims were promised equality before the law in place of their separate legal systems - which, however, both groups wanted to retain. Again, the economic reforms, which essentially involved the imposition of liberal free-trade principles on the empire, were harmful to both groups. For neither the Orthodox nor the Muslims could compete with the mass-produced products now pouring in from the West, while Ottoman industries were deprived of the protection they needed in order to survive. But the Ottomans were massively in debt to the West, so they were in no position to refuse the terms of trade imposed upon them.


     As living conditions declined, and the power of the patriarch over his people weakened, national passions exploded. In 1861 rebellions broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Wallachia and Moldavia. In 1866 it was the turn of the island of Crete, where in an extraordinary outburst of nationalist passion reminiscent of the Russian Old Ritualists Abbot Gabriel of the monastery of Arkadiou blew up himself and nearly a thousand other Greeks rather than surrender to the Turks. Further rebellions broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria in the 1870s.


     These events placed the Russian government in a quandary. Russia had been looking to liberate the Balkans and Constantinople from the Turkish yoke since the seventeenth century. [2] Catherine the Great hoped to liberate Constantinople and place her grandson Konstantin on the throne there, and the liberation of Constantinople would continue to be seen as an imperial aim until the very fall of the Russian Empire in 1917. But it was only at two moments in the nineteenth century, 1829-30 and 1877-78, that its achievement looked a distinct possibility, even probability. “The Eastern Question” came down to: which power was to rule Constantinople? Or: were the Orthodox nations subject to the Ottoman empire to be liberated at their own hands, at the hands of the Russians, or through the concerted pressure of the great powers on Turkey?


     For most of the nineteenth century Russia had been governed in her foreign policy by two not completely compatible principles or obligations: her obligations as a member of the Triple Alliance of monarchist states (Russia, Austria and Prussia) against the revolution, and her obligations as the Third Rome and the Protector of Orthodox Christians everywhere. As a member of the Triple Alliance Russia could not be seen to support any revolution against a legitimate power. That is why Tsar Alexander I refused to support the Greek Revolution in 1821 - the monarchist powers considered the Ottoman empire to be a legitimate power. On the other hand, as the Third Rome and Protector of all Orthodox Christians, Russia naturally wished to come to the aid of the Orthodox Greeks, Serbs, Bulgars and Romanians under the oppressive Turkish yoke.


     In spite of Nicholas I's intervention in Greece in 1829, his priority was not the protection of Orthodox Christians from the Turkish authorities but the protection of all legitimate regimes against the revolution. In practice, this meant all the major powers including Turkey but excluding France. So it was from a legitimist position that he intervened in the Greek revolution in 1829 by invading the Ottoman empire, twice crushed uprisings of the Poles against his own rule, and in 1849 crushed the Hungarian rising against Austria-Hungary. However, the quarrels between the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholics over the Holy Sepulchre led him to take a more specifically "Third Rome" stand. As we have seen, this led eventually to the Crimean War against Turkey, Britain and France, which, as Oliver Figes' authoritative study of the war confirms, was essentially a religious war between Orthodoxy and Islam, with the Western states supporting the Muslims.[3]


     Although the Crimean War constituted a defeat for the "Third Rome" policy, it inflicted even more damage on the legitimist principle; for illegitimate France was now legitimized again (the treaty ending the war was signed in Paris), while the Tsars never again fully trusted the legitimate monarchy of Austria-Hungary, which had not supported Russia in the war in spite of Russia’s vital intervention to save it in the revolution of 1848-49.


     So intervention for the sake of the Orthodox again became popular, especially as a new wave of rebellions against Turkish rule began in the Balkans.


     Russian intervention under Alexander II was different from earlier interventions under Nicholas I. Under Nicholas, wrote Leontiev, "there was more talk of the rights of Russian protection, of Russian power." However, from the 1860s "Russian diplomacy, the Russian press and Russian society began to speak more and more loudly in favour of the Christians of the East, without relying, as in the 50s, on the right of our power, but much more on the rights of the Sultan's Christian subjects themselves." In other words, human rights, rather than Russia's rights. And so Turkey "was forced to make concessions to us constantly on the path of the liberal reforms that we suggested for the Christians. Because of this Turkey became weaker; the Christians became bolder and bolder, and we in the course of twenty years in all, step by step, destroyed the Turkish empire."[4]


     But the paradoxical fact was that the gradual weakening of the Ottoman empire, and liberation of the Christians from under the Turkish yoke, while to be welcomed in itself, contained great spiritual dangers for the Orthodox commonwealth. For the removal of the yoke gave renewed strength to two diseases that had plagued the Orthodox since even before 1453: the inclination towards western humanist culture, and the nationalist rivalries between the Orthodox powers themselves.


     Moreover, after the French revolution, and especially after the Greek revolution of 1821, the two diseases began to work on each other. Thus western ideas about freedom and the rights of individuals and nations began to interact with frictions among the Christians caused by Greek bishops' insensitivity to the needs of their Slavic, Romanian and Arabic flocks to produce a potentially revolutionary situation.


     The Turkish conquest of the whole of the Balkans suppressed both diseases without completely eliminating either. On the one hand, western influence was seen as harmful by the Turks as it was by the Orthodox Christians, and the Ottoman authorities acted to cut it off.[5] On the other hand, the millet system recognized only one Orthodox nation under the Ecumenical Patriarch, thereby cutting off the possibility of inter-Orthodox wars.


     These two very important benefits of the Turkish yoke went some way to offsetting its disadvantages in the form of the restrictions on missionary activity, the forced induction of Bosnian boys into the Janissaries, and intermittent persecutions; just as the advantages of the pagan pax Romana had outweighed its disadvantages during the pagan Roman empire. The Christian leaders in both Church and State - specifically, the Tsar of Russia and the Patriarch of Constantinople - understood this. So they did not try to destroy the empire, while at the same time trying to mitigate its savagery.


     Leontiev also understood this. Thus "it is necessary," he wrote, "as far as possible, to preserve the Porte; the Porte must be served; it must be defended. And I agree with this point of view of the Phanariots: the pasha is better than the Hellene democratic nomarch (prefect): the pasha is more monarchical, more statist, cleverer, broader."[6]


     Now the Greek "great idea" (μεγαληιδεα), otherwise known as Pan-Hellenism, consisted in the idea that all the traditionally Greek lands not yet freed from the Turks - Crete, Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, even Constantinople and the vast territory of Asia Minor - should be united under Greek suzerainty. This idea dated from well before the Greek revolution of 1821; some say it began immediately after the fall of Constantinople in 1453; but it gathered headway after the foundation of the Free State of Greece, being nourished especially by western-educated liberal thinkers in Athens. It is not to be confused with the universalist idea of Byzantinism, the faith and culture of Christian Rome...


     Unfortunately, Pan-Hellenism tended to enter into conflict with other Orthodox nationalisms, especially those of the Serbs and Bulgars. Thus in Macedonia and Thrace there were now more Slavs than Greeks - and the Slavs were not going to give up their lands to the Greeks without a fight. Moreover, Greek nationalist pressure was exerted not only in lands that had traditionally been inhabited mainly by Greeks, like Macedonia and Thrace, but also in originally Slavic (and Arab) lands, where Greek-speaking priests were imposed on non-Greek-speaking populations.


     These injustices suffered by the Slavs at the hands of the Greeks elicited the sympathy of notable Russians such as Alexis Khomiakov and Bishop Theophan the Recluse. The latter, as archimandrite, was sent by the Russian government and the Holy Synod to Constantinople to gather information on the Greco-Bulgarian quarrel. On March 9, 1857 he presented his report, in which his sympathies for the Bulgarians were manifest. However, on the broader political plane he by no means rejected the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but called on "magnanimous" Russia to come to her aid - "we must not abandon our mother in the faith in this helpless situation of hers".[7]


     The Greeks distrusted this movement in Russian society for the liberation of the Southern Slavs. Whereas earlier generations would have welcomed any incursion of Russia into the Balkans, hoping that the Tsar would liberate Constantinople and give it to the Greeks, the modern, more nationalist-minded Greeks rejected any such interference. For in Free Greece Russia was no longer seen as the liberator of the Balkans for the sake of the Orthodoxy that the Russian and Balkan peoples shared, but as the potential enslaver of the Balkans for the sake of Russian Pan-Slavism. More specifically, the Greeks suspected that Russia wanted to help Bulgaria take the ancient Greek lands of Thrace and Macedonia in which there was now a large Bulgarian population. Thus Pan-Slavism was seen as the great threat to Pan-Hellenism. True, many Greeks, especially in the Ottoman Empire and on Mount Athos, cherished more charitable views of Russia, which continued to support the Orthodox under the Turkish yoke in many ways. But the views of the western-educated liberals in Athens were gaining ground...


     A sign of the times was the court case that took place on Mount Athos in 1874­1875 between the Russian and Greek monks of the monastery of St. Panteleimon with regard to the rights of the Russian monks to stay there. "The case divided the whole of Athos into two opposing camps: the Greek monks and the Russian monks. Only a few of the Greeks had the courage to support the Russians. Thanks to the energy and insistence with which the Russian monks defended their rights to the monastery, with documents in their hands and with the strong support of the Russian consul at the Porte [Count N.P. Ignatiev], the case ended with victory for the Russians."[8]




     The phenomenon of so-called Pan-Slavism was misunderstood and exaggerated by the Greeks. While there was some talk in Russia - for example, by Michael Katkov at the ethnographic exhibition in Moscow in 1867[9] - of bringing all the Slavs together into a single polity under Russia just as the German lands were being brought together under Prussia, this was never a serious political proposition and never entertained by any of the Tsars. It existed more in the minds of the Greeks than in reality.


     Indeed, the famous Serbian Bishop Nikolai (Velimirovich) was inclined to deny the very existence of Pan-Slavism, saying that it was invented by the Germans: "Who thought up Pan-Slavism and spoke about it to the world? The Pan-Germanists! Yes, it was precisely the Pan-Germanists who thought up Pan-Slavism and sounded out about it to the whole world. Man always judges about others from himself. If Pan-Germanism exists, then why should Pan-Slavism not exist? However, this analogy, however much it may appear to represent the rule, is inaccurate in this case. Pan-Germanism existed and exists, while Pan-Slavism was not and is not now. Everybody knows that there is a Pan-German party in both Germany and Austria. We know that there exists Pan-German journalism, and pan-German clubs, and pan-German literature, and pan-German organizations, and pan-German banks. But in the Slavic world, by contrast, there exists nothing of the kind. As a Slav, I would have known about it, and as a free man I would have spoken about it all openly. However, in the Slavic world there exists something which is somewhat different from the Pan-Slavic spectre - a feeling, only a feeling, which is to be found more often in literature than in politics - Slavophilism. This is the same feeling of blood kinship and sympathy that exists in Italy towards the French, which is far from political Pan-Romanism, or the same feeling of kinship that exists in the United States towards the English and in England towards the Americans, although here also it is far from any kind of fantastic Pan-Anglicanism. It is a sentimental striving for kin, a nostalgia of the blood, a certain organic fear of being separated from one's own. And if in this Slavophilism the penetrating note of love is just a little more audible than in Romanophilism or Anglophilism (and I think that it is audible), then this is completely natural and comprehensible. People who suffer are closer to each other than people who are lords. We Slavs, first of all as Slavs, and secondly as oppressed slaves, love and strive towards those who suffer from the same injustice, from the same arrogant pride, from the same disdain. Who can understand a slave better than a slave? And who is more likely to help a sufferer than a sufferer?..." [10]


     Even the Pan-Slavism of a man like General Fadeyev can be called this only with major qualifications. Thus consider his Opinion on the Eastern Question of 1876, in which he writes: "The liberated East of Europe, if it be liberated at all, will require: a durable bond of union, a common head with a common council, the transaction of international affairs and the military command in the hands of that head, the Tsar of Russia, the natural chief of all the Slavs and Orthodox. Every Russian, as well as every Slav and every Orthodox Christian, should desire to see chiefly the Russian reigning House cover the liberated soil of Eastern Europe with its branches, under the supremacy and lead of the Tsar of Russia, long recognized, in the expectation of the people, as the direct heir of Constantine the Great."[11]


     The ideology expressed here is not Pan-Slavism, but that of Russia the Third Rome, the idea - which goes a long way back, before the age of nationalism - that Russia, as the successor of Rome and Byzantium, is the natural protector of all Orthodox Christians. Hence the reference to "all the Slavs and Orthodox", and "every Slav and every Orthodox Christian", and to Constantine the Great - who, needless to say, was not a Slav.


     Another writer who is sometimes mistakenly thought to be Pan-Slavist was Fyodor Tiutchev. He wrote “as early as 1849 of ‘the city of the Constantines’ as one of the ‘secret capitals of Russia’s realm’, and he evoked an unfading empire stretching ‘from Nile to Neva and from Elbe to China… as the Spirit foresaw and Daniel prophesied.’”[12] But again this is the vision of Russia the Third Rome, not Pan-Slavism.


     For what in fact united all the Slavs as opposed to the Orthodox Slavic nations? Less than one might expect. Russia herself was far from being a purely Slavic empire; her aristocracy had been accepting Tatar and German nobles into its ranks for centuries. With the next largest Slavic nation, Poland, she was in a state of constant friction, as the Roman Catholic Poles did everything in their power to undermine Orthodox Russian power. With the Catholic and Protestant Slavs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Slovenes - she was on more friendly terms. But it was not in her interests to foment revolution on ethnic lines in Austria, and as recently as 1848 Russian armies had acted to bolster Austrian power against the Magyars. With the Serbs and the Bulgars, Russia had both blood and Orthodox Christianity in common. But a political union with these nations - even if they wanted it, which most did not - would have required absorbing non-Orthodox Hungary and non-Slavic Romania as well.


     Nor was it in Russia's interests to support individual Slavic nationalisms. As Tom Gallacher points out, "as a multi-national empire in its own right, Russia was hostile to the pretensions of European small state nationalism."[13] As Hosking points out, "the official Foreign Office view was that Russia should cooperate with Germany and Austria to reaffirm the legitimist monarchical principle in Eastern Europe, to counteract revolutionary movements there, whether nationalist or not, and to promote a stable balance of power. Panslavism could never be consistently espoused by the Russian government, for it was a policy which would inevitably lead to war against the Ottomans and Habsburgs, if not against the European powers in general. Besides, it was in essence a revolutionary strategy, directed against legitimate sovereign states. For the Russian empire to promote the principle of insurrectionary nationalism was, to say the least, double-edged."[14]


     For to support, say, Bulgarian pretensions to an independent Greater Bulgaria - as opposed to simply protecting Bulgarians suffering from Turkish cruelty - would have created conflicts with the Greeks, the Romanians and the Serbs; whereas it was in Russia's interests to see unity among all the Orthodox nations.


     Even supposing that Russia in the name of some mythical Pan-Slavist ideal had been willing and able to conquer the whole of the Balkans and take Constantinople, she could not have held on to her gains for long. First, the western powers, including the new rising power of Germany, would have been stirred up to launch another crusade against her. Secondly, to drive the Turks out of Constantinople would not have meant their final defeat, and further operations deep into Asia would have been necessary. But thirdly and most importantly, the union between the Tsar of Russia and the Patriarch of Constantinople, upon which the whole of the Orthodox commonwealth was based, would have been shattered. For what then would the position of the Patriarch within the Russian empire have been? Still the first hierarch of Orthodoxy, or de factosubordinate to the Russian Synod? How would the Greeks (not to mention the Southern Slavs) have reacted to exchanging one form of foreign dominion for another, albeit Orthodox?




     A rare true Pan-Slavist in the political sense was Nicholas Danilevsky, whose Russia and Europe (1869) made use of Slavophile ideas from the 1840s. Danilevsky distinguished ten types of civilization in history: (1) Egyptian, (2) Chinese, (3) Assyrian-Babylonian-Phoenician or Ancient Semitic, (4) Hindu, (5) Iranian, (6) Hebrew, (7) Ancient Greek, (8) Roman, (9) Neo-Semitic or Arabian, and (10) Romano-Germanic or European. He believed that after Russia had conquered Constantinople and liberated and united the Slavs under her rule, she would create an eleventh type of civilization or cultural type.[15]


     Being a form of nationalist historicism, Danilevsky's theory identified the latest in history with the best. And so Slavism, being the last in the series of "historico-cultural" types was the best, in his view. "The new Slavic civilization, with its capital at Constantinople, would synthesize the highest achievements of its predecessors in religion (Israel), culture (Greece), political order (Rome) and socio-economic progress (modern Europe), and would supplement them with the Slavic genius for social and economic justice. 'These four rivers will unite on the wide plains of Slavdom into a mighty sea.'"[16]


     Strictly speaking, however, "best" should not be understood here in relation to a universal scale of values, insofar as each "historico-cultural" type was sui generisand incommensurable, according to Danilevsky. However, this reduced the significance of Danilevsky's theory. For if no single civilization, even the Slavic, can be considered better than any other according to a universal scale of values, then there is no reason to consider it to be better in any real, objective sense.


     As Fr. Georges Florovsky writes, speaking of the later Slavophiles, "Significance is ascribed to this or that cultural achievement or discovery of the Slavic nationality not because we see in it the manifestation of the highest values, values which surpass those that inspired 'European' culture, but simply because they are the organic offshoots of the Slavic national genius. And so not because they are good, but because they are ours.


     "The ideals and concrete tasks for action are inspired not by autonomous seeking and 'the re-evaluation of all values', but solely by 'the milieu' and 'circumstances' of one's 'chance' belonging to the given 'cultural-historical type', to the given 'ethnic group of peoples'. This nationalism should be given the epithet 'anthropological', as opposed to the ethnic nationalism of the 'older Slavophiles', [since] the basis for 'idiosyncracy' is sociological or anthropological particularity, not originality of cultural content. There individual variations are allowed on universal and eternal motifs: here they are taken to be various unshakeable and unmixed relative melodies..."


     “It was on this plane, that the annihilating criticism to which Vladimir Soloviev subjected the imitative nationalism of the later Slavophiles lay. His words had the greater weight in that, even though he was not conscious of it, he stood squarely on the ground of the old, classical Slavophile principles. True, his criticism suffered from wordiness and ‘personalities’. Too often a harsh phrase took the place of subtle argumentation. But the basic fault of ‘false’ nationalism was sensed by him and illumined completely correctly. Only on the soil of universal principles that are absolutely significant to all is genuine culture possible, and the national task of Slavdom can lie only in actively converting itself to the service of values that will be chosen for their supreme good in the free exercise of thought and faith… But the denial of the ‘universal-historical’ path is a step towards nihilism, to the complete dissolution of values,… in the final analysis, the abolition of the category of values altogether…”[17]


     In spite of the existence of one or two true Pan-Slavists like Danilevsky, Mark Almond is right in asserting that "Pan-Slavism remained a minority taste in Alexander II's Russia. Although it attracted interest among journalists and academics as well as curious politicians wondering whether it might serve imperial interests abroad or undermine stability at home, even the Slavic Congress founded in 1858 or the high profile Slavic Congress in Moscow in 1867 attracted little more than interest. Cash to support the idea of Pan-Slavism was in short supply. The Slavic Committee made do with 1700 rubles a year even in 1867, at the height of public interest before the war a decade later."[18]




     An important disciple of Danilevsky was Constantine Leontiev. However, if Leontiev had ever really been an adherent of Danilevsky's Pan-Slavism, he soon abandoned it under the influence of the holy Optina Elders, especially St. Ambrose, and a closer knowledge of the East. Thus "towards the end of his life, in the early 1890s, he finally lost his faith in Russia's ability to create a distinctive new cultural type. The future, he prophesied, belonged to socialism; possibly a Russian tsar would stand at the head of the socialist movement and would organize and discipline it just as the Emperor Constantine had 'organized' Christianity; or perhaps, he wrote in another apocalyptic prediction, a democratic and secular Russia would become the home of the Antichrist..."[19]


     A more important enduring influence than Pan-Slavism in the work of Leontiev was early Slavophilism…[20] However, he was more appreciative than any of the Slavophiles of the continuing importance of Greek Orthodoxy to Slavic Orthodoxy. Leontiev believed that if one subtracted Byzantinism from Slavdom, very little distinctively different was left. An ardent Philhellene, he thought that narrowly Serbian and Bulgarian nationalisms were real and powerful forces, very similar in their aims and psychology to Greek nationalism, and, like contemporary Greek nationalism, sadly lacking in that exalted and spiritual form of "universalist nationalism" that he called Byzantinism. These petty nationalisms, argued Leontiev, were closely related to liberalism. They were all rooted in the French revolution: just as liberalism insisted on the essential equality of all men and their "human rights", so these nationalisms insisted on the essential equality of all nations and their "national rights". But this common striving for "national rights" made the nations very similar in their essential egoism[21]; it erased individuality in the name of individualism, hierarchy in the name of egalitarianism[22].


     Leontiev believed, as Walicki writes, that "nations were a creative force only when they represented a specific culture: 'naked' or purely 'tribal' nationalism was a corrosive force destroying both culture and the state, a levelling process that was, in the last resort, cosmopolitan; in fact, nationalism was only a mask for liberal and egalitarian tendencies, a specific metamorphosis of the universal process of disintegration".[23] According to Leontiev, the nations' striving to be independent was based precisely on their desire to be like every other nation: "Having become politically liberated, they are very glad, whether in everyday life or in ideas, to be like everyone else". Therefore nationalism, freed from the universalist idea of Christianity, leads in the end to a soulless, secular cosmopolitanism. "In the whole of Europe the purely national, that is, ethnic principle, once released from its religious fetters, will at its triumph give fruits that are by no means national, but, on the contrary, in the highest degree cosmopolitan, or, more precisely, revolutionary."[24]


     Leontiev foresaw that Bulgarian nationalism would lead to a diplomatic break with Bulgaria’s liberator and protector, Russia, which took place in the reign of Tsar Alexander III.[25] He also foresaw that state nationalism in general could lead to the internationalist abolition or merging of states. "A grouping of states according to pure nationalities will lead European man very quickly to the dominion of internationalism"[26] - that is, a European Union or even a Global United Nations. "A state grouping according to tribes and nations is… nothing other than the preparation - striking in its force and vividness - for the transition to a cosmopolitan state, first a pan-European one, and then, perhaps, a global one, too! This is terrible! But still more terrible, in my opinion, is the fact that so far in Russia nobody has seen this or wants to understand it..."[27]


     "This striving for unity", writes Wil van den Bercken, "provoked in Leontiev a fear of cultural impoverishment. He feared that the old capital cities of Europe would be swept off the map because formerly they had been centres of hostility between the European nations, and that the monarchies would disappear in favour of 'a banal workers' republic. Leontiev asks himself: 'What price must be paid for such a fusion? Will not a new pan-European state have to dispense in principle with recognizing all local differences?... In any case France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. will cease to exist as states; they will become districts of the new state as former Piedmont, Tuscany, Rome and Naples have become districts for Italy, and as now Hessen, Hanover and Prussia have themselves become districts of pan-Germany; they will become for pan-Europe what Burgundy and Brittany have long become for France!' According to Leontiev, the cultural complexity of Europe cannot be maintained in a Europe which has been democratically levelled down, but only in the various monarchistic states of Europe…"[28]


     Orthodoxy recognizes no essential difference between Jew and Greek, Scythian and barbarian so long as they are all Orthodox, all right-believing members of the One True Church. The same applies on the collective level, between nations. This is the Orthodox egalitarianism. So it went against the spirit of Orthodoxy for Russia to take the side of one Orthodox nation against another, or of Slavs against non-Slavs. The aim of Russia, as the protectress of Orthodoxy throughout the world, had to be to cool passions, avert conflicts and build bridges among the Orthodox of different races, rejecting both Pan-Hellenism and Pan-Slavism. Therefore neither Pan-Hellenism nor Pan-Slavism but Byzantinism, or Romanity (Romanitas or Ρωμειοσυνη), was the truly Orthodox ideal, the ideal of a commonwealth of all Orthodox nations united by a strict adherence to Holy Orthodoxy in the religious sphere and loyalty to the Orthodox Emperor in the political sphere.


     This vision has repelled many. Thus it has been argued that "for Leontiev, 'ascetic and dogmatic Orthodoxy' was mainly distinguished by its 'Byzantine pessimism', its lack of faith in the possibility of harmony and universal brotherhood."[29] However, this criticism is unjust: Orthodoxy does not reject the possibility of universal brotherhood, still less the actuality of Orthodox brotherhood. After all, what is the Kingdom of God, according to Orthodoxy, if not the complete brotherhood of man in the Fatherhood of God, when God will be "all in all"? But the Orthodox are also realistic; they know that man is fallen, and that neither the idea of human rights nor that of national rights can take the place of true fraternity, or love in Christ, acquired through true faith in Christ and ascetic struggle. Moreover, the eschatological teaching of Orthodoxy, according to which things will get worse and worse until the enthronement of the Antichrist towards the end of the world, does not leave much foom for optimism in the long term, but only for temporary improvements in certain regions…


July 25 / August 7, 2019.


[1] Lopukhin, Istoria Khristianskoj Tserkvi v XIX veke (A History of the Christian Church in the 19th Century),St. Petersburg, 1901, vol. II, pp. 47-48.

[2] Thus "on April 12th, 1791," writes Roman Golicz, "a cartoon was published in London entitled 'An Imperial Stride!' depicting Catherine the Great with one foot in Russia and the other in Constantinople. The image recalls the empress's epic tour to the Crimea in 1787 when she entered Kherson through an arch inscribed 'The Way to Constantinople'” ("The Russians Shall Not Have Constantinople", History Today, September, 2003, p. 39.

[3] Figes, Crimea, London: Allen Lane, 2010, p. 9.

[4] Leontiev, "Pis'ma o vostochnykh delakh - I" (Letters on Eastern Matters - I), in Vostok, Rossia i Slavianstvo (The East, Russia and Slavdom), Moscow, 1996, p. 354. Cf. Mansel, Constantinople, p. 248: "Wellington revealed the great truth: 'The Ottoman Empire stands not for the benefit of the Turks but of Christian Europe.' Metternich pronounced the preservation of the Ottoman Empire in Europe 'a political necessity for Austria'."

[5] For example, "when in the eighteenth century the Orthodox in Syria complained to the Porte of Catholic propaganda, the following decree was issued: 'Some of the devilish French monks, with evil purposes and unjust intentions, are passing through the country and are filling the Greek rayah with their worthless French doctrine; by means of stupid speeches they are deflecting the rayah from its ancient faith and are inculcating the French faith. Such French monks have no right to remain anywhere except in those places where their consuls are located; they should not undertake any journeys or engage in missionary work" (in Fr. Alexander Schmemann, The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1963, p. 284).

[6] Leontiev, "Pis'ma o vostochnykh delakh" (Letters on Eastern Affairs), Vostok, Rossia i Slavianstvo, op. cit., p. 362.

[7] St. Theophan's Life, in Archimandrite Nicon (Ivanov) and Protopriest Nicholas (Likhomakov), Zhitia Russkikh Sviatykh (Lives of the Russian Saints), Tutaev, 2000, vol. 2, p. 716.

[8] Lopukhin, op. cit., pp. 136-137. For more on this quarrel, see Deacon Peter Pakhomov, “O Prekraschenii Afonskoj Smuty, Igumene Makarii i Generale Ignatieve” (On the Ending of the Athos Time of Troubles, Abbot Macarius and General Ignatiev), 1 October, 2015.

[9] Sir Geoffrey Hosking, Russia. People and Empire, 1552-1917, London: HarperCollins, 1997, p. 369.

[10]  Velimirovich, Dusha Serbii (The Soul of Serbia), Moscow, 2007, pp. 572-573.

[11] A.N. Wilson, The Victorians, London: Arrow Books, 2002, p. 395.

[12] Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p. 313.

[13] Gallagher, "Folly & Failure in the Balkans", History Today, September, 1999, p. 48.

[14] Hosking, Russia. Empire and People, pp. 370-371.

[15] Andrzej Walicki, A History of Russian Thought, Oxford: Clarendon, 1988, pp. 291-293, 295-297.

[16] Hosking, Russia. Empire and People, p. 369.

[17] Florovsky, “Vechnoe i prekhodiaschee v uchenii russkikh slavianofilov” (The eternal and the passing in the teaching of the Russian Slavophiles), in Vera i Kul’tura (Faith and Culture), St. Petersburg, 2002, pp. 101, 102-103).

[18] Almond, Europe's Backyard War, London: Mandarin, 1994, p. 105.

[19] Walicki, op. cit., pp. 304-305.

[20] Thus "one of the sources of Leontiev's ideas", writes S.V. Khatuntsev, “on the inevitability of serious conflicts between a Russia that was renewing and transforming itself and the civilization of the West was, without a doubt, the ideas of the Slavophiles. Proceeding from a recognition of the complete opposition of the two worlds – the ‘western’, ‘Romano-Germanic’, ‘Catholic-Protestant’, and the ‘eastern’, ‘Slavic-Orthodox’, the Slavophiles concluded that conflicts and wars between them were inevitable. So for Yu.F. Samarin, ‘the essential, root difference’ between the two worlds was already ‘a condition of struggle’ between them in all spheres, including the political. The political opposition between Western Europe and Slavdom was the initial basis of the views of I.S. Aksakov. Already in 1861 he was speaking about ‘the hatred, which is often instinctive’ of Europe for the Slavic, Orthodox world, the case of which was ‘the antagonism between the two opposing educational principles and the envy of the decrepit world for the new one, to which the future belongs’. Several years later Aksakov wrote: ‘The whole task of Europe consisted and consists in putting an end to the material and moral strengthening of Russia, so as not to allow the new, Orthodox-Slavic world to arise…’ However, he did not think that the opposition between the West and Russia unfailingly signified enmity or war between them. No less important for the genesis of the ideas of Leontiev that are being reviewed was his conception of the war of 1853-56 and the anti-Russian campaigns in Europe during the Polish rebellion of 1863-1864. Both the Eastern war and the anti-Russian campaigns convinced him that the West was irreconcilably hostile to Russia.” ("Problema 'Rossia-Zapad' vo vzgliadakh K.N. Leontieva (60-e gg. XIX veka)" (The Problem of Russia and the West in the views of K.N. Leontiev (in the 60s of the 19th century), Voprosy Istorii (Questions of History), 2006 (3), p. 119)

[21] As Leontiev put it: "The Greeks have 'the Byzantine empire', 'the Great Hellenic Idea'; while the Bulgars have 'Great Bulgaria'. Is it not all the same?" ("Pis'ma o vostochnykh delakh - IV" (Letters on Eastern Matters - IV), op. cit., p. 363.

[22] "So much for the national development, which makes them all similar to contemporary Europeans, which spreads petty rationalism, egalitarianism, religious indifference, European bourgeois uniformity in tastes and manners: machines, pantaloons, frock-coats, top hats and demagogy!" ("Plody natsional'nykh dvizhenij" (The Fruits of the National Movements), op. cit., p. 560).

[23] Walicki, op. cit., p. 303.

[24] Leontiev, Letter of a Hermit.

[25] Vadim Venediktov, “Pravoslavnij Vostok Glazami Russkogo Filosofa K.N. Leontiev”.

[26] Leontiev, "On Political and Cultural Nationalism", letter 3, op. cit., p. 363.

[27] Leontiev, "Tribal Politics as a Weapon of Global Revolution", letter 2, in Constantine Leontiev, Izbrannie Sochinenia (Selected Works), edited and with an introductory article by I.N. Smirnov, Moscow, 1993, p. 314.

[28] Wil Van Den Bercken, Holy Russia and Christian Europe, London: SCM Press, 1999, p. 212.

[29] Walicki, op. cit., p. 308.


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