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Pan-Slavism, a movement which crystallized in the mid-19th century, is the political ideology concerned with the advancement of integrity and unity for the Slavic-speaking peoples. Its main impact occurred in the Balkans, where non-Slavic empires had ruled the South Slavs for centuries. These were mainly the Byzantine Empire, Austria-Hungary (both as separate entities for most of the period), the Ottoman Empire, and Venice.
Extensive pan-Slavism began much like Pan-Germanism, both of which grew from the sense of unity and nationalism experienced within ethnic groups after the French Revolution and the consequent Napoleonic Wars against European monarchies. Like other Romantic nationalist movements, Slavic intellectuals and scholars in the developing fields of history, philology, and folklore actively encouraged the passion of their shared identity and ancestry. Pan-Slavism also co-existed with the Southern Slavic independence.
The first pan-Slavists were the 16th-century Croatian writer Vinko Pribojević and the 17th-century Aleksandar Komulović, Bartol Kašić, Ivan Gundulić and Croatian Catholic missionary Juraj Križanić. Some of the earliest manifestations of Pan-Slavic thought within the Habsburg Monarchy have been attributed to Adam Franz Kollár and Pavel Jozef Šafárik. The movement began following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. In the aftermath, the leaders of Europe sought to restore the pre-war status quo. At the Congress of Vienna, Austria's representative, Prince von Metternich, felt the threat to this status quo in Austria was the nationalists demanding independence from the empire. While their subjects were composed of numerous ethnic groups (such as Italians, Romanians, Hungarians, etc.), most of the subjects were Slavs.
First Pan-Slav Congress, Prague, 1848
The First Pan-Slav congress was held in Prague, Bohemia in June, 1848, during the revolutionary movement of 1848. The Czechs had refused to send representatives to the Frankfurt Assembly feeling that Slavs had a distinct interest from the Germans. The Austroslav, František Palacký, presided over the event. Most of the delegates were Czech and Slovak. Palacký called for the co-operation of the Habsburgs and had also endorsed the Habsburg monarchy as the political formation most likely to protect the peoples of central Europe. When the Germans asked him to declare himself in favour of their desire for national unity, he replied that he would not as this would weaken the Habsburg state: “Truly, if it were not that Austria had long existed, it would be necessary, in the interest of Europe, in the interest of humanity itself, to create it.”
The Pan-Slav congress met during the revolutionary turmoil of 1848. Young inhabitants of Prague had taken to the streets and in the confrontation, a stray bullet had killed the wife of Field Marshal Alfred I, Prince of Windisch-Grätz, the commander of the Austrian forces in Prague. Enraged, Windischgrätz seized the city, disbanded the congress, and established martial law throughout Bohemia.
Pan-Slavism in the Czech lands and Slovakia
The first Pan-Slavic convention was held in Prague on June 2 through 16, 1848. The delegates at the Congress were specifically both anti-Austrian and anti-Russian. Still "the Right"—the moderately liberal wing of the Congress—under the leadership of František Palacký (1798–1876), a Czech historian and politician, and Pavol Jozef Šafárik (1795–1861), a Slovak philologist, historian and archaeologist, favored autonomy of the Slav lands within the framework of Austrian (Habsburg) monarchy. In contrast "the Left"—the radical wing of the Congress—under the leadership of Karel Sabina (1813–1877), a Czech writer and journalist, Josef Václav Frič, a Czech nationalist, Karol Libelt (1817–1861), a Polish writer and politician, and others, pressed for a close alliance with the revolutionary-democratic movement going on in Germany and Hungary in 1848.
A national rebirth in the Hungarian "Upper Land" (now Slovakia) awoke in a completely new light, both before the Slovak Uprising in 1848 and after. The driving force of this rebirth movement were Slovak writers and politicians who called themselves Štúrovci, the followers of Ľudovít Štúr. As the Slovak nobility was Magyarized and most Slovaks were merely farmers or priests, this movement failed to attract much attention. Nonetheless, the campaign was successful as brotherly cooperation between the Croats and the Slovaks brought its fruit throughout the war. Most of the battles between Slovaks and Hungarians however, did not turn out in favor for the Slovaks who were logistically supported by the Austrians, but not sufficiently. The shortage of manpower proved to be decisive as well.
During the war, the Slovak National Council brought its demands to the young Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph I, who seemed to take a note of it and promised support for the Slovaks against the revolutionary radical Hungarians. However the moment the revolution was over, Slovak demands were forgotten. These demands included an autonomous land within the Austrian Empire called "Slovenský kraj" which would be eventually led by a Serbian prince. This act of ignorance from the Emperor convinced the Slovak and the Czech elite who proclaimed the concept of Austroslavism as dead.
Disgusted by the Emperor's policy, in 1849, Ľudovít Štúr, the person who codified the first official Slovak language, wrote a book he would name Slavdom and the World of the Future. This book served as a manifesto where he noted that Austroslavism was not the way to go anymore. He also wrote a sentence that often serves as a quote until this day: "Every nation has its time under God's sun, and the linden [a symbol of the Slavs] is blossoming, while the oak [a symbol of the Teutons] bloomed long ago."
He expressed confidence in the Russian Empire however, as it was the only country of Slavs that was not dominated by anybody else, yet it was one of the most powerful nations in the world. He often symbolized Slavs as being a tree, with "minor" Slavic nations being branches while the trunk of the tree was Russian. His Pan-Slavic views were unleashed in this book, where he stated that the land of Slovaks should be annexed by the Tsar's empire and that eventually, the population could be not only Russified, but also converted into the rite of Orthodoxy, religion originally spread by Cyril and Methodius during the times of Great Moravia, which served as an opposition to the Catholic missionaries from the Franks. After the Hungarian invasion of Pannonia, Hungarians converted into Catholicism, which effectively influenced the Slavs living in Pannonia and in the land south of the Lechs.
However, the Russian Empire often claimed Pan-Slavism as a justification for its aggressive moves in the Balkan Peninsula of Europe against the Ottoman Empire, which conquered and held the land of Slavs for centuries. This eventually led to the Balkan campaign of the Russian Empire, which resulted in the entire Balkan being liberated from the Ottoman Empire, with the help and the initiative of the Russian Empire. Pan-Slavism has some supporters among Czech and Slovak politicians, especially among the nationalistic and far-right ones, such as People's Party - Our Slovakia.
The creation of an independent Czechoslovakia made the old ideals of Pan-Slavism anachronistic. Relations with other Slavic states varied, sometimes being so tense it escalated into an armed conflict, such as with the Second Polish Republic where border clashes over Silesia resulted in a short hostile conflict, the Polish–Czechoslovak War. Even tensions between Czechs and Slovaks had appeared before and during World War II.
Pan-Slavism among South Slavs
Pan-Slavism in the south would often turn to Russia for support. The Southern Slavic movement advocated the independence of the Slavic peoples in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Some Serbian intellectuals sought to unite all of the Southern, Balkan Slavs, whether Catholic (Croats, Slovenes), or Orthodox (Serbs, Bulgarians) as a "Southern-Slavic nation of three faiths".
Austria feared that Pan-Slavists would endanger the empire. In Austria-Hungary Southern Slavs were distributed among several entities: Slovenes in the Austrian part (Carniola, Styria, Carinthia, Gorizia and Gradisca, Trieste, Istria (also Croats)), Croats and Serbs in the Hungarian part within the autonomous Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia and in the Austrian part within the autonomous Kingdom of Dalmatia, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, under direct control from Vienna. Due to a different position within Austria-Hungary, several different goals were prominent among the Southern Slavs of Austria-Hungary. A strong alternative to Pan-Slavism was Austroslavism, especially among the Croats and Slovenes. Because the Serbs were dispersed among several regions, and the fact that they had ties to the independent nation state of Kingdom of Serbia, they were among the strongest supporters of independence of South-Slavs from Austria-Hungary and uniting into a common state under Serbian monarchy.
In 1863, the Association of Serbian Philology commemorated the death of Cyril a thousand years earlier, its president Dimitrije Matić, talked of the creation of an ethnically "pure" Slavonic people: "with God’s help, there should be a whole Slavonic people with purely Slavonic faces and of purely Slavonic character"
After World War I the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, under Serbian royalty of the Karađorđević dynasty, united most Southern Slavic-speaking nations regardless of religion and cultural background. The only ones they did not unite with were the Bulgarians. Still, in the years after the Second World War, there were proposals to incorporate Bulgaria into a Greater Yugoslavia thus uniting all south Slavic-speaking nations into one state. The idea was abandoned after the split between Josip Broz Tito and Joseph Stalin in 1948. This led to some bitter sentiment between the people of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in the aftermath.
At the end of the Second World War, the Partisans leader Josip Broz Tito, a Croat, became Yugoslav president, and the country become a socialist republic. Tito advocated Brotherhood and unity which meant equality among the ethnic groups, including non-Slav minorities. This led to relatively peaceful co-existence and prosperity until the breakup of the federation.
Pan-Slavism in Poland
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Although early Pan-Slavism had found support among some Poles, it soon lost its appeal as the movement became dominated by Russia. While Russian Pan-Slavists spoke of the liberation of other Slavs through Russian actions, parts of Poland had been ruled by the Russian Empire since the Partitions of Poland. At different points in history, Poland often saw itself in partnership with non-Slavic nations, such as Hungary, Saxony, Sweden and Lithuania under the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Especially after 1795, Revolutionary and Napoleonic France was held in high regard by most Poles, and seen as the main champion of reconstitution of their country, particularly since it was a mutual enemy of Austria, Prussia and Russia. The influence of 19th century Pan-Slavism had little impact in Poland except for creating sympathy towards the other oppressed Slavic nations and their aspirations to independence. At the same time, while Pan-Slavism worked against Austro-Hungary with South Slavs, Poles enjoyed wide autonomy within the state and assumed a loyalist position towards the Habsburgs. Within the Austro-Hungarian polity, they were able to develop their national culture and preserve the Polish language, both of which were under threat in both German and Russian Empires. A Pan-Slavic federation was proposed, but on the condition that the Russian Empire would be excluded from such an entity. After Poland regained its independence (from Germany, Austria and Russia) in 1918 no major force considered Pan-Slavism as a serious alternative, viewing Pan-Slavism as a little more than a code word for Russification. During Poland's communist era, the USSR used Pan-Slavism as a propaganda tool to justify its control over the country. The issue of the Pan-Slavism was not part of current mainstream politics and is widely seen as an ideology of Russian imperialism.
Joseph Conrad in Notes on Life and Letters.:
"... between Polonism and Slavonism there is not so much hatred as a complete and ineradicable incompatibility." ... Conrad argues that "nothing is more foreign than what in the literary world is called Slavonism to his individual sensibility and the whole Polish mentality"
Pan-Slavism in Russia
Pan-Slavism is popular amongst immigrants from the former USSR to Slavic countries of the European Union. It expresses fierce populism, nostalgia for the Soviet era, and strong anti-Western sentiments.
During the time of the Soviet Union, Bolshevik teachings viewed Pan-Slavism as a reactionary element formerly used by the Russian Empire. As a result, Bolsheviks viewed it as contrary to their Marxist ideology. However, with the emergence of World War II, the Stalinist government saw fit to utilize Pan-Slavic politics, resulting in the Pan-Slavic Congress being held in Moscow in 1942.
The authentic idea of the unity of the Slavic people was all but gone after World War I when the maxim "Versailles and Trianon have put an end to all Slavisms" and was finally put to rest with the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. With the breakup of federal states such as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia and the problem of Russian dominance in any proposed all-Slavic organisation, the idea of Pan-Slavic unity is mostly considered dead in the western world. Varying relations between the Slavic countries exist nowadays; they range from mutual respect on equal footing and sympathy towards one another through traditional dislike and enmity, to indifference. None, other than culture and heritage oriented organizations, are currently considered as a form of rapprochement among the countries with Slavic origins. The political parties which include panslavism as part of their program usually live on the fringe of the political spectrum (e.g. in Poland candidates from Związek Słowiański got no more than few thousands of votes). In modern times, the appeals to Pan-Slavism are often made in Belarus, Russia, Serbia and Slovakia.
Creation of Pan-Slavic languages
The similarity of Slavic languages inspired many people to create Pan-Slavic languages, i.e., zonal constructed languages for all Slavic people to communicate with one another. Several of these languages were created in the past, but due to the Internet, many more Pan-Slavic languages were created in the Digital Age. The most popular modern Pan-Slavic language is Interslavic.
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