Putin and the Return of Pan-Slavism

In his book Russia and the Russians: A History, Geoffrey Hosking wrote...
In his book Russia and the Russians: A History, Geoffrey Hosking wrote...

Putin and the Return of Pan-Slavism

In his book Russia and the Russians: A History, Geoffrey Hosking wrote

“Especially strong among the wealthy and educated members of Moscow society, the Pan-Slavs were inspired by the example of Germany to hope that Russia could renew its national identity and strengthen its standing in Europe by sponsoring nation-building among the Slav and Orthodox peoples of central and southeastern Europe.”

“Pan-Slavism also appealed to the suppressed messianism in the Russian cultural and religious tradition… The poet Fedor Tiutchev wrote as early as 1849 of “the city of 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.”

“The messianic mood was articulated by Nikolai Danilevskii, who declared in his Russia and Europe (1869) that the Romano-Germanic domination of Europe was coming to an end and would be replaced by a Slav-Orthodox domination. In Danilevskii’s 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 socioeconomic progress (modern Europe), and would supplement them with the Slavic genius for community and social justice. The Slav peoples would be held together by a “deep-rooted popular confidence in the tsar.” Echoes of “Moscow the Third Rome” were unmistakenable in his writing, transmuted into contemporary geopolitical prophecy.”

Fast forward to the end of the 20th century with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Vladimir Putin’s eventual rise to power and rule over Russia that has now spanned over two decades. One of the main ways he has solidified his power is by effectively restoring Pan-Slavism and the blending nationalism with Orthodox Christianity. From Patriarch Kirill describing the presidency of Putin in 2012 as a “miracle of God” to the Orthodox Church in Moscow refusing to accept the autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church following its 2019 declaration and later blessing the full invasion of Ukraine, along with the invasion of Ukraine beginning on February 24, which is the birthday of Fyodor Ushakov, who became a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church in 2001, the messianic vision of Russia through the lens of Pan-Slavism is on the forefront once again and is being used by Russia to justify its invasion of Ukraine. The only difference between the current situation and the Cold War, is that the Soviets blended nationalism with Communism, which Putin has now replaced with religion just as the czars of Russia had previously done.

So long as Pan-Slavism remains the worldview of the Kremlin, which it has for centuries under both the czars and now Vladimir Putin, peaceful coexistence between Russia and its neighbors, along with the West, will be impossible to achieve and the threat the ideology poses to global security will remain. So long as Moscow views itself as supreme political authority that Ukraine and others must bend to, and continues to desire to build an empire based on that idea reminiscent of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, a return to the Cold War is inevitable. What Fyodor Dostoevsky described as “eternal peace” through the Slav spirit of an Orthodox crusade, has resulted in the destruction of Russia’s neighbors for centuries, such as Catherine the Great partitioning Poland until it ceased to exist only to return after WWI, and will be the fate of Ukraine now unless continued support from the West continues unabated.

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