Germany and Pan-Slavism

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This article was written by Engels at Marx's request for simultaneous publication in the Neue Oder-Zeitung and New York Daily Tribune. It was based on Engels' studies of the language, literature and history of many Slav peoples, which he began after moving to Manchester in 1850. He read Pushkin's Eugene Onegin and Bronze Horseman and Griboyedov's Wit Works Woe in the original. His notes on the vocabulary of these works are extant, together with the passages he copied from a reader in Russian literature, and his notes on the history of Russia and Serbia. These preparatory materials and the references in Engels' articles to the works of many noted Slavists— Dobrowsky, Kollár, Mikloszić, Palacký, Šafařík and others—bear witness to the intensity and fruitfulness of his studies, which enabled him to draw on numerous sources, including some in Slavic languages, in his analysis of the history, culture and national movements of the Slays.

As can be seen from the closing sentence of the second instalment of this article, Engels intended to continue his discussion of the subject, laying special emphasis on exposing the reactionary character of the Pan-Slavist ideas. He regarded them as an instrument of the great-power policies of the Habsburgs (Austro-Slavism) and a means of vindicating the aggressive tendencies of Russian Tsarism. In sending Engels' article to Elsner, the editor of the Neue Oder-Zeitung, Marx wrote on April 17, 1855 that it was "the beginning of a polemic against Pan-Slavism". However, no further articles on this subject appeared in the newspaper.

Marx attached particular importance to publishing a critique of Pan-Slavist ideas in the New York Daily Tribune because he considered it vital to counteract the influence of A. Gurowski, a propagandist of Pan-Slavism and apologist for Tsarist Russia, who contributed to the Tribune and had published several pamphlets on the subject, including the brochure Russia as It Is (1854). The two instalments of the present article were published in the New York Daily Tribune on May 5 and 7 as separate articles under the headings "The European Struggle" (this version differs considerably from that of the Neue Oder-Zeitung) and "Austria's Weakness". In the second English article several unwarranted changes were made by the Tribune editors who, among other things, inserted a whole paragraph extolling Gurowski's ideas.

Between January and April 1856 Engels wrote fifteen articles on Pan-Slavism for the New York Daily Tribune, but the editorial board turned them down and in September sent them hack to Marx. The manuscripts have not been preserved. Engels' plan for a pamphlet on Pan-Slavism, to be published in Germany, was not realised.

[Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 185, April 21, 1855]

We are assured by the best of sources that the present Tsar of Russia has sent certain courts a dispatch saying, among other things:

"The moment Austria irrevocably allies itself with the West, or commits any openly hostile act against Russia, Alexander II will place himself at the head of the Pan-Slav movement and transform his present title, Tsar of all the Russians, into that of Tsar of all the Slavs." (?)

This declaration by Alexander, if authentic, is the first straight word since the outbreak of war. It is the first step towards giving the war the European character which until now has been lurking behind all manner of pretexts and allegations, protocols and treaties, sections from Vattel and citations from Pufendorf[1]. The independence, even the existence of Turkey has thereby been pushed into the background. The question is no longer who is to govern in Constantinople, but who is to rule the whole of Europe. The Slav race, long divided by internal disputes, pushed back towards the East by the Germans, subjugated, partly, by Germans, Turks and Hungarians, quietly reuniting its branches after 1815, by the gradual growth of Pan-Slavism, now for the first time asserts its unity and thus declares war to the death on the Roman-Celtic and German races, which have hitherto dominated Europe. Pan-Slavism is not merely a movement for national independence, it is a movement that strives to undo what the history of a thousand years has created, which cannot attain its ends without sweeping Turkey, Hungary and half Germany off the map of Europe, a movement which—should it achieve this result—cannot ensure its future existence except by subjugating Europe. Pan-Slavism has now developed from a creed into a political programme, with 800,000 bayonets at its service. It leaves Europe with only one alternative: subjugation by the Slavs, or the permanent destruction of the centre of their offensive force—Russia.

The next question we have to answer is: how is Austria affected by Pan-Slavism which has been uniformed by Russia? Of the 70 million Slavs who live east of the Bohemian forest and the Carinthian Alps, approximately 15 million are subject to the Austrian sceptre, including representatives of almost every variety of the Slavonic language. The Bohemian or Czech branch (6 million) falls entirely under Austrian sovereignty, the Polish is represented by about 3 million Galicians; the Russian by 3 million Malorussians (Red Russians, Ruthenians)[2] in Galicia and North-East Hungary—the only Russian branch outside the borders of the Russian Empire; the South Slav branch by approximately 3 million Slovenians (Carinthians and Croats)[3] and Serbs, including scattered Bulgars. The Austrian Slavs thus fall into two categories: one part consists of the remnants of nationalities whose own history belongs to the past and whose present historical development is bound up with that of nations of different race and language. To crown their sorry national plight these sad remains of former grandeur do not even possess a national organisation within Austria, but rather they are divided between different provinces. The Slovenians, although scarcely 1,500,000 in number, are scattered through the various provinces of Carniola, Carinthia, Styria, Croatia and Southwest Hungary. The Bohemians, al-though the most numerous branch of the Austrian Slavs, are partly settled in Bohemia, partly in Moravia and partly (the Slovak line) in Northwest Hungary. Therefore these nationalities, though living exclusively on Austrian territory, are in no way recognised as constituting distinct nations. They are regarded as appendages of either the German or the Hungarian nation, and in fact they are no more than that. The second group of the Austrian Slavs consists of fragments of different tribes which in the course of history have been separated from the main body of their nation, with their focal points therefore lying outside Austria. Thus the Austrian Poles have their natural centre of gravity in Russian Poland, the Ruthenians in the other Malorussian provinces united with Russia, and the Serbs in Turkish Serbia. It goes without saying that these fragments detached from their respective nationalities gravitate towards their natural centres, and this tendency becomes more conspicuous as civilisation and hence the need for national-historical activity becomes increasingly wide-spread amongst them. In both cases the Austrian Slavs are merely disjecta membra[4], striving for re-unification, either amongst them-selves or with the main body of their particular nationalities. This is the reason why Pan-Slavism is not a Russian invention but an Austrian one. In order to achieve the restoration of each particular Slav nationality the various Slavonic tribes in Austria are beginning to work for a link-up of all the Slavonic tribes in Europe. Russia, strong in itself, Poland, conscious of the indomitable tenacity of its national life and furthermore openly hostile to Slavonic Russia—clearly neither of these two nations were apt to invent Pan Slavism. The Serbs and Bulgars of Turkey, on the other hand, were too barbaric to grasp such an idea; the Bulgars quietly submitted to the Turks, while the Serbs had enough on their hands with the struggle for their own independence.

II[edit source]

[Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 189, April 24, 1855]

The first form of Pan-Slavism was purely literary. Dobrovský, a Bohemian, the founder of the scientific philology of the Slavonic dialects, and Kollár, a Slovak poet from the Hungarian Carpathians, were its inventors. Dobrovský was motivated by the enthusiasm of the scientific discoverer, in Kollar political ideas soon predominated. But Pan-Slavism was still finding its satisfaction in elegies; the splendour of the past, the ignominy, the misfortune and the foreign oppression of the present were the main themes of its poetry. "Is there then, 0 God, no man on earth who will give the Slavs justice?" The dreams of a Pan-Slav empire, dictating laws to Europe, were as yet hardly even alluded to. But the period of lamenting soon passed, and with it the call for mere "justice for the Slavs". Historical research, embracing the political, literary and linguistic development of the Slav race, made huge progress in Austria. Šafařík, Kopitar and Miklosich as linguists, Palacký as an historian placed themselves at the head, followed by a swarm of others with less. scientific talent, or none whatsoever, such as Hanka, Gaj, etc. The glorious epochs of Bohemian and Serbian history were depicted in glowing colours, in contrast to the downtrodden and broken-spirited present of these nationalities; and just as politics and theology were subjected to criticism under the cloak of "philosophy" in the rest of Germany, so in Austria, before the very eyes of Metternich, philology was employed by the Pan-Slavists to preach the doctrine of Slav unity and to create a political party whose unmistakable goal was to transform the conditions of all the nationalities in Austria and to turn it into a great Slavonic empire.

The linguistic confusion prevailing east of Bohemia and Carinthia to the Black Sea is truly astonishing. The process of de-nationalisation among the Slavs bordering on Germany, the slow but continuous advance of the Germans, the invasion of the Hungarians, which separated the North and South Slavs with a compact mass of 7 million people of Finnish race, the interposition of Turks, Tartars and Wallachians in the midst of the Slavonic tribes, have produced a linguistic Babel. The language varies from village to village, almost from farm to farm. Bohemia itself counts among its 5 million inhabitants 2 million Germans alongside 3 million Slavs, and is furthermore surrounded on three sides by Germans. This is also the case with the Austrian Slavonic tribes. The restitution of all originally Slavonic territory to the Slavs, the transformation of Austria except for the Tyrol and Lombardy into a Slavonic empire, which was the goal of the Pan-Slavists, amounted to declaring the historical development of the last thousand years null and void, cutting off a third of Germany and all Hungary and turning Vienna and Budapest into Slav cities—a procedure with which the Germans and Hungarians in possession of these districts could hardly be expected to sympathise. In addition, the differences between the Slavonic dialects are so great that with few exceptions they are mutually incomprehensible. This was amusingly demonstrated at the Slav Congress at Prague in 1848[5], where after various fruitless attempts to find a language intelligible to all the delegates, they finally had to speak the tongue most hated by them all—German.

So we see that Austrian Pan-Slavism lacked the most vital elements of success: mass and unity. Mass, because the Pan-Slavist party, limited to a section of the educated classes, exerted no influence on the people and therefore did not have the power to offer resistance simultaneously to the Austrian government and to the German and Hungarian nationalities which it was challenging. Unity, because its principle of unity was purely an ideal which collapsed on its first attempt at realisation on account of the fact of linguistic diversity. As long as Pan-Slavism remained a purely Austrian movement it constituted no great danger, but the centre of mass and unity which it needed was very soon found for it.

The national movement of the Turkish Serbs at the beginning of the century[6] soon drew the attention of the Russian government to the fact that in Turkey some 7 million Slavs were living whose language resembled Russian more than any other Slavonic dialect, whose religion and holy language—Old or Church Slavonic—was completely identical to that of the Russians. It was among these Serbs and Bulgars that Russia first began a Pan-Slavist agitation, helped by its position as head and protector of the Greek Church. When the Pan-Slavist movement had gained some ground in Austria, Russia soon extended the ramifications of its agencies into the area of its ally. Where it encountered Roman Catholic Slavs, the religious aspect of the issue was dropped and Russia simply depicted as the centre of gravity of the Slav race, as the kernel around which the regenerated Slavonic tribes were to crystallise, as the strong and united people, destined to make a reality of the great Slavonic empire from the Elbe to China, from the Adriatic Sea to the Arctic Ocean. Here, then, they had found the unity and mass that had been lacking! Pan-Slavism immediately fell into the trap. It thus pronounced its own sentence. In order to re-assert imaginary nationalities the Pan-Slavists declared their readiness to sacrifice 800 years of actual participation in civilisation to Russian-Mongolian barbarism. Was not this the natural result of a movement that began with a determined reaction against the course of European civilisation and sought to turn back world history?

Metternich, in the best years of his power, recognised the danger and saw through the Russian intrigues. He suppressed the movement with all the means at his disposal. All his means, however, could be summarised in one word: repression. The only appropriate means, free development of the German and Hungarian spirit, more than sufficient to scare off the Slavonic spectre, had no place in the system of his petty politics. Consequently, after Metternich's fall in 1848, the Slav movement broke out stronger than ever and embracing wider strata of the population than ever before. But at this point its thoroughly reactionary character straightway emerged into the open. While the German and Hungarian movements in Austria were decidedly progressive, it was the Slavs who saved the old system from destruction, and enabled Radetzky to march on the Mincio and Windischgrätz to conquer Vienna. In order to complete the dependence of Austria on the Slav race, the great Slav reserve, the Russian Army, had to descend on Hungary in 1849 and there dictate peace to her.

But if the adhesion of the Pan-Slav movement to Russia was its self.-condemnation, Austria likewise acknowledged its lack of viability by accepting, indeed by asking for this Slav aid against the only three nations among its possessions which have and demonstrate historical vitality: Germans, Italians and Hungarians. After 1848 this debt to Pan-Slavism constantly weighed on Austria, and her awareness of it was the mainspring of Austrian policies.

The first thing Austria did was to act against the Slavs on its own ground, and that was only possible with a policy that was at least partly progressive. The privileges of all the provinces were abolished, a centralised administration supplanted a federal one; and instead of the different nationalities an artificial one, the Austrian, was to be the only one recognised. Although these innovations were partly aimed at the German, Italian and Hungarian elements too, their greatest weight fell on the less compact Slavonic tribes, giving the German element a position of considerable ascendancy. If the dependence on the Slavs inside Austria had thus been eliminated, there remained the dependence on Russia, and the necessity of breaking this direct and humiliating dependence, at least temporarily and to some extent. This was the real reason for Austria's anti-Russian policy in the Eastern question, a policy which although vacillating was at least publicly proclaimed. On the other hand Pan-Slavism has not disappeared; it is deeply offended, resentful, silent and, since the Hungarian intervention, regards the Tsar of Russia as its predestined Messiah. It is not our purpose here to inquire whether Austria—should Russia emerge openly as the head of Pan-Slavism—can reply with concessions to Hungary and Poland, without jeopardising its existence. This much is certain: it is no longer Russia alone, it is the Pan-Slavist conspiracy that threatens to found its empire on the ruins of Europe. The union of all Slavs, because of the undeniable strength which it possesses and may yet acquire, will soon force the side confronting it to appear in an entirely new form. In this context we have not spoken of the Poles—most of whom are to their credit definitely. hostile to Pan-Slavism—nor of the allegedly democratic and socialist form of Pan-Slavism, which ultimately differs from the common, honest Russian Pan-Slavism solely in its phraseology and its hypocrisy. Neither have we discussed the German speculation, which from lofty ignorance has sunk to being an organ of Russian conspiracy[7]. We shall deal in detail with these and other questions relating to Pan-Slavism later.

  1. E. Vattel, Le Droit des gens... and S. Pufendorf, De jure naturae et gentium.—Ed.
  2. The Ruthenians—the name given in nineteenth-century Western ethnographical and historical literature to the Ükrainians of Galicia, the Eastern Carpathians and Bukovina, who were cut off at the time from the rest of the Ukrainian people.
  3. "In listing the Carinthians and Croats with the Slovenes, Engels was basing himself on the then current system of classification of the South Slav peoples, which singled out an "Illyrian branch", comprising the Slays who inhabited the north-western part of the Adriatic coast of the Balkan Peninsula and the adjoining areas captured in the Middle Ages by the Austrian Habsburgs (Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and others). A considerable section of the Slav population of these areas, including the Carinthians, does belong to the Slovenes, but the Croats are a Slav people in their own right.
  4. Separated members. Paraphrase of Horace's expression, disjecti membra poetae—"the limbs of the dismembered poet" (Satirae, liber I, IV, 62).—Ed.
  5. The Slav Congress met in Prague on June 2, 1848. It was attended by representatives of the Slav countries forming part of the Austrian Empire. The Right, moderately liberal wing, to which Palacký and Šafařík, the leaders of the Congress, belonged, sought to solve the national problem through autonomy of the Slav lands within the framework of the Habsburg monarchy. The Left, radical wing (Sabina, Frič, Libelt and others) wanted to act in alliance with the revolutionary-democratic movement in Germany and Hungary. Radical delegates took an active part in the popular uprising in Prague (June 12-17, 1848), directed against the arbitrary rule of the Austrian authorities, and were subjected to cruel reprisals. On June 16, the moderate liberal delegates declared the Congress adjourned indefinitely.
  6. The Serbian insurrection against the arbitrary rule and brutal reprisals of the Turkish janissaries, which flared up in February 1804, developed into an armed struggle for Serbia's independence from Turkey. In the course of the insurrection a national government was set up and in 1808 Georgi Petrovič (Karageorge), the leader of the insurgents, was proclaimed hereditary supreme ruler of the Serbian people. The Serbian movement was greatly advanced by the successful operations of the Russian army in the Balkans during the Russo-Turkish war of 1806-12. Under the Bucharest peace treaty of 1812 Turkey was to grant Serbia autonomy in domestic affairs, but taking advantage of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the Sultan sent a punitive expedition to Serbia in 1813 and restored Turkish rule there. It was overthrown in 1815 as a result of a new Serbian insurrection and diplomatic support from Russia. After the Russo-Turkish war of 1828-29, which ended in the signing of the Adrianople peace treaty of 1829, Turkey recognised the autonomy, i.e. virtual independence, of the Serbian Principality by a special firman of the Sultan issued in 1830.
  7. An allusion to Bruno Bauer, who propounded Pan-Slavist ideas in his pamphlets Russland und das Germanenthum (1853), Deutschland und das Russenthum (1854), Die jetzige Stellung Russlands (1854), Russland und England (1854) and others.—Ed.