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Pan-Slavism was a movement in the mid 19th century aimed at unity of all the Slavic peoples. The main focus was in the Balkans where the South Slavs had been ruled and oppressed for centuries by the three great empires, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Venicemarker. It was also used as a political tool by both the Russian Empiremarker and its successor the Soviet Unionmarker.


Full-scale Pan-Slavism began much like Pan-Germanism, both of which grew from the sense of unity and nationalism experienced within ethnic groups under the domination of Francemarker during the Napoleonic Wars. 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.

Commonly used symbols of the Pan-Slavic movement were the Pan-Slavic colours (blue, white and red) and the Pan-Slavic anthem, Hey, Slavs.

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.

The First Pan-Slav Congress, Prague, 1848

The First Pan-Slav congress was held in Praguemarker, 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. 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 Austriamarker 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, Prince of Windischgrätz, 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 Central Europe

The first Pan-Slavic convention was held in Praguemarker in 1848 and was specifically both anti-Austrian and anti-Russian. Pan-Slavism has some supporters among Czech politicians but never gained dominant influence, possibly other than treating Czechs and Slovaks as branches of a single nation.

During World War I captured Slavic soldiers were asked to fight against the "oppression in Austrian Empire: some did (see Czechoslovak Legions).

Creation of an independent Czechoslovakiamarker made the old ideals of Pan-Slavism anachronistic. Relations with other Slavic states varied, sometimes being tense. Even tensions between Czechs and Slovaks had appeared.

Pan-Slavism in the Balkans

The Southern Slavic movement was active after Serbia regained independence from the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Austria feared that nationalists would endanger the empire. Pan-Slavism in the south was vastly different, instead it often turned to Russia for support. The Southern Slavic movement advocated the independence of the Slavic peoples in Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Some Serbian intellectuals sought to unite all of the Southern, Balkan Slavs, whether orthodox, catholic or Muslim, under their rule. Serbia, just having gained independence, was a small nascent state, whereas the Austro-Hungarian Empire, though unstable, was still a strong opponent to Serbia. In this circumstance, the idea of Russia involving the Southern Slavic unity was favored.

The Southern Slavs were some of the first to revolt against the decaying Ottoman Empire. In 1806 and again in 1815, the Serbs secured autonomy from the Ottomans. Almost immediately after Serbia's autonomy, the Serbs began seeking expansion and unity of all the Southern Slavs not under Serbian rule.

In Austria-Hungary Southern Slavs were distributed among several entities: Slovenes in the Austrian part (Carniola, Styria, Carinthia, Gorizia and Gradisca, Triestemarker, Istriamarker (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 Herzegovinamarker, 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 Slovenes. Because the Serbs were distributed among several provinces, and the fact that they had special ties to the independent nation state of Serbiamarker, they were among the strongest supporters of independence of South-Slavs from Austria.

After World War I the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslaviamarker, under Serbian royalty, did unite most Southern Slavs regardless of religion and cultural background (Orthodox/Muslim/Catholic). The only ones they did not unite with were the Bulgarians. Still, in the years after the Second World War, there were plans that Bulgaria should join as a 7th republic in communist Yugoslaviamarker, thus uniting all south Slavs into one state . The idea was left after the break between Tito and Stalin in 1948.

Pan-Slavism in Poland

Although early Pan-Slavism had found interest among some Poles, it soon lost its appeal as the movement became dominated by Russiamarker, and while Russian Pan-Slavists spoke of liberation of other Slavs through Russian actions, parts of Polandmarker had been under oppressive rule by the Russian Empiremarker since the Partitions of Poland. Historically, Polandmarker often saw itself in partnership with non-Slavic nations most of the time, such as Hungarymarker, or Lithuaniamarker under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1795. The influence of 19th century Pan-Slavism had little impact in Polandmarker except for creating sympathy towards the other oppressed Slavic nations to regaining independence. At the same time while Pan-Slavism worked against Austro-Hungary with South Slavs, Poles enjoyed a wide autonomy within the state and assumed a loyalist position as they were able to develop their national culture and preserve Polish language, something under threat in both Germanmarker and Russianmarker Empires. A Pan-Slavic federation was proposed, but on the condition that the Russian Empiremarker would be excluded from such an entity. After Poland regained its independence (from Germany, Austria and Russia) in 1918 no major or minor force considered Pan-Slavism as a serious alternative, viewing Pan-Slavism as little more than a code word for Russification. During Poland's communist era the USSRmarker used Pan-Slavism as propaganda tool to justify its control over the country. The issue of the Pan-Slavism was not part of the mainstream political agenda, and is widely seen as an ideology of Russian imperialism.

Modern day developments

The authentic idea of 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 late 1980s. With the failure of Pan-Slavic states such as Czechoslovakiamarker and Yugoslavia and the problem of Russian and Serbian dominance in any proposed all-Slavic organisation, the idea of Pan-Slavic unity is mostly considered dead. 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. In modern times the appeals to Pan-Slavism are often made in Russiamarker, Serbiamarker and Slovakiamarker.

See also


  1. Robert John Weston Evans, Chapter "Nationality in East-Central Europe: Perception and Definition before 1848." Austria, Hungary, and the Habsburgs: Essays on Central Europe, c.1683-1867. 2006.
  2. Comparative Slavic Studies Volume 6, by Roman Jakobson
  3. "In other words, the Pan-Slavic resentment is not strange to the Russian Eurasianists, however, this is prevailingly limited to the post-Soviet space. Therein lies the difference between the Eurasians and the Russian radical nationalists in their contemporary attitude to Pan-Slavism. Radical nationalists are the only ones who follow up with the tradition and ideational message of the Central- and South-European Pan-Slavism of the tsarist Russia. Pan-Slavism serves as their tool for demonstrating decisive anti-Western attitudes and as an "historical" folklore employed in domestic-political battles, which sound so sweet to the Russian ear. The ideas of Pan-Slavism only find some echo with the part of some Serbian and partly Slovak nationalists" Alexander Duleba, "From Domination to Partnership - The perspectives of Russian-Central-East European Relations", Final Report to the NATO Research Fellowship Program, 1996-1998 [1]

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