Byzantism and Slavdom: Political Ideology of Constantine Leontiev

Byzantism and Slavdom: Political Ideology of Constantine Leontiev
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  106 CYRIL AND METHODIUS: BYZANTIUM AND THE WORLD OF THE SLAVS (THESSALONIKI 2015):  pp. 106-116  B󰁹󰁺󰁡󰁮󰁴󰁩󰁳󰁭 󰁡󰁮󰁤 S󰁬󰁡󰁶󰁤󰁯󰁭: P󰁯󰁬󰁩󰁴󰁩󰁣󰁡󰁬 I󰁤󰁥󰁯󰁬󰁯󰁧󰁹 󰁯󰁦 C󰁯󰁮󰁳󰁴󰁡󰁮󰁴󰁩󰁮󰁥 L󰁥󰁯󰁮󰁴󰁩󰁥󰁶  Julia Zlatkova (Soa, Bulgaria) Прошел великий муж по Руси – и лег в могилу.  Ни звука при нем о нем; карканьем ворон встречен и провожен.  И лег, и умер в отчаянии. В. Розанов A great man passed through Russia – and laid death in his grave.  Nobody said a word about him; he was met and accompanied only by the crow’s croak.  And he lay down and died in desperation. V. Rozanov B yzantine cultural and religious tradition was a foundation on which the Orthodox Slavic world was build. Medieval Slavic states and institutions and their spiritual and material culture were shaped on the Byzantine model. The  Byzantine Commonwealth  existed not only in the Middle Ages but throughout the times of the Ottoman rule and Modern History. According to the Russian philosopher, diplomat, and monk Constantine Leontiev 1  Byzantism was real while Slavism was not. Leontiev lived for more than a decade in the Ottoman Empire (between 1863 and 1874) during his diplomatic career and had the opportunity to examine the life and traditions of the Balkan peoples and the vivid Byzantine 1 Constantine Nikolaevich Leontiev was born on January 13, 1831 in the village of Kudinovo, province of Kaluga. Both his parents were of aristocratic descent and his mother Theodosia Petrovna, from the old noble family of Karabanovs, had a particular inuence on him. As Nikolay Berdyaev has pointed out, Leontiev was an aristocrat by nature, by character, by sense of life, and by conviction. Leontiev often changed his profes-sion and habitation, in searching for beauty, inspiration, and personal salvation. A turning point in his spiritual development was his religious conversion in 1871, which made a great impact on his social and political convictions and literary activity.  107 JULIA ZLATKOVA: BYZANTISM AND SLAVDOM: POLITICAL IDEOLOGY OF CONSTANTINE LEONTIEV legacy of the East. He was not able to signicantly inuence the ofcial Russian position and policy towards the Eastern question and Greek-Bulgarian church conict, but his ideas and concepts made him one of the most srcinal and remarkable European thinkers of the 19 th  century. His aristocratic, reactionary, monarchist, and universalistic ideology was highly unpopular in the age of democracy, nationalism, and political liberalism. Leontiev remained unappreciated, misunderstood, and even unknown, but his conceptions and his theory of the three-part process are of global signicance. They deserve closer examination not just from historical perspective but also – for future developments. According to Leontiev, the idea of Byzantism was clear and understandable. Byzantism was based on autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Roman law. Pessimism and disillusionment with earthly things were the essence of the Byzantine moral ideal. Byzantism was the strongest antithesis of the modern ideas of universal equality, liberty, and prosperity. Byzantine civilization srcinated in the fourth century as a successor of the ancient Greco-Roman civilization and outlived it with 11 centuries, due mainly to the new Christian religion, which gave a new life to the Roman Empire. Most of the world’s civilizations lived much shorter; while the longest period a civilization could survive was 12 centuries. In contrast to Byzantism, Slavism was something amorphous and random, having no specic forms and features, and could be dened as an enigma : “If we try to imagine the Slavism, we have only an amorphous, spontaneous, and unorganized image, which resembles distant clouds forming different gures, when they come close to us. On the contrary, the image of Byzantism resembles the strict and clear plan of a vast spacious building. We know, for example, that Byzantism in state affairs means autocracy. In religion, it means Christianity with specic characteristics, which distinguish it from western churches, heresies, and sects…Byzantism also gives us quite clear notions in arts and aesthetics: fashion, custom, tastes, clothing, architecture, furniture – it is easy to imagine all this as more or less Byzantine…We can not see anything similar in Slavism.” 2  Slavic peoples did not have common features and characteristics except the language and ethnic srcins. There was Slavdom and it was rather strong in numbers, but there was not Slavism as a peculiar cultural formation. It either does not exist or did not develop yet. There was not a distinct Slavic culture and civilization, like Chinese, Greco-Roman, Byzantine 2 К. Леонтиев,  Византизмът и славянството , София 1993, 21-22. Leontiev’s book  Byzantism and Slavdom  (  Византизм и славянство ) was rst published in: „Чтения в Императорском Обществе истории и древностей российских при Московском университете“. Mосква 1875, №3; отдельное издание: Москва 1876. It was included in his collection of works: К. Леонтьев,  Восток, Россия и Славянство , Москва 1996, 94-155; - We cite here from its Bulgarian edition: К. Леонтиев,  Византизмът и славянството , София 1993.  108 or West-European civilization. The only thing Slavs have done, was to emulate the others. Bulgarians, for example, were educated by the Greeks and imitated them, while Czechs imitated the Germans. Leontiev dened Czechs as Slavonic-speaking Germans and Bulgarians as Slavonic-speaking Greeks. 3  The only differences between Greeks and Bulgarians were the language and the conicting political interests. Culturally, psychologically, and traditionally they were nearly the same. They had similar habits, folklore, urban architecture, and even similar virtues and vices. Both Greeks and Bulgarians were conservative in their personal and family life and liberal in public affairs. They were modest, thrifty, and diligent. In contrast to the more generous and frivolous Russians, who were conservative in state affairs and quite liberal in family affairs: “Our state (monarchy/tsarism) was always stronger, deeper, and more perfect than both the aristocracy and the family. I can not understand those people who consider our people very devoted to the family.” 4  The only thing that sustained the Russian family was religion and the Church, i.e. Byzantism, not the moral duty. Both the Russian family and state existed due to the Byzantine tradition and values: “The semi-wild Rus was consolidated by Byzantine ideas and sentiments. Byzantism gave us strength to endure the Tatar pogrom and the centuries of servitude. The Byzantine image of the Savior, on the great-princely ag,  looked on the Orthodox warriors of Dmitry Donskoy on the battleeld, where we for the rst time demonstrated to the Tatars that Moscow Rus is not already the former divided and weak Rus. Byzantism was the source of our power in the battles with Poland, the Swedes, France, and Turkey. If we remain faithful to Byzantism, under its ag, we will be able to resist the whole international Europe, in case she dares to impose on us her corrupt and reeking new laws of earthly bliss and universal commonplaceness!” 5 “If we betray Byzantism, even in our secret thoughts, we will destroy Russia.” 6 Byzantism inuenced in two very different ways Western Europe and Russia after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. It became a stimulus for the development and ourishing of European culture and civilization, which was already formed and since the reign of Charlemagne created its own particular style and image. The impact of Byzantism and through it – of the ancient world – led to the age of Renaissance, which was the highest point of the European civilization. In Russia, Byzantism encountered simplicity, colorlessness, and underdevelopment. It was not transformed but became the fundament of the Russian state and society. “Byzantine spirit, Byzantine concepts and inuences penetrate into the whole social organism of Russia.” 7 3  Ibid  ., 55-68. 4  Ibid., 34. 5  Ibid., 43. 6  Ibid.,  50. 7  Ibid. , 45. CYRIL AND METHODIUS: BYZANTIUM AND THE WORLD OF THE SLAVS (THESSALONIKI 2015):  pp. 106-116   109 The Byzantine concepts, however, were not organic but external and imposed on the Russian people. The West, in contrast to Russia, had its own organic concepts and was only inuenced by Byzantism. Berdyaev compares the unity of Russia with Byzantism to the marriage of a young girl with an elderly man, which was not a happy marriage. 8  „ Byzantism was alien to the spirit of the Russian people and that is way the gap ( раскол ) between the people and the authorities in Russia was so deep. Russian people, evidently, could not create an organic form of statehood.” 9  This is something on which Leontiev did not pay much attention in his uncritical perception of the role of Byzantism in Russia. He believed that regardless if Byzantism is good or not, it’s the only thing Russia could rely on.Leontiev praised ecclesiastical and state principles higher than the national principle. He criticized modern nationalism, which was just a manifestation and a product of the two main targets of his criticism – political liberalism and social egalitarianism. He stated that “national principle without religion becomes egalitarian and liberal principle, which slowly but surely destroys everything on its way”. 10  Leontiev did not believe in Russian people but in Byzantine Orthodoxy and Monarchy on which Russia was build and organized. He claimed that “  A truly   religious  person should not hesitate when he must make a choice between faith and fatherland. Fatherland should be sacriced just for the reason that every earthly state is just an ephemeral phenomenon, but my soul and the soul of my fellow are eternal, and the Church is eternal too ”. 11  He opposed national idea to religious idea and denitely gave preference to religious principles and values blaming nationalism for cultural decline and depersonalization, and lack of srcinality and creativity. By examining the European and Balkan national movements in the 19 th  century, Leontiev made the paradoxical conclusion that political nationalism destroys cultural nationalism. 12  National policy created cosmopolitan uniformity and fusion, not national peculiarity:“The idea of the nations, which was endorsed in the 19 th  century, is actually an extremely cosmopolitan, anti-statist, anti-religious idea. It has a large destructive force, there is nothing creative in itself, and it can not contribute for the cultural differentiation of the nations. Culture is indeed peculiarity and srcinality, but peculiarity is subjected to nearly ubiquitous annihilation from political liberalism. Individualism destroys the individuality of people, provinces, and nations.” 13 8 Н. Бердяев,  Константин Леонтьев , Париж 1997, 522. 9  Ibid  ., 523-524. 10 Леонтиев,  Византизмът и славянството , 162. 11 Бердяев,    Константин Леонтьев , 531. 12 К. Леонтьев, „Плоды национальных движений на православном Востоке II“,  Восток, Россия и Славянство , 534-566.13 Леонтиев,  Византизмът и славянството , 52. JULIA ZLATKOVA: BYZANTISM AND SLAVDOM: POLITICAL IDEOLOGY OF CONSTANTINE LEONTIEV  110 Leontiev’s position to the Eastern question and Greco-Bulgarian church conict was contrary to the ofcial Russian policy, public opinion, and Slavophile  ideology. He sympathized with the Greeks and Turks and did not like the Slavs, especially Bulgarians. He was repelled by the egalitarianism, liberalism, and democraticism of the South Slavs and accused them of lack of religiosity, spirituality, and srcinality. He preferred the Poles, liked their aristocratism and devotion to Catholicism, and considered a possible Polish uprising against Russia as less dangerous than the surreptitious activities of the South Slavic “democrats” and “progressists”. “What is Slavdom without Orthodoxy?” Leontiev asked – “Flesh without a spirit!” he answered. 14  He valued Byzantism and the interests of the Church higher than Slavism and national policy, even higher than the Russian state and people. Leontiev passionately supported the Greeks in the Greco-Bulgarian church controversy of the second half of the 19 th  century. He believed that Greeks were faithful to Orthodoxy and the Byzantine tradition in contrast to Bulgarians, who were atheist demagogues, who used religion for political purposes and for protection of their narrow national interests. Nevertheless, he accused both Greeks and Bulgarians in the heresy of ethnophiletism  or church nationalism. Leontiev claimed that the struggle of the Balkan Christian peoples for liberty and independence was just a form of the world’s egalitarian revolution. And paradoxically – the Ottoman authority was the only protector of their cultural and religious identity and of Orthodoxy itself: “The life in Turkey very soon helped me to realize something really horrible – the fact that the genuine Orthodoxy and the spirit of Slavism, here, in the East, are protected only by the Turks. I started to suspect that the Muslim oppression is salvage for Slavism for the lack of something better. I thought that the destruction and damages of the European liberalism would be stronger if there was not Turkey to protect us.” 15  Leontiev was an ardent proponent of Ecumenical ideology and monarchy. He claimed that “The principle of monarchy is the only organizing principle and main instrument for sustaining social discipline in Russia”. 16  He thought that Russia should support not the narrow Slavism but Orthodoxy and not to loose the condence of the non-Slavic Orthodox Christians in the Balkans. Eastern question was not a Slavic question, as it was considered by some Slavophile  circles in Russia. Pan-Slavism was counterproductive and dangerous in Leontiev’s opinion, because it was based on the modern national and liberal ideology. In reality, Pan-Slavism was a ction. Creation of a united Slavic state would weaken and even destroy Russia, and would be unwanted by the other Slavs. 17  The irrational Greek fear of 14 К. Леонтьев, „Враги ли мы с греками?“,  Восток, Россия и Славянство , 156-157.15 Леонтиев,  Византизмът и славянството , 161.16  Ibid  ., 46. 17 К. Леонтьев, „Панславизм и греки I“,  Восток, Россия и Славянство , 38-55. CYRIL AND METHODIUS: BYZANTIUM AND THE WORLD OF THE SLAVS (THESSALONIKI 2015):  pp. 106-116 
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