The Slavs among the nations

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The Slavs among the nations (1916)
by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
3114923The Slavs among the nations1916Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk


Reprinted from La Nation Tchèque of 15th
March, 1916

Published by


From theCzech Nation” (La Nation Tchèque), 15th March, 1916.


Among the public lectures organised by the Institute of Slav Studies, under the patronage of the University of Paris, that delivered on the 22nd February by Professor T. G. Masaryk, of the Czech University of Prague, gained a remarkable success.

M. Ernest Denis, in presenting to a crowded audience the illustrious Czech philosopher, recalled in a few words the regard which was felt for him not only in his own country but in the entire Slav world. He insisted on the hatred Professor Masaryk had for every kind of falsehood, as he showed during the famous “dispute about the manuscripts,” when he courageously fought against that false patriotism that would accept forgeries as Czech literary remains. M. Denis also dwelt on the energetic attitude of Professor Masaryk during the celebrated Zagreb trial—when he exposed the infamous practices of the Austrian diplomats—and the determination with which, at the commencement of the war, he separated the Czech cause from the interests of Austria-Hungary, and his efforts to assist the action of the Allies.

The select audience proved by its vigorous applause its entire sympathy with the views which Professor Masaryk then developed as to the position which belongs to the “Slavs among the Nations.” We believe that we are carrying out the wishes of our readers in reproducing in extenso this remarkable lecture.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to speak in this lecture-room, under the patronage of the University of Paris, and I heartily thank my French colleagues who invited me to deliver one of the public lectures arranged for this year by the Institute of Slav Studies. But this honour inspires in me a fear that I shall not be able to accomplish to your entire satisfaction the difficult task which falls to my lot.

In spite of the confidence which my dear colleague, M. Denis, has just expressed, a confidence which is certainly not entirely deserved, it will be almost impossible for me to treat in the detail which it deserves so vast, so complex, and so general a subject as “The Slavs among the Nations,” I should have less difficulty were it only a question of expressing the desires and hopes that, as a Slav, I feel for the Slavs, and, in consequence, for France, for the Allies, and for all mankind.

But I have undertaken to give you a concise analysis of all the principal problems met with in the course of a serious study of the Slav world; and in undertaking that task I fear that I can hardly do more than give you a “table of contents” to a general work on the Slavs.

I.—The Slavs among the Nations.—The title alone assumes the existence of some kind of unity between the different Slav nations, and it would seem that the organisers of these lectures also admit this unity. Lectures will be devoted to five different Slav nations and to the Slavs in general. This number of five nations is in itself a programme which I gladly adopt. The five nations which will be studied here—Russians, Poles, Bulgarians, Serbians, and Czecho-Slovacs—can perfectly well represent the Slav world. For instance, the Serbians can represent the Croatians and the Slovenes not only in politics but also in literature and language. Besides, the Slavs themselves are not altogether agreed as to the number of nations into which they must be divided. The number varies, according to the writer, from seven to ten. It has even been contended that it is possible to fix the number of living Slav nations at fourteen, omitting those which have become extinct. The question of the exact number of Slav nations has always excited numerous discussions and roused bitter disputes between philologists, historians of literature, and ethnographers. In my opinion, in order to complete the list of Slav nations of the 20th century, the Slovenes and the Serbians of Lusatia must be added.

Do the Slavs, as a whole, constitute a true unity? I believe that can be answered by a categoric affirmative. We are obviously confronted by a group of distinct nations, each with its own tongue, its national literature, its independent history, and its peculiar civilisation; but these differences do not hide the existence among them of a general consciousness—the feeling that they all belong to a single Slav organism.

This Slav consciousness is not developed in an equal measure among all the Slav nations. It is not the same at all periods or among all classes of society, but it is common to all. Among us Czechs, and I speak from personal experience, it has already been very powerful for a long time. Those who do not belong to our race can easily understand the nature of this sentiment by comparison and analogy.

“Latinism” gives some idea of it, though a very feeble one. The difference of language is much more accentuated among the Latin than among the Slav nations, and the racial community of the various Latin groups is as much a cause of jealousy as of unity.

“Germanism”—the affinity that exists between Germanic nations, if the term is used in its widest sense as including as German not only the Germans but also the English and the Scandinavians—represents a less indeterminate and more precise bond, and so to a much greater extent does “Scandinavism,” that is, the community of feeling which brings together the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian peoples. But even Scandinavism does not constitute so close a relationship between the various branches of this race as that which unites the different Slav groups. The Slavs are much more closely united from the linguistic and intellectual point of view than the various groups of other races are with one another.

From the geographical point of view the contact of the Slavs with one another is also much closer than that of the various Germanic peoples. They are not separated by the sea. The several Slav nations have not wandered so far as have other peoples from the cradle of their race, where at one time they formed groups which were identical and united, or at least with very few distinguishing marks. Moreover, the slower development of their civilisation, and their economic life, which is not so rich as that of other nations, have also tended to preserve the uniformity and the unity of their character.

II.—In Western Europe this common sentiment among the Slav nations is often translated into a political idea. Some prefer to see in it what is called “Panslavism,” that is, the design to form a colossal Slav monarchy under the domination of Russia, and they readily repeat the words of Napoleon on the danger of a “Cossackised” Europe.

If the numbers of the Slav peoples are examined, it is seen that they greatly surpass those of other nations. According to the figures of Professor Niederle, which are somewhat unfavourable to the Slavs, there were in 1900 136,500,000 Slavs. In 1916 their number may be estimated at 156,700,000. In 1900 the Russians were put at 94,000,000 and the other Slavs at 42,000,000. The Russians, therefore, were more than twice as numerous as all the other Slavs put together. As the Germans, who are the most numerous apart from the Russians, are now only 70,000,000, the English 45,000,000, the French 40,000,000, and the Italians 36,000,000, it is not astonishing that a certain fear of the Panslavist peril—also called the Panrussian peril—should have arisen among the Western peoples.

This danger appears to them even more threatening for the future than now. The birth-rate among the Slavs is much greater than among the Germans and the Latins, so that soon the Slavs will be twice as numerous as the other European nations. To-day men are no longer content with a policy which has regard to the present alone; true statesmen also think of the distant future of their nation, and that is why the fertility of the race, or, in concrete terms, the time which a population takes to double itself, is for them a matter of supreme importance. This factor plays such a part that the youth of to-day will doubtless witness a complete transformation of Europe.

The Slavs, and in particular the Russians, the density of whose population is very small compared with the vast territories that they occupy, have the great advantage of possessing lands of an enormous area for their future increase of population.

German politicians call the attention of their fellow-countrymen, more particularly, to this advantageous position of the Russians, and have been fearful at the insufficiency of the German lands to receive the increase of their population.

At first sight, therefore, Napoleon’s foreboding might appear to have some reason. But his prophecy has not yet been realised in politics. In literature, it was not till 50 years after the death of Napoleon that the Russians commenced the conquest of intellectual Europe, with Turgeniev as the first representative in Paris of this peaceful Russian invasion.

Let us examine whether the facts justify the fear of Panrussianism that is felt by some nations.

Up to the present time Russia has not under her power more than a part of that Slav race, the different branches of which are so energetically claiming their national independence. On the other hand, Germany holds two Slav nations under a very real yoke and Austria-Hungary oppresses four. The last-mentioned Slav nations therefore have Panslavic aspirations to a greater extent than other States, and Havlícek used to describe these aspirations as “Little Panslavism.” But it is at Vienna and Budapest that the greatest fuss is made about Panslavism. In Hungary the accusation of Panslavism is sufficient to condemn a man for high treason. Lately warnings against the Russian peril have increased at Berlin also, and Bethmann-Hollweg spoke of the Panslavic danger in the same tone as the Viennese papers.

The other nations do not fear the Slav danger—at least, not to the same extent as the Germans and the Magyars.

France has intimate relations with Russia. During my walks in Paris, the Boulevard Sebastopol, the Avenue Malakoff, the Avenue Nicolas II., the Alexander III. Bridge, &c., have recalled to my mind the different stages of Franco-Russian politics. In the Balkans France has just inaugurated a very effective Slav policy by taking into her own hands the direction of the strategical operations. For some years past England has also turned towards Russia. Not long ago English statesmen, led astray by jealousy of Russia, were giving proofs of confidence in Germany to the extent of leaving her perfectly free to develop her influence, not only in Austria-Hungary, but also in the Balkans, in Asia Minor, and in Mesopotamia. England has at last recognised its error and the fatal consequences of a policy which abandoned to Germany, besides the Slavs of Austria-Hungary, the other peoples of the Danubian monarchy and of the Balkans, including the Turks. An abdication which would infallibly have led to the subjection of England itself.

The error of this Anti-Russian policy of the West arose from the fact that no account was taken of the other Slav peoples, whom politicians regarded as too insignificant to have any place in great world politics—those famous world politics, imposing only in name! At present the Italians are the only ones who still fear the Slav danger. They accuse the Serbians of coveting the Adriatic, forgetting that that race has occupied the coast from time immemorial and possesses the most legitimate, historical and other rights to it. Moreover the Italians fear the intrusion of the Russians into the Mediterranean. Russia, whose prosperous industry round the Black Sea, chiefly centered at Odessa, is continually developing, has the greatest possible interest in securing the free passage of the Dardanelles. But why at once see a Slav danger in this legitimate aspiration? By energetically defending its national interests without threatening the rights of the Slavs, Italy is certain to have nothing to fear from the Russians or the Serbians.

The smaller Slav peoples, as may be readily understood, see a powerful protector in mighty Russia. It could not be otherwise, seeing that they are continually being menaced by the Germans, the Magyars, and the Turks; and the other great Powers display no interest in them. I will go further and be so bold as to declare that it is the Western nations them selves who are responsible for the so-called Panrussianism, either by directly threatening the Slavs of Central and Southern Europe or by abandoning them helplessly to the German and Austro-Hungarian hegemony. Neither Russia nor the other Slavs have created Panrussianism. The Slav peoples are so jealous of their individuality that, though living under the constant menace of the Germans, they always have had, and still do have, grave differences between themselves, not only in their political disputes—e.g., the Poles with the Russians, and the Serbians with the Bulgarians— but also contests on the subject of their dialects and their nationalities; the Ukranians demand recognition of their separate nationality; the Slovacs are concerned to preserve their dialect as a literary language; the Slovenes, who might easily be merged in the Serbo-Croatians, have declared for the maintenance of their language, &c.

Moreover, Panrussianism suffers under geographical difficulties.

The Russians are in contact only with the Poles and, through the Slovacs and the Austrian Ukranians, with the Czechs. They are separated from the Serbians and Bulgarians by Roumania. Though the Serbians are the immediate neighbours of the Bulgarians, they only come into contact with the Czechs through the Croatian groups which extend from the Drave as far as the Danube at Presburg, following the boundary line of Hungary. These Slav groups are the last remnants of the link which existed in the 9th century between the Northern and the Southern Slavs, which was severed by the invasion of the Magyars.

Geographical contact has a very great importance for the Slavs. Let us first examine from this point of view the position of the Slavs in the world.

The Slavs are the nations with the most neighbours. What a contrast, for example, between the English and the Slavs! France has only three or four neighbours; the Italians three; the Germans seven; but the Slavs have twelve.

The part that a nation’s neighbours play varies according to the size of their territories and the nature of their civilisation.

Except for the Germans, the French come into contact only with smaller nations whose civilisation is almost the same as theirs. Taking religion, for example, the French, with certain exceptions, have only Catholic nations for neighbours.

The neighbours of the Slavs are both great and small; some indeed are the greatest nations of the world—e.g., the Germans, the Chinese, and the Japanese—nations which represent every gradation of European and Asiatic civilisation, differing in religion and in race.

The position of the Slavs in the world—in Europe and Asia—can be taken as central: on the West are the Germans, the Magyars and the Italians; on the East the Japanese and the Chinese; on the South the Turks, the Persians, &c. Thus, by the force of circumstances, Slav politics must be world politics. It must have regard both to the immediate future and to the most distant possibilities. The central position of the Slavs forces them always to contemplate the possibility of an alliance of their numerous and powerful neighbours directed against them. The original object of the Anglo-Japanese alliance is a proof that such a fear is by no means chimerical.

Another result of this central position is that the Slavs are exposed to the most contradictory influences. The effect of that has been to develop the individuality of the various Slav nations. Great differences may indeed be noted in the character of their civilisation. They have also been influenced racially by the neighbouring races; pure-blooded Slavs are rarely found. From this point of view we cannot boast of being better situated than other peoples. The theory of Gobineau has few adherents among us; we are rather of Rénan’s opinion.

In any case, purely political Panslavism, regarded as political centralisation, cannot satisfy the aspirations of the Slav nations.

But such a centralisation meets with the same impossibility, when regarded in the light of historical evolution. Each Slav nation has a history of over a thousand years, and that, as well as its geographical position, gives it duties and needs peculiar to its own civilisation.

For those reasons political Panrussianism, Panslavic centralisation, as the Germans and the Magyars describe it for us, has never formed part of our programme. We desire something far more, much more than that!

What do we desire?

We have always demanded, and still demand, to form a moral ideal federation, each member of which would develop freely its own genius for the benefit of civilisation as a whole. And for that purpose we claim liberty and political independence. That is why we seek the aid of Russia, as the greatest and most powerful Slav nation. But to-day we also hope to find support from the Allies. The small Slav nations are now passing through a very grave crisis, a crisis which justifies our determination to rely not only on the Russians, but also on the French and the English.

Russia, official Russia herself, has already given powerful assistance to the Slav nations. She waged war on Turkey in order to free the Bulgarians; later, and during the present war, she has undertaken the defence of Serbia and Montenegro. It is in this war that Russia has claimed to the full extent the position of the Protector State of the Slavs.

Under this form of a friendly and free alliance the differences of our civilisation and national characteristics can be co-ordinated so as to benefit the whole of the Slav world by the forces, to-day dispersed, of our different peoples. It is impossible for a Government office at Petrograd, still less for one at Prague, to decide as to the municipal organisation of Warsaw, Belgrade, Odessa, Samarkand or Vladivostock.

Some Slavs are Orthodox; others Catholic, Protestant or Mohammedan. The Western Slavs are already greatly industralised, whilst the Southern and Eastern Slavs remain agricultural, sometimes indeed in a very backward condition. In the West the Slavs are remarkable for the density of their population and for their intellectual development (the Czechs have fewer illiterates than the Germans of Austria-Hungary), whilst in Northern Europe and Asia we find primitive peoples in a very rudimentary stage of civilisation.

To sum up, Panslavic centralisation is not desirable, either from a geographical point of view or from the point of view of historical evolution. Oppressed by the Germanic nations, we claim political liberty and national independence; and it is quite natural that our sympathies should be guided by linguistic relationship, which facilitates intellectual and even commercial intercourse so much.

Kollar demanded that each Slav should possess a knowledge, according to his degree of education, of one or more, or even all, of the Slav languages. It is easy for us to learn another Slav language, for close acquaintance with any one of them enormously facilitates the study of the others.

At one time there was much talk of choosing a common literary language; it was suggested there should be an artificial language—the language of the liturgy, for instance. The question is now settled. Russian has become the inter-Slav language by reason of its literary value and also as the speech of the greatest of the Slav peoples.

III.—In order to avoid the suspicion of giving utterances to arbitrary ideas, I will briefly state the opinions of several Slav thinkers who, from the end of the 18th Century until the present day, have analysed the aspirations of their people. In fact, it is only since the 18th century that Slav historians and philosophers have concerned themselves with the problem of the future of their own and of the other Slav peoples.

In Bohemia, Joseph Dobrovsky, the creator of Slav linguistic science, a convinced Russophile, sought in science to ascertain the essential characteristics of the Czech nation and of the entire Slav world. Shortly afterwards John Kollar devoted himself entirely to the literary and poetical interpretation of Slav thought. His ideal had no political character. Guided by humanitarian ideas, he demanded only a literary and intellectual community. He developed the theories of the philosophy of history of the German, Herder, according to which the Latins and the Germans will yield to the Slavs the leading place in civilisation. He came to the conclusion that the Slavs must, above all, work for their intellectual development and must not be content with purely material grandeur.

If Kollar and some of his successors lost themselves in vague dreaming, Palacky, the historian and the greatest Czech statesman of 1848, made use of the most practical means to defend the character and the rights of the Czech nation, as well as everything that made its glory in the past (the Hussite movement). He, too, was a partisan of Slavism, and if he at first supported the notion of an Austria equally just to all races, he soon recognised the meaning of Austro-Hungarian dualism; and, in view of the oppression of the Slav peoples of the Monarchy that results from it, he abandoned his Austro-Slavism, and turned his eyes towards Russia, but without ceasing to defend Czech individuality.

The ideas of Polacky have been accepted by the whole Czech people. The idealistic theories of Kollar and the efforts of those who wished to replace national individuality by vague Panslavic conceptions have had no durable influence. For the Southern Slavs the typical representative of national ideas is Obradoviç, that Serbian monk who travelled over the whole of Western Europe to gain enlightenment and to educate his compatriots: a monk who recognised that the book is worth more than the bell, and that the instruction of children is a more honourable profession than that of archimandrite. Obradovic earnestly desired the union and the liberation of his dismembered nation, but he also demanded the independence of the oppressed Greeks. His principal idea, humanitarian and civilising, consisted, above all, in the enlargement and deepening of scientific knowledge and the establishment of rules of life in accordance with the teaching of reason. (“Counsels of a Sound Reason” is the title of one of his books published in 1784.)

Polish thinkers felt much more than the Czechs and the Southern Slavs their recent loss of political liberty, and their writers are chiefly inspired by their political interests. The most illustrious of them, Adam Mickiewicz, the eminent poet and original thinker, developed his idealistic conceptions here, at the College of France. He hoped with all the ardour of his soul that his country would revive by the aid of Napoleonic France of former days, which showed itself so hospitable to the Polish emigration; but at the same time he believed in the reconciliation of the Polish and Russian nations. In his “Improvisation” he condemns the Muscovite oppression in eloquent and severe language, but he confidently awaits the conversion of Russian policy to liberal principles. The Austrian or Prussian executioner is less brutal than the Russian oppressor, but he is more hypocritical and more dangerous.

Like all other Slav thinkers, the Poles are fervent partisans of humanitarian conceptions; they desire that the interests of the nation shall be harmonised with those of mankind. By the side of Mickiewicz, the greatest poet and the most profound and brilliant mind of Poland, Krasinski recommends a policy, non-revolutionary, humanitarian and even fraternal in character.

Such are the principal representatives of the smaller Slav nations. It is clear that not one of them is a partisan of the Panslavism that scares our enemies. All put the idea of humanity in the forefront, and they deduce from it the idea of nationality as an essential part of the natural patrimony of mankind. All understand nationality in its democratic form, and all are fervent pioneers of civilisation.

The Poles alone, whose older generation witnessed the brutal dismemberment of their country, are enthusiastic for military ideals, and Mickiewicz reproaches us Czechs with attributing too much importance to civilisation and to scientific progress. But already Krasinski and the new generation of Polish poets are abandoning the desire of the former generation for military glory.

It is the same with Russian thinkers. Inspired also by Western philosophy, the Russians preach the ideals of the old Russian Christian civilisation, absolutely pacific, in which the State has no place. They condemn Western civilisation; they even condemn the work of Peter the Great, and blame him for using force to effect the Europeanising of Russia. They show themselves not less severe than Joseph de Maistre and the other conservative philosophers of the West in their criticism of Western manners and politics. As Mickiewicz and the Poles sought support in Catholicism, the Czechs in Hussitism and in the Unity of the Czech Brothers, so the Russians see in Orthodoxy the salvation, not only of all Russia, but also of all mankind.

It is thus that Kirejevsky and Chomajkov understood the Russian and the Slav mind. They believed in the great future of Russia, and upheld her against the West, but their general conception of the world is essentially moral and religious without any political tendency. It was only later that some Russian theorists formulated the principles of political and even nationalist Panslavism, under the influence to a great extent of Slavophobe German theorists. But the thinkers who have recently best stated the ideals of Russia are certainly Solovieff, to a certain extent Dostoievsky, and especially Tolstoi. As is well known, they all proclaim their faith in a purely humanitarian ideal.

The Germans, who accuse the Slavs of aggressive Panslavism, do not hesitate at the same time to make a crime of their anarchism. But this theoretical anarchism is not intolerant or aggressive from the point of view of nationalities. The Slav theorists do not adore the State as do the Germans (witness Hegel); they are, on the contrary, democrats firmly attached to an idea in which they seek the salvation of their people. It is on this point that Russian and Polish Messianism is distinguished from the Pangermanic Messianism, such as de La Garde formulated.

IV.—The same ideal of humanity professed by the Slav philosophers is shown not only in the philosophy of the history of the Slav peoples, but also in their poetry; and poetry is the deepest and sincerest expression of the soul of a nation.

It is interesting to note that love of literature developed almost simultaneously among all the Slav peoples; they awoke to intellectual life almost at the same moment. The poets set themselves to analyse the problems presented to a people just emerged from a life of stagnation, and interpreted them with all the enthusiasm that the new birth of national energy inspired in them. Some, supported by certain philosophers, went so far as to glorify a kind of Messianism. They envisaged the redemption and salvation of mankind by means of their race, but at the same time they recognised their nation’s own need for redemption. Their ideal never included the glorification of isolation, hegemony, or conquest.

Mácha, Puchkin, Mickiewicz, and Krasinski, Turgeniev, Dostoievsky, and Tolstoi, the greatest of the Slav poets, resolutely reject the theory of the super-man. Such a conception of mankind is absolutely foreign to them. Goethe first gave birth to this idea in “Faust.” The English and the French have always rejected this theory. Byron, in his “Manfred” and his “Cain,” has visions of a strong and energetic man, but he never made him a dominator. In his “Confessions of a Child of the Age,” Musset, the favourite poet of French youth, portrays something quite different from a super-man.

The type of the super-man who unites in himself exclusiveness and national arrogance is of German origin, and is in perfect harmony with the realist politics of Prussia.

The Prussification and militarisation of Germany is nothing but the practical application of the theories of the Ubermensch. It is from the Ubermensch that the super-nation, the “Herrenfolk,” the idol of the Pangermanists, is created. The Slavs also have their heroes, but they are the saviours who arose in moments of extreme danger, good servants of their King and fellow-countrymen. They were no super-men.

The Slav ideal is one of peace and reconciliation—a democratic idea. It was no matter of chance that the greatest pedagogue, Comenius, was a Czech and that the Czech Chelcicky and the Russian Tolstoi met together to preach a love for one's neighbour, which goes so far as to lay down the principle of non-resistance to evil. It is because they are Slavs, of those Slavs of whom it is said that they are as gentle as doves and destitute of all warlike energy.

This last point is not quite accurate. The Slavs are not wanting in energy; they make admirable soldiers. But for centuries they have only fought when obliged to do so, and solely in self-defence. There is a great difference, both psychological and moral, between aggressive violence and the will to defend one’s rights. This War furnishes us with a striking and conclusive example. The English see themselves forced to accept militarism for the time being in spite of their strongly pronounced aversion for such a system. The Slavs, under the pressure of their enemies—Germans, Magyars, and Turks—have felt reawaken in them the old military virtues of their ancestors.

In my opinion, we are led to the following conclusion: If we analyse the general manifestations of the Slav soul, we do not find the aggressive domineering character that those who raise the cry of Panslavism are obliged to represent as so disquieting and dangerous in us.

V.—This tendency of the Slav nations to draw closer together—a tendency which our adversaries denounce as a Panslavic peril that threatens Europe—is then, in fact, nothing but an effort to bring about a conscious synthesis of the best elements of the culture of Western Europe. The Slav nations have all hastened to accept Western civilisation. It will suffice to mention the well-known speech delivered by Dostoievsky, on the occasion of the fete of Puchkin, when he declared that the Russian and the Slav is essentially a cosmopolitan, with a peculiar aptitude for sympathy with the character of every nation and for assimilating the essentials of their culture. This is an incontestible truth.

Considered historically, the Slav consciousness awoke in the 18th century, at a time when national consciousness was born throughout Europe. Besides that, the same motives were in operation. But the position of the Slavs was quite special. All the Slav peoples were under the oppression of their neighbours, and saw their normal development impeded by their adversaries. In some cases they were even retrograding as a result of oppression by less civilised enemies. The Russians long groaned under the yoke of the Tartars and the Mongols; the Jugoslavs were oppressed by the Turks and the Magyars; the Czechs were almost annihilated by the German-Austrian reaction in consequence of their religious reform; the Poles experienced the tyranny of Germany after having been, unfortunately with the complicity of another Slav people, divided into three sections and deprived of their independence. The Slavs of the Middle and Lower Elbe had been entirely exterminated by the Germans, and the last remnants of that race constituted only that very small Slav nation, the Serbians of Lusatia. The political events which took place in Europe during the 18th century resulted in the almost simultaneous awakening of the Slavs—an awakening evidenced by the revival of their literature and their energetic efforts for moral and political regeneration. For this reason historians regard the 18th century as the era of the Slav renaissance. Since then, as already mentioned, there has been a succession of thinkers and philosophical historians who have sought to understand the meaning of the historical evolution of their own and of the other Slav nations, and, by the same process, the evolution of Europe and of the whole of mankind. The Slav renaissance was contemporaneous with the great French Revolution. They are connected not only by date, but also in the essentials which distinguish them. I mean that magnificent movement of philosophy and of humanitarian morals which preceded the revolutionary shock and resulted in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. This Declaration and its insertion in the constitutional documents of France and America have furnished a juridical basis for the national and democratic movement.

From this movement, moreover, which the Germans term “Aufklärung,” has also come humanitarian philosophy. Voltaire, Rousseau, the Encyclopædists, Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, the English moralists, Lessing, Herder, Kant, Goethe—these names are always recurring in the writings of all of our national Slav awakeners, who constantly quote them as authority for their patriotic programme.

Aroused by the great intellectual and moral movement which began in France and Western Europe, the Slavs have faced the obstacles to their national development. Thenceforward we may note among them a strenuous effort to reconquer all that they have lost or neglected, an effort to take their place in the forefront among the good workmen in the great factory of Humanity.

It was quite natural that, in their national effort, the Slavs should call for help from their nearest kindred. And it became much more natural when we understood that the renaissance of our national culture, and its development assumed, nay demanded, our liberation and our political independence.

It is thus that the idea of Slav solidarity and Slav Messianism arose.

VI.—The present German war literature still repeats the old favourite Teutonic attack on Panslavism. It would, perhaps, be no exaggeration to say that this is the ruse of a burglar who shouts out “Stop thief!” It is easy to understand why the Germans have directed so much attention to Panslavism; they are fully aware that the most determined opponents of their Pangermanism are the Slavs.

I see with pleasure that public opinion, even that of the working classes, not only in France but also in England, is now paying the greatest attention to the plans of Pangermanism. Everybody is beginning to see that these plans are not merely Utopian, since, unhappily, they have been realised to a certain extent.

The programme of the unification of the German nations, and of the formation into one bloc of all the Germans who are scattered among the various States, has made some progress since the 18th century. It has been successively extended from Central Europe to Asia Minor, and to a Germanised Mesopotamia. The constitution of a new German Empire and the Prussification of Germany have resulted in this aggressive imperialism, the principle underlying which is expressed in the phrase, “German Central Europe,” or better still, “Berlin-Bagdad.”

At first, like the Italians and the Slav nations, the Germans only aimed at German unification. But soon their ambition grew, and they began to covet neighbouring countries where there was a German minority or even mere German colonies. Thus it is that the Pangermanists preached successively the absorption of Austria-Hungary, Poland, the Baltic Provinces, the Balkans, and, lastly, Turkey in Asia, for, in truth, the real aim of Pangermanism is to acquire territory, above all, non-German territory.

The Berlin-Bagdad plan was conceived by men like List and Moltke, who bear no resemblance to Utopians. Territory is their motto. That is the only thing with which they are concerned.

The plans and tactics of Pangermanism have varied according to circumstances. At first they contemplated the destruction of Austria-Hungary. When they had completely won the Austrian-Germans and the Magyars over to their cause, they decided, on Bismarck’s advice, to leave Austria an apparent independence. But to-day they demand in return a Customs union, since they know by experience the real political efficacy of an economic union.

The Pangermanists have always devoted themselves to attacks of unheard-of brutality against the Slavs of Austria-Hungary. Paul de Lagarde, the founder of modern Pangermanism, was extremely bitter against them. Mommsen publicly declared “that it was necessary to break our hard and solid Czech heads.” Still more recently other politicians have concerned themselves with the strategical importance of Bohemia. They have explained to their compatriots that an independent Bohemia would constitute an immense danger to Germany.

Moreover, Bismarck had already declared that he who was master of Bohemia would also be master of Europe. At the same time some German political writers have tried to show us that Pangermanism is favourable to the Czechs, and that it will save us from the Panslavic peril. These Pangerman “sirens” are becoming more and more numerous.

The situation is quite clear to anyone who observes the facts and gives them a little consideration.

The most irreconcilable opponents of Pangermanism are found among the Poles, the Czechs, and the Southern Slavs. Were Poland to be reconstituted, Bohemia to become independent, and the Jugo-Slavs to be united, then an impassable natural barrier to the German march on Bagdad would arise.

The Germans have frontiers which march with the Slavs more extensive even than the Russians. They border on the Russians, the Poles, the Czechs, and the Jugo-Slavs. We Slavs know well the true meaning of the German “Drang nach Osten.” We know that Berlin-Bagdad is only a new form of the German anti-Slav plan. The first cry for war at Berlin was directed against the Serbians and the Russians.

In Central Europe, between Russia and Germany, there is a belt of small nations. On each side of this belt there lie powerful States; the small nations adjoin one another only in this particular intermediate region. Some are independent, or at least autonomous, Hungary (the Magyars) for instance. But, by the side of these, three oppressed nations claim political independence—the Poles, the Czechs, and the Jugo-Slavs. The present war should effect the liberation of these three nations, as well as of the French of Alsace-Lorraine and the Danes of Schleswig-Holstein, bowed, like them, under the German yoke. That is the reason why it is rightly said that the Allies are carrying on this war for the salvation of the smaller nations.

Germany forced her way into Belgium and occupied it. Then she occupied Poland, and later, after completely establishing her control over Austria, she occupied Serbia and Montenegro. These tactics clearly demonstrate that the “Drang nach Osten” of the Germans means, in sober truth, the complete absorption of the smaller nations, above all, of the Slav nations.

It is therefore natural that, when the Russians understood the German manœuvres, they should take up arms to defend the Serbians, and it is equally natural that the Serbians, the Czechs, and the Poles should appeal to Russia for aid.

This war, dividing all Europe, and indeed the whole world, into two camps, clearly demonstrates that if there is a common danger which threatens all the peoples of Europe and the whole of mankind, it is Pangermanism and not Panslavism.

Bethmann-Hollweg himself, in one of his prewar speeches, set himself to prove to the world that a powerful Germany was the surest protection against the Panslavist danger. But facts, such as the alliance of the Slavs with France, and of England with Japan, the sympathy of neutrals for the Allies, and on the other hand the union of the Germans, the Austrians, the Magyars, the Turks, and the Bulgarians, constitute indisputable evidence that this war is not a struggle between Germans and Slavs, not a war of States, but a contest of principles which transcends national quarrels.

One may affirm in all sincerity that this war aims at the regeneration and renewal of Europe. The triumph either of violence or of justice—that is the question at stake to-day.

Noblesse oblige! The greatest Powers—France, Russia and England, have proclaimed the rights of the smaller nations.

The alliance of the Slavs with the nations of Western Europe against German and Austrian insolence is the best proof that the Slavs in no way threaten the peace of Europe, but that they, together with the other nations, are merely defending themselves against the common foe.

Priuted in Great Britain by Jas. Truscott & Son, Ltd., London.

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in 1916, before the cutoff of January 1, 1929.

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This work was published in 1916 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 107 years or less since publication.

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