Slavophiles and Westerners: What is the Difference?

Slavophiles and Westerners

Slavophiles and Westerners in Russian philosophy occupy a very special place in the formation of the modern Russian mentality. This is connected not only with the search for a historical development path that is separate from the Western and Eastern worlds, which, in principle, is characteristic of the pochvenniki, but also with the formation of a kind of intellectual situation, which with some modifications has survived in our time. The theory of nationality, formed by the Ministry of Education in the 30s of the XIX century, actually determined the range of existential problems that had not been solved for almost two centuries. However, it was the literary and philosophical debates of the middle and second half of the XIX century that paved a kind of “red carpet”, along which Russia is progressing in the XXI century. A classic example is the definition of the conceptual provisions of the so-called “Russian world”. In turn, the Western intellectual project after the unsuccessful decomposition of the Russian mentality in the 90s receded into the background, which, however, does not mean the possibility of its revival in the short term.

Two camps: the beginning

Two intellectual camps - Slavophiles and Westerners - appeared around 1836, when the first letter of P. Chaadaev, directed against the ideological symbols of the slogans of the Uvarov ideological doctrine - “Orthodoxy, autocracy, nationality” was published. The philosopher strikes, as it were, three point journalistic blows, revealing, in his opinion, the reactionary essence of the official ideology.

Three hits on UvarovDispute Westerners and Slavs

The first blow is Orthodoxy, which turned out to be an unsuccessful choice of Russian princes. It was precisely Orthodoxy that spiritually and aesthetically isolated Russia from the rest of the world, preventing it from developing within the framework of a common European historical tradition. The second blow is an autocracy, a sacralized sole reign of the monarch, made possible as a result of this spiritual isolation of the Russian people. As a result, a special socio-political structure, which the Slavophils and Westernizers evaluated from opposite points of view. For the former, the distinctive, soil-based experience of the Russian state was important. For the latter, this was a test, through which one must pass and return back to the European path of progress. Beat the third - nationality.The originality of the people flowed from both the irrational religious choice and the autocracy factor, which did not allow the people to gain freedom, to abolish serfdom and get an education. It was precisely in ignorance, the absence of elementary possibilities (in modern terms, mechanisms) of education that Chaadaev ultimately saw the main problem, which could not be solved.

What to do?Slavophiles and Westerners in Russian Philosophy

However, the Slavophils and the Westerners converged on one thing - something was wrong with Russia, its historical and political development. Later, when the passions around Uvarov subsided, the Khomyakov-Aksakov group proposed a project of returning to the pre-reform, pre-Peter era, based on the canonical popular foundations. The entrance of the proclaimed crisis was seen in the economic reliance on the peasant community.

Political project

For the sake of justice, it is worth noting that Slavophiles and Westerners differed in principle regarding the implementation of a political project, while the economic question initially amounted only to the abolition / preservation of serfdom. Slavophiles talked about a self-governing community, in effect suggesting a model of local self-government, which the Westerners ignored.The Granovsky-Kavelin group insisted only on transforming the monarchy into a bourgeois republic or monarchy, but there was no clear understanding of how to do this. Throwing a modern look at the dispute between the Westernizers and Slavophiles, one unwittingly realizes that common points of contact were between the two parties. The only problem is that the Slavophils saw nothing further than the limited peasant world, while the Westerners tried to solve the whole problem of non-optimal government, often without noticing the problem on the ground. And in fact, the intellectual situation has changed little in the last 150 years.

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