Pan-Slavism, theory and movement intended to promote the political or cultural unity of all Slavs. Advocated by various individuals from the 17th cent., it developed as an intellectual and cultural movement in the 19th cent. It was stimulated by the rise of romanticism and nationalism, and it grew with the awakening of the Slavs within the Austrian and Ottoman empires. Slavic historians, philologists, and anthropologists, influenced by Johann Gottfried von Herder, helped spread a national consciousness among the Slavs, and some dreamed of a unified Slavic culture to replace an allegedly declining Latin-German culture. The first Pan-Slav Congress, held at Prague in 1848 and presided over by František Palacký, was confined to the Slavs under Austrian rule and was anti-Russian. The humiliating defeat suffered by Russia in the Crimean War (1853–56) helped transform a vague, romantic Russian Slavophilism into a militant and nationalistic Russian Pan-Slavism. Prominent among the Russian Pan-Slav publicists were Rotislav Andreyevich Fadeyev and Nikolai Yakovlevich Danilevsky. Fadeyev claimed that it was Russia's mission to liberate the Slavs from Austrian and Ottoman domination by war and to form a Russian-dominated Slavic federation. Danilevsky predicted a long conflict between Russia and the rest of Europe, to be followed by a federation of states including the Greeks, Magyars, and Romanians as well as the Slavs. In the reign of Czar Alexander II, the foreign minister, Aleksandr Gorchakov, opposed Pan-Slav aspirations, although many officials were Pan-Slavist. Pressures from the Pan-Slavs probably helped provoke the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 but afterward declined. In the decade preceding World War I, Pan-Slav agitation again increased and played a role in the growing conflict between Russia and Austria in the Balkan peninsula, where the Serbs opposed Austria. In 1908, Russia was forced to allow Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in 1914 Russia supported Serbia in the crisis that began World War I. After the Bolsheviks triumphed in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet government renounced Pan-Slavism. In World War II, however, Pan-Slavist slogans were revived to facilitate Slavic and Communist dominance of Eastern European countries. Both in the 19th and 20th cent. Pan-Slav aspirations were limited by the conflicting political and economic hopes of the various groups of Slavs.
See studies by A. Kostya (1981) and M. B. Petrovich (1956, repr. 1985).