"For the Sake of Slavdom" II. M. P. Pogodin and the Moscow Slavic Benevolent Committee: A Collective Portrait of 1870

By Zlatar, Zdenko | East European Quarterly, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

"For the Sake of Slavdom" II. M. P. Pogodin and the Moscow Slavic Benevolent Committee: A Collective Portrait of 1870


Zlatar, Zdenko, East European Quarterly


The Moscow Slavic Benevolent Committee was the first Pan-Slav organization created in Imperial Russia. For twenty years, i.e. from 1858 to its closure in 1878, it was the most important organization that used ostensibly charitable activities for blatantly Pan-Slav propaganda. Though there was a branch of the Moscow Committee in St. Petersburg (later transformed into a full-fledged society), and separate committees in Kiev, Odessa, and for a while in Warsaw, during its twenty years of existence the Moscow committee was the very nerve center of Pan-Slavism in Russia. There was a profound difference between the Moscow and the later St. Petersburg Slavic Benevolent Society which dominated the second period of Pan-Slavism in late Imperial Russia, i.e. between 1878 and 1917. While the Moscow committee was dominated by two groups, the former Slavophile nobles, and the Moscow merchants of the predominantly Old Believer background, the St. Petersburg society was in turn led by two groups: a number of the capital's Slavicists, and the important members of the Imperial bureaucracy and armed forces, reflecting the administrative and professional character of the city on the Neva River. From 1900 onwards the St. Petersburg Society lost most of its freedom of action, as its president had to be approved by the Minister of the Interior, and thus the body became an almost semiofficial organ of the Imperial government. (1) But not the Moscow Slavic Benevolent Committee. It was a creation of Mikhail Petrovich Pogodin who organized other like-minded intellectuals and erstwhile Slavophiles to set up such a body in 1857. In many ways the Moscow Committee reflected both Pogodin's intellectual and propagandistic views. (2)

Thomas Owen argues that the alliance between the Slavophile nobles and Moscow (mostly Old Believer) merchantry remained just that--an alliance: "The term 'alliance' is appropriate because the Slavophile intellectuals, even when they became businessmen in order to promote Russian industry, remained foreign to the merchant culture, however attenuated in its modern or capitalist form, and even the capitalist merchants ere unable to appreciate, much less adopt, the rich tradition of literature, history, and philosophy that lay at the center of the Slavophiles' whole existence. Yet if the two groups remained distinct, they were bound by shared concerns. The primary goal of both groups--state sponsorship of Russia's industrial growth--provided a sufficiently broad common ground for cooperative action. That the alliance continued in spite of personality clashes, differences in cultural backgrounds, and changing priorities through the 1860s and 1870s is testimony to the importance that both sides attached to their common endeavor. Furthermore, the alliance had unintended consequences as far as the merchants were concerned: where they sought nothing more than economic allies, they received some new ideas besides." (3)

I agree with Owen that "the Slavophile circle, which developed in the 1830s among students at Moscow University under the influence of German nationalist and romantic philosophy, was led by six thinkers. By 1860, the Kireevskys, Khomiakov, and Konstantin Aksakov would be dead. Ivan S. Aksakov, who lived until 1886, gave personal continuity to the movement as it developed from speculative philosophy into aggressive Pan-Slavism." (4) Ivan Aksakov (1823-1886) established a close connection with Fedor Ivanovich Tiutchev (1803-1873), a great poet and a Pan-Slav, whose daughter Anna Tiutcheva became Ivan Aksakov's wife in 1866. (5) Tiutchev had written poetry in a Pan-Slav spirit during and after the Crimean War (1853-1856). His views were also shared by Pogodin who conceived the idea for a Pan-Slav organization during the Crimean War. Thus arose the Moscow Slavic Benevolent Committee.

M. P. Pogodin (1800-1875): The Making of a Pan-Slav

Mikhail Petrovich Pogodin (1800-1875) (6) was a son of a serf who was emancipated when young Mikhail was only six years old. …

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