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Slavophiles and Westernizers

Slavophiles and Westernizers, designation for two groups of intellectuals in mid-19th-century Russia that represented opposing schools of thought concerning the nature of Russian civilization. The differences between them, however, were not always clear cut. The Slavophiles held that Russian civilization was unique and superior to Western culture because it was based on such institutions as the Orthodox Eastern Church, the village community, or mir, and the ancient popular assembly, the zemsky sobor. The Slavophiles supported autocracy and opposed political participation; however, they also favored emancipation of serfs and freedom of speech and press. The Slavophiles became increasingly nationalistic; many ardently supported Pan-Slavism after Russia's defeat in the Crimean War (1854–56). Prominent among them were Ivan Kireyevsky, Aleksey Khomiakov, and Konstantin and Ivan Aksakov. The Westernizers believed that Russia's development depended on the adoption of Western technology and liberal government. In their approach they were rationalistic and often agnostic rather than emotional and mystical. Some remained moderate liberals, while others became socialists and political radicals. The leading Westernizers included Piotr Y. Chaadayev, Aleksandr I. Herzen, and Vissarion G. Belinsky.

See A. Walicki, The Slavophile Controversy (1975).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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