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A Slavophile was an advocate of the supremacy of Slavic culture over that of others, especially Western European culture. In the more modern sense, the term Slavophile applies to an admirer of Slavic culture, as opposed to a Slavic supremist.
As an intellectual movement, Slavophilism was developed in the 19th-century Russia. In a sense there was not one but many slavophile movements, or many branches of the same movement. Some were to the left of the political spectrum, noting that progressive ideas such as democracy where intrinsic to the Russian experience, as proved by what they considered to be the rough democracy of medieval Novgorod. Some were to the right of the spectrum and pointed to the centuries old tradition of the autocratic Tsar as being the essence of the Russian nature.
The movement originated in Moscow in the 1830s. Drawing on the works of Greek patristics, the poet Aleksey Khomyakov (1804-60) and his devoutly Orthodox friends elaborated an irrationalist and traditionalistic doctrine that Russia has its own distinct way and doesn't have to imitate and mimic Western institutions. The Russian Slavophiles denounced Peter the Great's Westernization, and some of them even adopted 17th-century Muscovite dress.
The doctrines of Khomyakov and other Slavophiles had a deep impact on Russian culture, including the Russian Revival school of architecture, The Five of Russian composers, the novelist Nikolai Gogol, the poet Fyodor Tyutchev, the lexicographer Vladimir Dahl, and others. Their struggle for purity of the Russian language had something in common with aesthetic views of Leo Tolstoy.
In the sphere of practical politics, the Slavophilism manifested itself as a pan-Slavic movement for the unification of all Slavic people under leadership of the Russian tsar and for the liberation of the Balkanic Slavs from the Ottoman yoke. The Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 is usually considered a high point of this militant Slavophilism, as expounded by the charismatic commander Mikhail Skobelev.
It should be noted that most Slavophiles were liberals and ardently supported the emancipation of serfs. Press censure, serfdom, and capital punishment were viewed as baneful Western influences. Their political ideal was a parliamentary monarchy, as represented by the medieval Zemsky Sobors.
Later writers Fyodor Dostoevsky, Konstantin Leontyev , and Nikolay Danilevsky developed a peculiar conservative and anti-Semitic version of Slavophilism called pochvennichestvo (from the Russian word for soil). This teaching, as articulated by Konstantin Pobedonostsev (secular head of the Russian Orthodox church), was adopted as the official imperial ideology in the reigns of Alexander III and Nicholas II. Even after the Russian Revolution of 1917, it was further developed by the emigre religious philosophers like Ivan Ilyin (1880-1954).
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