Frederick Engels 1855

Panslavism and the Crimean War – I

Originally published in Neue Oder-Zeitung, 21 April 1855. From Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Russian Menace to Europe, edited by Paul Blackstock and Bert Hoselitz, and published by George Allen and Unwin, London, 1953, pp 84-86. Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

We have been assured by the best sources that the present Russian Tsar has sent a telegram to certain Courts wherein, among other things, it is stated that:

The moment Austria shall irrevocably ally herself to the West, or commit any overt act of hostility against Russia, Alexander II will place himself at the head of the Panslavist movement, and change his title of Emperor of all the Russians into that of Emperor of all the Slavs.

This declaration of Alexander’s if authentic is the first plain-spoken word since the war began; it is the first step towards giving the war, frankly and openly, that European character which has hitherto been lurking behind all sorts of pretexts and pretences, protocols and treaties, Vatel phrases and Puffendorf quotations. Turkey’s independence and existence is thrown into the background. Who is to rule in Constantinople is no longer the question, but who is to command all Europe. The Slavic race long divided by internal contests, repelled towards the East by Germans, subjugated, in part, by Turks, Germans, Hungarians, quietly reuniting its branches, after 1815, by the gradual rise of Panslavism, for the first time asserts its unity, and, in doing so, declares war to the knife against the Romano-Celtic and Germanic races which have hitherto ruled Europe. Panslavism is not a movement which merely strives after national independence; it is a movement which aims to undo what a thousand years of history have created; which cannot realise itself without sweeping from the map of Europe Hungary, Turkey and a large part of Germany. Moreover, it must subjugate Europe in order to secure the stability of these results, if they are ever obtained. Panslavism is now, from a creed, turned into a political programme, with 800,000 bayonets to support it.

It leaves Europe only one alternative: submission to the Slavic yoke or destruction forever of the centre of its offensive strength – Russia. The next question to be answered is: ‘How will Austria be affected by Russian-equipped Panslavism?’

Of the seventy million Slavs living east of the Bohemian forest and the Carinthian Alps, about fifteen million are subject to the Austrian Emperor, comprising representatives of almost every variety of Slavic speech. The Bohemian or Czech branch (six million) falls exclusively within the Austrian dominions; the Polish branch is represented by about three million Galicians; the Russian by three million Malo-Russians (Red Russians, Ruthenes) in Galicia and North-eastern Hungary – the only Russian tribe outside the pale of the Russian Empire; the South Slavic branch by about three million Slovenes (Carinthians and Croats) and Serbians, including some scattered Bulgarians. These Austrian Slavs are of two different kinds. One part of them consists of the remnants of tribes whose history belongs to the past, and whose present historical development is attached to that of nations of different race and speech; and to complete their unfortunate position, these hapless relics of former greatness have not even a national organisation within Austria, but, on the contrary, are divided among different provinces. Thus the Slovenes, although scarcely 1,500,000 in number, are scattered over the different provinces of Carniola, Carinthia, Styria, Croatia and South-western Hungary. The Bohemians, though the most numerous group of Austrian Slavs, are settled partly in Bohemia, partly in Moravia, and partly (the Slovak branch) in North-western Hungary. These peoples, therefore, though living exclusively on Austrian soil, are far from being recognised as constituting separate nations. They are considered as appendages, either to the German or the Hungarian nations, and in reality they are nothing else.

The second portion of Austrian Slavs is composed of fragments of different tribes, which in the course of history have become separated from the great body of their nation, and which, therefore, have their centre of gravity outside of Austria. Thus, the Austrian Poles have their natural centre of gravity in Russian Poland; the Ruthenes in the other Malo-Russian provinces united with Russia; the Serbs in the Serbian Principality under Turkish rule. That these fragments, torn from their respective nationalities, will continue to gravitate, each towards its natural centre, is a matter of course, and becomes more and more evident as civilisation, and with it the want of historical, national, activity is spread among them. In either case, the Austrian Slavs are only disjecta membra, seeking their reunion either among each other, or with the main body of their separate nationalities.

This is the reason why Panslavism is not a Russian but an Austrian discovery. In order to secure the restoration of each Slavic nationality, the different Slavic tribes in Austria are beginning to work for a union of all the Slavic tribes in Europe.

Russia was strong in itself; Poland proved itself in the sense of the indestructible toughness of its national life and at the same time in its open enmity towards Slavic Russia. Both these nations were obviously not called upon to invent Panslavism. The Serbs and Bulgarians in Turkey were, however, too barbaric to conceive such an idea. The Bulgarians quietly subordinated themselves to the Turks; the Serbs had enough to do with the fight for their own independence.