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 Preface
 I
 II
 III
 IV
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 VIII
 IX
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 XI
 Notes
 Back Cover














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Tribune of the Slavophiles, Konstantin Aksakov
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Title: Tribune of the Slavophiles, Konstantin Aksakov
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Chmielewski, Edward
Publisher: University of Florida Press
Place of Publication: Gainesville
Copyright Date: 1962
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Preface
        Preface 1
        Preface 2
    I
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    II
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    III
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
    IV
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
    V
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
    VI
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
    VII
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    VIII
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
    IX
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
    X
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
    XI
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
    Notes
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
    Back Cover
        Back Cover
Full Text


















TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
Konstantin Aksakov

by Edward Chmielewski
.- m . . . ...... ..." .-M-44i "4"


University of Florida Monographs
SOCIAL SCIENCES
No. 12, Fall 1961
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA PRESS / GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA










/


EDITORIAL COMMITTEE


Social Sciences Monographs


L. N. McALISTER, Chairman
Professor of History

RALPH H. BLODGETT
Professor of Economics

ARTHUR W. COMBS
Professor of Education

MANNING J. DAUER
Professor of Political Science

T. LYNN SMITH
Professor of Sociology

WILSE B. WEBB
Professor of Psychology




















COPYRIGHT, 1962, BY THE BOARD OF
COMMISSIONERS OF STATE INSTITUTIONS
OF FLORIDA

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
CATALOGUE CARD No. 62-63051

PRINTED BY THE PEPPER PRINTING COMPANY
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA

























PREFACE


van Aksakov, who began to edit his brother's
works, commented in his introduction to the
first volume upon the extraordinary difficulty
of dividing Konstantin Aksakov's writings into
well-defined categories. Whatever may have
been the declared subject that the author was
discussing, more than likely any of the complex
of his ideas would find expression in the theme
at hand. His historical views would emerge in
an essay on literature; his social philosophy, in
a book review. Consequently, although Ak-
sakov's political, social, and historical ideas have
been my proper concern, I have not hesitated to
range over the entire corpus of his works. For
this reason also, Aksakov's relations with the
literary world and his attitude towards literature
have engaged my attention insofar as they shed
light on his general cultural orientation or illus-









trate his extraliterary interest in imaginative writing or, occasion-
ally, point up traits of his character and temperament. Indeed,
Aksakov's personality is in itself illuminating as a Russian variant
of the then European mode of romantic thought and behavior. In
addition, for the sake of recapturing, even in part, the agitated
contemporary intellectual atmosphere, I have allowed Aksakov
and the other principals to speak for themselves as much as pos-
sible-and in the often breathless accents of the age.
The picture of Aksakov that emerges differs from the accepted
one largely in a shift of emphasis. The conventional estimate of
him as a historian, or at least a thinker primarily concerned with
historical determinatives, is exaggerated. Aksakov was more a
utopian-in a purely descriptive sense-and his interest in the
Russian past was essentially in discovering supposed virtues and
ideals upon which the Russia of the future might be raised. He
never really studied history; he was not interested in the past for
its own sake but for the arguments that he believed it would sup-
ply him in his scheme of a future society. The amount of his
writing devoted to historical subjects is not preponderant when
taken within the whole, and the usual treatments of Aksakov as
a historian uniformly err in a one-sided concentration. I have
attempted to redress the balance somewhat by fitting Aksakov's
historical views more congruously into the main body of his
thought and by emphasizing more than has usually been done their
primarily extra-historical context. Certain noteworthy changes in
his views between the time of the composition of his dissertation
on Lomonosov and the definition of his final position have likewise
been stressed.
In line with my effort to round out the picture and redistribute
the colors, I have sought not only to subsume Aksakov's historical
ideas under his guiding concepts but to demonstrate how his opin-
ion on many seemingly disparate issues are mostly related to sev-
eral basic themes. His social criticism of literature and his ob-
servations on the emancipation of the serfs have merited special
attention. Finally, his correspondence during his last trip to
Europe in 1860 testifies clearly to a development in the direction
of Pan-Slavism. This ultimate phase of Aksakov's thought has
not always been recognized.
E. C.







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
Konstantin Aksakov

I

Surely no Slavophile was more the yield of family tradition than
Konstantin Aksakov, and although genius is unique and lone,
talent often seems to perpetuate itself. None of Sergei Aksakov's
many offspring ever equaled him, but they all partook of a lunar
reflection, and the eldest of them was to introduce himself resolutely
into the buoyant intellectual consciousness of his generation-the
ardent, naive, fanatical, quixotic, and altogether remarkable figure
of Konstantin Aksakov.
Born in 1817, he passed his early years on his father's Orenburg
estate in the idyllic and patriarchal atmosphere that the Family
Chronicle has preserved, and it is likely that Aksakov's developed
and optimistic views on an understanding between the educated
classes and the peasantry were molded by happy childhood impres-
sions. Indeed, Aksakov's entire life was charged with his father's
influence, and the astonishing fact is that during Sergei Aksakov's
lifetime his son spent only four months away from home on a trip
to Europe which, moreover, he cut short because of invincible nos-
talgia. As for his own cultural and political orientation, Sergei
Aksakov was, when not apathetic, inclined towards the nationalist
right. He once observed that the writings of Karamzin and Shish-
kov had completely captivated him: "I believed every word sacred.
My Russian consciousness and hostility to everything foreign were
deliberately strengthened, and my profound national feelings grew
to a degree of exclusiveness."'
Apart from the paternal intellectual ascendancy, however, Aksa-
kov shared his mother's nature. This woman, the daughter of a
Russian general and a Turkish captive, bequeathed to her son her
own love of the heroic and impassioned. Her heroes were Mucius
Scaevola and the mother of the Gracchi, and she never ceased to
regret that not all of her fourteen children were boys. Ivan Aksakov
declared that "the whole moral structure of Konstantin's being, the
nobility of his thought and efforts, his severity towards himself, the
sternness of his claims, the element of valor and heroism," stemmed
from his mother. When Konstantin was four, she taught him to
read. His first books were a history of Troy and the Iliad, and he






TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


went on to discover Karamzin, who "inflamed his patriotic sensibil-
ity." It is not without significance that Russian exclusively was
spoken in the Aksakov household. "Konstantin liked to recall . .
that from his earliest years a Russian feeling was nourished in him.
. . He always affirmed that he did not feel any sharp rift in his
character with the passing of years .... There was no break with his
childhood in spirit and heart. His mind matured and his knowledge
was enriched, but there was no moral alteration, no spoilage; there
remained a purity of soul and body, a faith in people."2
This period closed when Sergei Aksakov, through the patronage
of his friend, Shishkov, then Minister of Public Education, received
an appointment as censor and moved to Moscow in 1826. Never-
theless, the home life of the Aksakov family did not greatly alter,
and a visitor in 1839 remarked of this nest of gentlefolk: "It was not
urban life as we understand it today, but a broad, patriarchal, land-
owner's life transposed to the city.... The home of the Aksakovs ...
completely resembled a manor house in the country."3
In 1882 Aksakov matriculated at the age of fifteen in the literary
faculty of Moscow University where "at that time the Russia of the
future existed in a few youths barely out of childhood."4 Belinski
had entered in 1829; Stankevich, Lermontov, Herzen, and Ogarev
in 1830; Goncharov in 1831; and Aksakov followed the next year.5
In his memoirs of student days, Aksakov recalled: "We derived little
from university lectures and much from university life."6 Indeed,
the life was one of intellectual preoccupation. The two principal
currents of thought that divided the sympathies of these aware
young men were French social and political theory and German
philosophical speculation, although the strong opposition that
evolved in the 1840's were not yet perceptible. At the time, per-
sonal allegiance and temperamental preferences weighed heavily
among the fledglings of "the remarkable decade." Perhaps the
"psychological necessity" for the generation of the 1830's to accept,
or at least to define, the actuality that oppressed the land after the
Decembrist episode had a conjunctive effect.7 Still, the circles of
Stankevich and Herzen at the university rivaled each other, and it
was to the former, with its philosophical, esthetic, and literary in-
terests, that Aksakov was attracted. He himself described his sus-
ceptibility to the group:
When I was still in my first year, I became acquainted with Stankevich, who
was in his second .... Every day, student friends of his . met at his home.







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


. .. For the first time, I saw Belinski there. Stankevich's circle was a remark-
able manifestation in the intellectual history of our society. . In this circle
there was already elaborated a general view of Russia, life, literature, and the
world-a view for the most part negative. The artificiality of classical Russian
patriotism, the pretense filling our literature, the compulsive fabrication of
poetry, the insincerity in published verse, all engendered a just desire for sim-
plicity and sincerity. . As is always the case, reaction against falseness led
here to one-sideness, but it was not extreme. ... What was most immoderate
was the attacks on Russia aroused by official praises of her. As a youth of
fifteen, generally trusting and then prone to believe everything ... I was amazed
by such an attitude and was often pained by it. The assaults against Russia,
which I have loved from my earliest years, grieved me particularly. But find-
ing continual intellectual interest in this society, once I had become acquainted
I was unable to tear myself away and determinedly spent every evening there.
Aksakov likewise remarked the group's unconcern with public mat-
ters. "Although outspoken, the circle admired neither sedition nor
liberal fancies, probably fearing insincerity and pretense which
were hateful to it. Even political issues in general engaged it
slightly; the thought of any sort of rings, secret societies, and the
like was as ludicrous as low comedy."8
Aksakov's tribute to the elevated personality and unifying influ-
ence of Stankevich was the same as that of all his contemporaries:
"The calm of his spirit restrained his friends from that facile and
slavish negation in which one so readily finds refuge from freedom.
When Stankevich went abroad, the whole falsity of one-sidedness
quickly spread among his friends, and the circle usually acquired an
appearance of excessive parochialism." It was Stankevich's author-
ity that allegedly restrained Bakunin from the "lifeless and spirit-
less conclusions of his thought" and Belinski from his "violent
censures." But Aksakov himself evidently could not be swayed
even at this early date from his appointed course. In a letter to
Krasov on October 16, 1884, Stankevich archly requested, "press
Aksakov's hand for me warmly in the Slavic fashion, and bow to
the waist for me in Russian fashion." Aksakov's memoirs curtly
dismissed Herzen's circle at the university as "loving effects and
picturesqueness."9
In his second year, Aksakov heard lectures in common with Stan-
kevich. Nadezhdin spoke on esthetics, Shevyrev on the history of
poetry, Pogodin on universal history. But Kachenovski's lectures
on Russian history created the strongest impression on the students.
His high praise of Moscow as the fount of Russian history appealed
to Aksakov who, in his third and last year, began to write his drama,
Oleg at Constantinople, a parody of the opposition to the "scep-







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


tical" school. Much influenced by the rigorous scholarly methods
of German historians like Niebuhr, this pragmatic school demanded
a critical approach to old Russian historical sources and asserted
their fundamental unreliability. It was urged that the Russian
chronicles and treaties with Byzantium could hardly have arisen in
a supposedly primitive society like that of the Slavs in the ninth to
the eleventh centuries. These documents, therefore, were regarded
as being of later origin, and the entire Kievan period was relegated
to the realm of the legendary. On the other hand, Kachenovski and
his supporters emphasized the emergence and rise of Moscow in
such a fashion as to play on the susceptibilities of the young and
ardent Aksakov, a Muscophile in the making.
At this time, Aksakov was a typical young romantic whose thought
and imagination were furnished with properties borrowed from
Germany. Together with Stankevich, he was the most ardent ad-
herent of Schiller in the circle.10 His earliest writing dates from
this period. Under the pseudonym of K. Evripidin he submitted
translations of Goethe and Schiller to such journals as Telescope,
Rumor (Molva) and the Moscow Observer (Moskovski nabliudatel)
through the good offices of Belinski. In 1835 Rumor, then being
temporarily edited by Belinski, published several excerpts from
Oleg at Constantinople, which, in its satire upon Kachenovski's an-
tagonists, was certainly a far cry from the author's later views. The
piece was prefaced with would-be humorous remarks by Belinski:
"The subject is taken from our national history (Karamzin was the
source). The character is purely national and Russian, since, in
line with the profound intentions of the author, when the play is
given in the theater, the cast will be in beards, smocks, and bast
shoes (Nestor was the source) .... In praise of this work . we
will say that it not only does not recall but is in no way similar to
any of the works of Schiller. Our author wishes to be completely
original.""
The farce was published in its entirety in 1858 with an exculpa-
tory introduction by Aksakov: "Although I was carried away at
that time, as were others, by the sceptical views of the professor,
I later saw their erroneousness. Under the influence of this scep-
ticism, I wrote this parody with the encouragement of my friends.
In it I carried to an extreme the views of Kachenovski's opponents
and represented Oleg as a ruler in an advanced and enlightened
epoch." In 1836 Telescope published Aksakov's Walter Eisen-


4







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
berg: Life in a Dream, a piece of pure E. T. A. Hoffman with a
motif reminiscent of Grillparzer's use of the Calderon theme (1831).
Stankevich wrote to Belinski that it was "the work of a raging en-
thusiast."12
Aksakov's literary efforts appear to have raised him above the
somewhat patronized position in the Stankevich circle that had
previously been his lot. On March 15, 1837, he wrote to his brother
Gregory in wounded terms: "You knew of my relations with Stan-
kevich and his circle and . you knew that I held aloof from them;
I did not seek friendship or favor. But now matters have changed.
They themselves approached me, asked me to use the second per-
son singular, and said they had been mistaken earlier. Bakunin was
the first to make overtures. .. Now I am intimate with Stankevich
and Belinski." In November Belinski observed to Bakunin, "The
more I know Konstantin Aksakov, the more I love him; he is one
of the small family of the sons of the gods. He is still a child, still
little developed but, most of all, he is still not tried by the outside
existence and external struggle which are needful to the individual
as goads in order to awaken within him life and inner conflict."13
However, Stankevich's departure abroad in 1837 and Bakunin's
assumption of first place in the circle led to discord and injured sen-
sibilities. With a characteristic enthusiasm for schematization, Ba-
kunin sorted all the members according to their respective stages of
development-in Hegelian terms. He himself, needless to say was
on the highest level, that of elucidativee spirit"; others existed in
"reflection" and, excluding Bakunin, in "abstraction." Aksakov was
relegated to the lowest level, that of "beauty of spirit."14
Bakunin's demanding and exacerbating personality produced fric-
tion everywhere, and in April, 1838, he abandoned the Moscow
Observer, which Belinski was then editing, in consequence of a
quarrel with Botkin, Belinski, and Aksakov. Matters were appar-
ently patched over, since Belinski wrote to Bakunin the very next
month: "Your relations with Aksakov have cast an awful shadow
over you. We were all told that you hated him. When I realized
that you wanted to clear up difficulties with him too, I felt better."
Nevertheless, although Aksakov retained friendly ties with the Stan-
kevich circle, and with Belinski longest of all, he remained cool
toward Bakunin, and a rupture could no longer be postponed when
Aksakov returned from his trip to Europe.15
Aksakov's journey to Western Europe in June, 1838, was motivated







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
by a romantic and issueless love that he had nourished for his first
cousin Mashenka Kartashevskaia, the daughter of Sergei Aksakov's
sister Nadezhda. The letters he wrote home from Europe illustrate
well the "romantic agony" of the generation and cast in relief Aksa-
kov's intellectual interests at this stage of his development.'6
His first stop was St. Petersburg where, oddly enough, he put
up at the Kartashevski household. His first letter, June 12, bore
witness to his intense mental distraction: "I must depart. Some-
where, far away from here, I will rest alone and regain my strength
after all the grief I have experienced. I admit that I do not wish
to forget. No, let neither memory nor grief leave me; but let me,
at least for a certain time, not be agitated by new uneasiness. Let
my sorrow remain deep and quiet."'7
While Aksakov was still in St. Petersburg, he had occasion to
visit his friend, the literary critic and journalist Panaev, who asked
him whether his stay would be of any duration, and received for
his trouble a reply with an already characteristic explanation: "It
is simply stifling here. Your Petersburg is a vast barracks. . All
this granite, these bridges with chains, the constant din-it produces
a depressing and heavy impression. Faces are somehow not Rus-
sian. Swamps, Germans, and Finns all around." Walking the
streets of the city with Panaev, Aksakov began declaiming verses,
unconscious of the amused smiles of the crowd. When his com-
panion drew his attention to this, Aksakov exclaimed, "I forgot. I
thought I was in Moscow. There, it is by no means thought un-
usual for someone to read verses aloud on the street. Here, it is
obviously bad form. .. In Moscow, there is breadth, space, free-
dom in everything-but here . ."s1
Aksakov soon left St. Petersburg, but in Riga he was still over-
come by the painful sensations that his visit with the Kartashevskis
had only intensified. In a letter of June 19, he repined, "I desired
to go abroad for many reasons ... and especially to find tranquility,
to escape the difficult situation in which I found myself in Moscow,
to begin to occupy myself, to live so that the memory of Mashenka
and all that had passed would never leave me and would pass into
permanent grief-grief indispensable for my true life.""9
Once Aksakov reached Europe, however, his feelings turned out-
wards, and he gave himself over to observation of the country which
at that time constituted almost a second homeland for him-Ger-
many. On the road to Berlin he fell in with some other travelers.







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
"The conversation touched on the Poles. 'All Germany is opposed
to Russia in this matter,' said the Prussians. 'Leave this question,'
I retorted. 'It is a family dispute and foreign countries cannot
judge it properly.' 20 Aksakov reverted to this theme when he
later met some Prussian Poles, "completely Germanized. . This
will happen to all the Poles. They will ultimately receive the im-
print of the nation to which they are subjected and will enter into
the composition of that nation as a new element of its life."21
But Aksakov evidently allowed himself to be swayed on occasion
by more generous promptings. In a letter of May 3, 1867, to Her-
zen, Bakunin recalled that "as a genuine defender of Orthodoxy in
Russia, Konstantin Aksakov . anathematized Catholic Poland.
In practice, obeying the noblest instinct of man which was always
alive within him ... he went with Stankevich at the risk of his per-
sonal liberty to visit in the Moscow prisons Poles being sent to
Siberia for supposedly political offences. . His Orthodox Musco-
vite zeal did not prevent him ... from understanding the holy and
legitimate character of the patriotic zeal of the Poles." Speculating
on this subject further, Bakunin noted, with some justification, the
element of anarchism in Aksakov's nature. To be sure, for Aksakov
this constituted a point of departure rather than of arrival as was
the case with Bakunin.
At this period, Konstantin Sergeevich and his friends were already the resolute
adversaries of the Petersburg empire and of the state in general, and thus antici-
pated us in this by far. I asked myself more than once if the last Polish revolt
[1868] . would not have thrown him . into the odious Petersburg camp of
imperialism. I would not attempt to answer this question. We have seen pass
before our eyes so many enormous changes that it would be really difficult to
answer with theoretical stoicism and logic carried to the extreme, even with
regard to Konstantin Sergeevich Aksakov. But this I can answer. However
erroneous and passionate his enthusiasm . his noble instinct would have told
him that there is no place in Warsaw for any self-respecting Russian.2
In a letter of June 29, Aksakov began to draw the kind of com-
parison that increasingly became the gravamen of his hortatory style
and, in later years, a veritable monomania. "The Prussians are a
cultivated and cheerful people, but they do not possess the intel-
ligence and strength that can be seen in the Russian people. There
are things that no education can give." On the same day, he again
wrote of the Germans:
Everything that nature has given them they have developed to the highest
degree . but the substance of the people is inferior, much inferior, to that
of the Russian people. In other words, more talent is given to the Russians







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
than to the Germans .. but the advantage of the latter is that they have devel-
oped everything that has been given them. Despite this, one immediately per-
ceives the essential difference between these two peoples . the young eagle
. and the grown kite. True, we have no museums; we have little of what
is often encountered here. For our people the significance of great repositories
of learning and art is not yet apparent . But our history lies ahead. There
is much that reposes in the soul of the Russian, and he will understand the
science and art of the Western peoples better and more deeply than they do
themselves. I feel that profoundly here."
Aksakov's only travel outside Germany was a short excursion to
Switzerland with a day in Strasbourg. He did not visit France, but
his correspondence in July and August was peppered with stric-
tures against that nation. From Basel he wrote: "As regards the
French . I think much less of them now even than before, and
I have convinced myself more than ever of all the inadequacies that
I found in them earlier." From Bern he wrote: "What a people
the French are! Phrases, phrases, phrases from start to finish; not
a single definite true thought." And from Zurich he wrote: "The
French ... are completely led by externals, a people without poetry,
without thought, and almost without knowledge. Everything is
fast and superficial." Aksakov's Frenchmen were cut from the
same cloth as Dostoevski's Poles. Of the city of light, he observed:
What is life in Paris?-an eternal, uninterrupted accumulation of insipidities
... without real content. I do not think that Paris would have a harmful effect
on me. .. I am a Russian and, thank God, not devoid of poetic feeling as is
the Frenchman. . For me, life consists of poetry and truth which I seek in
my own way in the feeling of delight produced in me by the universal harmony
that I constantly perceive everywhere. I breathe freely . and that is why I
love Germany and feel well there . .ust as I do in my beloved Russia where
such a life is available. . Yes, the Russian people understand completely the
elevated aspect of the Germans without having the latter's external triviality.
The destiny of the Russian people is great."
This scheme of quasi-Hegelian national evaluation was again
stated in a letter of July 5:
I feel free here in this German element and, indeed, of all nations the German
alone can be so close to me .... The Germans have attained to a level where
they are accessible to a person of any nationality if he only raises himself to it.
. But if the French should come to mind, how absurd for anyone to praise
them. ... However, for all this, nationality is irreducible. I am Russian and
remain so ... and I know that my life . will be perpetually Russian in its
development."
Homesickness and the constantly recurring thought of Russia
and its destiny figured more and more prominently in Aksakov's
letters. He finally threw over his original intention of spending a


8






KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
full year in Europe and in October returned to Russia after sending
Belinski a note that was a partial self-extenuation and, in a sense,
a summation of the position he had reached on the problem that
was to inform his entire life. "Do not think that everything I saw
made no impression upon me. On the contrary, the stronger the
impression, the more clearly did I picture to myself our East. As I
studied this West, the better defined its character became for me.
Some call our East Asiatic. Complete rubbish. It is Europe, only
not Western. It is developing separately."26

II

U pon Aksakov's return to Russia, one of his first actions was to
terminate completely his relations with Bakunin. On Decem-
ber 5, 1838, he wrote to his brothers Gregory and Ivan: "I have
one rather important item of news. I have unconditionally broken
with Bakunin, and I have convinced myself that he is contemptible.
... Even before my trip I found much in him that was ignoble ....
I have lost any feeling of friendship for him; he has lost all interest,
influence, and meaning for me."
Apparently that winter also witnessed Aksakov's separation from
the other members of the Stankevich group, for he disclosed to his
brothers in February or March, 1839: "What shall I tell you about
my relations with my friends? . I have broken with the entire
circle without quarrels or enmity. .. I made the break myself on
the basis of my real feeling. I now feel myself completely under
an open sky and I breathe freely. Belinski is the best one of my
friends; he has genuine merit. But even with him my relations are
not what they were.... Bakunin is here. I have not met him, and
I shall not see him."27
Belinski's own attitude towards Aksakov continued somewhat
ambivalent but revealed no lack of penetration. On April 19, 1839,
he remarked in a letter to Stankevich: "Of my old friends, only the
good, noble, and loving Aksakov is as nice to me as before. He has
long since begun to leave the eerie world of Hoffman and Schiller
and to acquaint himself with reality." But he wrote with less ap-
probation to Panaev on August 19 of the same year:
Konstantin Aksakov and I could not get along better. His solicitude for me
occasionally moves me to tears. . He is a marvelous person. But he is so
youthful that even Katkov seems a grandfather by comparison. He has every-
thing-strength, energy, depth of spirit-but there is one failing that troubles


9







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


me profoundly. It is not dreaminess, which passes with the years, but a sort
of Chinese element that is mingled with the beautiful elements of his spirit.
Once he seizes hold of an idea . he cannot be shaken of it, and his inactivity
makes it a delirium. Otherwise he has a good head.

Finally, in a letter to Stankevich on October 2, 1839, Belinski limned
a dimensional character portrait of Aksakov:
You know ... he is a gifted, noble person, but owing to his Chinese element,
which prevents him from advancing by means of negations, he continues to
dwell in a world of specters and fantasies and has not yet even sniffed reality.
... I must tell you that, having parted from Bakunin, he is terribly proud that
he has freed himself of all authorities and has declared his independence. His
joy is very similar to that of a schoolboy who, having freed himself from the
ferule, may stick out his tongue with impunity at his former preceptor. .. Once
he has made a decision, Aksakov will die before he alters it, for fear of falling in
his own estimate. . My relations with him are excellent. I see him with
pleasure and, when I do, I love him. When I do not see him, I feel for him
a kind of hostility. He is a wonderful person, a rich and strong nature, but I
do not know when he will come out from behind the Chinese wall of his sen-
sibility and emotion and of the juvenilities in which he persists with such
stubborness and so mandarin an immobility. A strange person. He thinks of
himself as a mature individual.

When Belinski departed for St. Petersburg during the same year,
1839, his relations with Aksakov were still ostensibly cordial, but
the intellectual paths of the two "furious" friends were already di-
verging radically, and Aksakov was becoming acquainted with more
congenial spirits of kindred views who were soon to compose the
Slavophile camp. Stankevich's death while abroad in 1840 cut
the last link between Aksakov and his former circle. Added to this
were the opinionated and uncompromising personalities that both
Belinski and Aksakov possessed to a degree. Nevertheless, Belinski
appeared to make the greater effort to stave off a final rupture and
was the one first aggrieved. On February 22, 1840, he wrote to
Botkin: "I should like to know something about Gogol, since Kon-
stantin Aksakov does not answer my letters. It is obvious that he
is angry with me." In reply to an evidently soul-searching letter
from Aksakov, Belinski wrote in June:
I have always been direct and honest with you, often even more so than delicacy
and the nature of our relations warranted. .. I loved you for your own sake,
not mine as you write . You write that you live well, are satisfied with your-
self, understand Hegel, see your place in scholarship; but, at the same time,
you say that you cannot escape your own narrowness and that reality is closed
and inaccessible to you. If you are right, you should fear learning, for the
reality of knowledge is the reality of life .... I tell you this boldly, not out of
the desire to insult you but to reveal to you the contradiction within yourself.
. It still frightens you to look at your own position with open eyes and to


10







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
give things their real name. ... If someone else or I criticized you for anything,
it was your self-love, not your human worth. It is strange that you reproach me
for not wanting or not being able to share your dreams and, like you, to call
them reality. I know that you term this persecution. . Thank God that I
have lost forever the inclination for childish enthusiasm. . Such, dear Kon-
stantin, is the real reason for what you call my insults and persecution of you.
Such is the difference in our views."
It is difficult to escape the inference that as Aksakov's self-confi-
dence grew to overweening proportions, he was wont to demand
from his intimate friends a subordination of will that strained or,
in the end, severed old ties. Proximity of intellectual position sal-
vaged his friendship with Samarin, but nothing corresponding could
preserve Belinski's fidelity. Indicative of Aksakov's attitude is
what he said in a letter which he wrote at the end of November,
1840, to his father:
I have not read Belinski's article on Lomonosov. ... I imagine it is mistaken;
my dissertation will be a detailed reply. I understand very well such people
as Belinski. It is clear enough to me what meaning the circle had, what its
temporary value was, and where lay the nonsense and falseness. .. I foresee
that I shall come to words with Belinski in literature as no one yet has done.
. I shall part with him forever or he will submit to me, for I will no longer
concede to him. But this will never prevent me from granting him his worth."
Belinski was goaded into breaking off relations when Aksakov
began to contribute to Pogodin's Muscovite (Moskvitianin).30 On
June 28, 1841, he sent Aksakov a letter that has been lost but which
was "full of the coarsest, most violent and cynical insults against
Russia and the Russian people. . With that rage of sincerity
characteristic of him, Belinski scoffed at Moscow and the new at-
titude that had already grown and matured in Konstantin Aksakov.
This was too much. Konstantin Sergeevich answered with a sharp
and curt letter, and the break was complete."31 Botkin referred to
this letter when, a month later, he informed Belinski: "I have read
your letter to Aksakov. Well, well, so matters have gone this far.
But it did not at all surprise me. In Aksakov there always existed
the possibility of what he has now become, and I am grateful for
my own nature which was never able to sympathize with him."
Botkin later described Aksakov to Annenkov in warmer terms as
a "noble somnambulist."32 Belinski's and Aksakov's acquaintances
had taken their friendship so much for granted that it was not until
three years later, on August 14, 1844, that Herzen referred in his
diary to the cleavage: "Is it true that Belinski has parted with Aksa-
kov? It is understandable that he should not be able to tolerate the


11







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
latter's opinions; Aksakov's Muscovite mania has gone ad absurdis-
simum. But the ties of many years should not have been broken
so coldly."83 In future years, Belinski was inclined to treat Aksakov
with continued personal regard and extreme intellectual mistrust.
In a letter to Herzen in 1845 he spoke of him as "a pitifully limited
person," while two years later he stated to Kavelin, "I personally
know Konstantin Sergeevich Aksakov very well. He is a person
in whom nobility is an instinct of nature."34
During the winter of 1838-39 Aksakov first met Iuri Samarin and,
although hardly knowing each other, they agreed to prepare togeth-
er for the master's examination for which both were standing.
They studied Hegel, particularly the Logic, as well as the monu-
ments of Russian literature to the middle of the eighteenth century
and the ancient chronicles, acts, and charters.35 At this period of
their intellectual development, Hegel served them to explain, sanc-
tion, and demonstrate the universal historical significance of their
findings. The zealous young men set themselves without delay to
erect on Hegelian foundations a world view of the Russian national
spirit. Ivan Aksakov, writing forty years afterwards, depicted their
enthusiastic abandon:
When there opened before their young and ardent minds .. a whole new,
hitherto unknown, world of the Russian national ethos and life, with its un-
investigated secrets, they greeted it with fervor as the promised land. It seemed
that they had found soil for the hitherto rootless and aimless thought of Russia.
They thought . that they had found complete vindication for their direct
intuition . and Hegel confirmed the newly revealed truth. . An attempt
was made to construct. ... a phenomenology of Russia's national individuality
with its history, customs, and even Orthodox faith."
Aksakov's Hegelianism dated back to the period of his association
with the Stankevich circle and was of a piece with that of the ideal-
istic generation of the "remarkable decade," which was seeking a
philosophical definition of Russia's situation. This age of Hegelian
hermeneutics and metaphysical journalism has been termed the most
significant period in the spiritual life of post-Petrine Russia, the
instant when the Russian spirit perceived with unprecedented acuity
the need for self-knowledge. Earlier, there had been observations
on the problem of tradition and imitation, but these had been only
of an empirical nature, such as Shishkov's campaign against the
influence of the French language on Russian. Not until the 1840's
was the question set forth as one of principle in the theme of the
creation of a Russian culture. "The explanation of the Russian ...


12







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
fermentation through the influence of romanticism in general and
historicism in particular is inadequate. More than anything it is
necessary to emphasize that in the development of national self-
consciousness there came a moment demanding philosophical self-
knowledge." However, this knowledge did not allow of ultimate
sequestration within dialectical confines, and the foremost represen-
tatives of the first generation of Russian Hegelians abandoned not
only Hegel but also philosophy in general. Their philosophical in-
terest was not autonomous. Stankevich was perhaps the only one
for whom philosophy was not a means to the solution of non-philo-
sophical problems. "For all those who abandoned philosophy, this
abandonment lay from the very beginning along the course of de-
velopment which had led them first to philosophy."37
This was particularly true of Aksakov, who afterwards stated with
reference to this period: "At that time I was fascinated by German
philosophy. It did not at all screen from me the native cause to
which I wished to offer philosophy as a service and to which I later
sacrificed it. The sacrifice was just. It would be truer to say that
the living voice of the nation freed me from philosophical abstrac-
tion. Thanks be to it." But, at the time, Aksakov was so totally
enmeshed in the Hegelian system as to be designated by his friends
a "walking syllogism."38
Samarin and Aksakov brilliantly passed their master's examina-
tions in February, 1840, and the two of them began making appear-
ances in the philosophical salons of Moscow as bold and engaged
proponents of the new teaching. Literary evenings "resounded with
the fiery speeches of Konstantin Aksakov, and the effect of them was
all the stronger because of the appearance with him everywhere ...
of luri Samarin: calm, reserved, master of all the social amenities."
On Thursday at the Pavlovs "there was gathered the large literary
society of the capital. Here until deep into the night continued
lively discussion: Redkin with Shevyrev, Kavelin with Aksakov,
Herzen and Kriukov with Khomiakov. Here appeared the Ki-
reevskis and the then still young Iuri Samarin. Chaadaev was a
constant guest." At Chaadaev's Monday evenings, "Konstantin
Aksakov, with his peasant's cap in his hand, violently defended
Moscow, which no one had attacked." Aksakov was also a welcome
guest in the salon of Avdotia Elagina, where people of differing
intellectual views met. There could be heard Chaadaev disputing
with Khomiakov, Herzen conversing with A. I. Turgenev; and from


13







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


the next room was wafted the voice of Aksakov raised in passionate
declamation.39
In this society Aksakov and Samarin became acquainted with
Khomiakov and disputed with that dialectical athlete about the
relations of philosophy with religion and Greek Orthodoxy, which
the two friends considered to be justified by and subsumed under
Hegelian principles. In conversations that lasted more than two
years, Khomiakov disclosed to them his teaching on the church and
placed their theory on new bases. The realization of the impos-
sibility not only of uniting but even of reconciling Hegelianism and
Orthodoxy came to Aksakov and Samarin in a large degree from
the results of these talks. Khomiakov often remarked to Aksakov,
"I am more in agreement with you than you are yourself." How-
ever, the relationship presumably remained purely intellectual. In
a quickly turned quatrain, Aksakov once exclaimed, "Not spiritual
inclination or the voice of the heart, but the tie of conviction joined
us."40
Meanwhile Aksakov and Samarin continued to frequent the bril-
liant society that they had auspiciously entered. At the beginning
of 1841 Samarin sent to his "Virgil"41 a graphic evocation of the
cultural atmosphere of Moscow's salon society:
Yesterday I spent three full hours with Karolina Karlovna [Pavlova]. We
discussed all the questions that interested and interest you and me. We spoke
of Faust, the French, [George] Sand, the immortality of the soul, Hegel, love,
etc. ... Karolina Karlovna told me that you had argued with her whether Hegel
admits revelation and recognizes Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. Apparent-
ly you said that he does. In that case, we shall have to clarify this question,
because I think otherwise. It seems to me that Hegel understands all history,
all development, as divine revelation, but that he does not admit revelation
only at a certain period to one person or a special group of people. What do
you think?"

During the summer of 1840 Pierre Mauguin, a member of the
French Chamber of Deputies, spent several weeks in Moscow.
Totally ignorant of Russian life-he had thought the country's rulers
were Moslem-he saw much of Aksakov and Samarin who en-
deavored to propound their views to him. To this end, Samarin
composed a memorandum for Mauguin's benefit. Inasmuch as
Aksakov was then decidedly the dominant partner in the friendship,
and Samarin's statements closely reflected his views, this memo-
randum characterizes well Aksakov's intellectual position at the
end of 1840.43


14







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
According to the two young Hegelians, "Russia has just entered
a new phase of its existence. We were national before Peter the
Great because we knew nothing outside of our country, and our
relations with our neighbors were always hostile. .. In the midst
of these incessant struggles, Russian nationality strengthened itself
and assured its material existence .... Afterwards, it had to struggle
for its spiritual independence." Catholicism had been able to
establish itself at Kiev, but with the desertion of the Ukraine,
Moscow became the heart of Russia and the refuge of its Orthodoxy
and nationality. "The spirit of its nationality was not stifled al-
though that spirit did not have the opportunity to develop amidst
incessant struggles. It preserved itself intact and pure of both the
errors and benefits of Western civilization." Such was the Russia
that Peter found.
A salutary premonition of the exceptional and independent future
destined for it preserved the Russian nation from subjection to
any unconditional influence on the part of the peoples of the West
who themselves may have foreseen a rival that would one day over-
take them. This reciprocal hostility was truly the salvation of Rus-
sian nationality, but with Peter the Great the national principle
seemed to disappear under the tide of things foreign. French and
German influence took a form different from the earlier religious
menace or the threat to Russia's material existence.
It was aimed at our social order. It sought to destroy our governmental prin-
ciple, that of our absolute monarchy. It wished us to believe that we were
groaning under the yoke of an arbitrary tyranny. . In the reign of the
Empress Anne there was a conspiracy of the upper nobility to create an aris-
tocratic constitution; in our own days there was one [the Decembrists] of a
different kind. Under our very eyes, an entire generation, which we still
mourn, allowed itself to be seduced. Death and exile were its fate. It mis-
understood its own country; it loved the West overmuch. The error was
enormous; the expiation was terrible and will serve as eternal instruction for
the future. It was, then, during such critical moments when a vital principle,
that of the absolute monarchy, seemed bound to crumble that Russian na-
tionality, which appeared to be extinguished, was perceived to be palpitating
vitally. It protested through its silence against these reforms prepared for its
benefit; it renounced the reformers, and once again our monarchical principle
was saved, just as the material independence of Russia and its religious prin-
ciple had once been saved.
Thus, Russia's first period of instinctive nationality was succeeded
-negated in the Hegelian scheme-by one of cosmopolitan imita-
tion. This period, in its turn, was seen to be essentially false but
had to be undergone in order for the nation to reach a consciousness


15







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


of its own nationality. Finally, the principles of Russian life, "which
to this day have been unable to develop," remained to be studied.
"Russia has not yet played in the world anything but a passive role.
It has spent nearly ten centuries on the defensive; its influence on
the West has been purely material. But the time will come when
it will act through its ideas. The influence of the West on Russia
is finished. In the future we shall only borrow from it the material
results of civilization, such as industry; henceforth our revolution
will be completely autonomous."
The question of the moment, according to Samarin and Aksakov,
was to analyze the component elements of Russian nationality-
those of religion and the absolute monarchy. The former, Ortho-
doxy, occupied a medial position between the conflicting Western
creeds of Catholicism and Protestantism. The Catholic Church
simply materialized Christianity, while the influence of Orthodoxy
remained purely moral and the absence of temporal power saved it
from the abuses of Catholicism. Protestantism was a series of nega-
tions engendered by Catholic abuses. "It is not a religion .. lacks
a vital principle, and is incapable of producing anything." As for
the monarchical principle, Russian history was nothing if not its
finest realization. Samarin dwelled on the story of Rurik and em-
phasized that the relations between Russians and Normans were
quite different from those that obtained in France and England.
There was no conquest. There could be none because of the geo-
graphical position of the country and the small number of those
who composed the foreign race. As regards feudalism, there was
no military aristocracy in Russia as an independent principle, no
possible reprisals of conquered against conquerors, and in conse-
quence no revolutions and no possible constitutions. Christianity
was introduced into Russia without war or violence and with the
unanimous consent of all the nation.
I resume-no conquest, no feudalism, no aristocracy as a self-sufficient prin-
ciple, no social contract between tsar and nation. The form of government that
the Russian nation has created for itself is an absolute power, one and na-
tional, acting in the name of all, marching at the head of our civilization, and
accomplishing in Russia, without the hideous aspect of revolutions, that which
in the West is the fruit of internal wars, religious strifes, misfortunes and up-
heavals. This government is the bequest of our history and we wish no other,
for anything else would be a tyranny."


16







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


III
n 1842 the first part of Gogol's Dead Souls was published and was
received by Aksakov with rapt enthusiasm-not, to be sure, as
satire of genius but rather as the first manifestation of a truly na-
tional literature in close and living touch with the deep and pristine
instincts of the people. Gogol himself was a warm friend of Sergei
Aksakov and of the entire Aksakov family. He had known Kon-
stantin as early as 1832, and during his trip to Russia in 1839 and
1840 had established amiable ties with him. In a letter to Sergei
in December, 1840, Gogol spoke of "this youth so full of strength
and every blessing," although in the same letter he criticized Kon-
stantin's passion for German philosophy.45
Aksakov had evidently nursed for some time improbable notions
of the role Gogol was to fill in the approaching new order. In a
letter full of expressions of friendship Belinski wrote on January
10, 1840:
I rejoice in your new classification-Homer, Shakespeare, Gogol-but I am also
amazed. .. Oh youth Your soul is afire and I love its noble ardor. I agree
with you, only for me Pushkin stands in Gogol's place. .. Pushkin is Russia
and the only national Russian poet, the complete representative of the life of
its people. [A few months later, in June, Belinski again declared,] Gogol is a
great artist, no doubt about that. But he is not a Russian poet in the sense
that Pushkin is. .. Pushkin's poetry is our redemption."
In December, 1840, Aksakov promised to collaborate on the Mus-
covite which Pogodin had begun to issue in 1841. "Everything I
possess that God has given me, I am ready to devote to truth and
the fatherland. .. As far as possible, I will help you." However,
Aksakov and the other budding Slavophiles were by no means iden-
tified with the conservative and officially authorized Muscovite in
the way that the Westerners were with the Annals of the Father-
land (Otechestvennye zapiski), despite the latter's commercial op-
portunism. Pogodin declined to publish Aksakov's review of Dead
Souls, which had been intended for the journal, on the grounds of
Aksakov's dissatisfaction with Shevyrev's handling of the book.47
In consequence, Aksakov was obliged to publish in the form of a
brochure, in 1842, his Few Words About Gogol's Poem "Chichikov's
Travels" or "Dead Souls."
In Hegelian periods the author assessed Gogol's work as the
revival of a moribund art form, the epic, which, when transplanted
from Greece to the West, had undergone a decline and disfigura-


17







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
tion until it reached "the extreme of debasement, the French novel.
But Gogol's poem, "with its profound and simple grandeur," re-
newed the form of the epic and simultaneously attained the same
breadth and proportions as Homer. It broadly embraced Russia
and the mystery of Russia life. In the famous final passage, when
Chichikov surrenders himself to the impressions of a troika ride,
the exhilaration of speed "bound him to the whole people" and
"fused him with the substance of the Russian nation." Indeed,
"only Homer, Shakespeare, and Gogol command the secret of art...
concreteness of creativity," and, in relation to the "act of creation,"
the first two were "lower than Gogol." Gogol's poem was a Rus-
sian song, and it encompassed the spirit and form of the mighty
land whose paeans it sang.48 It was a composition which shunned
the abstract and the disembodied, and which rioted in a pandemic
abundance that could be created only by one who saw whole and
deep.
It has been maintained that "Aksakov's brochure is without doubt
a remarkable manifestation in the history of Russian criticism. It
first voiced the idea of the world significance of Gogol as a writer"
and it "justly assessed Gogol's poetical greatness." However, among
Aksakov's contemporaries, apart from his immediate family, the
brochure was greeted with vexation and impatience. Shevyrev
wrote to Pogodin: "The universal derision of those who have read
Konstantin Aksakov's brochure, even his adherents, has requited
his pride. He is completely disgraced." Belinski was beside him-
self and decried Aksakov's "dry, abstract constructions, void of
any life, alien to any direct observation. There is not a single clear
thought in it, not a single warm or intimate word. ... In the exposi-
tion, there is evident a kind of indolence, meandering, apathy, vague-
ness, and confusion." Writing to Samarin in August, 1842, Aksakov
referred to Belinski's "base article," and added, "I have seen [Niko-
lai] Pavlov. He wants to alienate you and Khomiakov from me
with respect to Gogol. He kept on declaring to me that the two of
you do not agree with me." Finally, Botkin apprised Belinski: "Your
review has incensed Aksakov, and he is writing a reply which he is
printing in the Muscovite. It will certainly be remarkably foolish.
Really, it is time to give a good cuff to all these Moscow philosophers
who express all the dark, ascetic, stifling, immobile, abstract side
of the sort of German philosophizing that has grasped only the ex-
ternal movement of Hegel's categories and not his spirit."49


18







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
Gogol himself was much displeased. He was aware of Aksakov's
desire to hoist him onto a Slavophile Parnassus. Nevertheless, he
wrote circumspectly to the author's doting father on March 6, 1843:
"Tell Konstantin Sergeevich that I do not think of being angry with
him for his brochure; on the contrary, it is remarkable. But there
exists an awful difference between dialectics and literary creation,
and woe to him who utters any remarkable thought if that thought
is still immature." To Aksakov himself, however, Gogol wrote stern-
ly from Rome: "You are proud. You do not wish to acknowledge
your mistakes or, better, you do not see them. . You are firmly
convinced that you have already reached the highest point of intel-
ligence, that you cannot be any smarter." Four months later, on
May 12, 1843, he called Aksakov's attention to the fact that the
brochure contained "much that was inexcusably juvenile."50
Between 1842 and 1845 Aksakov completed his master's disserta-
tion on Lomonosov, which was to be his Hegelian swan song. At
the same time he crossed over the Rubicon into the Slavophile camp.
The bonds of amity or habit that still joined him to those of differ-
ing views were completely dissolved, and he passed the remainder
of his career amidst the adulation of his family and the approbation
or tolerance of like-minded associates. From even the latter, how-
ever, and particularly from Ivan Aksakov and his coadjutor Samarin,
he received a modicum of tonic criticism which his increasingly
dogmatic and ultimately fanatical bent must have made it difficult
for him to brook.
During the winter of 1841 and 1842 Samarin and A. N. Popov, a
historian who was then living with Khomiakov and shared his opin-
ions, entered into a correspondence that revolved around the prob-
lem of evolution within the church. Samarin distinguished the
ideal and triumphant church from the church militant. The latter
was not freed from conditions of historical development and mani-
fested only a tendency to become the total and perfect church that
existed in divine thought. Khomiakov, on the other hand, saw in
the actual church the perfect organism, for neither Christ nor divine
grace, which constituted the essence of the church, could undergo
evolution. All the mysteries of God had been revealed from the
very beginning of Christianity. Any concept of development was
profoundly erroneous, and the only valid historical problem was
that of finding at any particular period of time a suitable and con-
temporaneous expression of the same unchanging thought.51


19







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


Samarin's first letter to Popov concluded with the phrase, "We,
that is, at the moment, only Aksakov and I, subscribe to the idea of
a developing church." But the friends soon differed, and Aksakov
wrote to Samarin: "I met Khomiakov at Kireevski's, and he told
me that he had debated with you on the church. I told him that
I too had done so and that we interpret differently the developing
church. Khomiakov said that he agreed with my view. Apparently
they are interested in the fact that we are in disagreement." Sama-
rin immediately replied: "What are they rejoicing about? Are we
fettered to each other? . Disagreement may rise between us .. .
but cannot separate us. Every quarrel between us is a domestic
one. . We are firmly bound together by the interests that are
closest to our hearts. I feel this strongly and embrace you warm-
ly."52 Nevertheless, this incident signified the weakening of Aksa-
kov's direct influence on Samarin, although to all appearances the
friendship continued as formerly.
A further real strain was imposed upon it by the fact that Aksakov
succumbed to Khomiakov's influence more quickly than did Samarin
and without the latter's anguished self-appraisal. Moreover, Ak-
sakov's impulsive nature and forensic drive often precluded a calm
and collected cognizance of the foundations of his action as well
as the premises of his arguments. Before long he primed a fully
closed system based on a handful of ready theses which he was able
to marshal for any occasion, any dispute, and which he ultimately
came to present in an unvarying and calisthenic ritual. Aksakov's
patriarchal origins and idealistic disposition, acted upon by the
thought world of romanticism, directed him to a particular congeries
of formulated beliefs about Russia and its past: some ludicrously
disordered, some subtly inaccurate, some historically conditioned,
some happily heuristic, some discretely plausible. The system in
which he balanced the elements of his credo was not inevitably a
consistent whole.
On January 8, 1843, Herzen described Aksakov in his diary as
"half-Hegelian and half-Orthodox. I spoke long with him, and I
wished to see how he reconciles his Orthodoxy with his Hegelianism;
but he does not reconcile them. He regards religion and philosophy
as different fields and permits them somehow to live together, a con-
cubinage sui generis." With his customary acuity, Herzen noted
on October 6, 1843: "The Kireevskis are more consistent than Ak-
sakov and Samarin. The latter wish to erect a Slavic-Byzantine


20







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
edifice on the basis of contemporary learning; through Hegel they
proceed to Orthodoxy, and through Western learning to a rejection
of Western history. They accept progress and look through our
eyes on the future of man; that is why they have lost the neces-
sary consistency." When the lines had been pretty much drawn,
Herzen noted on May 17, 1844: "Aksakov will remain noble forever
and ever, but he will also not advance beyond Muscophilism."53
When the question was actually posed to Aksakov of the seeming
incompatibility between German philosophy and Orthodoxy, the
upshot could hardly be in doubt. According to Ivan Aksakov's tes-
timony, "In Konstantin Aksakov, national and Orthodox instincts
were always alive from childhood and, however strong the influence
of Hegel in his youth, Konstantin Sergeevich never broke with them.
On the contrary, at that time Hegel was merely used by him as a
weapon for the defense and greater glorification of Russian nation-
ality ... After his first contact with Khomiakov, his Orthodox in-
stincts were illuminated and justified; there was no struggle or
reversion." A somewhat different emphasis was given by the ortho-
dox liberal historian Pypin: "Konstantin Aksakov definitely accepted
all the tenets of the Slavophile school with all its narrowness. This
was quite natural. In intellect he hardly equaled those who were
the pillars of the school. Evidently he accepted without any par-
ticular conflict its entire theoretical basis, which indeed suited his
enthusiastic and idealistic nature."54
Samarin's departure in 1844 to St. Petersburg, where he embarked
upon an active political career and developed a pragmatic view of
life, further taxed his friendship with the immobile Aksakov. In
a letter that cast in bold relief the difficulties involved, Samarin
declared: "I am as fond of you as before, although I disagree on
many things and will do so to my last breath. I am annoyed most
of all not by your opinions but by your extreme narrow-mindedness
and exactingness .... Your exclusiveness, intolerance, and a kind of
absence of understanding for the reality in which we live, almost
always cause you to be unjust in your judgments of people, includ-
ing myself."55 Ivan Aksakov confided to his father on March 12
of the same year, "I deeply regret that Konstantin is not in full
agreement with Samarin." Four months later, "You write that Kos-
tia did not go to Moscow to say good-bye to Samarin. It is a pity."
And in September, "I cannot believe that Samarin does not write
Konstantin his impressions of St. Petersburg. It is strange."56 On


21






TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


July 6, 1846, Samarin wrote to a presumably receptive Gogol: "Ak-
sakov writes me letters in which he threatens a rupture if I do not
accept his way of thinking, which is marked by narrowness and is
only pardonable in that it derives from ignorance of people and life.
. . For him, all humankind falls into the unconditionally black or
white."57 Years afterwards Samarin made an observation that char-
acterized quite neatly not only Aksakov but many "men of the for-
ties." He stated that every time he came to Moscow from St.
Petersburg and visited Konstantin Aksakov, he experienced the
feeling of "entering a church from the noisy street. Beyond the
confines of the church is practicality with all the bustle, the chance,
the fleeting activity, the needs of the moment, the malice of the
historical world; in the church-always the same unchanging and
timeless ideal, the same elevated insistence on pure truth despite
any apparent conflicts with surrounding reality or any seeming
incompatibility and inapplicability."58
During the early 1840's Aksakov still seemed to be on the road
from bright promise to mature fulfillment. But when Herzen re-
marked Aksakov's "quietist optimism," he sensed the turn of de-
velopment. "He believes in the Slavic world but realizes the in-
famy of the present. He suffers. He is aware of this suffering and
desires it. He does not believe that he has the right to cast off the
heavy cross laid upon him by fate. So he seems to me. He has a
strong nature and is always in a state of some sort of exaltation
which, I take it, must be inseparable from fanatical bias. With
such convictions, the emotions are on a level with reason and do
not permit the lofty calm of thought." Furthermore, Aksakov's
daily emotional engagements as well as his polemical canons were
eventually to disallow any serious or extended endeavors. Ivan
Aksakov's correspondence at this time was sprinkled with admoni-
tions bearing on this theme. On March 19, 1844, to take only one
of many instances, he wrote on the occasion of Konstantin's twenty-
seventh birthday: "I wish him, as well as Gogol, more practical
knowledge, more moderation, and more value from manliness. It
is absurd for me to say it, but he himself agrees. . The disserta-
tion is not finished and there have not appeared the mature and
refined works that everyone has a right to expect!"59
Meanwhile, patently obvious disparity of outlook was leading to
an inevitable rupture between Herzen and Aksakov. The former
wrote in his diary on September 4, 1844: "Even people above the


22







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
average in Moscow are beginning to be unsympathetic-Khomiakov
. .. and Aksakov, mad about Moscow, anticipating in some distant
tomorrow the resurrection of ancient Russia, the transfer of the
capital, and the devil knows what else." In his obituary of Aksakov
in The Bell (Kolokol), Herzen recalled a chance encounter.
Aksakov remained an eternally enthusiastic and boundlessly noble juvenile. He
was carried away but was always pure in heart. In 1844, when our differences
had gone so far that neither the Slavs nor we wished to meet any more, I was
out walking when Konstantin Aksakov passed in a sled. I bowed to him in a
friendly manner. He was about to continue on his way, but suddenly stopped
the coachman, descended from the sled, and came up to me. "It would be
too painful for me," he said, "to pass you without a greeting. You understand
that after everything that has occurred between your friends and mine, I
cannot see you. It is a pity, but nothing can be done. I wanted to shake
hands and say good-bye." He quickly got into the sled but turned back
abruptly. I was standing sorrowfully on the same spot. He rushed over to
me, embraced me, and kissed me. There were tears in my eyes. How I loved
him in this moment of discord!
There was apparently a formal separation. Herzen noted on
January 10, 1845: "Aksakov solemnly broke with Granovski and me.
It was obvious that it grieved him. He is noble and pure but prej-
udiced and narrow in his dissent. We said to each other amicably
that we served different gods and that consequently we must sepa-
rate, one to the right, the other to the left. I cannot deny my re-
spect for him as a person."60
Aksakov's leavetaking from Granovski was not out of style. He
descended upon the historian in the middle of the night, awakened
him, embraced him, and imparted to him that this was their last
farewell and that their relations had to be severed despite his own
deep respect and love for Granovski's character and personality.
"In vain Granovski attempted to persuade him to consider their dis-
agreements more dispassionately; he said that apart from the ideas
of Slavism and nationality, there were other ties and moral beliefs
between them that were in no danger of dissolution. Konstantin
Sergeevich Aksakov remained adamant and parted with him, strong-
ly agitated and in tears." Referring to the whole affair, Samarin
wrote to Aksakov from St. Petersburg at the beginning of 1845:
"What can I say to you about your parting with Herzen and Granov-
ski? I am not acquainted with the details, but it had to happen
sooner or later.... Much, very much, divides us and especially the
fact that a great deal which remains holy to us they regard as lifeless
idols."61


23







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
In his artistically heightened autobiography, Herzen distilled his
impressions of Aksakov and from under the patina of his animating
prose the familiar figure emerges:
Konstantin Aksakov did not laugh like Khomiakov and did not give himself
over to profitless complaint like the Kireevskis. A maturing young man, he
threw himself into matters. With his conviction, there was no unsure ques-
tioning of reasons, no mournful awareness of emptiness, no heavy breathing,
no distant hopes; but a fanatical faith, impatient, insistent, narrow, the kind
that anticipates victory. Aksakov was circumscribed, as is every fighter; it is
impossible to go to battle prepared with a calmly balanced eclecticism. He
was surrounded by a hostile environment that was strong and had great ad-
vantages over him. He had to make his way against all kinds of foes and set
up his banner. What kind of forbearance could there be here? His entire
life was an unconditional protest against Petrine Russia, against the Peters-
burg period, in the name of the unrecognized and suppressed life of the Rus-
sian people. His dialectic conceded to that of Khomiakov; he was not a poet-
thinker like Ivan Kireevski; but he would have gone to the block . for his
faith, and when that much is felt for the sake of words, they become terribly
convincing."
As early as 1840 Aksakov had been at work on his master's dis-
sertation in which, according to his brother Ivan, he "remorselessly
stretched and twisted the ponderous and stiff Hegelian formulas in
his interpretation of Russian history." Aksakov read the beginning
of the work to Pogodin who was horrified and observed in his diary,
"Aksakov's .. analyses are immature. ... I was grieved to notice
his self-satisfaction. Philosophy is overwhelming the poor boy."
Indeed, the consensus of informed opinion was that the book was
"written in German, only with Russian words." Aksakov himself
may have found the task protracted and onerous, for as late as July
1, 1844 he wrote to Pogodin, "I have not seen you in a long time,
and I do not know when I shall see you. I am busy in the village
[Abramtsevo] and I am not shaving until my dissertation is com-
pleted."63 The work was finished that year, but it was not actually
published until 1846. It was entitled, Lomonosov in the History of
Russian Literature and the Russian Language.
In his final confrontation with Hegel, Aksakov handled two car-
dinal problems: the periodization of Russian history and the essence
of language. His initial postulate was that every sphere of the
spirit-art, literature, history, or whatever-contained absolute es-
sence and, for this reason, was constrained to evolve in order to
demonstrate its role in the progression of the absolute spirit that
penetrated being. Such development Aksakov understood not as
a simple movement forward or even unilinear self-perfection. There


24







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
were periods of regression and decline, and the entire process was
to be conceived dialectically and through negation. "Only negation
makes it possible for the absolute to realize itself," and this "takes
place in all the categories of the spirit."64
Aksakov's scheme of Russian history as spiritual development was
declaredly an attempt to overcome the blind factual side of events
and reveal the purely internal significance of "becoming." The
entire national history supposedly constituted a kind of penultimate
entelechy, the final stage of which Aksakov's Hegelian insight alone
enabled him to detect. "Russia appears to us first strictly in the cat-
egory of particularity; the level on which the Russian people first
finds itself is that of an exclusive nationality." In this early period
there developed the political body of Russia. The disorderly and
ever agitated appanage era represented the ferment that was ended
by the rise of Muscovite Russia, which was the essential inner goal,
the purpose, of the preceding period. "Moscow appears to us as
the unifying agent of the Russian state and, even more so, of the
'land' [zemlia]. It is the organism that pursues its own successful
activity." The expansion of Moscow that followed its appearance
was, in addition, profoundly peaceful. "Without desire for con-
quest, without military action . Russia expanded tranquilly, ac-
quiring area after area, country after country, so that its extension
cannot be termed conquest of foreign countries but the independent
growth of its own giant organism."
During the Muscovite period as a whole, external contacts with
Europe did not alter the physiognomy of Russia which retained the
cast of exclusive nationality. But "was the Russian nation such as
to be satisfied within the narrow circle of its own life and never
aspire to the universally human sphere, a nation consequently cut
off from an independent significance as an autonomous participant
in the realm of the universal?" Could Russia's circumscribed situa-
tion "completely determine its substance," or was it to rise to
a higher level where "the absolute informs the substance of the
nation"?
The national dynasty was unfortunately unable to break out of
the circle, and this mission fell to the outsider, Boris Godunov. The
death of the heir to the throne, Dmitri, whatever Boris' direct re-
sponsibility, symbolized the termination of the dynasty. The elec-
tion of Godunov, by introducing a new principle into Russian life,
revealed the possibility of the destruction of the old order. Boris


25







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


sought to bring Russia closer to the West, and, in the eyes of the
people, the appearance of the False Dmitri signified the recrudes-
cence of the old dynasty. But Boris Godunov "grievously af-
fronted the still strong national consciousness of Russia," while the
Time of Troubles constituted only an "external effort to overthrow
our nationality. However, only through its own internal develop-
ment can a nation itself actually leave the sphere of nationality
and progress to a higher sphere of being." The new dynasty ap-
peared to be a return to the old order, but despite the efforts of
the streltsy, who were its guardians, and the fervor of the dissenters,
who were "the extreme aspect of nationality," the old order was
an anachronism and carried within itself the seed of its own de-
struction.
Finally, with Peter the Great came "the decisive liberation from
exclusive nationality, the decisive passage to another and higher
sphere, the decisive transformation." The struggle was begun
against the traditional national concept which relied on the streltsy
and the dissenters and had behind it "if not all, then a majority of
the nation." But this pre-Petrine tradition was "already void of
inner life" and "had forever lost its actuality." Peter reckoned with
"the actual need of the Russian nation, perhaps unknown to itself,"
and assaulted the old national consciousness which "was hindering
the free development of the nation." He was obliged to begin with
a complete negation which was necessitated by the parochialism of
the preceding period. "Peter's work in the line of general develop-
ment was one of pure negation, but it was inevitable; not dead but
productive." The Russian people, "the abstract Russian substance,"
withheld themselves from Peter's work and thus made its success
possible but, at the same time, prevented it, as an extreme negation,
from destroying all Russia itself. The new capital of St. Petersburg
corresponded to the negative spirit of Peter's work. Standing on
foreign shores, connected by no historical memories with Russia,
constructed by plan and without any organic growth, it "was
founded as a temporary center for a period of negation . and
was, therefore, unable to have any life of its own. But it was neces-
sary as a passing phenomenon, as the inevitable expression of an
inevitable period of negation."
It was during the incubational Petersburg period that the Russian
spirit succeeded in renewing itself by advancing from the particular
via the Petrine negation to the universal. Indeed, "not a single


26







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


nation ever ventured on such a decisive, complete, and severe re-
nunciation of its own nationality, and, therefore, not a single na-
tion is able to claim such a universally human significance as the
Russian." Such was the root meaning of the Petersburg episode.
Significantly, while the new and foreign St. Petersburg existed
solely as the
external aspect of Peter's work, [Moscow] accepted its spirit and developed
the inner and essential .. side of his effort. [Thus, the time had come when]
after the necessary renunciations, Peter's work was accomplished . and the
Russian spirit rose again . free of its exclusiveness and with a universal sig-
nificance. In this higher sphere, Peter the Great's way is revealed to us. In
his person . the principle of individuality was released . exclusive na-
tionality was overcome, and a universal significance . became accessible to
the people. Such ... is the importance of Peter in the history of Russia.
In line with his scheme of Hegelian historiosophical formulariza-
tion, Aksakov considered the earliest period of development in
Russian literary culture, as well as in national political life, to be
one of exclusive nationality. In language and literature, this was
"the first stage, the statement of definition, that had to be negated
so that later, language, together with the nation in which there
will be awakened universal meaning, will also become the expres-
sion of the ecumenical, which is unattainable in the first stage of
exclusively local definition." In the same sense that the Russian
nation, with its historical attributes, was at first helpless to grasp
the absolute that inhered within it, so too the Russian language,
which was likewise conditioned, could not be the corresponding
instrument of the absolute. This function was reserved to Church
Slavonic, which was inaccessible to the people. "On the one hand,
there was the nation with its exclusively national determinative, its
songs, and its own language; on the other hand, the absolute, given
in religious form to the people, not confined by nationality but not
yet penetrating it, inaccessible and apparently abstract. Together
with the abstract, and embodying it, Church Slavonic was charged
with an eternally true substance and stocked with the wealth of
religion."65
Peter's contribution to the history of the nation found its counter-
part, and inevitably so, in Lomonosov's contribution to the lan-
guage with the infusion into Russian of the abstract and universal
features of Church Slavonic. "The national sphere of language
had collapsed; language had to pass into the sphere of the universal;
it demanded the individual through whom alone this transfer was


27







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES

possible; the individual appeared; this individual was Lomonosov.
This is the great and essential significance of Lomonosov." Thus,
the phenomenon of Lomonosov was closely bound with that of
Peter the Great. The activity of both had a common and inner
correspondence. Lomonosov recognized the nature of the relation-
ship between Russian and Church Slavonic as well as the importance
of the latter for the development of the native language. He "ac-
knowledged the right of our language to transport itself to a higher
level . on which it might express the absolute. He definitely
freed the tongue from the category of the limited and elevated it to
the universal." Unfortunately, after Lomonosov there ensued a
"period of one-sidedness" when "heavy massive construction was
predominant in writing . even though such construction was
opposed to the Russian freedom of language." Negation followed
with Karamzin's nonorganic conversational construction, and Ak-
sakov suggested that the linguistic future lay with a restored organic
construction, purified, however, of the narrowness and heaviness
that were incompatible with the free nature of the Russian lan-
guage.66
Aksakov also anticipated a new and higher synthesis in Russian
national development as a whole:
Having been energetically emancipated by Peter from the fetters of confining
nationalism, and having gone through a period of irresponsible imitation of the
foreign, which followed the preceding era logically, inevitably, and directly,
we are returning to our history, to our life, and to our own social existence
which we have acquired anew in full consciousness of freedom from any pos-
sible one-sidedness. . Before Peter the Great, we were inseparably united
with the fatherland and loved it, but our love was not free. In it was fear
of the foreign. Only through ignorance and through isolation did we think to
preserve our nationality. This was the dark side that made possible the sub-
version of this very love. And so it happened. Peter brought into the light
what had been concealed in darkness; he unmasked and vanquished prejudice;
he was a turning-point. The period after Peter the Great was a new one-
sidedness, the most terrible extreme to which the nation had ever gone. ..
We completely denied our history, literature, and even language. . But now
a new period has arrived. Now our alliance with the fatherland . cannot
possess a narrowness which might weaken it; it seeks strength not in aloofness
from other countries, not in fear. No, we have accepted the enlightenment of
the West. We have accepted it not in vain and do not fear that because of it
our newly arisen alliance will totter. One-sidedness has disappeared; enlight-
enment always leads to truth. We have reached awareness of the necessity
of a national life . but the former dark side of this life no longer exists.
Originally, we were not able to understand ourselves. We had to break loose
and abandon exclusive nationality. We did so. For long, we found ourselves
in a period of negation, a period equally one-sided but equally necessary.


28







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


Now . when it has ended . our thought is turned to the life of our so-
ciety."
As a concluding observation in the dissertation, Aksakov re-
marked: "Peter's transformation has not been completed. A reac-
tion is necessary so that it may be concluded and vindicated, so
that it may appear in its truth."68 Thus, Aksakov's judgment of
Peter was essentially positive in the sense that it submitted to his-
torical inevitability, even though the negation of the negation, the
final entelechy of the Russian spirit, had yet to be awaited. His ob-
jection to Peter the Great was by no means so great or decisive as
it became later, and he still sought to reconcile himself to the reality
of the entire Russian past, denial of which by the Westerners so
set him against them.
But Aksakov was already shifting his intellectual position while
the dissertation was being published. He was altering his scheme
of Russian historical development by denying, on the one hand, the
need and desirability of Peter's transformations and, on the other,
the hidebound nationalism of pre-Petrine Russia. Furthermore,
his ultimate and negative assessment of the state as nothing but
form and externality constituted a sharp rift with the Hegelian
dogma. Aksakov did not renounce philosophy, but he now regarded
himself as standing above it, in any case above that of Hegel. "In
his verse, we occasionally meet the same sentiments as those of
the left Hegelians: above philosophy stands life; above theory, the
deed, which is a vital conjunction of theory and practice. This
approach, however, so different from that understood by Belinski
or Bakunin, was based not on political and social but on religious
and ethical motives."69
Aksakov's poem To Peter, written in 1845, may be considered an
expression of the author's transitional stage. He addressed Peter
as a "great genius" but a sanguinaryy man." The tsar harbored
the great thought of enlightenment, [but] in destroying evil in your native land,
you wounded the entire country; in expelling the vices of Russia life, you merci-
lessly repressed life itself. In your labor you did not appeal to the people,
but despised them .... You built a lonely city distant from the people. It is
a drain on the life of the nation. .. Russia's sins gave you victory. . But
the national spirit will stretch its wings. . The work of lies will crumble into
dust. . Vindicated by fate, your people will return to life. .. The father-
land will prosper and you will be forgiven.70
In February, 1847, Samarin commented to Aksakov on the fun-
damental postmaturity of the dissertation:


29







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


The main trouble is that it appeared two or three years late. . When you
conceived it long ago, it was imaginable to believe in the possibility of explain-
ing the historical process of Russian life with the assistance of the principles
of Hegelian logic. Now we all understand their inappropriateness and irrele-
vance .... The formula of double negation was understood by you in a purely
formal way: that is, abstractly as an elastic scheme, and all of your applications
of it were, therefore, quite arbitrary. . The conception of Russian history as
an application of the formula . was unfortunate."

IV

A ksakov's Muscophilism attained renown-notoriety in official cir-
cles-through the publication of an article in the Moscow Ga-
zette (Moskovskie vedomosti) celebrating the seventh centennial of
Moscow. From 1845 to 1848 this theme acquired an increasingly
salient place in Aksakov's beliefs. Actually, during the entire 1830's
and 1840's the imaginations of publicists were exercised by the staple
contrast of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and a series of articles on
the subject afforded occasion for posing the more provocative issue
of Russia's path of evolution and national culture.
Gogol treated the theme in "Petersburg Sketches of 1836" and
coined the phrase "Moscow is necessary for Russia; Russia is neces-
sary for Petersburg." Herzen's sketch "Moscow and Petersburg"
was written in 1842 and circulated in manuscript. He assured his
readers that "the life of Petersburg is only in the present," for "it
has neither history nor future: any spring now it may expect a
sudden squall that will engulf it." In 1839 Belinski too had entered
the quarrel over pre-eminence with his article on the "Aleksandrin-
ski Theater," but the immediate impetus to Aksakov's sorties was
supplied by Belinski's "Petersburg and Moscow," which castigated
the "weak-minded" who wanted "to subject everything Russian to
the wild and savage forms of Asiatic life"; namely, the "homegrown
politicians" of Moscow, which was nothing but a wretched amal-
gam of Europe and Asia. Aksakov replied with a poem on Moscow
published in the Muscovite and a series of poems in the following
years.72 He also waged the "struggle for Moscow" in the theater
with two vaudevilles and a drama.
He completed his drama, The Liberation of Moscow, in June,
1847, and published it in January of the following year. Like every-
thing else that he now wrote or said, "its aims were didactic, not
artistic."73 It had two guiding ideas: to demonstrate how the people
themselves, despite boyars and Cossacks, saved Russia in 1612 from


30







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


foreign aggression and liberated the national capital; and to sug-
gest the imminent and new liberation of Moscow and all Russia
from the rule of alien and bureaucratic St. Petersburg. One of the
monologues summarized the theme of the vehicle:
The boyars are guilty and proud. They despise the common people. . It
seems they have forgotten that we all are brothers and Christians and Rus-
sians. . We have allowed ourselves to disregard this . and God is punish-
ing us. . Do not forget, O boyars, the Russian land and people. There
is a much higher truth in the common people. .. While you connived with
the Poles, they defended the land . Do not cut your ties with the people ..
and you will prosper and benefit the country.74
Aksakov described the drama to Gogol as being written simply
and without effects.
This simplicity, which perhaps not a nation in the world understands, is a
characteristic of the Russian people. Everything is simple; everything appears
to be less than it is. Invisibility is also characteristic of the Russian spirit. A
great feat is accomplished without being noticed. To whoever understands
the greatness of this simplicity all the deeds of the world pale. For those who
do not understand . it is best to point not to moral strength, which is the
greatest of all, but to the geographical map. There, contemplating the vast
expanse, they will involuntarily fall into thought, but they will not guess that
this expanse is the weakest side of the strength that lives in the spirit-inner
strength. Thus do I comprehend the events of the interregnum. ... In Rus-
sian history there is not a single phrase. Everything is unalloyed fact; that
is, before Peter. After him I do not call our history Russian.7'
However, it was Aksakov's article on Moscow, published in the
Moscow Gazette, that attained the most celebrity. It was a remorse-
less magnification of the city's primacy in the historical and every-
day consciousness of all right-thinking Russians. The old capital
expressed in itself "both a universal and an all-Russian significance";
it represented not power over the people but the power of the
Russian "land." The first Zemski sobor had been assembled here.
When the False Dmitri wished to change the faith of Russia, the
Polish Jesuits counseled him to abandon Moscow and found a new
capital, but "this did not occur while he was on the throne." Aksa-
kov here may have been using Aesopian speech to intimate that
what the Pretender dared not or could not effect, Peter succeeded
in doing. But, the author went on, Moscow retained its significance
even after Petersburg had been established. The events of 1812
were further testimony that Moscow was the genuine center of
Russian nationality, and they confirmed its importance as "the
eternal capital of the Russian 'land.'"76 In this article, as in his
other writings, Aksakov occasionally employed the term "land"


31







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


(zemlia) in the Slavophile abstraction, which referred to the peasant
masses of Russia considered to be set apart from both the govern-
ment and the Westernized intellectuals and viewed as having
preserved themselves into the nineteenth century as the undefiled
repository of national consciousness, pure Orthodoxy, native tradi-
tion, and the social virtues of old Moscovy.
The article caused Aksakov censorship difficulties which were
to plague his publishing activities until 1856, and even afterwards.
He informed Samarin: "Stroganov has reproved [the censor] Korsh
and instructed the censorship committee that not a single article
of mine should be approved without his special permission . .
This means that the censorship will be most severe." Stroganov's
report warned that "in this article, in addition to unsuitable demon-
strations of Moscow's superiority over St. Petersburg as the capital
of the empire, there are expressed precepts generally incompatible
with the monarchical form of government." A passage interpreting
the events of 1612 was singled out as being particularly directed
against the existing order of things:
In this bitter and trying time when, it seemed, there was neither salvation nor
release; when the new pretender, Wladyslaw, Zygmunt, the Swedes with their
prince, divided the land and sought the Russian throne; when, finally, bands
of outlaws devastated all of Russia-in this time, the Russian nation, without
a tsar and not led by the boyars, rose on behalf of the Russian land. It rose
not in favor of any one of those who had offered themselves to it as tsar and
promised the assistance then needed. It rose not in favor of Wladyslaw or
Charles or anyone else; it rose against all its enemies for the sake of the Ortho-
dox faith and the Russian land."
In 1846 and 1847 the Slavophiles, who had had as yet no organ
of their own, succeeded in publishing two volumes of the Moscow
Miscellany (Moskovski sbornik).7 Aksakov contributed to the first
volume a short notice on orthography, and to the second, three ar-
ticles of criticism under the name of Imrek. Writing, as always
now, in a deafening and unabating major key, he found "insup-
portable" the remarks of the Petersburg professor, Nikitenko, that
Peter the Great had attempted to move Russia out of "smoky hovels"
into Western mansions. For Aksakov, who personally enjoyed the
spacious comfort of his father's residence at Abramtsevo, the cot-
tages of the peasants "even today bear all the imprint of ancient
Russia." Nekrasov's Petersburg Miscellany served Aksakov as a
whipping boy for all those malpractitioners who remained obdu-
rately "cut off" from the people. Dostoevski was administered a


32







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
sharp rap on the knuckles for his putatively unsuccessful imitation
of Gogol. In brief, "he is not an artist and will not become one."
Belinski's articles on Russian literature "reveal boorishness" as well
as "repetitious chatter."79 Aksakov had not forgotten Turgenev's
caricature of him in The Landowner,80 an early verse narrative
published in 1846, and petulantly observed that "he continually
writes worse and worse." However, in a footnote, Aksakov men-
tioned quite favorably-with parti pris, of course-Turgenev's Khor
and Kalinich, which had recently appeared in The Contemporary
(Sovremennik). Aksakov's remarks constitute further evidence of
his unremitting application of those imperious and didactic criteria
to every subject that engaged his interest. Extra-literary, extra-
historical, extra-esthetic, his valuations stemmed without exception
from his romantic cult of the nation. All roads led to holy Moscow.
Thus, "When Turgenev analyzed his tiresome loves, various apathies,
and egoism, everything was rapid and without talent; but once he
established sympathetic contact with the people, then we saw how
fine his story was. . God grant that he pursue this course."
Aksakov was particularly inflamed by Prince Odoevski's story,
The Little Orphan Girl, printed in Sollogub's Yesterday and Today,
which recounted how an abandoned peasant girl had been taken
to St. Petersburg by a wealthy noblewoman, received an educa-
tion, and then returned to her native village to spread enlightenment
among the peasants. Aksakov voiced "bitter indignation" that a
writer "completely separated from the people" could so patronize
the nation, "the mighty guardian of the great and living mystery."
No Nadia, or any person formed and educated in high society,
could stand on a level with the people and venture to indoctrinate
them.
Is it so easy to judge the people and educate them through some Nadia, a
person so far removed that she does not understand the profundity, the con-
victions, all that is in the people and is such a dark forest for her? Fortunately,
Nadia and her kind . cannot even approach the depth of the people, who
are an impenetrable secret and closed sanctuary to them. How many such
persons in our time and in our land, who have . dissolved their natural tie
with the people . who wear European clothes and read European books,
who have learned to babble in a foreign tongue and show proper and borrowed
enthusiasm for Italian opera . wish to show the people the way to lively
Although they may swallow all of European wisdom, if they are cut off from
the people and persist in their aberrant development, if they are condescending
to the people, then they are despicable."
Aksakov's immoderation of expression had become such as to


33







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES

disquiet even his Slavophile confreres, and Khomiakov was moved
to assert in a letter to A. N. Popov:
The severity of the censor will probably be aroused by Aksakov's articles. His
rashness, which may be respected in that it comes from his bold honesty, wins
him the endless praises of our Westerners. If he were more reflective, he would
understand that they applaud him for the harm he does us, or may do, and for
the fact that he acts in passionate directness and not with the dispassionate
truth and good of our cause in mind.8
In 1847 there exploded the bomshell of Gogol's Selected Passages
from a Correspondence with Friends. This strange document, the
product of melancholia, alienation, guilt, obscurantism, and religious
mania, amounted to a collection of sermons and moralistic plati-
tudes ascribing a divine plan to tsarism, serfdom, and the estab-
lished social order under Nicholas I. Instead of the "gratitude"
which Gogol had anticipated, all sides were outraged by a work
universally condemned as rude, pompous, deluded, and even (as
with Belinski) treasonable. The book wrought havoc in the Ak-
sakov household. Konstantin, who saw dissipated his carefully
nurtured vision of Gogol as the Homer of the Russian peasant, was
impelled to attack his fallen idol in a letter of withering rage:
In everything you wrote in your letters, and in your book especially, I see
one main failing above all; it is falsehood-falsehood not in the sense of delusion
or error but of insincerity. ... I know I have for long highly valued simplicity
and every day I value it more highly, but I do not see it in you. .. I will
mention another great failing of yours . contempt for the people, the simple
people, the peasant. This is manifest . particularly in your exhortation to
the landowner where the people, whom you do not know, appear coarse and
ignorant and where the landowner as such is morally elevated. A strange
moral aristocracy. . Your fault is worship of the public and contempt for
the people. ... Do you not realize . that only the Russian peasant possesses
simplicity and submissiveness? That is why he is so elevated above . writers
and above those who interpret him without understanding him. How could
it happen that you, a Russian, could so misunderstand . the Russian people;
that you, so sincere in your writings, became so crudely insincere? The answer
is simple. Did you not, in your false intellectualism, abandon your native land
and spend six years outside it, not breathing its holy, moral air? Did you not
. .live in the West and inhale its baneful effluvia? Or did you think that the
milieu in which a person finds himself does not matter? . It was not the
Cathedral of the Assumption . not Orthodox Russia . .that prepared
you for your enterprise. See what these six years have done. .. I consider
your book a complete expression of all the evil that captivated you in the West.
You consorted with the West, with this lie incarnate, and the lie took hold of
you. . Recent events in Western Europe [1848] have revealed all its rot-
tenness [gnilost]. Perhaps now our society will understand the harm of Western
influence and, seeing that such influence exists here in Russia, will try to free
itself from it and all its temptations, and will return to national Russian life.
I myself am the same, but still I have much altered. I have given up German


34







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
philosophy. Russian life and history have become even closer to me, and most
important for me .. is faith, Orthodox faith."
Ironically, Belinski viewed Gogol's book as a particularly sinister
amplification of Aksakov's own position, and he confided to Botkin
on February 28, 1847: "You definitely do not understand this book
if you see in it only delusion and do not discern in addition the
baseness artistically reckoned upon. Gogol is by no means Kon-
stantin Sergeevich Aksakov."84
At the end of 1847 Aksakov composed "On the Contemporary
Literary Controversy," which was forbidden by the censorship in
January, 1848, and was not published until thirty-four years later
in Ivan Aksakov's Russia (Rus). It was written as part of the liter-
ary war being waged between the Moscow Slavophiles and the
Petersburg "naturalistic" school. Aksakov's reviews in the Mus-
covite of Physiology of Petersburg and in the Moscow Miscellany
of the Petersburg Miscellany were contributions to the altercation.
The conflict was brought to a head when Belinski transferred his
activities from the Annals of the Fatherland to The Contemporary
and during 1847, a year of feverish assiduity, wrote a series of
articles flailing his opponnet.85
Aksakov immediately rejoined:
We are charged with rejecting the universally human in favor of the national.
This is completely erroneous. . However, Russia has a direct right to the
universal without the mediation of other nations. ... It is our opponents who
stand for nationality-only European, not their own; and they accept the Euro-
pean as universal. We, on the other hand, stand for universalism, but we
restore to it completely the rights of individual nationality, of Russian nation-
ality. All our undertakings and labors are in this spirit. [He answered a
charge of Belinski's which touched essentials:] The author discovers in our
movement toward nationality the influence of the West and compares us to
German nationalists with their return to the past. May God forgive him these
words. How can there be a foreign influence when life itself is the cause? The
reproach is also often made that return to the past is impossible. .. But our
past is not gone; it follows us. The past of Russia now lives with the common
people and is preserved in them. Therefore, it is not a question of return to
what has ceased to possess life, to what has passed, but to what is now living,
that which exists and which has merely been deprived of a place in our social
life and of a full manifestation. Such a return is possible and necessary.
Aksakov argued that if all Russians had succumbed to Peter's
transformation, such a return would be out of the question. But
this did not happen. The people preserved their old way of life, and
Peter did not tear Russia as a whole from the past; he only tore it
in two. Consequently, the division into past and present that was


35







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES

effectuated by the violent doings of Peter the Great manifested
itself spatially rather than chronologically. Russia found itself
with two qualitatively different presents instead of with a past and
a present.
In such terms, we should not be compared with German dreamers, Altdeutsche,
because they desire to return to the simple past, to what is over because it no
longer exists. In Germany there is not that dichotomy and duality that there
is here in Russia. We who proudly follow Peter call ourselves the present
and label as the past all the rest of contemporary Russia which stands beside
us and which preserves the Russia we have forgotten. . But the presence
of the common people in our work demonstrates that our past has not vanished
and that a return to it is possible. . My associates and I are thought to
desire a return to the old forms of life. On the contrary. We intend a return
not to the letter but to the spirit... to the bases of our life.

As to the belief that Russia was without a past but could antici-
pate a bright future: "Where will this future come from? It will
not fall from above. If there is a future, there must be a gener-
ative past; and this lies with the people."
Nevertheless, Aksakov's discussion of Peter the Great was still
in the necessitarian spirit of the Lomonosov dissertation:
I do not deny Peter's transformation or call it false. The reason is clear. Had
this upheaval been false, it would not have succeeded. With all his will and
genius, Peter would have been powerless before the people and out of har-
mony with them. Thus, there was justice in the transformation. In Russia
before Peter, there was national isolation, within which the country confined
itself after the interregnum, an alien stagnation, and, finally, the infringement
of the essential rights of the "land." . Against this circumscription, so foreign
to the Russian nature, Peter appeared with the concept of enlightenment and
utilization of the accomplishments of all nations. . But in reacting against
the spirit of the unilateral, he introduced a new extreme; his medicine was a
new illness. . For the freedom of enlightenment brought by Peter was a
terrible servitude to enlightenment. .. Consequently, there was right on the
side of the people, because, in attacking the vices of life, Peter attacked life
itself. But we are asked why Peter was successful if right was on both sides.
I answer that the right on Peter's side was that of sequence and order, and
Peter was successful because of and as a result of historical determinants. On
the one hand, the proof of the right of Peter's transformation was its very suc-
cess; on the other, the proof that there was falseness in it and right on the side
of the people was the fact that the people did not change and remained for a
century and a half as they had been and as they are now. ... If Peter's up-
heaval, with its narrowness, was inevitable, equally so must be the reaction,
and no longer a limited one, on behalf of the people. The Petersburg period
has lasted a long time, and we have been isolated from Russia long enough."

Another article by Aksakov, "On Contemporary Man," dates from
this same period. It was discovered among his manuscripts and
was published in Russia by his brother. In it the author was con-


36







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


cerned to define the ideal society and to determine which terres-
trial societies-or, rather, society-most closely approximated it.
Although he never completed the article, his conclusions were
obvious, and the virulence of his railings against the West was such
as almost to obviate the necessity of the customary peroration on
the Russian peasant utopia.
On the initial and unexceptionable statement that the social drive
was intimately linked with man's nature, Aksakov based the asser-
tion that not only the need for mutual assistance combined individ-
uals into society, but also the need for a community of feeling.
In social life the individual was able to lose himself in a chorus of
voices that constituted the highest form of society. "Society is an
art by which every person renounces his egotistic exclusiveness,
not for the sake of mutual advantage as in an association . but
because of the basic principle that lies in the soul of the individual,
the love and fraternal impulse that alone can create a genuine
society. . In its essence and most comprehensive form, society
is a church, but a church on earth, a church militant."
Aksakov described in the historical process the play of two prin-
ciples: egoistic antisocial individuality and altruistic sociality. Be-
fore history, in the state of nature, there was neither personality
nor society, except in a quantitative sense of unit and mass. Neither
could possess an independent significance; the unit was lost in the
mass, and the mass engulfed the unit. The author implicitly dis-
missed Asia to limbo as having given rise to a despotic society
where the individual was again absorbed by the mass which, in
turn, was subservient to a single person. In Europe, on the con-
trary, the principle of personality was the opposite of that which
prevailed in Asia.
In Asia personality is admitted to a single individual; in Europe to everyone-a
principle equally hostile to society because calculation of private interest is
the only social tie, and a conditional one at that. [But] however brilliant,
clever, and active the West may be with its beguiling principle of personality,
it can never equal the elevated reason and wisdom that communality is able
to attain. However dazzling and varied the West may be on the outside, it
cannot fill the moral vacuum within . and it will remain all the same the
spiritless construction of egoistic personalities.
Even religion was perverted by the meretricious society of the
West, which did not allow Christianity to enter into it fully. Chris-
tian principles were so alien that they merely took form as another
social institution on the basis of the principle of personality. At


37







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
first, the single spiritual personality of the pope asserted itself
under the influence of memories of Roman despotism. The people
were deprived of the exercise of their own consciences as well as
any free moral activity. But after Protestant protests against the
spiritual hegemony of Rome, Christianity was allowed to become
the personal acquisition of every isolated individual who was un-
able to understand it as a whole and who did not form part of a
communal church.
Social forms in the West were established by force, and the con-
querors became the aristocracy. There was no concord between the
upper and lower classes, only the rule of naked force followed by
that of social deals. These appeared in the emergence of the feudal
system and, as soon as the "energy of personality" among the upper
classes had weakened, of monarchy. Eventually the lower orders
obtained liberation but not the real freedom that inhered only in
a communal society. "With revolutions people did not destroy
deals; they only desired to participate in them. They did not
cast off the yoke of the conquerors; they only wanted to squeeze
into their ranks, replace them, and obtain the same rights." The
conquered and oppressed portion of the people obtained participa-
tion in the system of deals which was finally and clearly defined as
a constitution, a "contract on paper." But continual class hostility
remained the essence of Western political organization, and as the
aristocracy had been loath to extend rights to the nation, so the
middle class (meshchanstvo) was bent on trampling underfoot the
populace (chern). "Revolution does not alter the order of things;
it is the same order, only in reverse. Such is the characteristic
of every forcible transformation."
But more ominous than the moral vacuum of European civiliza-
tion was the fact that most of the earth was tributary to it. "Whether
or not European forms of life are false, they are in any case false for
another people because they are alien to them." Vast were the
dangers to the rest of the world from copying Europe. "Worse than
the material yoke of Europe that weighs on the world is the moral
one .... From which direction can emancipation come? ... Today
there are no barbarians who might revive mankind as they once
did by destroying Rome. But today they are not needed. The
eternal word of salvation has been spoken. It is ever before us
and always ready to raise us from moral slavery."
But where was the readiest source and most unpolluted well?


38







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


Europe had long ago lost any spiritual vitality. America was beyond
the pale. "In America there flourishes a powerful state, but the
United States is only an exacerbation of the European malady. In
America, also, there is not an ameliorative native soil or a feeling
of nationality or historical tradition. The conditional arrangement
of mutual political relations has completely replaced the feeling
of love. The United States is an enormous machine society. . .
It is the most extreme representation of the principle of personality,
the sharpest contradiction of the principle of communality and free
life." As for Russia, it had at first followed its own path and avoided
the mistakes of the West. But it too abandoned its original road
and became the flighty imitator of Europe. Such was the "real
disease" of the age. "All our energy is in servitude to the spirit
of Western Europe. Furthermore, this spirit itself is going astray,
as Europe's leading thinkers, like Proudhon, surmise. Thus, a
double sorrow oppresses us: first, we are not independent but in
tutelage to an alien mentality which we copy; second, what we serve
and copy is a lie."87
Although Aksakov never advanced beyond the lie, he obviously
intended the remainder of the essay to demonstrate that the "re-
vival of mankind" lay with the Orthodox Russian peasantry.

V
Aksakov responded to the European events of 1848 in a completely
and predictably negative fashion. His correspondent A. N.
Popov could hardly have been electrified when he was advised in
March that "the time has finally come when everyone must realize
that we Russians have to free ourselves from Western Europe and
that our common people are the real guarantors of peace and order."
In the autumn of that year Aksakov wrote to his brother Ivan:
In reading the foreign newspapers there involuntarily rises in one a feeling of
contempt for these people of the West, and only Christian sentiment opposes
such an attitude. . For this reason, profound indignation seizes hold of me
because they are besmirching the great principle of nationality. ... In the first
place, they have no genuine nationality; theirs is artificial, contrived, distorted.
In the second place, they besmirch it in that they give it a revolutionary char-
ater that is incompatible with genuine nationality. In its essence the national
principle is antirevolutionary and conservative. Such is the Russian view, and
it is correct.8
Aksakov's intransigence and stern refusal to be swayed by events,
as well as his persistence in his favorite themes, caused even Khomi-


39







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


akov to remark of him to Iuri Samarin in the middle of 1848:
He is an artist and his real activity can only be artistic. This is considerable
but inadequate. A theoretical sense is difficult to come by in him. Analysis
with him is too much dependent on internal synthesis ... and this arouses dis-
belief in everyone. For example, his Orthodoxy, although genuine, has too
local a character; it is bound to nationality and, therefore, is not completely
valid. Again, Aksakov is incapable of practical application. For him the future
must immediately become the present, and he refuses to admit temporary con-
cessions to the present, whereas we know that they cannot be avoided."
In a letter to his father, Ivan Aksakov observed about his brother's
reactions to 1848: "Even Konstantin's soul did not grieve. Without
any internal spiritual pain, he is able to brand with an imprecation
nine-tenths of humanity, and for a long time he has not even con-
sidered the poor people of the West to be human, but rather some
sort of animal variety. This may be, but for me the belief is full
of bitterness."90
Although Aksakov's position had been unambiguously defined
before 1848, the happenings of that year and his consistent response
to them, without hesitations or second thoughts, finally isolated
him and his comrades from any further meaningful intercourse
with his former quasi-opponents.
In the years of repression, 1848-1856, lines of demarcation grew much more
real; frontiers between the Slavophiles and the Westerners, which had hitherto
been easily crossed and recrossed, became dividing walls; the framework of
friendship and mutual respect between the two camps . which had made
it possible for radicals like Belinski and Herzen to argue furiously but in an
atmosphere of deep regard, in some cases even of affection, with Katkov or
Khomiakov or the Aksakov brothers, no longer existed.
In this connection, the historical symbolism of Rudin has been sug-
gested: the Hegelian Rudin perishes on the Parisian barricades in
1848 in the struggle to free the working class.91
In 1850 Aksakov was persuaded to quit the paternal nest for a
short trip that gave rise to several penetrating observations by inti-
mates. In March he visited his brother Ivan who was serving at
the time in an official post at Rostov. On March 20, Ivan wrote
back to his father, "I wish he would come face to face with reality.
... I am losing hope that he will ever be able to do so. He is never
confused, never doubts his own convictions." This letter evoked
a reply from Sergei Aksakov that casts into bold relief the hothouse
conditions under which Konstantin passed his entire adult life:
"You are completely correct in assuming that Konstantin never
recognizes reality. . The hope remains that he will continue in


40







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


his charming delusion during his entire life, inasmuch as foresight
is impossible without grievous and bitter experience. . Time is
so short that the mass of flowers with which he arrays every sub-
ject he encounters will not have time to wither. He is only stag-
nating in his dreamy convictions." Ivan Aksakov's other letter to
his father breathed an altered mood: "I consider his sojourn here
very valuable for him. ... It seems as though he admits some degree
of importance to practical questions . and with my aid is ac-
quainting himself more fully ... with some governmental organiza-
tions." But Ivan confided in Koshelev: "Konstantin . is now
breathing the rarefied air of the mountainous heights of abstract ..
thought; he falls into extremes, praises attacks on art, finds that the
'pure form' of nature is winter under a covering of snow ... ."92
Prince Odoevski's story of the Promethean orphan girl who
bestowed enlightenment on the dark peasantry continued to rankle
in Aksakov's wounded spirit, and in 1851 he turned out Prince
Lupovitski, a drama intended to expose the reality of the relations
between the upper classes and the common people.93 In it the
young and wealthy Prince Lupovitski decides to forsake his Parisian
cafe for a while and return to Russia "to civilize" his peasants. But
he quickly discovers through his relations with the village elder,
a prototype of Platon Karataev, that every issue he raises has already
been solved through the natural instincts and fathomless native
wisdom of the tillers of the soil, or else that all the innovations which
he proposes are wildly irrelevant or superfluous to the everyday
life of a peasantry which is content to rely upon immemorial pre-
cepts and practices, the self-sufficiency of which points up the
absurdity of ignorant outside interference. The people need no
edification from the self-styled cultured classes. They have their
own harmonious and durable world-view which suits their mode of
existence. The social relations of the commune (mir) are grounded
in fundamentally moral and religious concepts that respond to the
peasants' inner demand for justice and goodness. The mir is the
repository of genuinely national traditions and is the panacea
against all the evils which in any other social structure would have
resulted in individual as well as social inequities.
The play was furnished with all the familiar properties in Ak-
sakov's scheme of things. It revealed most perspicuously that his
devotion to the people had a marked difference from that of the
contemporary Westerners or the next generation of populists.94


41







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


Belinski, Grigorovich, Nekrasov, Turgenev were motivated by pity
and sympathy for the lot of the peasant. The serf was also a man,
and his sufferings ought to be deplored and alleviated. For Ak-
sakov the peasant was of value and interest as the preserver of
pure and unadulterated Russian tradition, and he was to be loved
not as a younger brother with equal rights but as a living reminder
of the old forms of life. Hence Aksakov's Arcadian portrayal of
the black reality of Russian serf life. When he later approved of the
imminent peasant emancipation, he apparently saw no inconsistency
in his views, for his main concern was that the ideal social structure
of the commune should not be impaired.
One author has stressed, not without cause, the class character
of the Slavophiles' approach to the existence that surrounded them:
They were the noblest representatives of the old gentry. Coming from this
class, they adhered to its ideals with all their hearts. They imposed on the
totality of social relations the patriarchal way of life. Passionate, fanatically
convinced, drawing their arguments from memories of childhood, from family
traditions, they refused to acknowledge that this way of life was a historical
category and that patriarchal relations were impossible in . the nineteenth
century.9"
In 1852 the Slavophiles were able to resume publication of the
Moscow Miscellany, and the first issue appeared in April, published
by Koshelev and edited by Ivan Aksakov. Although approved by
the sympathetic Moscow censor, the volume produced consternation
among the authorities in St. Petersburg. All of the contributions
exercised the censorial pens.96 Of Aksakov's "On the Ancient Way
of Life among the Slavs in General and the Russians in Particular,"
which defended the existence of the communal as against the clan
principle in the early Russian society, Shirinski-Shikhmatov ob-
served:
Aksakov asserts that in ancient Russia the communal principle, in other words,
the democratic one, prevailed. Although . this article . will repel lovers
of light reading with its arid exposition and tediousness, nevertheless it is of
concern to the censorship .. in view of the widespread democratic tendency
which is displayed by public opinion in foreign states and from which we must
guard ourselves with all possible measures."
Khomiakov informed Aksakov:
Baron Korf reacted very unfavorably towards the Miscellany and largely towards
your article. His words about it are very amusing-"The article might have
been very useful, but since Aksakov did not indicate the reasons why the old
way of life changed and was replaced by a better one, the article appeared to
be harmful and very dangerous." . Obviously it is not a question of articles


42







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


but of tone, and, even more so, names. Hope for the second volume is very
poor."
As a result of the outcry Prince Lvov, the permissive Moscow
censor, was summoned to St. Petersburg, reprimanded, and dis-
missed. Nevertheless, in October Ivan Aksakov submitted the sec-
ond number of the Miscellany to the Moscow censorship com-
mittee. With this the storm broke.
Konstantin's contribution, "The Heroes of the Times of Grand
Prince Vladimir, According to Russian Songs," was a typical but
seemingly innocuous interpretation of the epic, though profound-
ly Christian, life of the old Russian heroes at Vladimir's court.
The entire way of life has a Christian basis. Christianity is the principal sup-
port of Vladimir's whole world. On this Christian foundation the strength of
the heroes and the daring of the young and powerful nation manifest them-
selves. The feasts also have an all-Russian significance; we see here gathered
all the Russian "land" united in a single Christian faith around Grand Prince
Vladimir, the enlightener of Russia. [Furthermore] the aristocratic concept
formed in the West by feudalism does not exist in ancient Russia, [and the
heroes do not seat themselves at the feasts according to aristocratic right of
birth]. The relations of the heroes with the Grand Prince are respectful but
not servile; they voluntarily gather around him ... willingly serve him, but
nothing indicates a humiliating relationship."
The censorship report immediately warned that "Aksakov is at-
tempting to discover in tales and songs signs of the unparalleled
communal order of things in Russia." Attention was also called
to the additions made by him to the article of Sheping, "Kupalo
and Koliada," in which "he refers again several times to communal
life in ancient Russia, claiming that the communal principle is
indissolubly joined to the essence of the Slav. He also says, 'forest,
field, and river belong to everyone-there the family disappears.'
The thought is completely communist. ... In the Miscellany there
are also two poems by Konstantin Aksakov which are base in con-
tent. In them there are incomprehensible ideas and talk of man's
free and open spirit." Aksakov was personally identified by the
report as "a magister of Moscow University who lives in Moscow,
which is saturated with Slavophilism." He was described as a
"conscientious and moral young man, not without intelligence and
education, but, as a fanatic, difficult to convince of the falsehood
of his views."100
Prince Viazemski's intercession on behalf of Aksakov, and his as-
surances to the authorities that the article on the heroes of old
Russia was devoid of any political overtones, were in vain. The


43







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
other Slavophiles were treated with equal dispatch, and the Miscel-
lany was forbidden publication, "not so much for what was said
in it as for what was left unsaid."101 Furthermore, Ivan Aksakov
was prohibited from editing any other journal, and all the leading
contributors, including Konstantin Aksakov, were placed under
direct police supervision. In the future all their writings were to
be submitted directly to the main censorship office in St. Peters-
burg. This, according to Ivan Aksakov, "amounted to prohibi-
tion."102
The virtual proscription of Slavophile publication remained in
effect until the new reign. In 1853 Konstantin wrote to Pogodin
from Abramtsevo: "I am immersed in philology. I want to finish
the first part of my grammar and prepare it for the press . but I
fear the censor will not pass the possessive case. He will say it is
indecent." In 1854, while Pogodin was negotiating for the active
participation of the Aksakov family in the Muscovite, Konstantin
again informed him that his writings had to go first to the main cen-
sorship board, "which keeps hold of manuscripts for an intolerably
long time."x03
VI
During the six years of his sojourn in Russia, from 1850 to 1856,
Turgenev engaged in a flirtation with the Slavophiles,o04 which
was enthusiastically entered into by Aksakov for purposes of his
own. Subsequent to his disillusionment with Gogol, Aksakov warm-
ly received Turgenev's Khor and Kalinich and saw in its author
another possible candidate for the role of literary propagandist
which Gogol had shunned. Perhaps Turgenev would be more
willing to sing the praises of Russia's past and peasant.
The first extant letter to the novelist was dated May, 1852.
We have long been acquainted but only recently become friendly. Lately I
have come to admire you with all my soul. And there is so much for us to
discuss. I am convinced that there could be greater agreement between us as
a result. .. I myself have abandoned any pretense to art. I have long since
done so. Only the thought in anything engages me; for its sake I have recourse
to artistic form as a means. Perhaps you have heard that I have written a small
comedy [Prince Lupovitski]. .. It appears to please quite a few.
Aksakov also asked Turgenev for his reaction to the first issue of
the Moscow Miscellany, and in so doing he permitted himself, with
accustomed license, to wax eloquent and apostrophical on his own
article's evocation of Russia's yesterday:


44







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


What a truly wondrous life reveals itself before us, what harmony, what nobility,
what cultivation. When you stand in amazement before the spiritual beauty
of the ancient Russian world, you ask yourself the same question that I have
often heard from people of the opposite view: why did this world not survive?
. .. History answers that the Slavs, harassed by peoples unfamiliar with their
high civilization and not mature enough for it, were obliged to change by them-
selves their own way of life, to transpose to a historical basis, on the level of
wars and institutions, their own harmonious, peaceful, spiritual, and intellectual
nobility. They were obliged, therefore, to arm themselves with the weapons
of unenlightened peoples. They took these measures, protected themselves as
much as they were able, separated themselves from their own history. These
expedients were not completely successful, but they warded off the terrible dis-
asters of stagnation; disasters which now confront France, for example. Fur-
thermore, I tell you that the ancient world has not yet disappeared; it still
strongly preserves itself among the peasants . who vindicate its way of life.10'
In another letter written in the next October, Aksakov showered
Turgenev with compliments on the growing "seriousness" of his
work and the abandonment of trivial verbal effects and descrip-
tions. The novelist was also allegedly sloughing off an earlier
tendency "to fall into the error of facetiousness, farfetchedness,
affectation, or repulsiveness."
You see, I assume that human apes deserve only derision and that, however
much a human ape pretends to passion or feeling, he remains ridiculous and
unsuitable in a work of art. All spiritual strength is in independence; in our
life and time, in Russia, it exists only in the peasant and .. in the realization
of what the peasant manifests in life. The effort of cognition lies ahead of us
miserable people without roots.1"0
But such facile contrition was not for Turgenev. He replied
with candor on October 16:
Agreeing completely with your remarks on my Sketches ... I cannot share your
view as regards "human apes" who are not fitting in a work of art.... I cannot
deny history or the personal right of existence; pretense is revolting but I sym-
pathize with suffering. I know that this is exactly the point on which we dis-
agree in our views of Russian life and art. I see the tragic fate of the race, its
great social drama, where you discover the redemption and the haven of the
era.or
Aksakov returned to the attack the following year: "The char-
acteristic of the Russian .. is the absence of any effect or phrase.
You see such simplicity, such unexampled good, such an absence
of self-love as you will not meet in another nation. . But how
difficult it is for us, standing so far below the Russian peasant, to
picture him. With what humility ought we to make this effort."
Aksakov strongly advised Turgenev to bend his talent to the effort
by making his writing "simpler and of greater value, and it will
approach the character of an icon painting." On January 16, 1853,


45







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


Turgenev wrote quite bluntly: "I admit to you candidly that I
cannot agree with your conclusions. You draw a ... picture, and
when it is completed you exclaim-how beautiful it is! I can by
no means repeat this exclamation after you. . In my opinion, the
tragic aspect of national life, not only of our people but of others,
escapes you."108
Aksakov's new tack was more literary and even less felicitous.
In a letter at the end of October he reverted to the theme of apish
imitation and the wholesome independence of Russian thought
"which lives in the chronicles and acts as well in the contemporary
life of the simple people." He expressed the conviction that in
Turgenev there existed "a genuine and fruitful striving towards the
Russian land'," and commented on changes in literary fashions,
which he contemptuously dismissed as mere movement and not
a sign of progress.
The only reason for such changes is that nothing is based on a firm foundation,
that of independence. Everything is superficial. In any case, there is some
comfort at present in the complete eclipse among us of French literature and
a turn towards English literature. Always on a moral basis, it is serious and
enduring. There is a feeling for religion and the family in all English writers.
Custom is venerated in England. [He concluded that] without a basis of sup-
port there is no real advance, and that basis is independent national life.
Aksakov aired his views even more freely when he expressed
to Turgenev a radical literary utilitarianism:
What does it mean whether someone falls in love with someone else? ... Wher-
ever one turns in our literature, one immediately meets an enamored youth or
maiden-as though there were some kind of universal significance in addition
to the slight anecdotal interest. . Shakespeare treated love only once [sic],
but he devoted an entire play to it. ... There is little discussion among us of
the social passion of man, of universal problems. Instead, we have various
lovers in the French, English, or Spanish manner. . Social interest is what
should constitute the task of literary productions.1"
There is no record of a response by Turgenev to his correspon-
dent's esthetics, but Aksakov continued to entertain nugatory hopes
of a conquest. His sister Vera committed to her diary a note of a
visit by Turgenev, whom she thoroughly detested: "Konstantin
begins to think that Turgenev is approaching him and concurring
with his views, and that he may completely renounce his former
position; but I consider this to be absolutely impossible."'10
Turgenev finally wrote to Sergei Aksakov on May 25, 1856:
I fear that I will never agree with Konstantin Sergeevich. He sees in the
peasant commune some sort of universal medicine, panacea, the alpha and


46







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
omega of Russian life; and I, recognizing it as a peculiarity of Russia, still see
in it only one original and primary basis, but no more than a basis, a form, on
which is erected and not into which is poured the state. There can be no tree
without roots, but it seems to me that Konstantin Sergeevich would like to see
roots on the branches. The right of personality he destroys, whatever he says,
while I have fought for this right till now and will fight for it to the end.
But Aksakov persevered. In his last letter to Turgenev, on June
18, 1856, he still sought to win the novelist over to the Slavophile
cause.
I think of you and of our disagreements, and I feel that despite differences in
thought and character, you and I are of the same epoch, generation, and, in
part, education; for we have been on the ferrous waters of German thought.
And it seems to me that we understand each other in much that would not
be understood by those with whom we are in greater sympathy and agreement.11x
The sole tangible result of the relationship between the elephant
and the whale was that Turgenev, who, despite Ivan Aksakov's
remonstrations in 1852, had declined to delete the satirical sketch
of Konstantin from his Sportsman's Sketches, now undertook to
write Nekrasov to suppress those stanzas in The Landowner di-
rected against Aksakov when the poem was about to be reprinted
by The Contemporary in 1857.112
Little is known of Aksakov's views on the Crimean War, but it
would appear that, like others, he anticipated strong internal reper-
cussions from military defeat. Vera Aksakova observed simply
that "Konstantin thinks that only terrible calamities can move the
people and arouse its dormant energies; and it seems that God's
will is leading us to that." His interest at the time in the South
Slavs was only of a nebulous and tepidly paternal nature. His
sister noted: "Konstantin wrote another letter to Prince Dmitri
Obolenski .... He advises as the indispensable and only means of
our own defense that we cross the Danube, seize Constantinople,
and raise the Slavs." Aksakov evidently composed during the war
a memorandum on the Eastern question that has remained unpub-
lished. In it he asserted: "Turkish power in Europe, the shame of
Christianity, and hitherto voluntarily tolerated by the mighty Chris-
tian nations, must vanish. What then after? The Slavic peoples
must be liberated and constituted into separate principalities ac-
cording to nationality. They should be under the protection of
Russia, as Serbia now is." All in all, however, Aksakov's attention
was devoted to other and more pressing concerns. In 1860, while
he and his brother Ivan were traveling in Europe, the latter re-


47







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


marked: "Formerly in Moscow, Konstantin reacted towards the
Slavs rather indifferently."'13
The death of Emperor Nicholas came as an electric shock to
Aksakov, as to all intellectual Russian society. Vera stated that
"Konstantin rightly observed that the change explains how awful
the yoke was which we experienced up until now, how impossible
our position was, how we rejoiced whenever we felt some relief,
even though only temporarily, how ready we are to believe in the
best." One of Aksakov's first steps was to write Prince Viazemski,
the new Deputy Minister of National Education, requesting the an-
nulment of the requirement that he, Khomiakov, Kireevski, Cher-
kasski, and Ivan Aksakov must submit their works directly to the
central censorship office. He stated that his article on the Russian
verb had been delayed for a year and a half. But everything in
the old order did not transform itself instantaneously.
Konstantin went to see Minister [of National Education] Norov who was un-
responsive, found his views on the clan structure "most harmful," and needed
proof of his proper disposition. Konstantin declared that there was nothing
harmful and he would not renounce his convictions. At the end Norov said:
"Viazemski spoke about you quite differently, but I now see from your frame
of mind that he was completely mistaken."-"What have I said that permits
you to draw a conclusion about my frame of mind?"-"You have not said any-
thing, but it is not for nothing that I have lived in the world, and I know people
not only by what they say." [Aksakov finally told his sister,] "He is a minister
not of national education [prosveshchenie] but of national obfuscation [pom-
rachenie]." '
Nonetheless, the relaxation of tension and the increase in opti-
mism that followed the accession of the new emperor communicated
themselves to the Slavophiles. Aksakov imparted his own intima-
tions to Pogodin:
You have certainly read the Emperor's rescript to Filaret. It is remarkable ....
Did you note the sympathetic reference to Moscow, a reference all the more
praiseworthy in that it was not at all dictated by the content of the rescript?
It is obvious that the sovereign remembers that he was born in Moscow; it is
obvious that he attributes significance to this and that it suits him to speak of it.
In the first day of his reign he already wrote to Zakrevski of "Moscow, my birth-
place." In the rescript to Filaret he employs the phrase "My native Moscow-
by the will of Providence I was born in the shadow of the ancient, patriotic,
Orthodox shrine."
During this momentary spell of exhilaration, in these years of
"thaw," Aksakov shared in the banquets and demonstrations that
carried public opinion to a height of enthusiasm. Particularly
notable was the dinner on November 26, 1855, honoring the great


48







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
actor Shchepkin. At it Aksakov, after reading a tribute written
by his father, offered a public toast "in honor of public opinion."
This audacious gesture was greeted with rapture, and the measure
of its repercussion was that Count Zakrevski, governor of Moscow,
prohibited its publication. Nevertheless, Pogodin had already
printed it in the Muscovite. "The last link in the chain of patriotic
demonstrations" inaugurated by the Shchepkin banquet was the
dinner on March 4, 1856, honoring Osten-Saken, the hero of Sebas-
topol. In a statement anticipating later interests, Aksakov piously
declared, "The Russian people know, Count, that you deeply re-
spect what is the essence of their life, namely, faith. Faith binds
us indissolubly in an alliance of fratenal love with our distant co-
believers, the Greeks, and those of the same race, the Slavic
nations."115
In November, 1855, Katkov's Russian Messenger (Russki vestnik)
was licensed, and the Aksakovs were listed as future contributors.
But from its inception this journal adopted a completely Western
orientation and was destined to become the bitter rival of a peri-
odical which the Slavophiles themselves succeeded in keeping
afloat through the second half of the 1850's. In January, 1856, Rus-
sian Conversation (Russkaia beseda) was launched, and, largely the
result of the intercession of Viazemski, the Moscow censorship com-
mittee, and V. I. Nazimov who was head of the Moscow educa-
tional district, the leading Slavophiles were permitted to print
their articles without submitting them beforehand to Petersburg.116
Aksakov contributed to the first issue "On the Russian Point of
View," a short statement in which he posed the question whether a
national point of view excluded a universal one. He insisted that
the contrary was the case. In literature and philosophy, whether
English, German, or any other, a national view was always ex-
pressed. And since this was so for other nations, why not for Rus-
sia? If nationality did not prevent other nations from being uni-
versal, why should it hinder the Russian nation? Humanity realized
itself through nationalities-Aksakov urged in undiluted romanti-
cism-which not only did not disappear or lose their identity, but,
imbibing a universal content, elevated and vindicated themselves
as nationalities. To deny the Russian nation the right to possess
its Russian point of view would be tantamount to depriving it of
participation in the general affairs of humanity. And it was exactly
nationality and an independent view that were lacking in Russian


49







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


intellectual activity, which in consequence also lacked a universal
ingredient. For a century and a half Russia had sacrificed its own
nationality to an exclusively European one. Because of this un-
toward policy, it had not yet contributed anything to learning.
The Russians had done nothing for humanity just because a Rus-
sian point of view had not manifested itself among them.
The Russian nation has a direct right, as a nation, to the universal without the
mediation and consent of Western Europe. It must react critically and freely
to Europe, taking from it only what may be considered a universal acquisition
and, at the same time, repelling European nationality. It must act the same
towards Europe as towards other ancient and modern peoples and countries.
. . Europeanism, having its human significance, also has its own, and very
pronounced, nationality. This is what the opponents of our views do not see,
since they do not separate in Europe the human from the national. .. On the
one hand, the so-called Slavophiles stand for the universally human and the
direct right of the Russian people to it; on the other hand, the advocates of
Western Europe stand for an exclusive and European nationality to which they
attribute an international significance and for the sake of which they deprive the
Russian people of its direct right to the universal. And so, contrariwise, the
so-called Slavophiles advocate the universally human; and their opponents, the
exclusively national.
In "A Survey of Contemporary Literature" Aksakov again voiced
most unequivocally his utilitarian, indeed instrumental, approach
to literature (Russian Conversation, 1857):
In our time a literary work, although it may be written with talent, is only a
means, one of the ways to express one thought or another. There is a famous
anecdote about the mathematician who, having listened to a piece of literature,
asked, "What does it prove?" . There are periods in national life when this
question must be asked of every creation, including a literary one. These are
periods of searching, of investigation; laborious periods of the pursuit and settle-
ment of broad questions. Such is our epoch.

Speaking of Saltykov-Shchedrin, Aksakov once more emphasized
that "in Russia the social element is the essential one of our litera-
ture." It has even been stated that Aksakov anticipated Dobro-
liubov and Pisarev in the assertion of the utilitarian view of art,
and indeed that he went beyond the representatives of the 1860's
in his single-mindedness.'17 Aksakov considered the principal
characteristic of post-Petrine literature to be, of course, its imitative-
ness. Before Karamzin, Russian literature had aped European
classicism, "which was, in its turn, a lifeless veneraton of the ancient
world." After Karamzin, Russian literature undertook to copy the
European world as a changing whole but still remained "without
support within." Its "characteristic was the very absence of gen-


50







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
eral thought." But Aksakov was of the opinion that, after a cen-
tury and a half of existence, the old imitative literature was collaps-
ing and that Gogol finally irruptedd into the area" of a real national
literature which, however, still lay beyond the horizon.118

VII
K onstantin Aksakov expressed most fully the Slavophile histor-
ical ideology, but he actually wrote little on the subject of
Russian history proper. His short reviews and articles for the
Moscow Miscellany and Russian Conversation, as well as his un-
published notes, almost all date from the middle 1850's and pro-
pounded, insistently and invariably, a simple amalgam of proposi-
tions: the wrong-headedness of the clan theory; the omnipresence
of communality in Russian life and history; the joint existence and
activity of the "land" and state in a relationship of love and trust;
the presence of the Zemski sobor as a basic feature of the participa-
tion of the Russian people in state matters; the unwillingness of
the people to rule; the perversion of Russian life by the reforms of
Peter the Great; the misfortune of the Petersburg period as the
antinational enslavement of Russian life to European ideas and
institutions; the crying need for a return to Russian principles;
the vast national significance of Moscow.
In his unpublished manuscripts Aksakov affirmed a belief in the
ideational substructure of history:
History represents for us those multifarious paths, those weighty conflicts of con-
tradictory strivings, beliefs, and moral convictions. The terrible play of material
forces is at first glance astonishing, but this is only an illusion. Attentive scru-
tiny reveals but one force that moves everything and that is present every-
where-thought .... And terrible is the conflict of the brute masses that cling
to this spiritual force (1-2).11
Furthermore, he insisted on a double level of historiographical
pursuit: that of historical synthesis and that of mere factual com-
pilation.
History is the direct presentation of events in their natural order, in their actual
contemporary setting, and in sequence; but a presentation at the same time
pervaded with the thought that motivates these events and also pruned of any-
thing ephemeral and fortuitous that might obscure their meaning. Consequently,
the artistic element is imperative in history. . History must respect the course
[of events] and take it as a basis. But a simple account of happenings would
be a mere narrative, a kind of chronicle. . History must grasp significance
and, leaving the great current inviolable, it must reject anything accidental and
unnecessary that accompanies the passage of historical life (130-31).


51







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
At the same time, compilation and investigation were the pri-
mary and inevitable stage of analysis, the "search for and demonstra-
tion of the thought expressed in historical events .... Historical in-
vestigation . seeks, proves, and thrives on facts." Only when the
factual basis had been secured could history emerge in its own
right "as the fruit of calm self-contemplation" (131). In such
terms, any attempt to omit the preliminary task of research and
to embark directly upon the work of historical synthesis would
have to be judged as lamentably premature and willfully self-
deceptive.
Thus, Aksakov strongly condemned Sergei Solovev for endeavor-
ing beforehand to write a history that the immature state of Rus-
sian historical research would simply not countenance. Without
vast preparatory work any historian would be obliged to renounce
the possibility of real historical insight and would have to contem-
plate the past from an entirely contemporary viewpoint. What was
worse, Solovev and his school were not only unable to see history
sub specie aeternitatis but were so conditioned by the society they
lived in, a false and imitative one from the Slavophile position, that
they regarded the historical process as an exoneration of the pres-
ent. "The historical school, as Solovev calls his own school, con-
ceives history in an exclusive and one-sided way. It thinks that
the succession of all historical phenomena is the inevitable ascension
from better to better so that the present is always right and the
past is disprized. This is obedience not to history but to time. This
school finds constant justification of favorite historical forces" (173).
By analogy, a post-Napoleonic historian in France in sympathy
with the Restoration would write French history as the working
out of the idea of monarchy, and the Republic would be disre-
garded as an experimental and rejected form. But after 1848 such
a historian would face difficulties. In sum,
truth . does not depend on time. The foundations for the understanding of
history must be, on the one hand, the idea of universal truth-for any history
represents one or another kind of relationship to this idea-and, on the other
hand, the national principle that informs all history. ... The self-styled histor-
ical school serves the latest historical notions; today that of the Petrine revolu-
tion. This school may properly be called anticritical. It can criticize the past,
but never the present (175).
A moral imperative lay at the source of Aksakov's historical con-
siderations. "Moral matters ought to be settled by moral means
without foreign assistance or coercive force and . by free con-


52







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
viction, the way of inner right" (2). But there existed, unfor-
tunately, another approach besides that of conscience: the externali-
zation of the inner order as structure and institution, coercive jus-
tice and external right. However, formulas of any kind imposed
from without and by force could not embrace life, which would
thereby lose its principal force, that of internal conviction and
voluntary acceptance. "Furthermore, this way-that of giving man
the opportunity to rely on law backed by force-lulls the human
spirit which is prone to indolence .. freeing it of needful, internal,
moral activity. . This is the way of external justice, of the state.
This is the way Western man has gone" (3).
The basic question for every individual, society, and country was
the relation of the external to the internal law. "Social and histor-
ical life resolves it variously, but it is ever the fundamental and
essential question" (53). The danger that presented itself to man
was a false conception of the state which, though a necessary evil,
still represented the external force of law and was a product of the
weakness of social man.
We often see to what degree man is capable of believing in the state which is
his own human creation and... of substituting institutions for moral principles.
[Especially in the West] worship of the state . ideal of order, of external
harmony, of an adroitly applied mechanical structure, has imprisoned man's
mind. Some think of attaining their ideal through a monarchy; others, a con-
stitution; others, a republic; others, communist institutions. But faith in the
state and in external justice is strong everywhere in the West, and everywhere
there the inner man, free man, man himself, is impoverished (50-58).
In another place Aksakov enlarged on his negative view of the
state and his conviction that the state lay at the source of the sup-
posed malady of the West.
However extensively and, in appearance, liberally the state might seem to
evolve, although it might acquire the most extreme democratic forms, never-
theless, the state is the principle of slavery, of external coercion .... The more
developed the state, the more strongly do institutions replace the inner world
of the individual, the more profoundly and closely does the state embrace
society-although in appearance it might conform to all the needs of so-
ciety (249).
Aksakov applied his strictures on the way of the state most insis-
tently to America, for the very reason that the government of that
country was to the "highest degree" liberal:
But this liberal state is slavery all the same, and the more extensively it weighs
on the people, the more it seizes hold of them. ... If state liberalism goes to
such an extreme that every person becomes an official, a policeman of himself,


53






TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
then the state finally destroys the life principle in the individual ... The lie
inheres not in this or that form of state, but in the state itself as an idea; what
has to be stated is not which form is better or worse, which is true, which is
false; but that the state qua state is a lie (250).

However, Aksakov found comfort in the belief that there was a
vast qualitative difference in the attitudes towards the state of the
West and the Slavs respectively. In the West the state was the op-
timum principle, the ideal of the nations. But in the Slavic world
the state was properly understood as an unavoidable extreme, an
ineluctable evil, a result of man's imperfection, a means not an end.
The only way to comprehend this difference was to admit that
Russia-in Aksakov's argumentation usually synonymous with the
Slavic world-was a "completely original land," not at all similar
to Europe and beyond European conceptions (7). This dissimilar-
ity went back to the very beginnings and lasted until Russia aban-
doned its own way and adopted that of Europe. "All European
states are based on conquest. Hostility is their basis. Authority
appeared as an armed enemy and established itself over conquered
peoples through force. .. At the basis of the state lies a hostility
that does not abandon it all through history" (8). In contrast, the
Russian state was founded not by conquest but voluntary appeal.
Its principle was peace and concord, not hostility. Authority was
desired as a defense, and established itself with the agreement of
the people. "And so, at the foundation of the Western state: coer-
cion, slavery, and hostility; at that of the Russian state: willingness,
freedom, and peace. These principles constitute the significant and
decisive difference between Russia and Western Europe, and deter-
mine the history of each" (8-9).
So extensive were the differences that the two societies could
never meet and their peoples never agree in their views. "The
West, passing from a condition of slavery into one of revolt, ac-
cepts revolt as freedom, praises it, and sees slavery in Russia. But
Russia continues to preserve the authority that it itself invoked . .
and, therefore, sees in the rebel only the other side of the slave,
since the former is abased before the new idol of revolt as the latter
is before the old idol of authority. Only a slave can revolt, not a
free man" (9). The Russian people knew from the start that per-
fection on earth was impossible, and so did not seek it. They chose
the best of governmental forms, that is, the least of the evils, and
preserved it through the ages without considering it perfect or me-


54







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
chanically attempting to make it so. "Freely accepting authority,
they did not rise against it and did not abase themselves before
it" (10).
Aksakov wholly discounted the claim that a guarantee should
exist to keep the state and the nation from infringing on each other's
rights. In a forcefully worded declaration, he argued: "Guarantee
is an evil. Where it is necessary, there is no good. Better let the
life without good collapse than come to the aid of evil. All strength
exists in the ideal. What do conditions and pacts signify once there
is no inner strength? No pact will restrain people as soon as there
is no inner desire. All strength is in moral conviction. This treasure
exists in Russia because Russia has always believed in it without
recourse to pacts" (9-10).
With such features the sanctum of Russian history would not
yield itself to every interpretation. The Western one, as Aksakov
defined it, was inapposite. Also, "other people, rightly undesirous
of constructing Russian history on the Western pattern but at the
same time having unfortunately only Western concepts about his-
tory, and finding in Russian history no similarity to the West, see
nothing in it. They simply do not understand it" (17). Here Aksa-
kov very possibly had in mind Chaadaev. What had to be under-
stood was that Russian history was characterized by simplicity and
absence of theatrical effect, as against the West with its poses and
pretensions. "Personality in Russian history does not at all play
a significant role. Pride is inevitably the attribute of personality,
and pride with all its allurements does not exist among us. There
is no institution of knighthood, with its sanguinary valor, no inhuman
religious propaganda, no crusades, and, in general, none of the
endlessly fashionable dramatization of passions. Russian history
is a completely different phenomenon" (18). The nation set itself
a different problem. Christian teaching lay at the basis of its
life, and a prayerful calm and humility persisted through all the
storms and turmoil that assailed the country. This Christian at-
titude was not the result of weakness. When the need arose, the
Russian nation revealed its prowess, but humility was a greater
spiritual strength than valor. Russian history had to be contem-
plated from this aspect of Christian resignation. Even the incur-
sions of the Tatars and Poles were regarded by the people as condign
punishment for Russia's sins. "It can be said about the Russian na-
tion that even before Christianity it was already fertile soil, and the


55






TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
word of God, falling on it, prospered" (19). But the nation did not
fall into the pride of humility; it always realized its sinfulness. "The
history of the Russian nation is the only Christian one in all the
world, not only in profession but also in reality, or at least in its
striving" (20). The Russian people were not holy or sanctified;
they were sinful, but always, as Christians, falling and repenting.
Unlike other peoples, they did not convert sin into a virtue and
pride themselves on it. "I will even say that the feeling of father-
land reveals itself but little in our history as compared to that of
faith" (21).
Even the dark aspects of Russian life were different from those
of the West. In Russia historical crimes were admittedly to be
met, but they were free of that terribly inhuman character by which
the West was reduced to the animal level. "In Russian history
nothing of the sort is to be seen. Crimes do not display marks of
refined bestiality and are not personal . They horrify all of the
nation" (22).
Aksakov conceded that when the West had been young, its pos-
turing had a certain attraction-"the knight in armor, the cunning
and cruel monk, the artist of the fifteenth century." But when youth
passed, the pose became repulsive. "Such the West is now, its tur-
bulence and struggles occurring in horrible apathy without the
slightest conviction, sincerity, or enthusiasm; indifference and ab-
sence of energy in all its bloodletting and rioting. The senile
dreams of the West-dreams deprived of their only justification,
the pulsation of young blood, dreams with which it has inflamed
itself for so long-act on it as an irritant and guide its enfeebled or-
ganism in mechanical movement" (28-24).
In an unfinished essay on the Zemski sobor Aksakov reverted to
an earlier theme and expounded the principle of the commune as a
union of people who had renounced their egoism and personality
and had declared their general concord. The commune repre-
sented a moral chorus, and as each voice in a chorus was not lost
but absorbed in the harmony, so, in the commune, the individual
was not lost but, abjuring his isolation for the sake of the general
will, found himself in agreement with individuals who had likewise
denied themselves. Each personality was heard, though not sepa-
rately. The commune was the triumph of the human spirit. Further-
more, the expression of communal agreement was through una-
nimity in decision.


56







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


Majority principle is one according to which agreement is unnecessary. It is
a coercive principle that wins only through physical dominance; the few are
overborne by the many. Unanimity, however, is difficult, but then every moral
eminence is difficult, and it is most difficult of all to be a Christian; from this
it does not follow that man must renounce moral truth or Christianity. More-
over, that nation which has fixed in its life the principles of the commune and
of unanimity is able to attain them with incomparably greater ease than those
nations which recognize the preponderance of the majority as right and law.
From this there follows the importance of consultation, which is the very es-
sence of Russian history (292).
As for Russia, at the beginning of its history its primitive Slavic
life had been peacefully and idyllically communal. But could it
maintain itself? The constant and hostile attacks of anti-communal
neighbors, the internal inadequacies of paganism, and the possible
dissatisfaction on the part of some weaker brethren with the sublime
moral order, all made it more feasible to introduce the rule of
external law than to perpetuate the old order (54). The decision
was not the product of weakness or cowardice, for although "the
peacefully constructed commune often had to meet foreign incur-
sions, it could not always be assembled, on guard, in a tense situa-
tion." Foreign invasions showed the Slavs "on the one hand, the
impossibility of living on the land in a purely moral social arrange-
ment and, on the other, the possibility of a way that could give
them security from their neighbors and order from the internal
troubles that forcibly disturbed the moral principle" (55). This
way was to summon authority from without. The actual form
of foreign Varangian rule was not wholly attractive, however,
and the Slavs decided to retain the principle of authority but
expel the aliens who wielded it. For the first time in their history
they attempted to rule themselves. But this external structure
of government "did not correspond to Slavic principles and was
alien to the Slavic spirit. They could see in this period of their
own experience both the false side of the state and its complete
incompatibility with their Slavic life, concepts, and principles" (56).
The Slavs could not and did not want to transform themselves
from a commune into a state. At the same time, the need and
advantages of the state structure were apparent. Therefore, they
decided to recall the Varangians. Henceforth there existed in
Russian history two principles which never fused and which made
that history entirely unlike any other. "Our history begins with
freedom and consciousness; the history of other states, with force
and compulsion" (57). In the West, where the beginning was coer-


57







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


cion and the enslavement of one by another, the most natural
feeling was to attack the conqueror and take his place. In conse-
quence, the external principle of law was bound to strengthen,
wax, and alone become noble in the eyes of the individual. This
was what actually occurred, and the question of life and history
was decided for the Western nations. The state, institutions, cen-
tralization, and outward strength became their ideals. The people
desired power and became imprisoned in an unbroken round of
revolutions, seditions, and upheavals. The most extreme expres-
sion of the popular seizure of power was the United States, where
the giant edifice of the state replaced a living nation, where mutual
relations were merely political, where tranquility was based not
on love but on personal advantage, where order was superficial,
where harmony was mechanical, and where independence was
nothing more among the people than reciprocally limited and re-
strained dictatorialness (58-59).
As scholastic philosophers had attempted to discover adumbra-
tions of Christianity in the Platonic system, so Aksakov sought to
spiritualize the religion of ancient Russia and make light of its
paganism. In a rarely drawn distinction between the Russians
and the other Slavs, Aksakov declared that his forebears, unlike
those of the Western Slavs, had not worshipped idols or gods.
Perun was "brought by the Varangians from Pomerania and was
probably borrowed from the local Slavs" (311). Before Christian-
ity the faith of the Russian people "was not defined or clear," but
they believed in God and "the mysteries of nature, seeing in every-
thing a higher meaning." Theirs was "a most pure paganism."
It was only the other Slavs that lost the pure faith from "inter-
course with crude Western neighbors" and, as a result, fell into
polytheism and idolatry (814-15). "The Russian nation was con-
verted easily and without struggle. . In its soul there were no
pagan memories" (812). Furthermore, the process of conversion
was unanimous and voluntary. There was no question of "official
decree." "Grace descended upon the Russian land' which was
baptized like an infant" (538-39).
Aksakov elaborated the notion that it was impossible as yet for
any history of Russia to be written without the accumulation of
much more preparatory work, which he allowed to be "not very
tempting" (39). In his view, "merely the monograph may make
an appearance in our time" (40). The reason was evident. "We


58






KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
broke our bond with the past too forcibly for us not to have a
just punishment laid upon us-ignorance of the life of our an-
tecedents, ignorance of our own national life" (132). Only when
this failing had been overcome could Russian history be written.
As for Karamzin's effort, "it belongs to that false imitative period"
that was supposedly on the wane, "although slowly." But Aksa-
kov was not completely ungracious. Karamzin's history "has not
lost its right to our profound gratitude and respect. We may see
that its value will grow with time. Aware of the general error of
the history, we . will have recourse to it for suggestions, refer
to it for one reason or another, and, having gone beyond its sphere,
we will better estimate it and more warmly appreciate it" (133).
Aksakov, however, could not acknowledge the claims of his
contemporary, Sergei Solovev. He felt obliged to unmask the
"contradiction" of Solovev's work. "It is written as a history, as
the final conclusion of preceding studies, but it has the character
of a collection of studies, no more. What could not be done was
not done, and Solovev's history of Russia is not history." Besides,
owing to excessive haste, the first volume of the history, represent-
ing nothing new, "may in a year or two become an anachronism
and be rejected" (39-40). As for Solovev's statement that history
did not admit of division into periods and that all of its phenomena
were linked together, "it is impossible not to recognize in the
course of history the rise of central ideas grouping around them-
selves preceding and succeeding events; these leading ideas in the
course of a stretch of time constitute epochs and periods" (41).
Aksakov's opposition to Solovev had its roots in a frustrated per-
sonal relationship and, perhaps, in dashed expectations. Solovev
recalled in his memoirs that he had become acquainted with Aksakov
when the latter wished a specialist's opinion on his drama, The
Liberation of Moscow. Solovev's judgment was mildly approving,
and a few days later the historian wrote the presumptive play-
wright a letter in seventeenth-century Russian. "Aksakov simply
went wild with enthusiasm" and immediately introduced Solovev
to his family. Did Aksakov entertain hopes of drawing Solovev
into his ideological camp? Would the young university professor
consecrate his talents to historical panegyrics of the Russian people
as Aksakov had fondly thought that Gogol and then Turgenev
would do in literature? As fate would have it, the Slavophile
tribune was once again disappointed. Solovev was as little inclined


59







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


to be harnessed to Aksakov's chariot as the novelists had been.
Disenchantment quickly followed, and beneath the mutual histor-
ical criticisms of the two there ran a personal animosity and rancor
to which Solovev gave full voice in a particularly feline characteriza-
tion in his memoirs. Aksakov was a person with
a leonine physiognomy, strong, vociferous, candid, good-natured, not without
talent, but narrow. The last of these might easily have been borne . as
naivete, but what made him insufferable was extreme vanity and insistence
on his views in support of which he had no scruples. .. It was foolish and
destructive of one's health to argue with Aksakov. To be sure, he did not
permit himself to invent facts, but, on the other hand, the most monstrous
distortion did not trouble him; and this, of course, was much more vexing than
any fabrication which could have been easily confuted by proof that nothing
of the sort had happened. But what could be set against his method of twist-
ing every word and event to his own use? At one time Konstantin Aksakov
had diligently studied at Moscow University when there was precisely nothing
there to study; he completed the university course at the age of about sixteen.
He considered himself to possess a knowledge of Russian history because he
had read the Rumiantsev collection of state papers and a few volumes of the
publications of the Archeographic Commission. In order to support his favorite
ideas, he seized in a swoop several events in ancient Russian history, but
he never had either time or spirit to investigate the nation's history, much less
on the basis of the sources. He had not read Karamzin;m he read the first
volume of my work when he wrote his article against the clan theory, and later
he began to read the sixth volume when he was entrusted by the Slavophile
council to write a review of my history for Russian Conversation. He himself
openly told me this. He had not the least understanding of modern Russian
history from the eighteenth century; the same is true of the history of the West-
ern and Slavic peoples. He considered himself a linguist as well, but linguists
reacted quite unfavorably to his knowledge. What then did this person do all
his life? In the summer he sat by a pond in the country with his fishing rod;
during the winter, in Moscow, he went around from morning to night paying
visits, or he received visitors at home."
Whatever the distortions and exaggerations of this acid charac-
terization, certainly Aksakov's strictures against Solovev's argument
regarding a clan structure in ancient Russia derived not fundamen-
tally from a dispassionate or essentially historical interest in un-
covering early social relationships, but rather from revulsion against
Solovev's reliance on the comparative method and on the sugges-
tions of German scholars of Russian history. Aksakov's point of
departure was a totally extrahistorical and aprioristic need to con-
template the existence throughout the course of Russian develop-
ment of a permanent and unchanging communal principle. On
the other hand, for Solovev the theory of clan structure as a con-
tinuum in the life of ancient Russia was primarily heuristic. His
conception of it was not rigorous, and he applied it largely to the


60







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
dynasty as a rationale for authority. It was a red thread that served
as a guide through the political confusion of pre-Muscovite Russia
up to the emergence of the national monarchy. Solovev did not
consider the clan structure as exclusive to the Slavs but as having
lasted longer in Russia than in other nations, all of which had passed
through the same stage. The Germans, for example, accepted state
life when they invaded the Roman empire, but the Slavs long re-
mained isolated from the ancient world. The colleague and sup-
porter of Solovev, Kavelin, carried advocacy of the clan structure
to the extent of having it--"a familial-patriarchal society"--endure
until Peter the Great.122
At the beginning of 1853 Turgenev wrote Aksakov: "This clan
theory has always struck me as something artificial and systematic,
somehow reminding me of our old secondary school exercises in
philosophy. Any system, good or bad, is not Russian; anything
sharp, defined, delimited, does not suit us." Artificial the clan
theory was, but hardly systematic. Aksakov correctly observed of
the "juridical school": "It must be admitted that not one of these
recent scholars has really defined clan structure. They are content
with the meaning that is given it in current speech . and are
satisfied that its sense is understood" (61). But he himself erred
more than his opponents in doing violence to the past. They anach-
ronistically applied to Kievan and appanage Russia a vague con-
cept that at best referred to more primitive societies. Aksakov,
however, subjected the entire history of Russia to a concept that
was literally timeless. He admitted that the clan was actually the
first social stage through which all nations passed, but he insisted
that it was a transitory stage. Every nation expressed its life in
conditions that corresponded to its own nature. "Aksakov admitted
that the clan certainly touched the Slavs also, but did not consider
this race to be among those that developed the clan system in their
life and formulated it in their future history." Among the Slavs
from the earliest time, the structure was communal, and the term
rod in the documents was to be interpreted as family, not as clan.
The rod admitted of no patriarchal character inasmuch as all mem-
bers had a voice in it and property was used in common (92-93).
In connection with the summoning of the Varangians, Aksakov
argued that there could be no question of clan elders or the like.
The summons of Rurik was an action of the popular will. It implied a national,
communal way of life.... This step was public, official, and deliberate. [Also


61







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
in the early Russian treaties with the Greeks] the embassy spoke for the great
prince, the princes, boyars, merchants, and all the "land." .. This was the same
phenomenon that later took the form of the Zemskaia duma and Zemski sobor.
In these treaties there emerged the significance of all the "land," the entire na-
tion. Such a communal structure was based not at all on the clan principle,
and even directly contradicted it (112-13)."2
In Aksakov's scheme, which institutionalized the communal prin-
ciple in every era of Russian history, the pre-Muscovite period wit-
nessed communality in the veche. "The communal element may
pass through various stages of development, may clothe itself in
one or another form" (201). Unable completely to deny the inter-
necine conflict of the appanage period, Aksakov conceded that the
veche "had a trace of material force, not in principle but in conse-
quence of change." In a period of political disunity the "land"
was occasionally drawn into public affairs, and thus "the full ex-
pression of the principle of the 'land' was hindered" (302-3). Nev-
ertheless, "in general it is possible to say about this entire period . .
that the towns and provinces were not divided among the princes;
rather, the princes were allotted among the towns and provinces.
It is impossible to admit a clan structure.... There prevailed an-
other structure-the communal" (29-30).
But it was Muscovite Russia that was Aksakov's golden age.
Russia had at first been ruled by the entire family of princes. In
each principality was repeated the same relationship between the
"land" and the state. Under Moscow the "former mutual confi-
dence" continued to endure, and as the prince had called the
veche, so the tsar convoked the Zemski sobor. "The people did not
demand that the ruler ask their opinion; the ruler did not fear to
do so" (11). The communal principle that had once manifested itself
in the veche now emerged in the Zemski sobor. In Aksakov's his-
torical imagination it was the reign of Ivan IV that witnessed the
efflorescence of the communal principle. "The first tsar calls the
first Zemski sobor" (150). The unified state turned to the "land"
as a whole for counsel, and delegates representing all social classes
were elected to carry the voice of the "land" to Moscow. Aksakov
took Solovev sharply to task for being unwilling to see this con-
tinuity and for stating that the veche system disappeared after the
unification (202). Actually, the local commune merely expanded
to become that of the entire "land," and the events of 1612 were the
best proof that the commune had not disappeared but had merely
become an all-Russian element which, moreover, saved Russia (203).


62






KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
Aksakov was vague about the transition from the local to the
national commune, and the institutional locus of the consultative
element was left undefined. He was unable to fill the gap of time
between the medieval veche and the Zemski sobor. In reply to
Solovev's view that the new state structure was raised on new foun-
dations and excluded the populism of the veche, Aksakov was only
able to plead that from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries
Russia was not yet completely united and that the consultative
element could not yet emerge freely and completely. "The old
local communal principle had weakened, and the new all-Russian
one was not yet established" (204). Aksakov also avoided any dis-
cussion of the "peaceful union of the land" by Moscow. The in-
corporation of Novgorod was lightly passed over; the city "could
not do without a prince" and did not protest the rule of the new
monarchy (136). Vladimir Solovev later commented on this dis-
ingenuousness: "In the same manner, after the Spanish conquest
the aborigines of Mexico and Peru did not revolt in favor of their
former system."124
Aksakov devoted considerable attention to the personal policy
of Ivan IV. Specifically, the tsar's treatment of the boyars gave rise
to a moral issue. "Historical causation explains the matter but by
no means justifies it morally. If historical inevitability produces one
idea or another, this inevitability never extends to the means through
which the idea manifest itself" (137). Furthermore, with respect
to another constant in Aksakov's thinking, he felt the need to ex-
plain that the conflict between the tsar and the boyars occurred
solely within the government and did not entail the participation
of the people (143). Solovev's view of the oprichnina as Ivan IV's
instrument to free himself from the boyars, who were suspect and
whose rigid and closed structure prevented the emergence of the
expanding class of serving people, was waved away by Aksakov
whose historical approach led him to the conclusion that what Ivan
really desired was to divorce the principles of "land" and state.
"His cardinal aim was to set the state apart in order to subordinate
it to himself completely so that there would be in it no other in-
centive but to execute his will as head of state, and so that there
would be neither ties with the land' nor traditions-nothing" (157).
The institution of the oprichnina arose "without bonds with the
people or convictions and ... it was restrained by no moral needs.
. This was Ivan's ideal of the state, his realized fantasy" (158).


63







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


The oprichnina was the result of Ivan's "personal suspicion" but
the people, despite persecutions, did not resist authority. After
seven years of existence, the scheme was abolished by Ivan himself
"who probably saw its folly and sensed the unalterability of the
people" (11). Aksakov's fanciful historical deduction from all this
was that
the Russian 'land" endured Ivan in order to preserve its recent unification.
Moreover, Ivan attacked individuals, the boyars, and always shielded the people.
He did not touch the life or institutions of the "land." He heeded the demands
of history and executed them. He called the Zemski sobor and always gave
the widest scope to the voice and opinion of the nation in public matters.
Besides, this tsar's terrible deeds did not pass in silence on the part of old Russia.
Ivan had to listen to reproofs (169).
Aksakov pursued his scheme in his handling of Godunov and the
Time of Troubles. The "sole source" of the claims of the pretender
was "the suspicion of the poeple." The people were "wounded in
their moral feeling" (269). The false Dmitri was overthrown not
by a party, as stated by Solovev, but by the consent of all the
people. Shuiski, on the other hand, was chosen by a party without
the convocation of a Zemski sobor. "In the eyes of the people, the
hereditary rights of the line of Rurik had already lost significance.
Henceforth ... there was to be only one right-national election by
all the land'" (277). The issue called forth by the Time of Trou-
bles was, in Aksakov's mind, again essentially a moral one.
The struggle was internal; it was a question of the moral purification of Russia,
of the spiritual ennoblement which the country could and had to attain; the
question was one of overcoming internally all impure and evil elements whatso-
ever. Such was the condition for the salvation of Russia. As soon as this was
accomplished, it was easy to eliminate foreign foes. A great trial was sent
Russia, which was compelled to undergo a terrible purification. From this
there begins a whole series of penitences on the part of the entire nation (278).
The collapse of the state was exploited by the wild, coercive,
turbulent, "non-land" elements that it had formerly restrained;
their savage violence demonstrated the inevitability of its restora-
tion. This feat was accomplished by the "land" militant, which
revealed itself openly once the shell of the state had disappeared.
The "land" was served by its chosen agents, Minin and Pozharski.
"The measure of moral worth of the nation itself determines the
conditions of its redemption as well as the moral elevation of those
who are worthy to be its leaders and whom it recognizes" (279).
The crisis of 1612 was a repetition of 862. "The Russian nation


64







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
found itself in the same situation as at the beginning of its history,
and the same phenomenon recurred.... Again government author-
ity was summoned, the same monarchical authority that had always
ruled Russia. A national council chose Michael Romanov to be
tsar and, without guarantees, entrusted the nation's fate to him with
all former confidence" (12). At the same time, "account being taken
of the strong consultative principle manifesting itself everywhere
and always throughout the Russian 'land'" (156), there were in-
numerable popular assemblies in towns and villages "at which, in
Russian fashion, all classes participated" (123). And when it had
accomplished the feat "which had called it into the sphere of brute
force, the land' again set up the state and again returned to its
own sphere of spiritual and traditional activity, the sphere of
thought and life" (280). This edifying spectacle was in striking
contrast to the practices of another Slavic nation that had lost its
roots. The Poles, who had abandoned themselves to aristocratic
state forms and permitted the common people to be oppressed by
the gentry, no longer understood the Slavic significance of the
"land" and failed to comprehend the vast moral strength of free
public opinion, the power of the nation's counsel, and, consequently,
the importance also of a Zemski sobor with a purely consultative
function (252).
Aksakov's developed treatment of the isolation of old Russia from
the West was in complete contrast to his earlier conception, which
had revolved around the theme of "exclusive nationality." He af-
firmed that Russia's isolation began with the Tatar conquest, the
loss of the western territories, and the Lithuanian union with Poland,
a state "no less hostile than the Tatars" (265). But-in line with his
later extremists views-the Russian nation itself never wished to
divorce itself from other nations.
This is not a Slavic or Christian idea. On the contrary, sociability is a living
element of the Russian people. And how could there not be a need for social
intercourse [obshchenie] where the fundamental principle is communality [obsh-
china]? But our myopic historians take circumstances and facts to be the
principles and attributes of the nation itself. . How often ancient Russia
has been condemned for nonexistent shyness, hatred of foreigners and . .
fear of enlightenment. History proves the opposite. .. Russia did not separate
itself from Western Europe; it tried to establish relations with it. When Russia
became an independent nation, it sought . the fruits of knowledge that had
ripened . among the nations of the West. But how did Europe respond?
. . Filled with hostility, Europe not only did not impart its knowledge but
took vigorous measures to prevent enlightenment from penetrating Russia (266).


65







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
Urging the absence of exclusiveness in pre-Petrine Russia, Ak-
sakov referred the incredulous to the documents of the seventeenth
century, those "priceless charters in which there is so much sim-
plicity; so much quiet, sincere, irrepressible strength; so much
purity and holiness." These transcendental sources disclosed no
hatred of foreigners but, on the contrary, a deeply Christian at-
titude "inaccessible to other nations." A sense of exclusive na-
tionality did not exist in Muscovy; it was a "phantom conjured up
by Peter's made-over Russians who proved themselves his crea-
tures." Aksakov dismissed as vain the charge that Peter the Great
reacted to a parochial Russian nationality. On the contrary, any-
thing foreign of value was accepted by the nation, although this
did not prevent Russians from remaining true to themselves. Nar-
rowness of nationality, which had been unknown in Russia before-
hand, made its appearance exactly with Peter. "It was specifically
he who stood for it; only that of the West, not his own." Aksakov
agreed with Solovev's observation that borrowing had been made
before Peter, but "formerly only the useful was taken from foreign-
ers . and Russia remained independent and faithful to its prin-
ciples." Only with Peter was there "not free borrowing but slavish
imitation" imposed by force (41-45).
Aksakov devoted some pains to a historical analysis of the prob-
lem of serfdom before and after Peter, and turning later to the
existing issue of emancipation, he based his criticisms on the
historical theories which he had concocted on the genesis of the
problem. Starting from the communal principle, he alleged that
most of the peasantry who lived on their own communal lands
had no desire to migrate. The right of migration supposedly did
not appertain to the peasants in general, but was a condition that
arose fortuitously among homeless peasants deprived of land be-
cause of various circumstances (566). "The peasants who were
bound were ... only landless migrants" (420). Before the system
of bondage these migrants had preserved their personal indepen-
dence and were not obligated to fulfill what they had conditionally
promised. After bondage they could not renounce the conditions
and had to fulfill the entire agreement. This was what prohibition
of movement consisted of; the landless migrants were subject to
fixed rules. After the bondaging of these peasants, they did not
lose their rights. They simply did not move from land to land,
and they presently understood the land that they permanently


66







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


settled and worked to be their own property, their own commune.
But the question of migration was subsidiary to that of the mutual
relationship between landlord and peasant and their common re-
lationship to the land. In Aksakov's proposition the landlords did
not possess property in general, or the land, either before or under
serfdom. The land of the Russian people belonged to the Russian
people and, through them, to the state as their external represen-
tative. As the property of all the nation, land was in the use or
management of one person or another without actually passing
into his personal ownership. The sovereign governed the land of
Russia according to the law of the state. As such, he acted through
his representatives. When the sovereign dispatched someone to a
town in order to govern it, this by no means signified that he gave
it to this person in possession. He allotted a share of authority
and income, but at the same time preserved supreme power over
his agent. The landlords possessed the same significance. Their
estates were in no way personally owned; the very idea never
existed. The gentry ran them in accordance with the law of the
state (512). "In Russia there was not an individual who enjoyed
benefits for nothing.... Everything depended on service. .. There
was no division into immobile classes. There was no Western aris-
tocracy or democracy. All Russia was under two powers-'land'
and state" (14).
If the question were to be raised to whom in the narrowest sense
the land belonged in ownership, Aksakov's reply was that it be-
longed to the population which controlled it through the state.
This was historically the same relation on a small scale as that which
obtained for Russia as a whole. The relations of the landlords with
the people were, in turn, purely official and governmental. "The
significance of the landlords was not that of landowners. Inheri-
tability and free disposition of estates . were an extension of
certain connections with the land, of the right to utilize the land.
The rights of the gentry were limited by those of the commune to
the land from which it could not be expelled" (415-16).
Manorial peasants enjoyed the same liberties and rights as other
peasants. Services and payments to the landlords merely replaced
taxes to the state. Restriction of the right of movement in no degree
altered the nature of the association between peasants and land-
lords. After enserfment, as before, estates supported the govern-
mental structure. Manorial jurisdiction was a state institution which


67







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


the landlord was powerless to alter, for he himself was merely a
government official in official relations with the peasants, who were
free people, "merely bound to the soil, not to him."
In contrast to this pre-Petrine order, "the situation in our own time
is a decline from the legal order of old Russia; that of today's mano-
rial peasants, only an echo of the old independent way of life." Serf-
dom before Peter had nothing in common with that after him, ex-
cept in words. The bound peasant of Muscovy "resembles the
bound peasant of our times less than pre-Petrine Russia does ours.
The word is the same; the meaning is different. We Russians of the
nineteenth century understand what serfdom means today. The
horrible and inhuman significance of it is well known to us. Taking
the word in just this sense, we can say that there was no serfdom
before Peter. It is the work of modem Russia" (514-16).
It has been stated of Aksakov's historical design that "history
shows itself to be not the development of national life, but the
identity of self-repeating phenomena." In the last analysis, his
commune was not a specific social institution or an organization
of peasant life within a definite historical context. Instead, it was
metamorphosed by him into the abstract idea of a communal tie.
For Aksakov the commune was a "moral alliance" of the people,
a "fraternity," the "triumph of the human spirit." Hence followed
his identification of the concepts of commune and land."
The commune, separated from its concrete historical content, was transmuted
from a historical phenomenon into . the characteristic of the national spirit.
The commune, immutable in its essence, did not give the Slavophiles the foun-
dation for a conception of Russian history as a real process of historical develop-
ment. In the historical conception of Aksakov the Russian people were the
bearers of communality, and this idea lived in the people from start to finish.""
In his study of Kievan Russia, Grekov noted that although Ak-
sakov neatly reproached the advocates of the clan theory for not
defining the nature of the clan-in terms that would be historically
meaningful and not just conventionally acceptable-if Aksakov's
own resolute assertions were thought out, it would be seen that his
conception of the commune was equally murky,

with that difference only that Solovev and Kavelin, despite all the perversity
of their theory, had structural perspectives. From their understandings of the
clan as the primordial form of social life with inbred elements of disintegration,
there derived a dialectical (in the Hegelian sense of the word) explanation of
the succeeding forms of social life, the regular transformation of these forms;
while the commune of Aksakov and his followers, existing in the past from


68






KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
the very beginning, appeared to be simultaneously an ideal and the foundation
for the future."'
Thus, although Solovev's conception of Russian history as the
passage of political power from a loose clan structure to a unified
autocracy had to be modified substantially, it did attempt to infuse
a dynamic into the course of events. On the other hand, Aksakov's
static communality was projected immanently into history, and his
mandarin constants actually resulted in the effective exclusion from
the historical process of the people, whom he nominally regarded
as the protagonist of the drama.

VIII

n 1855, upon the accession to the throne of Alexander II, Aksakov
submitted to the new emperor through Count Bludov a memo-
randum on the internal condition of Russia. Although not pub-
lished until a quarter of a century afterwards, this memorandum
constituted one of the major expositions of the Slavophile point of
view, and it likewise summarized the cardinal tenets of Aksakov's
own political and social philosophy in as circumstantial a form as
he ever attained.127
The author characterized himself "as one who loves the simple
people; who is anxious at every opportunity to make their acquain-
tance not as a master or official but .. as an intimate, a fellow
believer, and a compatriot; and as one who has spent many years
in the unremitting study of our chronicles and ancient history." He
also claimed to have had the opportunity to observe the originality
of the Russian people, an originality largely unperceived and neg-
lected owing to the non-Russian views that generally prevailed.
"The Russian people are not statist; that is, they do not seek
state authority, do not wish political rights for themselves, and do
not even contain within themselves the germ of a national love of
authority." The first proof of this was the voluntary recognition
by the people of an alien state authority in the form of the Varan-
gians. As further proof, when there was no tsar in 1612, when all
state power was in ruins, and when the people, armed and victorious
over their foes, had liberated Moscow, what was done? This power-
ful nation, that had been defeated under a tsar and boyars, won
victory for itself under the leaders it had chosen itself. And in
1612, as once before in 862, the people called in the authority of


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TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
the state, chose a tsar, and entrusted their fate to him without
reserve; they peacefully laid down their arms and returned home.
Like these two events, all Russian history testified to the peculiar
nature of the Russian people. "In Russian history there has not
been a single uprising against authority in favor of national political
rights. Novgorod itself, once it had accepted the authority of the
Muscovite tsar, did not oppose it in favor of the past." There
admittedly had been uprisings in favor of authority and against
usurpation. But such uprisings merely attested to the spirit of
legality in the Russian people. The nation never once sought to
share in government. Aksakov cited the dissenters as an instance.
Though many in number, they never acted politically. They con-
cealed themselves, fled, accepted martyrdom, but never assumed a
political significance. "It is not governmental security measures
that have preserved order in Russia; the popular spirit does not
wish to see order infringed .... Russia might have had a constitu-
tion long ago . but the Russian people refuse to rule."
Those who angrily termed this attitude a spirit of slavery, as
well as those who rejoiced and called it the spirit of legal order,
were both in error, for they were judging Russia in accordance with
Western theories of liberalism and conservatism. It was impossible
to understand Russia without first abandoning Western concepts,
on the basis of which either revolutionary or conservative elements
could be uncovered in every country whatsoever, including Russia.
Both liberal and conservative points of view were essentially alien
to Russia, for both were aspects of a political spirit that did not
exist in the Russian people. Furthermore, however the absence of
a political spirit and the consequent absoluteness of governmental
authority in Russia were to be explained, the fact remained that a
true understanding of the country demanded exactly such an ap-
proach. Therefore, borrowed theories were hopelessly inadequate,
and true wisdom on the part of the Russian government would be to
allow itself to be guided by the national spirit which was so non-
political as "not even to hold within itself a trace of revolution or
constitutionalism."
It was strange, then, that the Russian state should constantly
take measures against the possibility of revolution and should fear
political uprisings, which were patently contrary to the nature of
the Russian people. Aksakov felt that the government saw "Western
specters" in Russia and that the only result of its measures was to


70







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
shake the confidence existing between itself and the people, thus
causing great and unnecessary harm.
The Russian nation desired for itself the preservation of its social
existence, customs, and peaceful life of the spirit. Before the ac-
ceptance of Christianity, and "anticipating its great truths," the
people were already prepared to receive it and developed a com-
munal life that Christianity later sanctified. Not seeking political
expression, the people strove for moral, spiritual, and social free-
dom. Such was the reason for the nation's unexampled obedience
to authority, for the complete security of the Russian government,
for the impossibility of any revolution among the Russian people,
for the deep calm within Russia.
This did not mean that the Russian nation was righteous. It was
confessedly sinful, because man was sinful. But the roots of the
people were sound, because the people's beliefs were holy and
their path true. Every Christian was sinful as a man, but his way
as a Christian was true. The state "guarded the temple" and al-
lowed the people, safe from foreign interference, to attain the high-
est goal of a Christian society. The traditional division of all
Russia into state and "land" in the understanding of the individual
Russian bore out this belief. Having distinguished themselves from
the state as the defended from the defender, the people, or the
land," did not wish to transgress the boundary that they them-
selves had established.
How elevated is the calling of a state that seeks to secure for the people a
humane, peaceful, and tranquil life deriving from moral freedom and thriving
in Christian perfection and the development of all God-given talents. How
elevated stands the people that have cast off any ambition or desire for worldly
power and wish not political liberty but the liberty of spiritual life and peace-
ful well-being. Such a view is the guarantee of peace and tranquility-and
such is the view of Russia and Russia alone. All other nations strive for the
sovereignty of the people.
Although the great question of state and nation could not be
better resolved than had been done by the Russian people, the
reason that the kingdom of God did not exist on earth was that man
did not subscribe to the inner moral law. Because of human weak-
ness and sinfulness, external law-the state-was necessary. But
man's mission remained the same, moral and inner. The state
served only as a means to this; its purpose was defense and not
power for its own sake. When the state became the goal of the
nation and the higher aim was lost, all was lost. The nation should


71







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


not be the state. If the people became the ruler, they would cease
to be the people.
Aksakov proposed that unlimited state power should take a
monarchical form because any other, aristocratic or democratic, ad-
mitted of popular participation and direct limitation of state power.
Any governing group was a form of popular life; therefore, society
would be governed by itself in microcosm. Even if, as formerly
in Athens, ten archons were chosen and entrusted with total power,
here too, because they composed a council, they could not com-
pletely represent unlimited power. They would only form a gov-
erning society; consequently, a form of popular life. The result
would be that the macrocosmic society of all the people would be
ruled by a smaller image of itself. Aksakov concluded that society
obeyed its own laws of life which brought it free unity. On the
other hand, a governing society could not possess such unity; the
unity would then immediately alter and become either impossible
or coercive. Society could not be government. "Outside the peo-
ple, outside social life, there is only the individual. Only one indi-
vidual may be the unlimited state. Only the individual liberates
the people from any interference in government. Therefore, a
monarch is essential. Only monarchical power is unlimited power."
Aksakov continued in a direction that emphasized his belief in
authority but not in authoritarianism. The Russian people did not
consider government, which was a human construction in this world,
as perfect. Therefore they did not pay the tsar divine homage, did
not make him an idol, and did not give themselves over to an ico-
nolatry of power which excessive flattery, together with Western
influences, aimed to impose upon them. This flattery employed
the most sacrosanct designations in praising and glorifying the
power of the emperor, but despite its efforts, and its daily augmen-
tation, the Russian people in the mass were not in the process of
modifying their true attitude towards the state. Such an attitude, on
the one hand, guaranteed the faithful and indispensable allegiance
of the people to the state and, on the other, stripped the state of that
excessive and occasionally impious luster with which it permitted
its flatterers to surround it, and of that divine refulgence which
was attributed to it even in the Christian world in such a manner
that the name of the emperor as the temporal God was actually
licensed as an interpretation of the tsar's authority. Although
Christianity prescribed obedience to authority, it did not assign


72







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


to it that divine arrogation which later arose. And the Russian
people knew that all power stemmed from God. As a Christian
people they prayed for authority, respected it, honored the tsar;
but they did not idolize. For this reason alone both obedience to
and veneration of authority were rooted in the people, and any
revolution by them was out of the question.
But look at the West. Its peoples, having abandoned the inner way of faith
and spirit, have been enticed by the vainglorious beliefs of national pride and
have given credence to the possibility of the perfection of government. They
have taken to themselves republics, have created constitutions of all kinds, have
developed arrogance in themselves . but they have impoverished their soul,
lost faith, and, despite the temporary completeness of their political structure,
are ready to totter and abandon themselves, if not to total destruction, then to
dreadful convulsions at any minute.
The relationship of the state to the "land," Aksakov urged, was
to be understood negatively as mutual noninterference and posi-
tively as the state's preservation of the life of the nation. The role
of the state was one of defense and external security that would
permit the "land" to express "its own essence and fulfill its ethical
calling on earth." The people's attitude to the government was to
be one of obedience, not independence, although "it is indisputable
that government exists for the people and not the people for the
government." But where did the government "see the people them-
selves"? There existed only a single independent relationship be-
tween a powerless nation and an omnipotent state, and Aksakov
defined that to be public opinion-but opinion without a political
element and with no other strength except a moral one. Through
public opinion the state was able to observe what the country
wished, how it understood its being, what were its moral demands,
and how, consequently, the state should conduct itself. Therefore,
the preservation of freedom of public opinion as a moral activity of
the nation was an obligation of the state. "In important issues of
state and national life, the government is obligated to itself to
discover the opinion of the country-but only the opinion, which it
is entirely free to accept or reject. Public opinion is how the na-
tion may and ought to serve its government. It is the moral, not
political, tie that may and ought to bind nation and state."
Wise Muscovite tsars had understood this axiom and often as-
sembled Zemskie sobory, which were composed-and Aksakov per-
sisted in this error--of delegates from all the social classes of Rus-
sia. The government knew that through these councils it was not


73







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


losing or restricting any of its prerogatives, and the nation knew
that through them it was neither acquiring nor exercising rights.
As a result, the tie between state and people was not weakened;
it was indeed even more strongly secured. Without haste, gradually
and surely, Aksakov's wise rules accomplished their deeds without
parting from Russian principles, without altering the Russian way.
They did not shun foreigners, as the nation also did not shun them,
and they endeavored to overtake Europe on the road to that en-
lightenment from which Russia had been excluded during two
centuries of Mongol rule. In the fullness of their wisdom the tsars
knew that to do this it was not necessary to cease being Russian,
to renounce native customs, language, dress, and, even less so,
principles. They knew that enlightenment was only truly valuable
when it was received independently and not imitatively.
But the Russian way was nonetheless abandoned. "Peter's up-
heaval, despite all its external brilliance, testifies to what a profound
inner harm the greatest genius produces as soon as he acts alone,
separates himself from the people, and regards them as an architect
does bricks. With Peter began that evil which is also the evil of
our time." In the West there was constant animosity between the
state and the people who did not understand their mutual relation-
ship. This had not been so in Russia. But under Peter the state
forcibly interfered with the life of the nation and attempted to alter
its mores and customs. The upper classes abandoned Russian
principles as well as their own language. Moscow was forsaken
and a new capital raised on foreign soil. Thus, in place of the
former alliance, the state laid a yoke on the "land." The monarch
became a despot; and the freely submissive people, slaves in their
own country.
Peter's mannequins accepted their position, despised Russia, and
imitated the West, but as slaves to the state they felt the love of
political power. There were revolutionary attempts, and the throne,
as never before, became a cat's-paw of parties while the aristocracy
dabbled in constitutions. "Finally, as the fruit of the non-Russian
principles introduced by Peter, there came the uprising of De-
cember 14 which was carried out by an upper class cut off from the
people. The soldiers, as is well known, were duped."
Meanwhile the people waited calmly. "Is not this calm the
best proof of how alien any revolution is to the Russian spirit? The
nobility rose against the sovereign, but when have the peasants


74







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
risen?" As long as the Russian people remained Russian, the in-
ternal tranquility and security of the government were guaranteed.
But, Aksakov warned, the Petrine system and the foreign spirit
continued to sow their evils. Government interference in the life
of the people gave birth to both a slavish and, at the same time,
a seditious spirit, because for a slave the only difference between
himself and the state is that between the oppressed and the op-
pressor.
The Russian people . adhere to their ancient principles and, so far, oppose
both slavishness and the foreign spirit of the upper class. But the Petrine sys-
tem, in existence for a century and a half, is finally penetrating the people
themselves. As soon as the government eliminates the inner social freedom
of the people, they will seek external political freedom, and revolutionary at-
tempts will finally destroy Russia when it ceases to be Russian. To avoid this,
it is necessary to understand the spirit of Russia and stand on Russian principles.
Instead, however, "the 'land' and state" were standing on ob-
viously divergent principles. Not only was the opinion of the people
as a whole not sought, but every private individual feared to speak
his mind. The nation feared new oppression; the government feared
revolt. The state was ready to see sedition in every independent
expression of opinion. The entire evil arose largely from the burden-
some and oppressive system of the government with regard to
freedom of life, conviction, and ethics. And with great boldness
indeed Aksakov stated: "If this system should succeed, it will trans-
form the individual into an animal that obeys without reason or
conviction . and the sovereign into an idol." Unfortunately the
system was continuing. "The intrusion of governmental power into
social life proceeds. The people are more and more infected and
social demoralization increases. . Secret discontent among all
classes grows."
Consequently the state had to abandon its baseless fear of rev-
olution, understand Russia, and revive its old ties with the people,
including knowledge of the people's opinion. Admittedly it was
still premature to convene a Zemski sobor. The social classes were
too much at odds with each other. National principles were strange
to the nobility which, in addition, despised the peasants. The
merchants were a "mixture"; city dwellers, a "pale copy of the mer-
chants and the most pitiful . class in all Russia." What could
the peasants say after such a long historical silence? Existing social
classes could not yet be the voice of all the Russian "land." Under
prevailing circumstances it would be possible and genuinely useful


75






TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
for the government only to convoke separate assemblies of the
classes in certain instances for issues affecting one or another class,
and regarding which the government considered it expedient to
ask the opinion of a class. However, the convocation of such as-
semblies, as well as the Zemski sobor when this became possible,
should not be an obligation of the state and ought not to be period-
ical. The government should call assemblies and ask opinions when
it chose to do so. For the time being, councils could be replaced
to a certain degree by public opinion from which the government
might draw the advice and information that it needed. Only when
the Zemski sobor became a real possibility would it be able better
to fill this function.
Public opinion expressed itself in speech and writing; therefore,
restrictions upon these had to be withdrawn. "Freedom of the
spirit is best and most worthily expressed in freedom of expres-
sion which . is the inalienable right of the individual. . .
At present, the word is the only organ of the 'land.'... The greatest
restriction lies on the written word ... and it is imperative that the
heavy burden [of censorship] ... be removed."
Aksakov did not recommend total elimination of the censor-
ship. It should remain to protect the individual but, at the same
time, should permit the maximum expression of thought and opin-
ion. "Truth will silence falsehood; not to believe this is not to
believe in truth, and God is truth." In time there could be total
freedom of the written and spoken word once it was understood
that this freedom was indissolubly joined to unlimited monarchy
and constituted the permanent support and warrant for order. Ak-
sakov concluded his remarks with an often repeated formula: "To
the government, the unlimited freedom to rule that belongs to it
exclusively; to the people, the full freedom of external and inner
life that the government preserves. To the government, the right
of action and, consequently, law; to the people, the right of opinion
and, consequently, expression."
At the conclusion of his essentially Areopagitic exercise Aksakov
remarked: "In my memorandum, I stated as necessary the transition
to full freedom of expression through the greatest easing of the
censorship, although with its retention to safeguard the individual.
This transition should be brief. . ." Without freedom of speech
there could not exist an unlimited benevolent monarchy; only a
destructive, soul-less, and ephemeral despotism, the end of which


76







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
would be either the collapse of the state or revolution. Freedom of
the sort described would actually be the buttress of an unlimited
monarchy which otherwise would have no stability.

IX

Aksakov's formal articles in Russian Conversation did not exhaust
his energies, and the relaxation of the censorship prompted him
to undertake the dissemination of his views in a more popular and
easily accessible form. His nature was substantially that of a pub-
licist rather than a scholar, and he found the medium of short pun-
gent articles, full of catching phrases, better adapted to his repeti-
tious and hortatory style than more sustained efforts that demanded
a thematic development, concentration of thought, and elaboration
of argument which he was unwilling to provide.
In April, 1857, a literary weekly, Rumor, was launched under the
editorship of S. M. Shpilevski with Aksakov as the principal contrib-
utor. The existence of the journal was a checkered one and was
terminated under unfortunate circumstances in December of the
same year. It was not a financial success nor was it received by the
public with enthusiasm.128 The tone of the publication was set at
the outset with the familiar hosanna:
The people are that great potency, that living tie, without which and outside
of which the individual would be a useless egoist and all mankind a sterile
abstraction. [The people were not a tabula rasa,] a conscienceless mass of indi-
viduals. No, the simple people have deep and fundamental convictions which
are the conditions of existence for the country as a whole . for the simple
people are the people simply.
The issue of May 3 struck a new note when it touched upon a
problem that was to animate Aksakov's interest increasingly during
the remaining years of his life-the relationship between Russia
and the Balkan Slavs.
Russial What varied feelings this name arouses in the world. For Western
Europe, Russia is a barbarous country of sheer material power, threatening to
suppress freedom of thought, enlightenment, and progress among peoples. For
the East, Russia is a symbol of menacing strength that arouses veneration and
unwittingly attracts to itself Asiatic peoples. For America, Russia means an
extreme opposite but, at the same time, an independent and young state to
which, along with itself, belongs the future of the world. Still differently does
this great name echo in the hearts of the Greek and Slavic peoples. It awakens
in them an unconquerable feeling of common faith and race as well as the
hope that with Russia's powerful aid, sooner or later, God will glorify before
all the world the truth of the Orthodox faith and will assure the rights of the


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TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
Slavs in the life of humanity. [A couple of weeks later, a basic Slavophile
theme was touched:] Forwardl Often the Slavophiles are reproached for desir-
ing to turn back, for not wishing to go forward. This accusation is unjust. ...
No, the Slavophiles want to advance, not simply forward, to be sure, but
forward to the truth. .. The Slavophiles believe the true path to be the one
Russia once trod. .. To return to a former way does not mean to renounce
striving ahead but to strive in a different direction. The Slavophiles think it
is necessary to return not to the condition of ancient Russia . but to the
path of ancient Russia . and not because it is old but because it is true.
During July Aksakov animadverted upon the situation of the
Orthodox Greeks and Slavs still living under the Moslem Turks
who were "savage, ignorant, and, moreover, weak." This situation
was tolerated by enlightened Europe.
Only Russia looks with deep sympathy and true love on its suffering and op-
pressed brethren in faith and, among them, the Slavs who are, in addition,
brothers in blood. . The concept of nationality has vigorously revived in
Russia, liberating it from the moral yoke of Western Europe. The concept of
nationality has awakened in all the Slavic nations and is bending their youthful
energies to the glorious deeds of the human spirit.
In several short articles distinguished by a characteristically
breathless temerity and bold exposition Aksakov lashed out against
the practice of capital punishment and, once more, against the
intellectual pride of the denationalized upper classes. He also al-
lowed himself to comment freely on the desirability of a revival
of Russian "national costume" and, in obvious allusion to the peas-
ant question, on the necessity of "freedom of labor." These articles
prompted the politic Prince Viazemski to write Aksakov on Sep-
tember 10 an avuncular letter of advice and admonition: "If, in the
enthusiasm of your convictions, you do not wish to preserve that
amount of reasonable freedom which the press now enjoys, then we,
the cool and devoted overseers of what is printed, will be con-
strained ... to preserve you from yourself. ... The field for initiative
still remains vast and fruitful. Restrain yourself from what is
forbidden."129
But it was exactly the forbidden fruit that tempted Aksakov and,
despite Viazemski's exhortations, he published in the thirty-sixth
issue of Rumor, December 16, 1857, the notorious "Attempt at
Synonyms: Public and People." He recalled that there had once
been a time when Russia had no public, only the people. This
had been before the construction of St. Petersburg. The public,
moreover, was a purely Western phenomenon and had been in-
troduced into Russia along with various other innovations. This


78







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOc
body was formed quite simply: Part of the people renounced Rus-
sian life, language, and dress, and constituted a public which rose
to the surface of society. This public was Russia's constant tie
with the West, from which it adopted its material and spiritual
order. It inclined before the West as before a teacher, and took
from the West its thoughts and feelings for which it paid the
enormous price of separation from the people. The public ap-
peared above the people as though it were a privileged expression
of national life but, in fact, it was a perversion of the popular idea.
The difference between the public and the people was palpable.
With the public, what was native became foreign; and with the
people, the foreign became native. The article concluded with a
series of antitheses. The public went to balls, the people to vespers.
The public danced, the people prayed. The public spoke French,
the people Russian. The public wore German clothes, the people
Russian. The public dined while the people fasted. The public
slept while the people had long since risen and were working. The
public was dross in gold, the people gold in dross. The public
was the monde, the people were the mir. The public was "most
honorable," the people Orthodox. The public was transitory, the
people eternal.
The impression produced in St. Petersburg by Aksakov's homily
was most unfavorable. On December 23 Minister of National Edu-
cation Norov wrote to Count A. S. Uvarov, assistant to the head of
the Moscow educational district: "To represent the lower classes
as exemplars of all possible virtues and the upper orders as illus-
trations of every conceivable failing and moral weakness is harm-
ful and destructive in the consequences which such irrational para-
doxes might entail, particularly at the present time." The very
next day Norov wrote to the emperor that many articles in Rumor
were "characterized by tendencies not in accord with the rules of
censorship or with those proper principles that should serve as the
basis for every literary production." The emperor himself noted on
the report: "I am acquainted with this article. I find that it is
written in an extremely wrong sense. Inform the editor of Rumor
that if such articles are noticed in the future, the journal will be
forbidden, and the editor, as well as the censor, will be subject to
severe penalty."'30
In his diary the courtier Mukhanov observed: "The article has
produced irritation here. Everyone has attacked the Minister of


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TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
National Education." Count Grabbe deprecated the article as "a
lighted linstock thrown into a powder magazine; it is worse than
a mistake in our agitated times." A. A. Grigorev wrote to Pogodin
that "Konstantin Aksakov has destroyed Rumor."'81 Disheartened
by the imperial remonstrance, Aksakov himself decided to quit the
journal. Koshelev announced to a friend: "Konstantin Sergeevich
has completely abandoned Rumor, which becomes emptier and
duller. Shpilevski is deathly ill and the paper is edited now ex-
clusively by Ivan Beliaev. I fear that it will not last until January."
It actually expired at the end of December, and the controversial
article in the thirty-sixth number was the reason. Years later Ivan
Aksakov informed N. S. Sokhanskaia: "I had intended to edit
Rumor beginning in 1858, but the affair resulting from Konstantin's
article, "Public and People," in one of the last numbers made it
impossible to continue publication."132

x

The theory of the peasant commune acquired great immediacy at
the end of the 1850's when the problem of emancipation sud-
denly became an actual one. Herzen stated in his memoirs that as
far back as "the beginning of the 1840's, Aksakov preached the
village commune, mir, and artel; he taught Haxthausen to under-
stand them." Herzen exaggerated, since, even before his trip to
Russia in 1843, the German official had been interested in old forms
of landownership. However, Haxthausen did meet the Slavophiles
who, at the time, had already matured their own views on the
communal order. According to Koshelev, he himself and Khomia-
kov, had worked out a complete plan of emancipation at the end of
the 1840's, but the theory of the right of the peasants to the land
was elaborated by the Slavophiles independently. In 1838 Kireev-
ski wrote two articles in which he argued that landownership,
which was the source of personal rights in the West, was a pre-
rogative of society as a whole in Russia; the individual participated
in this right to the extent that he entered into society. In Russia
the right of property was only a conditional relationship; uncon-
ditional ownership was the exception. This attitude was most
saliently and resolutely expressed by Aksakov. His letter to Kho-
miakov at the end of 1857 was "an inevitable and logical conclusion
from the Slavophile theory according to which the landlord in


80







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
Russia never possessed the right of ownership, but only that of
usufruct under the control of the state."'33
Aksakov's letter was inspired by a government rescript on the
formation of provincial committees which were to draft projects
for serf emancipation. It was written in the fear that possession
of the land would remain with the gentry. "It would be ridiculous
for me to attempt to convince you of my sympathetic attitude to-
wards the peasants and desire for their freedom. You already know
of all this. But the question remains under what circumstances free-
dom for the peasants is being prepared." In the first place, the
emancipation could not help but be truly valuable for the land-
owners. They would be redeemed from degrading seignorial rule
over other humans, from authority that was much more destructive
to those who exercised it than to those who lived under it. This
was the enormous and positive advantage of the change. But
would the peasants profit? The gentry would be relieved of the
duty of prison guard, but the peasants would not be led from the
prison; they would merely be moved from one into another. Al-
though it would be a common prison, the conditions of life in it
would almost surely be worse. "On many estates . landlord
rule was a kind of glass bell under which the peasants could live
independently without fear of police interference and, in particular,
in safety from government supervision. . Now, all these glass
bells will be removed, and the incubus of state institutions and
surveillance will lie with all its weight upon the peasants."
According to Aksakov, the Russian people always highly valued
their way of life and considered themselves oppressed when their
freedom was violated. In the political slavery and under the bur-
den of fetters that Peter the Great and his successors had so zeal-
ously forged for him, the peasant knew how to preserve all his
moral independence. Under the yokes of both state and land-
owner, he was able to safeguard his rights. To be sure, the land-
owner imagined himself to be the legal proprietor of the peasant,
but the peasant never believed such nonsense. He never recog-
nized the legal claim of the landowner's authority. Had he seen
it in such a light, he would have become a slave and his spirit would
have collapsed, or he would have resolutely and forever thrown
off this authority. Actually, neither occurred. The peasant re-
garded oppressive manorial authority as a predatory incursion and
bore it with patience as a calamity visited upon him by God.


81







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
In addition to this conviction, the peasant believed in the mir and
the communal structure. He did not doubt that the land should
legally belong to him.
Therefore, what is necessary is not the abolition of the term "serfdom" or the
return to the peasant of personal freedom. The peasant has never considered
himself enserfed in the landowner's sense. . He requires security for his
way of life; he needs the land which he considers to be his own . and without
which his way of life is impossible. As long as the question of property was
not broached, the landowner could regard the land as his own, just as the
peasant did; and the two could live together peacefully, each having his own
conviction and both working the land in common. But as soon as the issue of
landownership is raised, the peasant says that it is his, and he is right.
However, Aksakov charged, an emancipation that would satisfy
the peasants was not really desired, inasmuch as the land was
officially considered to be the exclusive property of the landowner.
In view of the total lack of understanding of the Russian "land"
on the part of the government and all the upper classes, it was im-
possible for them to go about the matter as was requisite.
Aksakov assured Khomiakov that he expected the emancipation
to be inconsequential and unrealizable.
There cannot be the kind of emancipation that there was in Prussia. It is an
issue between state and "land," between an alien and a national spirit, between
a forcibly imposed Western system and Russian popular principles; in other
words, between public and people. The question . is in essence purely
moral. Our public are not Normans ruling Anglo-Saxons, but apostates. We
who compose the public must follow the path of repentance and the moral
awakening of our Russian national consciousness; consequently, a return to
the people. I will not go into how the question is to be answered in detail,
for it is difficult to anticipate.

Nevertheless, Aksakov was pleased that the emancipation had got-
ten under way. He remarked that he was "fairly indifferent to its
present inadequacy" and that he anticipated further results "not
in its direct application . but in what it ... will evoke in the life
of Russia."134
In 1859 Rostovtsev's Editing Commission was organized. It
included various committees, the reports of which, though not for
public release, were privately but widely circulated. The reports
of the administrative committee particularly aroused Aksakov, who
wrote a series of observations on them as well as a letter to Prince
Cherkasski on the fifth report, which dealt with village meetings
and was regarded by Aksakov as a particularly heinous violation
of the national ideal. His criticisms, although not published until


82







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
1861 in Germany, were known to the Editing Commission. Prac-
tically none were accepted, and the reports for the most part passed
into effect with the February Manifesto.135
Aksakov's first concern was to advise the members of the com-
mission that the people were not an amorphous mass upon which
bureaucrats might write whatever administrative, economic, and
juridical decisions they pleased.
No, the people are an assembly [sobranie], a human union based on identity
of origin, language, custom, and belief of moral principle; a union, therefore,
not only of blood, but also of spirit, having its own history and its own way
with the gradual evolution of convictions and fundamentals. The people are
an original personality, self-determining and self-constituting. Therefore, what
the people themselves have created for their own institutions is of the first
importance.
The first report of the committee was guided by the initial wish
of the Editing Commission to establish parallel and completely in-
dependent local organizations, one for communal matters and the
other for governmental administrative purposes. The committee
declared itself in favor of a dual structure of village community
(selskoe obshchestvo) and land commune (pozemelnaia obshchina).
To Aksakov's mind this scheme reflected "fear of external disorder
and the demand for a formal administrative order under cover of
which internal disorder thrives." It was an artificial division, en-
tirely unlike that natural arrangement of the people according to
which "the group that alone is directly affected should decide is-
sues." This led Aksakov to his elastic conception of "the sphere
of the commune." He stated that "according to the Russian spirit
and language, the commune may be a province or a volost or a
village. The commune is a popular assembly of a larger or smaller
locality. The commune is the people as a single, thinking, speak-
ing, and acting whole." The same essential idea revealed itself
in institutions on different levels. "The Russian 'land' represents
a union of units, self-contained but enclosing each other, and pro-
ceeding from the smallest to the largest dimensions." Consequent-
ly, the dual division of the "sphere of the commune" on the lowest
village level was totally artificial. The important thing was to
define the function of the general (obshchii) commune while leav-
ing to each particular (chastnyi) commune freedom in its own af-
fairs. "The sole need is to determine the sphere of the general
commune and the circle of its activities, and leave to the more
particular ones that compose it the settlement in complete freedom


83







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


of matters concerning themselves and relations among themselves
as well as with the general commune."
The government ought to deal not with the particular communes
but with the general one, and without touching the constitution of
the latter. Aksakov presumably had in mind a Zemski sobor as the
voice of the general commune. He insisted on complete noninter-
ference by the state in the structure of the people. "Communal
centers," such as a volost, might be "transfer points" between the
government and the people, "conveying the government's demands
and receiving the people's compliance." Thus, "the state says
'what'; to the people is left 'how.' Within the precincts of the
general commune, the people live and administer themselves."136
Eventually, upon Rostovtsev's insistence, the Editing Commission
rejected the original dual system, but the unhappy result was that
the land commune was completely subordinated to the volost, upon
which were imposed administrative and police responsibilities.
Although the scheme of two parallel organizations was abandoned,
what had been initially feared finally came about-the establish-
ment of two units of peasant administration, "both of which turned
out to be administrative, for, in both, the principle of self-govern-
ment was paralyzed by their submission to bureaucratic police
and administrative authorities."137
Aksakov devoted much attention to the fourth and fifth reports
of the administrative committee, which had to do with village as-
semblies. He criticized the proposal that the elder (starshina) of
the volost should confer with his counterpart on the village level
(starosta) in all matters, the reason being that the village elder
would then become a mere agent of the volost administration.'38
This criticism was actually accepted by the government, and, in
the final act, the volost assembly was allowed to elect one or two
representatives to serve as permanent consultants in place of the
village elder.'13 Aksakov conceded the necessity of a volost as-
sembly for relations with the government, but it "must not be
delimited from outside or organized and subject to rules. Rules,
forms of meetings, majorities, presidents, are all an insult to the
people."
Aksakov was most enraged by the committee's recommendation
that assembly decisions be reached by a majority vote. "It is neces-
sary to remember above all that the commune in its essence is the
autonomous, supreme manifestation of the people, fully satisfying


84







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
all the requirements of legality and social justice; in a word, the
general will. The commune, as a supreme expression, gathers to
itself all powers, for it is the source of authority." It was inconceiv-
able that the general will should reveal itself in a vulgar majority
decision. In his righteous indignation Aksakov wrote a letter to
Prince Cherkasski in which he subjected the fifth report to a blister-
ing denunciation. The committee's proposal meant
neither more nor less than complete violation of the essence of the Russian
communal principle . and the social freedom of the Russian people, as well
as the assignment to them of a copy of civic social rights composed on an alien
pattern.... What remains is a purely mechanical, completely useless existence,
no longer of a society but of a certain quantity of people. . With the idea
of a majority you are introducing that savage and material force which, largely
because of its servility to Europe, is not recognized by us and is so alien to
the spirit of the Russian "land." [Aksakov also charged:] By doing this, you
are destroying the very basis of our life and Russian freedom; you are trans-
forming the mir into a pitiful replica of gentry elections. ... You are daring
to violate the principle that constitutes the very substance of the strength of
the mir, the secret of its life; namely, unanimity. [The letter concluded:] What
has been the purpose of all our work, our study of Russian principles, the life
of ancient Russia, and the peasant structure? Is it possible that the fruit of all
this is a few empty phrases on self-government, on the elimination as much as
possible of the influence of the administration on communal affairs-empty
phrases, I repeat .... You have raised your hand against the people, and that
is an evil matter . The only consolation that remains is that Russian history
will not always be made in St. Petersburg, and that your moral crimes against
the Russian people, gentlemen, will not succeed. Think it over. You are in
the process of crucifying the Russian people.140
These last phrases were of such a violent nature that they were
omitted when Aksakov's observations on the reports of the admin-
istrative committee were finally published in Russia in 1883. Ac-
cording to Semenov, it is possible that, as a result of Aksakov's
criticism, the final report of the Editing Commission stipulated that
all matters at village assemblies were to be decided either by a
majority of voices or by general approval--a largely verbal con-
cession.141
The committee's sixth report dealt with governmental regulation
of the commune's officials and recommended the exemption from
corporal punishment of the authorities of the volost and mir. This
provision also incurred the displeasure of Aksakov, who declared
that what made corporal punishment a vice was discrimination in
its application. It became immoral when some were exempt from
it while others were subject to it. If corporal punishment existed,
it should exist for everyone without the exception of privileged


85







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES
classes or individuals. Only then could it be judged in itself. As
such, it was the legalization of brute force in the same sense that
capital punishment was the legalization of murder. Ancient Rus-
sia did not know corporal punishment. When brute force appeared,
it was as a chance event, never as law. Corporal punishment was
the bequest of the Tatars. In Aksakov's system the Tatars were
always conveniently at hand to explain away any flaws in the
halcyon Russia that had flourished before Peter the Great's dis-
traint. However, elimination of the vice had to come from the
free will of society and not through judicial constraint.
The state is a collection of institutions imposed from without. If it mirrors
the moral life of society, it itself possesses none. . But the people are not
an institution and . have a moral existence. Any corruption that has en-
tered the people must not be eliminated externally by decree but must be eradi-
cated from within through a moral effort. The abolition of corporal punish-
ment by decree would be as much an injustice as its introduction. This must
be left directly to society, to the commune. The premature, forcible, and ex-
ternal abolition of even an immoral phenomenon is harmful, for it does not
allow society freely and internally to rise to that moral height where it may
voluntarily abolish such a practice.

Aksakov censured the administrative committee's seventh report
on the volost administration because of the suggestion that in cer-
tain cases the peasant should have the right to take complaints
of communal injustice to the volost court. By "denouncing" the
mir, the peasant would actually destroy the sense and reason of his
own existence. The mir itself was the supreme court and could
be only temporarily replaced by an elected court. When it itself
was in convocation, no other court was conceivable. "The peasant
is a living part of the commune. He recognizes its ultimate will
and its omnipotent significance. .. For him, the commune is the
final court responsible to no other, and its decision is the unshake-
able truth. The commune cannot by judged legally. Such is its
essence. Otherwise, it is not the commune." Aksakov concluded
his remarks on the reports of the administrative committee by
labeling that body's findings an artificial interference in the life
of the people that was not only useless but also harmful. "No
one should interfere in what concerns the people in their internal
structure and organization or in their justice."142
Khomiakov was also worried about the effects of the emancipa-
tion upon the peasants, without, however, joining in Aksakov's
doxology to them. In October, 1859, he wrote to Koshelev: "The


86






KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV
danger lies in excessive solicitude, and the committee's resolution
on communal assemblies will destroy the assembly as such. Aksakov
with his lyricism is correct and more practical than the experts.
... To be sure, I realize well all the difficulty in connecting cus-
tomary life with legal life, and I do not share Aksakov's indignation;
but I find him correct in principle."'14

XI

The last chapter in Aksakov's life opened with the death, in 1859,
of his father from whom he had been inseparable. He never
recovered from the blow, and, although his own death at the end
of the following year was attributed to consumption, it is probably
truer that he expired from a broken heart. On October 26, 1859,
Ivan Aksakov confided to Turgenev: "Father's death has completely
undone my brother. You would not know him; he has altered so.
It is as though he were still holding the dead man's hand beyond
the grave." Konstantin's friend Bitsyn met him on the street and,
in reply to an invitation, Aksakov was only able to stammer, "Every-
thing is over. Neither pleasure nor joy in life exists. In a word,
life has ended-a life like mine."144
In the following year Aksakov was finally persuaded to travel
abroad for the sake of his impaired health. In Germany he met
his brother Ivan who remained with him to the end. On August
24, 1860, Ivan wrote home from Berlin: "Konstantin has changed
terribly since I last saw him. ... I found him, however, in a much
better mood and more receptive to impressions than I had imagined.
. He is also interested in foreign countries and in political and
social questions. There is not that idee fixe which possessed him
in Moscow."145
But Konstantin would not seem to have stepped out of character
completely. He wrote to his mother from Leipzig on August 27:
"The railroad here is at home; in Russia it is a guest and foreign.
It is foreign because only independence is mastery, and our indepen-
dence is repressed by simian imitation. The railroad is cut off from
what surrounds it just because in Russia everything that produces,
constructs, and manages is completely cut off from the country and
the people." A month later, in Vevey, Ivan wrote home of an en-
counter by his brother with Western technology: "Konstantin has
arrived at a complete theory of the harm of telegraphs. He decided


87







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


to leave here without informing you by telegraph, but as you would
have continued to send your letters to Switzerland, he admitted
the necessity of sending you a wire."
It was during this last trip that Konstantin suddenly manifested
a more than casual interest in the Slavs. Ivan remarked that, in
contrast to his brother's former indifference towards the race,
"now, face to face with them, he experiences all of the moral obli-
gation which rests on Russia with respect to the Slavs. He has
given himself over ardently to this emotion."'46 In Vienna Kon-
stantin noted: "I often speak with Ivan about the Slavs. This leads
to very deep questions, but discussion of them is better postponed."
On September 12 he wrote from Prague that he agreed with Ivan
that the Austrian Slavs were not able to stand alone, but he himself
felt that Austria was hardly a tie any longer and that the whole
question of the Slavs was in Russia's hands.
Konstantin's impressions of Vienna were adverse, and the problem
of German versus Slav within the Habsburg empire exercised his
talents.
Vienna appeared to me an iniquity that cannot remain. Everything external
is to be met there, but this does not constitute a tie among these nationalities.
The confrontation of nationalities in Vienna is unjust and coercive. . The
dominance of the German element is perceived at every step, and it is unbear-
able. I felt this German yoke on myself in Austria. .. No, Austria and Slav-
dom cannot exist together. There can be no other conclusion: either the Slavs
must be Germanized-which I think is now impossible, for the idea and con-
sciousness of nationality are awake-or the rule of Austria over the Slavs must
fall. As the former, in my opinion, is impossible, the latter, though difficult, is
inevitable.

Konstantin agreed that his brother's observations on the Slavs
were correct. At the moment the Slavs were relying with all their
strength, or rather their weakness, on Austrian unity. Their error
was that under such rule their nationality could not survive as
such; it would be absorbed by the ruling race. But no matter how
timid the Austrian Slavs might be, or connected to the West by
historical tradition, the feeling of nationality was aroused and was
bound to win out. It was evident to Konstantin that the Slavs could
hardly free themselves from Austrian rule without the encourage-
ment of Russia. However, they had to free themselves first in
spirit, and this too was impossible without the aid of Russia, "of
our Moscow where there is being accomplished the greatest of
emancipations, that of the spirit. Enlightened Slavs themselves


88







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


may not see this and may be fond and proud of the German element,
but an inevitable consequence of their attitude is the acceptance of
German hegemony over the Slavs." If the Slavs persisted in fol-
lowing the Germans, they would always be beaten by the Germans.
This was, to Aksakov's mind, the key to the history of the Slavs.
Only one nation had not abandoned Slavic principles-Russia. It
alone was powerful, and to it belonged the future. The Germans
as well as all the West would be obliged to concede to it in all
matters. To be sure, these Slavic principles were so elevated, so
pure, and respired such freedom, that it was exceedingly difficult
to maintain them. Nevertheless, this was exactly what was neces-
sary for the Slav.
The German is something else. The German conquers half in sin and by all
manner of wrongdoing. He accomplishes many remarkable and even great
deeds. But not the Slav; he cannot conquer by sinning; he cannot perform
anything grandiose. The demands imposed upon him are incomparably more
elevated and difficult than those upon the Westerner. By abandoning his
principles and standing on the same level with the German, he immediately be-
comes lower than the German and weaker. So it should be.
In Prague Konstantin had a meeting with Palacky and Rieger,
both of whom, especially the former, spoke contemptuously of
Russia. Aksakov told the two Czechs that he had come to Prague
because in Russia little significance was generally attributed to
Slavic independence and because he wanted to know what the
Slavs were and what their uniqueness and qualities consisted of.
The role of the Slavic peoples could hardly be that of repeating the
Germans.
Rieger . said that the Czechs could manage better than the Germans. I
told him that was not comforting. What was Slavic about it? .. He spoke
of culture; an older culture inevitably overcomes a younger one. I attempted
to explain to him that older culture must be accepted as raw material to be
utilized. Let it equip new thought; let it be a subject for it, or critical con-
tent, but nothing more. I explained that independent activity presupposes new
thought and that my hope was that universal history would be understood and
written by the Slavs.... The bond of common Western enlightenment is strong
between the Czechs and Germans, but . it is pointless for the Czechs not
to draw on the Slavic spirit where it exists [sc. Russia]. They will not find it
in themselves through their own efforts."
Of all the early Slavophiles Aksakov was the most nationalist,
both in theory and by temperament, and it is possible that, had
he lived, he, like his brother, would have entered the Pan-Slav
movement. However, his illness finally overcame him and he
breathed his last on the island of Zante, where he was surrounded


89







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES


by his family during his last days. Meanwhile, Khomiakov had
died in the same year back in Russia. The proximate deaths of the
two Slavophiles were recorded by Herzen in The Bell in a famous
obituary that was his tribute to the challenging personalities of
his erstwhile antagonists:
It is painful for those who loved them to realize that these noble and indefati-
gable figures are no more, that these opponents, who were closer to us than
many adherents, are dead .. Yes, we were their opponents, but very strange
ones. We both had one love, but not in the same manner. In them and in us
there burned from childhood a single, strong, unconscious, physical, passionate,
feeling that they took to be memory-and we, prophecy; the feeling of un-
limited and all-embracing love for the Russian people, the Russian way of life,
the Russian mind. And like Janus, or the double-headed eagle, we faced in op-
posite directions while one heart beat within us.14

NOTES
1. V. Smirnov, Aksakovy, ikh zhizn i literaturnaia deiatelnost (St. Petersburg,
1895), 25.
2. Ivan Aksakov, "Ocherk semeinogo byta Aksakovykh," in Ivan Sergeevich
Aksakov v ego pismakh (Moscow and St. Petersburg, 1888-96), I, 9-21; other
biographical details are in Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, Russia and the West in the
Teaching of the Slavophiles (Cambridge, Mass., 1952), 49-52; S. Trubachev,
"Konstantin Sergeevich Aksakov," Russki biograficheski slovar (St. Petersburg,
1896), I, 100-103; S. A. Vengerov, Peredovoi boets slavianofilstva. Konstantin
Aksakov (St. Petersburg, 1912), 1-17; A. S. Pypin, "Konstantin Aksakov,"
Vestnik Evropy, XIX (Mar., Apr., 1884), 145-77, 589-618.
3. I. I. Panaev, Literaturnye vospominaniia (Leningrad, 1928), 243.
4. Alexander Herzen, Byloe i dumy (Leningrad, 1946), 226.
5. P. Sakulin, "Russkaia literature vo vtoroi chetverti veka," in Istoriia-Rossii v
XIX veka izd. Granat (St. Petersburg, 1907), II, 454.
6. Vospominanie studentstva 1832-1835 godov (St. Petersburg, 1911), 10.
7. Ovsyaniko-Kulikovski in Sakulin, op. cit., 460.
8. Op. cit., 17, 19.
9. K. Aksakov, op. cit., 19-20, 30; N. Stankevich, Perepiska, 1830-1840, ed.
Aleksei Stankevich (Moscow, 1914), 404; see also Martin Malia, Alexander
Herzen and the Birth of Russian Socialism 1812-1855 (Cambridge, Mass., 1961),
chap. 4.
10. V. I. Shenrok, "S. T. Aksakov i ego semia," Zhurnal ministerstva narod-
nogo prosveshcheniia, CCCLVI (Nov., 1904), 9; Malia, op. cit., chap. 3.
11. V. G. Belinski, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Moscow, 1953-56), I, 221;
the translations are in K. Aksakov, Sochineniia, ed. E. A. Liatski (Petrograd,
1915), 129-64.
12. Sochineniia, 165, 229-54; Stankevich, op. cit., 414. Enthusiasm for Hoff-
man was characteristic of the Stankevich circle; Belinski at one time placed
him higher than Schiller; see Pypin, op. cit., 166.
13. A. Osokina, "Belinski v neizdannoi perepiske sovremennikov, 1834-1848,"
Literaturnoe nasledstvo (V. G. Belinski, II), LVI (1950), 103; Belinski, op. cit.,
XI, 190.
14. Dmitri Chizhevski, Gegel v Rossii (Paris, 1939), 51-52; B. Hepner, Bakou-
nine et le panslavisme revolutionnaire (Paris, 1950), 99.


90







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


15. A. A. Kornilov, Molodye gody Mikhaila Bakunina (Moscow, 1915), 417;
Belinski, op. cit., XI, 236; Shenrok, op. cit., 2.
16. K. Aksakov, Poezdka v chuzhie krai, ed. A. A. Aleksandrov, in Bogo-
slovski vestnik, Sept., 1915, 9; the letters are in Bogoslovski vestnik, 1915-17,
and in Kosmopolis (1898), nos. 1-10.
17. Bogoslovski vestnik, Sept., 1915, 20.
18. Panaev, op. cit., 384-85.
19. Bogoslovski vestnik, Sept., 1915, 32.
20. Ibid., Mar.-Apr., 1916, 530. Aksakov's remarks call to mind, of course,
the phrases of Pushkin's To the Calumniators of Russia: "Leave off; this is a
quarrel of the Slavs among themselves, a domestic and ancient quarrel already
weighed by fate, an issue that you will not settle."
21. Bogoslovski vestnik, May, 1916, 120. Kucharzewski emphasizes Ak-
sakov's Polonophobia, Od bialego caratu do czerwonego (Warsaw, 1923), I,
277 ff.
22. Michel Bakunin, Lettres d Herzen et Ogareff, 1860-1874, ed. M. Dra-
gomanov (Paris, 1896), 259-61.
23. Bogoslovski vestnik, Mar.-Apr., 1916, 535; May, 1916, 99-100.
24. Ibid., May, 1916, 51; Apr.-May, 1917, 621, 639, 640.
25. Ibid., May, 1916, 112; also on this theme, N. Bitsyn, "Vospominaniia o
K. S. Aksakove," Russki arkhiv (1885), no. 3, 377-78.
26. Trudy vsesoiuznoi biblioteki im. Lenina, Sbornik IV (Moscow, 1939),
205.
27. Osokina, op. cit., 118-19, 125-26.
28. Belinski, op. cit., XI, 366, 373, 394-406, 464, 532-35. Of the long cor-
respondence between Aksakov and Belinski only eight letters of the latter have
been preserved, and a mere two by Aksakov. Belinski's are nos. 60, 65, 72,
117, 128, 131, 152, 157 in the recent collection of his letters (Moscow, 1956);
Aksakov's were first published, 1939, in Trudy vsesoiuznoi biblioteki im. Lenina,
Sbornik IV, 202-7.
29. Osokina, op. cit., 145.
30. Belinski, op. cit., XI, 619. There is some evidence that Belinski may
even have thought of winning Aksakov over to his side by inducing him to
write for Otechestvennye zapiski. On March 2, 1840, Panaev wrote to Aksa-
kov: "Kraevski is extremely glad that you have agreed to contribute to Ote-
chestvennye zapiski. .. Any article of yours will be included with pleasure.
. [It] will be for you what Nabliudatel was" (Trudy vsesoiuznoi biblioteki
im. Lenina, Sbornik IV, 212). Nothing came of this. Although Aksakov cer-
tainly did not identify himself with the official nationalism of Pogodin, the
orientation of the latter's journal made Aksakov's connection with the officially
countenanced Pogodin anathema in Belinski's eyes.
31. Ivan Sergeevich Aksakov v ego pismakh, I, 456-57.
32. V. N. Botkin, "Pisma," ed. I. Ismailov, Literaturnaia mysl, II (1923), 180;
letter of May 14, 1847, in P. V. Annenkov i ego druzia (St. Petersburg, 1892),
538.
33. Herzen, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow, 1954--), II, 373.
34. Belinski, op. cit., XII, 251, 457.
35. N. Barsukov, Zhizn i trudy M. P. Pogodina (St. Petersburg, 1888-1910),
V, 473-74; Dmitri Samarin, "Dannye dlia biografii Iu. F. Samarina za 1840-
1845 gg.," in Iu. F. Samarin, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow, 1877-1911), V,
xxxvi-xxxvii.
36. Introduction to Khomiakov's letters to Samarin in A. S. Khomiakov,
Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Moscow, 1900-1904), VIII, 235.


91







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES

37. Chizhevski, op. cit., 32-33; cf. A. Veselovski, Zapadnoe vlianie v novoi
russkoi literature, 2nd ed. (Moscow, 1896), 227-41.
38. Quoted by I. Aksakov in Khomiakov, op. cit., 238; Pavel Matveev,
"Turgenev i slavianofily," Russkaia starina, CXVIII (1904), 187.
39. Barsukov, op. cit., 474; B. N. Chicherin, Vospominaniia. Moskva soro-
kovykh godov (Moscow, 1929), II, 5-6; Herzen, Byloe i dumy, 295; N. Koliupa-
nov, Biografiia Aleksandra Ivanovicha Kosheleva (Moscow, 1889-92), II, 53;
V. Buslaev, "Vospominaniia," Vestnik Evropy, VI (1891), 295-96.
40. Chizhevski, op. cit., 167; quoted by I. Aksakov in Khomiakov, op. cit.,
287, 238.
41. B. Nolde, luri Samarin i ego vremia (Paris, 1926), 14.
42. I. Samarin, "Pisma 1840-1845," Russki arkhiv (1880), 274. Karolina
Pavlova was, in Mirsky's phrase, "the most interesting of the Russian 'blues'"
(A History of Russian Literature [New York, 1949], 122).
43. The evidence is abundant: Barsukov, op. cit., 477-83; Nolde, op. cit.,
15; I. Aksakov in Khomiakov, op. cit., 236; D. Samarin, op. cit., xxxvii.
44. I. Samarin, "Pisma 1840-1845," 254-61.
45. Sergei Aksakov, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow, 1955-56), III, 149-388
passim; N. V. Gogol, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Moscow and Leningrad,
1937-52), XI, 323-24, XII, 443-44.
46. Belinski, op. cit., XI, 435, 534.
47. Barsukov, op. cit., V, 507; VI, 61-62.
48. The review is in Vengerov, op. cit., 218-29.
49. Chizhevski, op. cit., 168, 113-14; Barsukov, op. cit., VI, 297; Belinski,
op. cit., VI, 253-60; Osokina, op. cit., 167-68; Botkin, op. cit., 182. Aksakov's
self-defense appeared in Moskovitianin and is in V. Zelinski, Russkaia kriti-
cheskaia literature o proizvedeniakh N. V. Gogolia (Moscow, 1903), II, 128-38;
Belinski answered with "Obiasnenie na obiasnenie po povodu poemy Gogolia
'Mertvye dushi, in op. cit., VI, 410-33.
50. Gogol, op. cit., XII, 125-26, 151, 186; S. Aksakov, op. cit., III, 257.
51. D. Samarin, op. cit., V, xli-lii; V. Zavitnevich, Aleksei Stepanovich
Khomiakov (Kiev, 1902), I, 1001-7; A. Gratieux, A. Khomiakov et le mouve-
ment slavophile (Paris, 1939), II, 154-64.
52. D. Samarin, op. cit., xlviii; I. Samarin, "Pisma 1840-1845," 281-82.
53. Sobranie sochinenii, II, 258, 311, 354.
54. I. Aksakov, "Pismo k izdateliu," Russki arkhiv (1873), II, 2523; Pypin,
"Konstantin Aksakov," 163.
55. "Pisma 1840-1845," 325-26.
56. Ivan Aksakov v ego pismakh, I, 96, 174, 209-10.
57. "Pismo k Gogoliu," Russkaia starina, LXIII (1889), 171-73.
58. Quoted in Barsukov, op. cit., XVII, 111.
59. Herzen, Sobranie sochinenii, II, 245; Ivan Aksakov v ego pismakh, I, 98.
60. Sobranie sochinenii, II, 379, 403; Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, ed. Lemke
(Petrograd, 1915-25), XI, 12; also Byloe i dumy, 391. Herzen's knowledge of
Aksakov was not extensive, and his characterizations, though telling, reflect
a lively literary imagination at work. Those who knew Aksakov intimately
or met him frequently-Belinski, Samarin, Gogol-left estimates which placed
greater emphasis than did Herzen on the unamiable aspects of his character.
61. P. V. Annenkov, Literaturnye vospominaniia, ed. B. M. Eikhenbaum
(Leningrad, 1928), 336; N. S. Derzhavin, "Gertsen i slavianofily," Istorik-
Marksist, 1939, no. 1, 136.
62. Byloe i dumy, 300. According to Pypin, Aksakov was one of the few
people of his generation sympathetic to both his own camp and others, and


92







KONSTANTIN AKSAKOV


the reason was not so much the content of his thought as the personal charac-
teristics of his activity and the fact that circumstances allowed him to remain
an idealist to the end (see "Konstantin Aksakov," 145-46, and Kharakteristiki
literaturnykh mnenii ot dvadtsatykh do piatidesiatykh godov, 2nd ed. [St. Peters-
burg, 1896], 344 ff.).
63. I. Aksakov, "Pismo k izdateliu," 2523; Barsukov, op. cit., V, 476, VII,
421-22; Chizhevski, op. cit., 166.
64. K. Aksakov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Moscow, 1861-80), II, 38-39.
65. Ibid., 57-81.
66. Ibid., 269-317.
67. Ibid., 25-27.
68. Ibid., 386.
69. Chizhevski, op. cit., 180.
70. N. L. Brodski, Rannie slavianofily (Moscow, 1910), 165-68.
71. Quoted in Boris Jakowenko, Geschichte des Hegelianismus in Russland
(Prague, 1938), 261-62.
72. Gogol, op. cit., VIII, 177-90; Herzen, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, III,
8-16; Belinski, op. cit., VIII, 519-53, 885-418; K. Aksakov, Sochineniia, 57-58.
73. Vengerov, op. cit., 99.
74. Sochineniia, 487.
75. Quoted in N. M. Pavlov, "Gogol i slavianofily," Russki arkhiv (1890), I,
157-58.
76. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, I, 598-605.
77. S. S. Dmitriev, "Russkaia obshchestvennost i semisotletie Moskvy, 1847
g.," Istoricheskie zapiski, XXXVI (1951), 236; Barsukov, op. cit., VIII, 511-12;
M. I. Sukhomlinov, Izsledovaniia i stati (St. Petersburg, 1889), II, 490; K.
Aksakov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, I, 600.
78. A. G. Dementev, Ocherki po istorii russkoi zhurnalistiki 1840-1850 godov
(Moscow, 1951), 344-45.
79. Moskovski literaturnyi i uchenyi sbornik na 1847 g. (Moscow, 1847),
14-44; see also N. Mordovchenko, "Belinski v borbe za naturalnuiu shkolu,"
Literaturnoe nasledstvo (V. G. Belinski, I), LV (1948), 208-10.
80. Henri Granjard, Ivan Tourguenev et les courants politiques et sociaux
de son temps (Paris, 1954), 135.
81. Moskovski sbornik na 1847 g., 3-14, 37-38.
82. Khomiakov, op. cit., VIII, 167-68.
83. Quoted in Pavlov, op. cit., 135-36; see also S. Durylin, "Gogol i Aksa-
kovy," in Zveniia (Moscow and Leningrad, 1934), III-IV, 325-64.
84. Belinski, op. cit., XII, 340; see also E. Lampert, Studies in Rebellion
(London, 1957), 95 ff.
85. K. Aksakov, "O sovremennom literaturnom spore," Rus, VII (1883), 20-26;
Mordovchenko, op. cit., 203-58; V. Evgeneev-Maksimov, Sovremennik v 40-50
gg. (Leningrad, 1934), passim; Belinski, op. cit., X, 7-50, 190-211, 221-69.
86. "O sovremennom literaturnom spore," 21-26.
87. "O sovremennom cheloveke," Rus, 1883, no. 8, 31-41, no. 12, 27-37,
no. 13, 18-32.
88. A. S. Nifontov, Russland im Jahre 1848 (Berlin, 1954), 168-75.
89. Khomiakov, op. cit., VIII, 272.
90. Ivan Aksakov v ego pismakh, II, 374.
91. Isaiah Berlin, "Russia and 1848," Slavonic and East European Review,
XXVI (April, 1948), 346; Sakulin, op. cit., 454.
92. Ivan Aksakov v ego pismakh, II, 303-5, xi., It is of interest that both
Ivan Aksakov and Samarin withdrew from Konstantin's personal influence and


93







TRIBUNE OF THE SLAVOPHILES

abstract theories when they took up the duties of official life. Their com-
ments on their former mentor's ivory tower are quite alike.
93. Sochineniia, 499-555.
94. Smirnov, op. cit., 50-51; Vengerov, op. cit., 111-13.
95. Smirnov, op. cit., 81.
96. Dementev, op. cit., 346; M. Lemke, Ocherki po istorii russkoi tsenzury
i zhurnalistiki XIX stoletiia (St. Petersburg, 1904), 284-86.
97. Quoted in Barsukov, op. cit., XII, 118.
98. Khomiakov, op. cit., VIII, 347.
99. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, I, 337-39.
100. "Aksakovy i tsenzura 1852 goda," Russkaia starina, CXXII (1905), 397,
403-4; details also in A. M. Skabichevski, Ocherki istorii russkoi tsenzury
1700-1863 (St. Petersburg, 1892), 367-68.
101. The statement apparently was made verbally to I. Aksakov.
102. P. A. Viazemski, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (St. Petersburg, 1882),
VII, 29; Ivan Aksakov v ego pismakh, III, vi; Vengerov, op. cit., 58-59.
103. Barsukov, op. cit., XII, 168, XIII, 243-44.
104. Granjard, op. cit., 190-99, 221-56.
105. L. N. Maikov (ed.), "Pisma S. T., K. S., i I. S. Aksakovykh k I. S.
Turgenevu (1851-1861)," Russkoe obozrenie, XXVIII (1894), 473-74.
106. V. A. Zelinski, "Perepiska I. S. Turgeneva s semioi Aksakovykh," in
Sobranie kriticheskikh materiialov dlia izuchenii proizvedenii I. S. Turgeneva,
4th ed. (Moscow, 1905), II, part 2, 400.
107. Turgenev, Sobranie sochinenii (Moscow, 1949), XI, 99-100. It is of
interest that Turgenev's and Aksakov's childhood memories of the operations
of the serf system on their respective parental estates were perhaps the seed-
bed for their differing reactions to the old order.
108. Maikov, op. cit., XXIX, 29-30; Turgenev, op. cit., XI, 110.
109. Maikov, op. cit., XXVIII, 486-87, XXIX, 484-87.
110. V. Aksakova, Dnevnik 1854-1855 (St. Petersburg, 1913), 41.
111. Turgenev, op. cit., 139; Maikov, op. cit., XXX, 586-88.
112. Maikov, op. cit., XXVIII, 477; Granjard, op. cit., 223.
113. V. Aksakova, op. cit., 8, 49; S. Nikitin, "Vozniknovenie Moskovskogo
slavianskogo komiteta," Voprosy istorii, VIII (August, 1947), 60; Ivan Aksakov
v ego pismakh, III, 496.
114. V. Aksakova, op. cit., 67, 130-31.
115. Barsukov, op. cit., XIV, 16-17, 440, 538; Ivan Aksakov v ego pismakh,
III, 215; N. Druzhinin, "Moskva v gody Krymskoi voiny," Vestnik Akademii
nauk SSSR, VI (1947), 53-54; "Zastolnoe slovo na obede dannom v Moskve
Grafu D. E. Sakenu," Russki arkhiv, 1902, no. 5, 119-20.
116. Barsukov, op. cit., XIV, 320; Dementev, op. cit., 359.
117. Vengerov, op. cit., 126.
118. Russkaia beseda, 1857, V, Obozrenie, 15, 27, 29-30, 36.
119. These pieces are in Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, I; parenthetical citations
in the text are to page numbers.
120. Cf. Ivan Aksakov v ego pismakh, I, 21.
121. Sergei Solovev, Moi zapiski dlia detei moikh, a esli mozhno, i dlia
drugikh (St. Petersburg, 19[?]), 105-6, 109-10.
122. N. L. Rubinstein, Russkaia istoriografiia (Moscow, 1941), 292-301, 312-
42; N. Rubinstein, "Istoricheskaia teoriia slavianofilov i ee klassovye korni,"
in Trudy institute krasnoi professury. Russkaia istoricheskaia literature v
klassovom osveshchenii. Sbornik state, ed. M. Pokrovski (Moscow, 1927), I,
53-118; Klaus-Detlev Grothusen, "S. M. Solovevs Stellung in der russischen


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