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The awakening of the Slavic nations

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The first ideas about the future of the Slavic nations can be found in the work of the German philosopher Herder (1744-1803). He considered the Slavs as the youthful carriers of a global culture of the future, in which they would realise the ideal of the highest humanity. His thoughts strongly contributed to the awakening of the national consciousness of the different Slavic nations in the 19th century. This was focused on their language and culture, not on political notions of national independence.


In Russia this awakening give rise to the move ment of the Slavophils. In Poland Slavophil ideas led to a Messianic ideology (the suffering country Poland as the Messiah among the nations). It was ardently Polish, catholic and anti-Russian, and aimed at the creation of a Christian civilization. Also among the Czech, Slovaks, Croatians, Serbs and Bulgarians, who were living in the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, a new interest in the preservation of their national culture and language emerged. Polish writers (Józef Maria Hoene-Wronski, Zygmunt Krasiński and Adam Mickiewicz), Czech writers (Josef Dobrovský) and Slovak writers (Ján Kollár and Ľudevít Štúr) repeated Herder’s claims that the Slavs, because of their national qualities, are called upon to create a better world of freedom and peace. A similar Messianism was expressed by the Russian writer Feodor Dostoevsky. His views on the role of Russia as the saviour of European culture (Russia would reconcile the nations of Europe) were rooted in the belief held within the Orthodox Church that only Eastern Christianity had remained pure.


A shift to Slavic political nationalism took place in the second half of the 19th century, first of all in Russia. The ideology of panslavism (a movement based on the idea of Slavic unity) was used to justify the imperialist policies of the Russian government to bring all Slavic nations under its control. In the other countries this shift led in the second half of the 19th century to movements of national liberation and in the early 20th century to the formation of national states.


A return to the spiritual dimensions of the Slavic movement can be found in the work of the Russian spiritual philosopher Vladimir Soloviev. In his essay on the Russian Idea (1888) he spoke of the mission of Russia to create a universal Church, not in the sense of an institution but as a community living out of Christian ideals. The Russian nation carries within its soul an image of Christ, he said, but before it can fulfil its mission it has to experience a moral rebirth.


Without having read the work of Soloviev and being directly inspired by the spiritual world, Peter Deunov set himself to the task to work for the spiritual regeneration of the Bulgarian people and for the preparation of the coming Slavic culture. To his pupils he offered the vision of a Slavic Messianism. He had to work with them for the transformation of a nation of disharmonious souls into the vanguard of a new culture, in which the Kingdom of God will be established.


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