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Héritages de Byzance en Europe du Sud-Est à l’époque moderne et contemporaine

Olivier Delouis
Anne Couderc
Petre Guran

From the Vyzantism of K. Leont’ev to the Vyzantinism of I. I. Sokolov: The Byzantine Orthodox East as a Motif of Russian Orientalism

Dimitrios Stamatopoulos


This article attempts to explore the manner in which Russian intellectuals, such as Konstantin Leont’ev and I. I. Sokolov (late 19th-early 20th century), ideologically managed the problem of the Byzantine past, participating in the development of a model of religious ecumenism which met with a considerable response among representatives of the Balkan intelligentsia. This model had a catalytic effect on the reorganization of relations between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Slavic world, through the adoption of a Pan-Orthodox perspective that drew its ideological legitimacy from appeals to the Byzantine imperial past, immediately following Patriarchate’s harsh confrontation with the supporters of the Bulgarian Exarchate. The discourse about an Orthodox East rested on invocations of an Orthodox oikoumene, preparing the political leadership of the Russophile circle in the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the early 20th century. The line separating the stable reference to Byzantium as a sublime cultural formation from its usage as a political metonymy for the legitimization of the tsarist monarchy, was very thin indeed, and for this reason all the more significant.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Toynbee Arnold Joseph, A Study of History, vol. I- [X], abridgment by Somervell D. C., New York-Lon (...)
  • 2 For the reactions to Toynbee’s undertaking, see indicatively Stammler Heinrich, “Russia between Byz (...)

1Even in the era when Arnold Toynbee in A Study of History1 was endeavouring to interpret the distinctive nature of Russia and its Communist evolution on the basis of its relationship to the Byzantine cultural heritage (and thus, Orthodox Christianity), it was understood that this discussion contained a significant dose of historical fiction connected with the then-prevailing conditions of the Cold War.2 When Samuel Huntington revived this theoretical framework during the 1990s, there was an opportunity to exercise a renewed critique based on the theoretical discussion of Orientalism. Indeed, the correlation between civilization/culture and religion, and specifically the claim that religion lay at the core of the cultural formation, was problematic. Nonetheless, the correlation between the Byzantine (Orthodox) cultural heritage and the distinctive character of Russia was one of the basic motifs of the Russian intelligentsia, particularly in the 19th century. Here we endeavour to present the Orientalist presuppositions of one such undertaking, comparing two writers of the age: Konstantine Leont’ev (1831-1891) and Ivan Ivanovič Sokolov (1865-1939), both with each other and with representatives of the controversy between Slavophiles and Europeanists, including Danilevsky and Solov’ev. This discourse on Byzantium, which took place before Russia’s distinctive mysticism was “proved” by the Western Orientalists, was a useful tool for the invention of the “Kath’imas Anatoli”, not so much for the sake of Russian foreign policy as for that of Russian cultural influence in the greater region of Eastern and Southeastern Europe. And because we maintain that this has to do with the emergence and instituting of a type of Russian Orientalism, we present here a critical retrospective survey of the broader discussion on Orientalism, particularly as it concerned the relation between nationalist movements and empires.

  • 3 Said Edward W., Orientalism, New York, 1978.
  • 4 Wolff Larry, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, St (...)
  • 5 Todorova Maria, Imagining the Balkans, New York, 1997.
  • 6 In contrast, the problem looms larger with the choices made by the “solipsists” (as Todorova named (...)

2Thirty years ago, Edward Said’s analysis of Western cultural dominance3 effected a dramatic change in the way we understand the theoretical bipolar relationship between West and East. This was primarily because it showed how whatever might be considered “the East” tended to be the negative counter-example to the formation process of the Western subject as rational, instrumentalist, and scientifically oriented, as opposed to the continuous threat of deviation towards the metaphysical, the irrational, and mysticism (represented by the East). This is also why critiques of the Saidist model which essentially highlight the internal differentiations and diverging multiplicity of what constitutes “the East”, are the only response to the problem of its concretization. Recalling the particular nature of Eastern Europe,4 the Balkans,5 and even of Africa or Latin America in connection with the Islamic (Middle) East, or insisting on the role played by “natives” in constructing the image of the East (which Said himself did) serves only to confirm the suspicion that necessarily distinguishes the Western critique of the totalizing interpretative frameworks established in the past by Western scholarship.6

  • 7 One could consider the same problem in relation to the classic distinction first attempted by Kohn (...)
  • 8 The need to detach the definition of the nation from “civilization” has been understood by many int (...)

3On the other hand, in contemporary discussion, the choice to converse on the basis of the bipolar scheme of “Orientalism-Occidentalism” necessarily involves the old theoretical bipolar scheme of “territorial nationalism-ethnic nationalism”.7 As regards the second term in each pair, one may reasonably surmise that whatever had been described as “Romantic nationalism” in the 19th century fell under the broader model of Occidentalism, through the opposition of the ecumenical values that have purportedly always characterized Western civilization and the paradoxical “characteristics” (and consequently, the distorted perception of what the West is) that have always characterized the “nation”.8

4Naturally, representatives of nationalist movements in the East and in Southeastern Europe often relied on Orientalist schemes or opposed them by producing Occidentalist tendencies. Orientalism frequently slipped into nationalist discourse in the 19th century, since one of its basic motifs was the recognition of the nation (the ethnos) by the West. In the Balkans in particular, the issue of distancing itself from what was signified by the East, as well as the anti-Western movement that normally followed the epic moment of initial formation of the state, normally served as the passport for inclusion among the body of “civilized nations” and was an item on the agenda of the nation’s intellectuals. Consequently, the appearance of these two ideological processes was not simply a matter of temporal coincidence: it would appear that the two operated in complementary fashion as regards whether the East would comprise the vital space, the field where Western domination would manifest itself.

  • 9 The distinctive approach of Todorova to the Balkans in comparison to the Saidian model is largely b (...)
  • 10 Such instrumentalist use of religion does not occur only in times of crisis (see e.g. the issue of (...)

5Another advantage of the combinatory perspective provided by discussion of empires concerns the key issue of religion.9 One of the classic Orientalist motifs is that of religion as one of the absolute criteria that distinguishes the West from other regions in the world; even today, this criterion continues to generate Neo-Orientalist discourse. Huntington’s approach, i.e. understanding the phenomenon of civilization as a product of a cultural code composed by religion per se, is only one version (although the best known) of this Neo-Orientalism in our own day. The motif of distinguishing Western Christianity (in both its Catholic and Protestant versions) from the religions of the “intermediate region” (Orthodox Christianity and Islam) was the cornerstone supporting the assumption of difference between West and East and the former’s superiority over the latter. However, the issue that should interest us is not so much why the “West” and its Orientalists chose to use the criterion of religion as their indicator of cultural superiority, but why representatives of the “East” responded in precisely the same terms. Of course, here a nation’s distinctiveness and its defence against external threats, chiefly those of cultural alienation, seem to be the most appropriate answer. However, the instrumental use of religion by nationalism, and its appropriation by national narratives, does not refute the fact that empires, especially those tracing their existence back to a heritage from the Roman state, put religion at the centre of their ideological mechanisms for assimilating multilingual, multinational, and multiracial populations.10

  • 11 Here of course we have the question of whether the old (continental) empires of the East encountere (...)

6 This is a point where it would be well to pause: the appearance of various versions of imperial nationalism (a concept we owe to Hans Kohn, describingthe ideological movement of Panslavism) in the empires of the East, at precisely the period when Renan, Lane, and Sacy were creating (according to Said) the prevailing Orientalist model, is by no means accidental. The empires of the East responded not only by adopting processes ofmodernization (or better, “Westernization”11), but also by trying to recreate their legitimate authority on the basis of the only supranational factor that continued to affect large numbers of people. More precisely the empire adopted versions of imperial nationalism in consideration of its ecumenicalism. Of course, this was not a medieval style of ecumenicalism, where religious identity could once again emerge as predominant, but a discourse of modernity in which religious identity was called upon to overcome the splintering of the world into nations through ecumenicity’s invocation. That is, while in the West empires became increasingly identified with the nation via a transitional form of the absolutist state, simultaneously becoming reconciled with the idea of dominance as colonial nations, in the East empires viewed the nation as a necessary evil. However, the problem confronting the East was not merely that of redefining the relationship between ethnos and empire; rather it was an accommodation in which the role of religion was critical. It is important to explore these two opposing perspectives on the issue of religion from the standpoints of both West and East.

7Religion thus helped redefine relations between East and West precisely because it was the liminal point of passage from empire to nation state. This is why both sides made ideological use of religion: the particular approach reserved by intellectuals of the West for dealing with Orthodoxy and Islam in particular has its exact correspondent in their defence by intellectuals of the “East” as an element of their cultural uniqueness. Regardless of whether we consider this as an expression of Occidentalist approaches, a traumatically employed instance of “Westernization”, what is important is that historically, it occurred during a period when modern and traditional empires coexisted in Europe, and just as the absolute nature of the distinction between territorial and ethnic nationalism was called into question (in fact, even forms of nationalism developed motifs that combined elements from the territorial as well as the ethnic models), so we should confront the complex nature of the 19th century, when representatives of old and new “empires” were giving the illusion of defending “civilization” by appealing to religion.

8However it happened religion became the common locus for both those who were shaping and those who were opposing Orientalist models.

  • 12 See Paul Bushkovitch’s review of the volume by Sinitsyna Nina V., Третий Рим. Истоки и эволюция рус (...)
  • 13 Khalid Adeeb (n. 9).
  • 14 Bakić-Hayden Milica (n. 9), p. 920.

9 It is therefore no accident that the invocation of Byzantium in discussions among Slavophiles and Europeanists in Russia went hand in hand with laying the foundations for the theory concerning the Third Rome throughout the 19th century.12 It is certain that in 19th-century Russia there was an Orientalist discourse concerning the state’s incorporation of Central Asia.13 In one sense, this could be viewed as a type of “nested Orientalism”:14 the invention by the Russian intelligentsia of its own “East” whose modernization it would undertake as a Western power, had not the discussion in Russia led to the preeminent cultural paradigm that it represented a synthesis of West and East. It was precisely this familiarization with the idea of the East that gave birth to the need to invent “Our (version of the) East”, in which Russia would occupy pride of place as the Third – and probably final – Rome. This marks an essential difference from the case of Central Asia, quite apart from the fact that this (version of the) East was situated, not east of Moscow, but along an axis linking St. Petersburg with Jerusalem: an “East” in the South!

10This Orthodox East could not be civilized by those whom it necessarily considered its cultural heirs. Perhaps, then, it needed to be liberated (e.g. from the Ottoman yoke). Was this discourse concerning “Our East” a revival of Russia’s interest in the Balkans at the geopolitical level? Probably it was quite the opposite: we might note that this “Orientalist” model began to take shape and move towards its apogee from the 1860s onward (especially following the Eastern Crisis) until Russia entered WWI, during the period when Russia was turning its sights on Asia and the route to the Pacific. While individuals connected with the Palestinian Society, Th. Uspensky for example, should be considered the protagonists of this move, the following focuses chiefly on comparing the views of two intellectuals who marked the outset and conclusion of this period. While they were discussing the same subject – the Byzantine heritage in Russia’s cultural life – they were not similarly received by Russian society, due to the different circumstances of their development of the Orientalist motif. While Konstantin Leont’ev was largely viewed as a quaint case of an intellectual with mystical predispositions who worshipped Byzantium, I. I. Sokolov was the holder of university chairs and enjoyed social prestige, at least until the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia.

  • 15 Born in 1831 in Kudinovo in the district of Meshchovskii, province of Kaluga, he was the son of Nik (...)

11 In Moscow in 1875, Konstantin Leont’ev,15 a former Russian diplomat who had served in the consulates of many cities of the Ottoman Empire, published an article which came to be known as “Vyzantinism and Slavism”. The article was conceived during the period immediately preceding 1875, while Leont’ev was active in Constantinople.

  • 16 Nelson Dale Lawrence (supra), p. 67 ff.

12In July 1871, Leont’ev was on track for a brilliant diplomatic career (his next posting was to be as Consul-General in Bohemia), and had already won the trust of Ignat’ev, Stremuchov, and even Gorchakov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when an event occurred which would indelibly mark his life, especially his spiritual life. He fell ill with cholera, but was unexpectedly saved by an occurrence which he considered a miracle: he saw an icon of the Virgin brought to Thessaloniki by monks from Mount Athos, and vowed to become a monk if the illness receded. Leont’ev did recover, and his visit to Mount Athos, where he remained until August 1872, contributed to his spiritual transformation. At Mount Athos he wished to fulfill his vow by donning the monk’s cowl, but was dissuaded by his confessors.16

13His conversion to Orthodox Christianity was a turning point in his spiritual development, and would be combined with a particular stance toward political events in the Ottoman Empire, especially certain aspects of the Greco-Bulgarian dispute.

  • 17 The text was published for first time as: “Чтения в Императорском Обществе истории и древностей рос (...)

14Immediately after this adventure, in December 1872, Leont’ev moved to Constantinople, where he remained until 1874. His time in Constantinople coincided with a period of intense political developments (Leont’ev lived through the intensity of the post-Schism years, as well as a change of Patriarch: from the pro-Western Anthimus VI to the Russophile Joachim II) and it was perhaps his most productive period in terms of his political writings. In his article “Vyzantism and Slavism”17 he clarified his politico-ideological perspective:

  • 18 Ibid., p. 94.

“What is Vyzantism? Vyzantism is above all a special type of instruction (education or training, образованность) or culture, which has its own discrete features, as well as comprehensive, clear, and strict principles, and its own repercussions through history. Slavism, when understood in its totality, remains a Sphinx, a riddle. The distant idea of Vyzantism is exceptionally clear and comprehensible. This general idea consists of a few other particular ideas: religious, national, ethical, philosophical and esthetic. Nothing of the sort can be found throughout Slavism. When we bring to mind Panslavism, we have only an amorphous, spontaneous, and disorganized image, like a large, distant cloud, which resembles different objects depending on its distance from the beholder. But when we bring to mind Vyzantism, we have a clear image of a large, roomy structure. We know, for instance, that to the state Vyzantism means totalitarianism (самодержавие). In religion, it means Christianity with specific characteristics, which distinguish it from the Western Church or the various heretical sects… ”18

  • 19 Oddly enough, this would make him eclectic even towards the ideas of Western liberal intellectuals, (...)
  • 20 In an especially important fragment that attracted the attention of Berdyaev Nikolai ( [n. 15], p.  (...)

15In the Greco-Bulgarian dispute, Leont’ev sided with the Greeks rather than the Bulgarians, defending Orthodox ecumenicalist positions against “ethnophyletism”/ nationalism as a Western-oriented ideology. For the first time expressed quite acerbically his disagreement with the fundamental positions of Panslavist theorists. None of the fundamental features of the modern nation-state seem to have moved Leont’ev: neither blood ( “all great nations are of mixed blood”) nor language ( “language is a thing unto itself; the language of the streets is primarily the expression of ideas and emotions much closer to us”) nor even the principles of liberal democracy. Praising the monarchy and defending not so much the privileges as the culture of the aristocracy, he arrived at an anti-Western discourse, and above all an indictment of political liberalism.19 Leont’ev’s critiques aimed at liberal ideology, as well as its counterpart, the ideal of social egalitarianism around which the sociopolitical movements of the 19th century revolved. His anti-bourgeois sentiments lay at the heart of the comprehensive criticism, esthetic, political, and social, which he directed against the axiomatic example of the West :20

“The equality of persons, the equality of classes, the equality (and also the monotony) of provinces, the equality of nations – all these comprise a single process: at heart, absolutely identical ecumenical equality, ecumenical freedom, ecumenical common good, ecumenical anarchy, or ecumenical worldwide tedium. The idea of nations in the form of racial purity, which appeared in the 19th century, is an idea which is indeed absolutely cosmopolitan, anti-statist, anti-religious, and has, in itself, a particularly destructive force […] Individualism destroys the individualism of a people, of provinces, of nations.”

16He continued somewhat prophetically:

  • 21 Leont’ev Konstantin, Восток (n. 17), p. 108.

“France destroyed herself with the principle [of nations]. Let us wait and see what happens with Germany.”21

17Recall that Leont’ev wrote these words against the background of Prussia’s victory in the war of 1871 and subsequent German unification. However, for a devotee of religious ecumenicalism, the end of this story would have been certain.

18Leont’ev’s disdain for bourgeois visions of progress led logically to his search for a reconstitution of historic time along a different axiomatic model: this he found in Byzantium. The model of the Orthodox Roman Empire served the beneficial function of deflecting Western penetration into Russia and provided a model for coexistence among the Orthodox peoples of the Ottoman Empire (in which the Ottoman need not necessarily remain the master). This was sufficient reason, in his opinion, to support the defenders of Orthodox ecumenicalism.

19In fact, when commenting on the future of the various European monarchies should they adopt a constitution and undergo liberalization (naturally, he was pessimistic about the final result), he examined the Ottoman Empire, making a prediction that might have served as a prophetic legitimization of the Hamidian regime: the Empire’s end would be a foregone conclusion should it endeavour to impose constitutional limitations on the sultan’s despotism:

  • 22 Ibid., p. 143-144.

“If we give [the Empire] yet another parliament, as the English desire, it would make the influence of Russia and Count Ignat’ev even more overbearing on the absolutist sultan, and, as we would be adding liberal confusion to egalitarianist weakness, Turkey would not be able to stand for more than a few years.”22

20 It is impressive that Leont’ev, at the height of the Tanzimat reforms (just after the Bulgarians achieved their “national” aim of recognition for their independent Church, and just before Midhat Paşa announced an Ottoman constitution) offered the unifying model for the convergence of the two absolutist states into one model of religious ecumenicalism. His insistence on the role of religion, and his defence of imperial absolutism, seemed to bring the two supposed historic enemies much closer to each other than either to its subjects (in the case of the Ottomans) or its protectees (in the case of the Russians). Oddly enough, the “fusion” of values that Leont’ev believed concerned the ultimate decadent phase of bourgeois civilization (every civilization conceived as an “organic whole”) occurred in the production of imperialist discourses by representatives of the dinosaurs of history.

21In which direction was Leont’ev’s theoretical approach to the internal political discussion unfolding in contemporary Russia heading? A few years later, in 1888, Vladimir Solov’ev, once a leading member of the Panslavist circle who had by this point distanced himself from the group, published a critique in the journal Vestnika Evropi of the views expressed by Nikolay Y. Danilevsky, another major member of the same circle, regarding Russia’s relations with the West. Danilevsky, who had died in 1885, had presented in his celebrated work Russia and Europe (1869) a classification of civilizations, in opposition to the Darwinian theory of evolution. He opined that there had been ten basic politico-historic types: 1) the Egyptian, 2) the Chinese, 3) the Chaldaean (Assyro-Babylonian, Phoenician), 4) the Indian, 5) the Persian, 6) the Hebrew, 7) the Hellenic, 8) the Roman, 9) the Neosemitic (i.e. Arabs and Muslims), and finally 10) the Neogermanic (i.e. Europeans). It was the last that clashed with Slav civilization, in whose unification Russia needed to play a leading role. The Slavic world could contribute to the creation of a new politico-historic type, and constitute an alternative to the dominance of Western Europe, before the civilizations of China or India seized the opportunity to assert their own dominance. Danilevsky considered Russia to be the ideal fusion of Orient and Occident (the idea of Russia as a cultural crossroads) possessing an advantage when confronting the West. Danilevsky’s hostility to the evolutionary type supposedly represented by the West throughout its historic development stemmed from his adoption of a cyclical view of history, combined with an evolutionary teleology: an organic understanding of the “evolution” of civilizations.

  • 23 On this issue, see among others MacMaster Robert E., “Danilevsky and Spengler: A New Interpretation (...)

22It is probably superfluous to comment on how much is owed to Danilevsky’ scheme by the particular type of history of civilizations developed in the works of Oswald Spengler (Der Untergang des Abendlandes)23 and Arnold Toynbee (A Study of History). It is also easy to understand why the questioning of the scheme of linear evolution by a representative of imperial nationalism in the East was welcomed by conservative circles in the Weimar Republic and the waning British Empire during the interwar period.

  • 24 However, more likely decisive for the development of Huntington’s theory was the concept of “Kultur (...)

23 More interesting is the fact that Danilevsky’s theoretical model would finally end in the theory of conflict of civilizations developed by S. Huntington in the early 1990s.24 In Danilevsky’s model, the role of religion was decisive for the formation of cultural-historical types. Thus, Slavic reunification (with the more distant dream of forming an empire with its seat in Constantinople) would occur with Orthodoxy as its main motive force, in juxtaposition to whatever Western Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant) represented.

24Vladimir Solov’ev held similar opinions at the beginning of his intellectual career, but eventually distanced himself from them. In his aforementioned article in Vestnika Evropi, he supported the unification of the two main Christian Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, in lieu of a confrontation with the whole Western world. The ecumenicalism of Christianity must rediscover its lost meaning, and this could not happen unless Russia regained its place as the leading centre of that religion. Reunification had an eschatological element: the great battle between Christians would inevitably lead to the ascendancy of the Antichrist, the continuing expansion of atheism, and the obliteration of cultural utilitarianism. The reappropriation of the West by Russia was an alternative model to that of the Panslavists, who understood the relationship between the two as exclusively antagonistic. Thus, rather than claiming to be a dialectical fusion of Occident and Orient, Russia would now have to acknowledge the overarching ecumenical mission which history intended for her: the reunification of the fractured Christian (not merely Orthodox) oikoumene.

25Konstantin Leont’ev criticized both these versions. He challenged Solov’ev’s solution on the ground that the West had followed the path of inevitable decline. What was the cause of this decadence? The prevalence of egalitarianism (and hence of uniformity) and utilitarianism as the dominant ideological trends which had arisen especially after the French Revolution. Leont’ev, an ideological proponent of the Russian aristocracy, and particularly of the institution of monarchy, believed that the danger from the West lay in the terms of its own self-identification. Interestingly, the Russian East now answered this attempt to export, not “democracy” of course, but “constitutionalism”, with exactly the same goal as the expanding, colonialist West: to secure the power of its state.

26 At the same time, Leont’ev especially appreciated that Solov’ev’s proposal was based on a fundamental defence of metaphysics. For Leont’ev, metaphysics in all its forms, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or even spiritualist, was clearly preferable to the heartless utilitarianism of the Western world.

27On the other hand, Leont’ev, who adopted the model of the history of civilizations wholesale, criticized Danilevsky for omitting Byzantium from his politico-historical types. For him, Byzantium was a constant metonymic reference to the institution of monarchy. This was precisely his objection to Solov’ev’s analysis: rather than viewing Russia as the chief successor of the great legacy of Byzantium (an updated version of the Third Rome theory), a position which would charge her with defending of the Orthodox Ecumen against the West, Solov’ev proposed something else entirely. For Solov’ev, Russia’s historic mission was to be the mechanism for unifying the two Churches, thereby healing the rift between East and West.

28The discourse among these three intellectuals, in the wake of the discussion between the pro-Western and Slavophile factions, served as a forum in which all possible solutions to Russia’s relations with the West were proposed: all possible solutions, because all three Romes were used as models: First, Second, and Third.

29Through the unifying character of Christianity, Solov’ev would propose the reconstitution of the First Rome, undoing the schism between East and West and healing the historic wounds of unified Christianity. The Pope and the Czar would be the axes of this historic compromise. Leont’ev, remaining faithful to the ideas of the Second Rome, challenged the arguments and the goals of the Panslavists, believing that they cut Russia off from its Byzantine legacy. Danilevsky chose the solution of resurrecting the Third Rome, which would be not only the seat of a great Orthodox emperor, but also the centre of a new civilization, the Slavic one, which would replace the dominance of Neogermanic (European) civilization. However, the approaches of Leont’ev and Danilevksy could be considered as alternative versions of the same ideological trend. The Second Rome here functions as a metonymical reference to the Third. Lastly, in all three cases the role of religion was definitive in formulating the argument. However, in Solov’ev’s case the schism between East and West was seen as traumatic, whereas in the eyes of Danilevsky and Leont’ev it becomes the starting point for a journey of self-definition.

  • 25 Lieven Dominic (n. 11).

30Solving the problem of the East-West relationship was central in the discussions among the Russian intelligentsia in the late 19th century. Dominic Lieven’s realization of the hybrid nature of the Russian empire (traditional structures combined with an “internal” colonization process) may be a satisfactory interpretation of Russia’s dilemma about which Rome it should adopt as its model.25

31 Religion provided the transcendent element for the internal unification of West and East. In reality, both “West” and “East” could only be defined on the basis of some “religious” or generally “ideological” transcendence. In the case of Russia, this transcendence was necessary, because the problem was not merely how to manage its relations with the West, but also its internal divisiveness, as intensely experienced during the reforms by Peter the Great.

  • 26 In 1904, Sokolov published his doctoral dissertation on the history of the Patriarchate of Constant (...)

32Many years later, in the early 20th century, a young intellectual, Ivan Ivanovich Sokolov, then a professor of the history of the Eastern Greek Church at the University of Saint Petersburg, returned to the question of interpreting the Byzantine past.26 In an article entitled “Byzantinism in ecclesiastic-historical relations” published in 1903 (the year he became a professor), Sokolov approached this issue from a different perspective.

  • 27 Sokolov Ivan I., О византинизме в церковно-историческом отношении: вступительная лекция по кафедре (...)

33In contrast to Leont’ev, who developed an anti-Western argument for promoting Byzantium, Sokolov contributed to a broader scholarly and historiographic movement in the West with the same aim. Byzantium was promoted less on theoretical than on “scholarly/scientific” grounds. The concept of Byzantinism was for Sokolov more a “scholarly/scientific term” whose essence needed to be uncovered in the peculiar relations between Church and State, as these crystallized in the Eastern Roman Empire. Sokolov’s definition, then, is a departure from the historic-cultural view of the phenomenon adopted by Leont’ev. Apart from the obvious displacement of the point of view from an ideological (and therefore subjective) one, we are also transitioning to another perspective which asserts the objectivity of scientific analysis. Sokolov’s Byzantinism is something that concerns Byzantium as history, whereas Leont’ev’s Byzantium is something that concerns Russia (and the West) as a living cultural heritage.27

34Sokolov’s claim that his definition of Byzantinism had the credibility of scholarship should not be taken to mean that he was not party to an Orientalist construction of the East: quite the contrary. Byzantium continued, even in its “scholarly/scientific” use by Sokolov, to function metonymically. Instead of being a defence of monarchy, it is used to defend a specific model for the relations between church and state: the solidarity model, which places the political and the religious on an equal footing. This equality could only be asserted in an imperial environment. Oddly enough, at the start of the 20th century attempts would be made to apply this model in both the Russian and the Ottoman empires.

35There are other noteworthy passages in Sokolov’s articles. The transfer of the Roman capital from Rome to Constantinople was for Sokolov the first expression of the superiority of Hellenic to Roman culture, of East over West. The Christianized Hellenic Eastern world became the foundation of this Byzantine culture. What began in the reign of Constantine the Great was completed in the age of Justinian, especially from a legal point of view.

36According to Sokolov, however, Slavic influences also played a large role in the development of Byzantium: in contrast to Leont’ev, who defined the relationship between the Byzantine and Russianworlds as a case of one inheriting the cultural legacy of the other, Sokolov believed that the Slavs contributed to the creation of what he termed “Byzantinism”. Although the Slavic element acted against the empire, the latter nevertheless managed to progressively absorb the Slavs into its administrative system and army. However, the long-term interaction between Greeks and Slavs led to the incorporation of elements of Slavic culture into Byzantinism: for Sokolov, the Agricultural Law of Leo III (717-741) was a result of this process. The influence of the Slavic (as well as the Wallachian) element continued active at the height of Byzantinism, during the Macedonian dynasty. Here Sokolov adopts a theoretical approach to the phenomenon of Byzantinism that is similar to Leont’ev’s: he sees it as an organic collectivity, a living organism whose members constitute a unified whole. The various ethnic elements (Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Armenians, Georgians, Illyrians, even the residues of earlier Thracian tribes) all contributed to the creation of this cultural entity by submitting to the Roman or Byzantine nature of the state. This does not mean that there were no clashes among them; quite the contrary. Only this, according to Sokolov, can explain the frequent alternation of dynasties. Yet there was also a unifying principle to which everyone subscribed: the defence of Orthodox Christian doctrines. After all, what distinguished the West from the East was the latter’s strict devotion to the Orthodox ecclesiastical tradition.

37But whereas for Leont’ev the decline of the organic whole was a result of an internal “simplification” process, Sokolov saw it as a product of external interference: the Byzantinism that reached its peak with the Macedonian dynasty began to decline with the Latin conquest of Constantinople. The process of decline began in 1204 and was completed in 1453, but only concerned the political aspect of Byzantinism ( “civil Byzantinism”). By contrast, the religious aspect continued to flourish, and remained creative. The Church rose not only to be the successor of Byzantium’s cultural heritage, but also to be the field where the organic whole which had reached its apex in earlier periods would manage to reproduce. The Church would transmit some of the basic principles of Byzantinism, political and ecclesiastic, to Modern Hellenism.

38 Sokolov opposed the opinions of contemporary Western writers, who classified Byzantium as a Caesaro-Papist state (in terms of the relations it exhibited between Church and State), asserting that this was a fallacious theoretical approach. The dominant model for the relations between political and religious authority was formulated in the Epanagogē, dating from the time of the founder of the Macedonian dynasty, Basil I, and Patriarch Photius. The Epanagogē established a model for the dualism of authority in a unified church-state organism in which the Patriarch emerged as a figure of equal standing to the emperor. The Caesaro-Papism, which Westerners attributed to Byzanium would have become a reality if the Iconoclasts had prevailed; their victory would have made the emperor head of the Church, as Leo III the Isaurian had attempted.

39Sokolov, in shifting his interpretive approach to the phenomenon of Byzantinism away from the level of cultural influence, on which Leont’ev had focused (a position which Sokolov did not, of course, reject) towards the level of church-state relations, intervened directly in the Russian internal discourse on the role of the church. Russia was then divided between the secularizing model, which subjected the ecclesiastic organization to state control, as introduced by Peter the Great, and a strong tendency, recognized today has having powerful antisystemic features, towards liberating the church from state control. Therefore the model of an “ecclesiastic” state, as proposed by Sokolov, had a part to play in this dispute. However, in spite of its “anti-state” features, Sokolov’s critique is infinitely more useful for its infiltration abroad and its construction of an image of the empire defending the values of Eastern Romanity.

40Therefore, the dissolution of the Orthodox oikoumene revived an old problem, now framed in new terms: which Rome, the Second or the Third, was capable of opposing the process of Westernization that found its ideal expression in the development of nationalist discourse? Interestingly, at the close of the 19th century this question was not phrased in terms of competition between the two sides.

  • 28 At this point, when discussing the power of Czarist despotism against the uprising taking place in (...)

41By the early 20th century, the situation had changed. Almost prophetically, Leont’ev had predicted this convergence, in the mid-1870s, when the Panislamic features of the Hamidian regime had yet to emerge.28

  • 29 Sokolov Ivan I. (n. 26).
  • 30 Ibid., predicting that Constantinople “by the end of the European war will be owned by Russia”, men (...)
  • 31 As Lora Gerd points out, “According to Sokolov, the third conquest of Constantinople would give the (...)

42 Sokolov’s work in the early 1900s contributed to the deconstruction of this convergence. A year after the publication of his article in 1903, he published a significant study (his doctoral dissertation) on the history of the patriarchate in the 19th century,29 in which he denounced the Tanzimat reforms, which introduced the lay element into the administration of the Patriarchate, as resulting from a “Protestant-Muslim” conspiracy. Several years later (1915), he predicted that at the end of the Great War Constantinople would fall into the hands of the Russian Army.30 Although it was of secondary importance to Leont’ev whether the master of the Second Rome was Ottoman or Russian, as long as it resisted the onslaught of the West, Sokolov aligned himself with the option of the conquest of the Second Rome by the Third.31

  • 32 Stamatopoulos Dimitrios, Μεταρρύθμιση και εκκοσμίκευση. Προς μια ανασύνθεση της ιστορίας του Οικουμ (...)
  • 33 Religion also played an important role in the formation of imperial nationalism in the case of the (...)

43The two authors in question have more in common than their ideological preoccupation with the meaning of the Byzantine past. Both involved themselves to some extent with events in the patriarchate of Constantinople. Leont’ev, as we saw, lived in Constantinople during a very turbulent period, the two years following the schism with the Bulgarian Exarchate; he played an important role in building bridges between figures on both sides of the divide who opposed the strategy of confrontation (particularly, the Bulgarian intellectual Marko Balabanov). In fact, Leont’ev’s theories contributed the foundations for convergence: in his works, the supporters of Orthodox ecumenicalism saw their arguments formulated with more precision than ever before. During these two years, Leont’ev stayed in Chalki, observing another succession in patriarchs: the Schism Patriarch, Anthimus VI, abandoned the throne, and was succeeded by Joachim II, a cleric under the protection of the banker Georgios Zarifis, with powerful Panorthodox (i. e. Russophile) tendencies. Sokolov’s theoretical contributions on the subject of Byzantinism coincided with the accession to the throne of Joachim III, a spiritual heir to Joachim II and another protégé of the Zarifis family.32 It is probably no coincidence that the Russian intelligentsia’s two most important contributions to the subject of the ideological use of the Byzantine past both occurred at a time when the patriarchate was ruled by members of the clerical-lay group most devoted to the ideals of Orthodox ecumenicalism. We cannot hope for an interpretative approach to the historicity of the latter through a mere reference to the Panislamic framework imposed by the regime of Abdul Hamid;33 it is necessary to investigate the intellectual adventures of Russian imperial ideology. In spite of the shift between Leont’ev and Sokolov from a “cultural” to a “scientific” focus on what constituted the Byzantine past, and in spite of the theoretical differences introduced by this shift in the works of these two intellectuals, a common politico-ideological foundation is nonetheless discernible. This is the reference to Byzantium, which, in spite of differing interpretations, constitutes a discourse about the Orthodox East, and contributes to a conceptual “construction” of the imperial Russian ideology which defines its potential for intervening in the broader region of Eastern and Southeastern Europe.

44The internal rift in both the Russian and Constantinopolitan intelligentsia regarding the adoption of basic principles of Western culture created presuppositions for convergence among defenders of the unity of the Orthodox world. Under these circumstances, the Russian side (and here the contributions of both Leont’ev and Uspensky were crucial) spoke of an “Orthodox East” that may be considered a reflection of Orientalist models. Similarly, Russophile intellectuals surrounding the patriarchate of Constantinople (Manuel Gedeon being a characteristic case) developed a discourse in defence of ecumenicalism, which was favoured by the Pan-Islamic Hamidian government, but whose ultimate goal was to blunt the fierce confrontation with the Slavic world imposed by the development of Greek nationalism.

45At this point, it is important to note that the Orthodox East of imperial Russian ideology differs on one substantial point from the East as seen by Western Orientalism. Although the latter creates an image of its own East as a distant object whose irrationality and mysticism consign it to a lower status than the scientific and technological model of the West, imperial Russian ideology sees the Orthodox East as something familiar, something to which Russia herself belongs. The Russian image of the Orthodox East has Orientalist roots, because it reverses the sign of a construct created by the West in negative terms, while still acknowledging the opponent’s basic argument: that the core of the cultural difference can be traced to religion.

46Nevertheless, Russia’s belonging to the Orthodox East did not in the least lessen its desire for rule. Just as the image of the mystical, fatalistic, irrational East contributed to the ideological/ symbolic domination by the West, so too the conversion of these traits with a positive message through the invocation of Orthodoxy (here again, reference to the idealized version of Byzantium was decisive) afforded Russia the possibility of creating a field of ideological/cultural sovereignty, particularly in a period in which guns had gone silent in the Balkans (from the prophet Leont’ev of the Eastern Crisis to the scholar/historian Sokolov of World War I). It would also be a mistake to believe that in the formation of a discourse dealing with the Orthodox East, we are facing a revival of the ideology of the Third Rome, or even with the revival of the spirit of Küçük Kaynarca. As our description of the discussion between Leont’ev and Solov’ev has shown, Russia in the late 19th century was experiencing its own dramatic internal differences regarding the problem of whether it belonged to Europe or constituted a crossroads of East and West. All the arguments of those involved in the discussion in fact drew from the West, either from the arsenal of its positivists (science) or from that of its neo-Romantics (organic theory). Most importantly, at the level of intervening in its “own” East, Russia was nurtured by theoretical elaborations that were certainly not dominant within its interior.

  • 34 This shift from a cultural to a “scientific” criterion had one more interesting theoretical consequ (...)

47Therefore, the discourse about an Orthodox East rested on invocations of an Orthodox oikoumene, preparing the political leadership of the Russophile circle in the patriarchate of Constantinople in the early 20th century. If the theoretical intervention of Leont’ev during the early 1870s was not enough to avert the declaration of a schism with the Bulgarian Exarchate, the corresponding intervention of I. I. Sokolov during the early 20th century comprised the ideological foundation for the return of Joachim III to the ecumenical throne of Constantinople (1901). However, although we can identify the ideological use of the Byzantine past as the basic similarity between the two interventions, there are serious differences between them, and these had equally serious political consequences. If the conquest of the Second Rome by the Third (i.e. the occupation of Constantinople by the Czar) constituted a definitive solution to the reconstitution of the Orthodox East (I. I. Sokolov), then the recognition of the Byzantine heritage as an insurmountable cultural boundary was no more than the necessary precondition for the restoration of Orthodox ecumenicalism (K. Leont’ev). The line separating the metonymic reference to Byzantium as a cultural formation from its usage as a political “project” was very thin indeed, and for this reason all the more significant.34

48The “old” empires located on the fringes of the West were compelled to adopt two categories of solution to sort out their relations with the West: approach and withdrawal/conflict. However, this was an illusion: paradoxically, when the solution of “approach/rapprochement” was proposed, the vehicle chosen to achieve it was religion (the compatibility of Islam, the generosity of Orthodoxy); in contrast, the solution of “withdrawal” (in the sense of conflict) was to be accomplished by means of imperial nationalism in its Panslavic and Pan-Turkish versions. “Approach”, however, always involved a basic acceptance by the East of the West’s superiority; this is why it proved a weaker solution in both instances. In contrast, the path indicated by the choice of nationalism, even if it primarily concerned the resolution of “local” power differences (Panslavism developed in opposition to Pan-Germanism; Pan-Islamism in opposition to Western interventions), proved the best guarantee of Westernization. That is, in the gradual progression of forced “intercultural” dialogue imposed by the West (and the variants that resulted from its internal differentiations), religion constituted a privileged reference point. This was not because the East understood itself in the negative fashion projected onto it by the West – quite the contrary – but because religion offered the illusion that the East was confronting the West as a distinctive “civilization”. Nationalism could never have offered this sense of distinctness, even when successfully subsuming religion to the process of creating a national identity. Thus was formed a type of reflective communication, in which East reflected back to West whatever the latter wanted in order to impose total domination. A history of civilizations may in fact be read in retrospect as a conflict of civilizations.


1 Toynbee Arnold Joseph, A Study of History, vol. I- [X], abridgment by Somervell D. C., New York-London, 1947-1957.

2 For the reactions to Toynbee’s undertaking, see indicatively Stammler Heinrich, “Russia between Byzantium and Utopia”, Russian Review 17 (1958), p. 94-103.

3 Said Edward W., Orientalism, New York, 1978.

4 Wolff Larry, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment, Stanford Calif., 1994.

5 Todorova Maria, Imagining the Balkans, New York, 1997.

6 In contrast, the problem looms larger with the choices made by the “solipsists” (as Todorova named them borrowing the notion from Wittgenstein, see Todorova Maria [supra], p. 10), precisely because highlighting distinctive feature (s) (not, of course, invoking some historical reality beyond the texts) might possibly – though not necessarily – lead to a concretization of non-existent historical categories in order to comprehend the dominance relation between West and East. However the concept of “Balkanism” could be considered as a concession to the “solipsism”. Besides, although Todorova herself notes that “unlike Orientalism, which is a discourse about an imputed opposition, balkanism is a discourse about an imputed ambiguity” (ibid., p. 17), further on she observes that “it is my thesis that while orientalism is dealing with a difference between ‘imputed’ (here the quotation marks are dispensed with) types, balkanism treats the differences within one type” (ibid., p. 19). Here we argue that the Russian “East” contributed to the construction not only of the “Balkans” but also, and mainly, of an “Orthodox (Byzantine) East”. So this “imputed ambiguity” owes its existence to the orientalist motives developed by the “West” and their incorporation on behalf of the “East”.

7 One could consider the same problem in relation to the classic distinction first attempted by Kohn Hans (The idea of Nationalism: A Study in its Origins and Background, New York, 1944) between Western and Eastern forms of nationalism (the oldest, as well as the most useful variant of the better-known classification of “territorial” and “ethnic” nationalisms by Anthony D. Smith): acceptance of the position that Western nationalisms (i.e., those created in Western Europe as the result of major revolutions for the imposition of constitutional monarchies, in the context of the European Enlightenment) were purged of the germ of ethnic ties, that would lead to their being exalted as the absolute rule of thumb for defining the essentially ethnic (see Hroch Miroslav, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe: A Comparative Analysis of the Social Composition of Patriotic Groups among the Smaller European Nations, trans. Fowkes Ben, Cambridge-New York, 1985) and therefore “irrational” nationalisms of the Eastern and Southeastern Europe. These were “irrational” to the extent that they were inspired by the ideas of Romantic nationalism and reproduced views about the organic distinctness of the nation, but they were also “irrational” because they contributed to the dissolution of states, even when these appeared to be aspiring to (self-) reform on the basis of the model of defending “the rights of man and the citizen”.

8 The need to detach the definition of the nation from “civilization” has been understood by many intellectuals who have dealt with nationalism. In this category for example could be classified Ziya Gökalp’s theoretical elaboration of the bipolar scheme, civilization vs culture, where the latter is connected with the (desirable) national self- consciousness while the former with the (repudiated) imperial (Ottoman in this case) legacy, see Gökalp Ziya, The Principles of Turkism [Türkçülügün esasları], trans. from the Turkish and annotated by Devereux Robert, Leiden, 1968.

9 The distinctive approach of Todorova to the Balkans in comparison to the Saidian model is largely based on religion (together, of course, with the absence of classical colonialism). Todorova, while theoretically basing her view of the “distinctiveness” of the Balkans on their (shared) Ottoman past, would highlight the fact that they were inhabited by Christians as their point of difference from the Middle East. In contrast, the earlier theoretical approach by Skopetea Elli (Η δύση της Ανατολής: εικόνες από το τέλος της Οθωμανικής Αυτοκρατορίας [Orient’s West: Images of the End of the Ottoman Empire], Athens, 1992), in distinguishing the East into Christian and Islamic (and thus providing the stimulus for a distinctive view of the Balkans as the “Eastern West”), showed that both, in common and with certain differences, were subjected to the consequences of the arrival of modernity. Thus, while Todorova seems to be advancing in some fashion towards historicizing her model, exhorting us to avoid the texts, she herself engages in an analysis of the texts, and only with difficulty avoids the “concretization” of her object: “Balkanism” as such never existed autonomous of whatever the West laid claim to conquer and subjugate in the East. Paradoxically, though Skopetea (and Bakić-Hayden, with the concept of “nested orientalisms”, see Bakić-Hayden Milica, “Nesting Orientalisms: The Case of the Former Yugoslavia”, Slavic Review 54 [Winter 1995], p. 917-931) prefers to consider Western civilization as such and not the Balkans as “distinctive”, she more effectively avoided the dangers of “essentialism” than Todorova, who attempted to emphasize as “distinctive” the formation of Western discourse concerning the Balkans. And further: the “East” of the Balkans lay between, and adjoined, the “East” of Eastern Europe and the “East” of the Islamic world. Surprisingly, regarding the problem of the Russian Orientalism Todorova seems to balance between the position of Nathaniel Knight on Russia’s “distinctiveness” and the “universalist” thesis of Adeeb Khalid. See all the articles in the same issue of Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 1-4 (Fall 2000): Khalid Adeeb, “Russian History and the Debate over Orientalism”, p. 691-699; Knight Nathaniel, “On Russian Orientalism: A Response to Adeeb Khalid”, p. 701-715; Todorova Maria, “Does Russian Orientalism Have a Russian Soul? A Contribution to the Debate between Nathaniel Knight and Adeeb Khalid”, p. 717-727. These articles were republished in David-Fox Michael, Holquist Peter, and Martin Alexander (eds.), Orientalism and Empire in Russia, Kritika Historical Studies 3, Bloomington In., 2006, where one could read the interesting introduction of the editors, “Russia’s Orient, Russia’s West”, p. 3-19. As they state, Todorova’s conclusion is that “as long as Russia’s place is unresolved… the methodological dilemma will persist”. But the “problematic essence” of Russia’s issue, the dilemma about the crossroads of “East” and “West”, also exists in relation to the Balkans, probably because many of the Balkan national discourses borrowed from the Russian paradigm.

10 Such instrumentalist use of religion does not occur only in times of crisis (see e.g. the issue of Islamicization of institutions in the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century). Selim Deringil has convincingly demonstrated the importance of religion in the construction of an imperial nationalism by the Hamidian regime in the late 19th century, comparing it to developments in Russia under the Romanovs and Japan under the Meiji: see Deringil Selim, The Well-protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire, 1876- 1909, London-New York, 1998.

11 Here of course we have the question of whether the old (continental) empires of the East encountered in the same way – or better, were influenced in the same way – by the Westernization process. For example, according to Lieven, Russia was already part of the West from the 18th century, and it is for just this reason that it does not fall within the model of “continental” empires; rather, it formed a “hybrid” that combined traditional imperial structures and modern forms of colonization in Asia (Lieven Dominic, “Dilemmas of Empire 1850-1918. Power, Territory, Identity”, Journal of Contemporary History 34 [1999], p. 163-200).

12 See Paul Bushkovitch’s review of the volume by Sinitsyna Nina V., Третий Рим. Истоки и эволюция русской средневековой концепции (xv-xvi вв.) [The Third Rome. Origins and Evolution of a Russian Medieval Concept (15th-16th c.)], Moscow, 1998, in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 1-2 (Spring 2000), p. 391-399.

13 Khalid Adeeb (n. 9).

14 Bakić-Hayden Milica (n. 9), p. 920.

15 Born in 1831 in Kudinovo in the district of Meshchovskii, province of Kaluga, he was the son of Nikolai Borisevich Leontiev and Theodosia Petrovna. Both parents were of aristocratic descent; his mother in particular came from an old noble family (the Karabanovs). His aristocratic lineage exercised a very considerable influence on his ideas, particularly in the late 19th century when the nobility was gradually losing its privileges (primarily through Czar Alexander II’s abolition of serfdom in 1861). In 1849, Leontiev was admitted to the Medical School in Moscow, and in 1851 he wrote his first comedy (Женитьба по любви [A Love Marriage]), attracting the attention of Turgenev. After receiving his degree, he enlisted in 1854 as a volunteer in the Crimean War. In 1857, following the humiliating defeat of the Russians at Sebastopol, he returned to Moscow. On a trip to the Crimea in 1861, he unexpectedly married Elizabeta Pavlovna Politovskaya. See Nelson Dale Lawrence, Konstantin Leontiev and the Orthodox East, University of Minnesota, 1975; Lukashevich Stephen, Konstantin Leontev, 1831-1891: A Study in Russian “Heroic Vitalism”, New York, 1967; Berdyaev Nikolai, Leontiev [1926], engl. trans. Reavy George, Orono Me., 1968.

16 Nelson Dale Lawrence (supra), p. 67 ff.

17 The text was published for first time as: “Чтения в Императорском Обществе истории и древностей российских при Московском университете”, Moscow, 1875, no. 3, separate edition, Moscow, 1876. It was included in the collection of K. Leont’ev’s works, Восток, Россия и Славянство [East, Russia and Slavism], Moscow, 1996, p. 94-155, which we cite here.

18 Ibid., p. 94.

19 Oddly enough, this would make him eclectic even towards the ideas of Western liberal intellectuals, e.g. J. S. Mill. As Nelson notes, Leont’ev borrowed from Mill his views on the strength and variety of individuals; from François Guizot he drew the idea that Christian ecumenicalism can contribute to the preservation of social and individual variety within certain limits, while he borrowed from Wilhelm Riehl the idea that the isolationism of societies, as well as their internal division into classes and levels, are necessary for preserving the heterogeneity of a people. See Nelson Dale Lawrence (n. 15), p. 48.

20 In an especially important fragment that attracted the attention of Berdyaev Nikolai ( [n. 15], p. 74) and was repeated by Nelson Dale Lawrence ( [n. 15], p. 52), Leont’ev remarked: “Is it not dreadful, is it not shameful to think that Moses climbed Mt. Sinai, that the Greeks built their own elegant Acropolis, that the Romans conducted the Punic Wars, that the great and handsome Alexander crossed the Granicus in a plumed helmet and fought at Gaugamela, that the Apostles prayed, the martyrs suffered, the poets sang, painters painted, and medieval knights shone in their jousts, only to make it possible for the French, German, or Russian bourgeois, dressed in his revolutionary and comic attire, to ‘wax sentimental’ either individually or collectively atop the ruins of the past? […] It would be humiliating for mankind if this ignominious ideal of ecumenical utilitarianism meant that this commonplace and shameful stereotype were to triumph once and for all”.

21 Leont’ev Konstantin, Восток (n. 17), p. 108.

22 Ibid., p. 143-144.

23 On this issue, see among others MacMaster Robert E., “Danilevsky and Spengler: A New Interpretation”, The Journal of Modern History 26 (1954), p. 154-161.

24 However, more likely decisive for the development of Huntington’s theory was the concept of “Kulturerdteile” ( “culture-continents, cultural regions”) developed by the German geographer Kolb Albert (Ostasien: China, Japan, Korea. Geographie eines Kulturerdteiles, Heidelberg, 1963), in which the element of religion was downplayed in the creation of the concept of civilization in connection with its social and historical dimensions. The influence of Danilevsky’s model should therefore not be underestimated. Huntington’s classification of civilizations included nine types: 1) Western; 2) Islamic; 3) Orthodox; 4) Latin American; 5) Hinduist; 6) Buddhist; 7) Chinese; 8) Japanese; and 9) the civilization of Sub-Saharan Africa, which is noted as a possibly distinct case. Clearly, Huntington’s typology lends even further support to the religious criterion, while blunting (for obvious reasons) racial (which prevailed during the 19th century from every point of view) and historical ones.

25 Lieven Dominic (n. 11).

26 In 1904, Sokolov published his doctoral dissertation on the history of the Patriarchate of Constantinople during the 19th century (Sokolov Ivan I., Константинопольская церковь в xix веке [The Church of Constantinople in the 19th c.], I, St. Petersburg, 1904). The dissertation was the result of a year’s research in the archives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In it, Sokolov presented the history of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the basis of material from its Patriarchal Archives rather than in agreement with the interests of Russian politics, as his predecessors had presented it. The first part of the dissertation concerned the position of the Church within the Ottoman state, while the second was a highly sympathetic treatment of the personalities of the Ecumenical Patriarchs. Gregory VI and Joachim III (pro-Russian patriarchs) are mentioned with particular admiration. In 1897, Sokolov began writing articles for the journal Ecclesiastical Messenger. He became the head of the “News from the East” department, signing his pieces “I. Vyzantios”. In 1904, he became head of the “Chronology of Ecclesiastical and Public Life Abroad”; from 1912-1913 he served as the journal’s editor-in-chief.

27 Sokolov Ivan I., О византинизме в церковно-историческом отношении: вступительная лекция по кафедре истории греко-восточной церкви [On Byzantinism and Church History Relations: Inaugural Lecture in the Chair of the History of the Greek Eastern Church], St. Petersburg, 1903.

28 At this point, when discussing the power of Czarist despotism against the uprising taking place in Russia, Leont’ev makes an intriguing reference to the Ottoman Empire: “Let us pause for a moment with the Muslims. It is interesting that since the Muslims in Turkey were acquainted both with the West and with us Russians, and in spite of the many wars we have waged and our old rivalry with Turkey, we have particularly pleased many Turks at the personal level, and the nature of our state (государственным характером) (has pleased them more) than the Western Europeans (have pleased them). The ecclesiastical nature of our empire connotes respect towards them, and they themselves find in this feature a great similarity to the religious nature of their own ethnic character (народности). Our discipline, respect, and tendency to yield have enslaved them; they demonstrate that this is our power, they are envious of us, and each considers the other a good example. If the Turkish government was expelled from the Bosphorus and the Turks abandoned the Balkans, then they would naturally focus their hopes on us as their defenders against those inescapable oppressions and insults to which they will be subjected by their former slaves, the Southern Slavs and the Greeks, who are generally quite stern and brutal. Even today, the Turks prefer us to the Bulgarians, the Serbs, and the Greeks”. See Leont’ev Konstantin, Восток, Россия и Славянство (n. 17), p. 106. Indeed, Leont’ev mentioned his personal conversations with a pasha who was knowledgeable about Russian reality (for example, he enjoyed the characters in Gogol), who inter alia stated that he liked the Russians because they cared only for their religion, in contrast to the Greeks and Bulgarians, who were thinking of politics, constitutions, and other such “nonsense”. All this, to conclude with his own estimation that “Russia will remain powerful until it acquires a Constitution” (!). Thus, in Leont’ev’s work it is very clear that the level of equality recognized by imperial discourse was nothing but another corresponding discourse in defense of an empire. It was quite obvious to those actually engaged in such discourse (Leont’ev and the pasha) that they would soon have to confront a common enemy who would dismantle them: nationalism and the parliamentary system.

29 Sokolov Ivan I. (n. 26).

30 Ibid., predicting that Constantinople “by the end of the European war will be owned by Russia”, mentioned by Frary Lucian in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 8 (Spring 2007), p. 448, n. 4.

31 As Lora Gerd points out, “According to Sokolov, the third conquest of Constantinople would give the Ecumenical Patriarchate its genuine mission, i.e. that of serving as the center of the oikoumene and the entire Orthodox world. In the Russian state, the Ecumenical Patriarch would have all the rights and privileges accruing to him, and which he had enjoyed during the Byzantine period. From the moment that it was no longer a world state, as in the Ottoman period, Constantinople could serve, if not as the permanent than at least as the temporary residence of the king of the large Russian state”: Gerd Lora, “Russian Philhellenes in the science and the ecclesiastical politics: T. I. Filippov, I. I. Sokolov, and A. A. Dimitrievski”, unpublished paper presented in the International Conference entitled Religions and Politics in Europe’s Orients, 15th-19th c., organized by the Dept. of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies and EFA, in the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, December 11-12, 2009.

32 Stamatopoulos Dimitrios, Μεταρρύθμιση και εκκοσμίκευση. Προς μια ανασύνθεση της ιστορίας του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου τον 19ο αιώνα [Reform and Secularization: Towards a Reconstruction of the History of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the 19th Century], Athens, 2003.

33 Religion also played an important role in the formation of imperial nationalism in the case of the Ottoman Empire. Ottomanism, the imperial ideology of the mid-19th century (1839-1856), although it invoked the equality of Ottoman subjects before the law, attempted to impose it through the reorganization of the millets (religious communities). Oddly enough, the religious criterion was strengthened at the very moment when distinctions (discrimination) were done away with, despite the fact that the guiding spirit of reforms included laity in the administration of the millets. Pan-Islamism continued along the same lines, and the period of the Hamidian reforms was identified not only with the support of Islam as a unifying element for the empire, but with the general support of religious elites (primarily, Orthodox and Jewish). It is perhaps only in the case of representatives of Pan-Turkism that we observe a distancing from the criterion of religion (Landau Jacob M., Pan-Turkism: From Irredentism to Cooperation, India University Press, 19952); the condemnation of both Ottomanism (Osmanlılık) and Islamism (İslamcılık), for example in the work of Akçura Yusuf (Üç tarz-ı siyaset [Three principles of Policy], Ankara, 1904), is characteristic. Naturally, the employment of religion tended to become even more instrumentalist from the standpoint of preserving the Empire. It is worth recalling here that Danilevsky maintained that the Islamic conquest of the Balkans was an act of Divine Providence to protect the Slavs from the threat of Western Christianity (Kohn Hans, Pan-Slavism, its history and ideology, Notre Dame Ind., 1953, p. 157). Islam had undergone the process of secularization (Skopetea Elli [n. 9]) in the sense that a solution was found for it to be compatible with the principles of Western civilization. The groundwork by the group of Neo-Ottomans and intellectuals such as al-Afghani was decisive here. We may claim that the realization that Islam included the basic principles of the French Revolution actually overturned the instrumental treatment the East had up to that time been subjected to by the West, while in some fashion corresponding to Solov’ev’s solution regarding the case of Russia. However, the fact that the Turkish nation was born under dramatic conditions of defending an empire that could not be preserved created comparable traumatic connotations: in forming the new Turkish ethnic identity, it would have been difficult for any invocation of Islam to have had results comparable to those we find in other cases of Balkan nationalism. Islam was identified not only with the apogee of the (Ottoman) Empire’s power, but also with its hapless efforts to preserve itself.
Taking as given the instrumentalist treatment of Islam by representatives of various versions of “imperial nationalism” as well, we could maintain that it displayed a noteworthy correspondence to the Russian case: thus, in pursuing Islam’s compatibility with the principles that produced the French Revolution (freedom and equality) as represented chiefly by the Young Ottomans’ circle, we can discern the attempt at appropriation of the West, at reconciliation with what had until then seemed threatening. In contrast, in the case of the Pan-Islamism of Abdul Hamid, the movement was towards the East: Islam was understood as a political strategy for coexistence among Muslim populations, (primarily Arab) in the Middle East, despite what was (admittedly) a noteworthy insistence by Albanian Muslims in the Balkans on preserving their ties to the Ottoman centre. So, if the solution proposed by the Young Ottomans (at least in their initial period of mobilization) corresponds to the solution of Solov’ev, one could claim that the vision of unity of the Islamic world drew directly from proclamations concerning the unity of the Slavic world of the type Danilevsky proposed.

34 This shift from a cultural to a “scientific” criterion had one more interesting theoretical consequence: how these two intellectuals understood the question of “continuity”. Following the collapse of the Russian empire, Sokolov managed to survive during the 1920s as professor of history at the St. Petersburg Institute of History. During those years, he devoted a significant part of his work to the study of the Ottoman Empire. Aligning himself with a long tradition of European Byzantine scholars (led by Alfred Rambaud and Gibbons), he supported the view that the Ottoman Empire was actually a continuation of the Byzantine Empire at the institutional level. See Stamatopoulos Dimitrios, Το Βυζάντιο μετά το Έθνος. Το πρόβλημα της συνέχειας στις βαλκανικές ιστοριογραφίες [Byzantium after the Nation: The Problem of Continuity in the Balkan Historiographies], Athens, 2009. Sokolov accepted the Byzantine origin of the timarion (cf. “tsifliki”) advanced by Scala and Deny, and also argued in favour of the Byzantine origins of the Ottoman taxation system.


Associate Professor
Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies
University of Macedonia, Thessalonica

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