Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

David Baum




russian, nationalism, national, century, russia


This thesis examines the history of nineteenth century Russian nationalism from its origins before 1812 to its decline in 1881. The study relies on twentieth century historiography of Russian nationalism as well as nineteenth century intellectual discourse on Russian nationality and national purpose. For the purpose of analysis Russian nationalism describes two phenomena: 1) the feelings and beliefs individuals have when they regard the importance of national identity and 2) the actions those individuals take when seeking formal expression of national identity. Feelings and beliefs involve the theoretical constructs of Russian nationalism as well as its shifting ideology, while the actions of individuals involve their organization and revolutionary activities. The individuals referred to for each part of this analysis are nineteenth century Russian intelligentsia. The development of Russian nationalism and its influence on the revolutionary movement in Russian nationalism and its influence on the revolutionary movement in Russia can be divided into three periods, each characterized by the intelligentsia’s reaction to specific historical events philosophical ideas. Chapter one discusses the earliest period of Russian nationalism (1812-1825). This phase represents the response of many Russian intellectuals to the contradictions between their experience abroad during the Napoleonic Wars and the realities they faced at home in Russia. The activities of educated Russians during this period, culminating in the failed Decembrist revolt, are evidence that nationalist sentiment existed in Russia, but that it lacked complete theoretical development. The second phase (1825-1861), discussed in chapter two, represents Russian intellectual attempts to define Russian national identity and national purpose, under the influence of primarily German romantic philosophy. The interpretation of Hegel, in particular, produced a theoretical framework within which the antagonism between Russia in the East and Europe in the West was a fundamental understanding. Russian nationalism, namely Slavophilism in this period, rejected Western influence (rationalism) as part of Russian national character, and with it the concepts of formal politics and the modern state. This in turn influenced Russian intellectual attempts at autocratic reform during this period. The impact of 1861 Emancipation reform on the political, economic, and social conditions of Russia forced Russian nationalists to reevaluate the benefits of revolution in Russia. Chapter three discusses the third and last phase in the development of nineteenth century Russian nationalism (1861-1881). This period represents the organization of Russian nationalists into a single, yet fragmented, revolutionary movement aimed at replacing the autocratic state with a nation representative of Russian national consciousness. Ideological conflicts in Russian nationalism, or Populism, between opposing revolutionary groups over whom should be the bearers of revolution stemmed from a similar East versus West debate—the dichotomy between narod and intelligentsia. Events leading up and culminating in the assassination of the tsar in 1881 signaled the departure of the Russian revolutionary movement from the influence of Russian nationalism and led to the disappearance of nationalist ideology from dominant Russian intellectual and political thought. Nineteenth century Russian nationalism is problematic for historians because of the internalization of the dichotomy between Easy and West among members of the intelligentsia. Their reliance on Western philosophy led Russian intellectuals to accept European models of national evaluation; but at the same time they rejected national characteristics upheld in the West in favor of those unique to Russia. The difficulty of satisfying European standards of national progress without adopting European models divided Russian nationalists along ideological lines that complicate the study of nineteenth century Russian nationalism.