19.05.2003
Europe – United Yet Divisible
№2 2003 April/June

Alexander Chubaryan is a Member of the Russian Academy of
Sciences, Director of the Institute of Universal History, a member
of the Presidential Council for Science and High Technology.


The notion of Europeanism has existed for centuries. In its
broadest sense, Europeanism suggests a general view of Europe, its
geography, history, population, economy, ways and habits, culture,
psychology and way of thinking. To some policymakers and thinkers,
Europeanism is one criterion for a country’s attachment to Europe.
Europeanism is sometimes understood as Europe’s distinction from
the other continents.

Politically and ideologically, however, the term Europeanism has
had a very concrete meaning for centuries. The term has stood for
various projects for European unification, put forward by
philosophers, public figures and statesmen from across Europe from
the 14th to the 19th centuries. Such projects bring to mind, first
of all, Germany’s Immanuel Kant (the idea of a “union of nations”
which would ensure “eternal peace”) and France’s Jean Jacques
Rousseau (the universal “social contract”). They were preceded by
Jiri Podebrad, the Czech king of the 15th century, who urged major
European monarchs to unite in the name of what is described now as
collective security, and British Quaker William Penn (the founder
of the U.S. State of Pennsylvania) who in the 17th century proposed
uniting all European states under the aegis of a European Federal
Council.

The pan-European movement of the 20th century developed as a
natural follow-up to that tradition. In 1923, Austrian Count
Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi published the widely discussed book Pan
Europa. In it, he argued that the continent must unite in order to
avoid catastrophes, such as World War I. Such ideas were heatedly
discussed in the 1920s and early 1930s. They underlay French Prime
Minister Aristide Briand’s plan for unifying continental Europe
under the aegis of a European Confederation. In the 1930s, Italy’s
Altiero Spinelli, the classic author of European federalist plans,
created projects to counter Nazi ideas of European conquest. In
1941, these projects were gathered together in a manifesto of a
group of European federalists known as the Ventotene Manifesto.

The real unification of Europe, which began shortly after World
War II, rested, finally, on the ideas of the “founding fathers” of
contemporary integration – Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman (both of
France), Winston Churchill (Britain), Paul-Henri Spaak (Belgium),
Alcide De Gasperi (Italy), Konrad Adenauer (Germany).

The authors of all the above ideas and projects conceived of
Europe as a well-defined geographical, historical, economic,
political, spiritual and psychological entity. After half a century
of successful European development, Europeanism, despite natural
hurdles and hindrances, has established itself as an objective
reality. In the initial stages of integration, discussions focused
on what the new Europe would be – a “Europe of homelands” or
“Europe as a homeland.” The heated debates eventually ended in
favor of preserving the national identity of European nations. The
subsequent years have shown that the members of the European Union
continue to preserve their national features, interests, and
cultural identity. Recent developments with regard to Iraq have
demonstrated that the members of a united Europe may have very
different views, even on fundamental political and military issues.
The forthcoming admission to the European Union of a large number
of Central and East European nations will not only expand the
united Europe’s borders but will also add many new features to
it.

Europe is gaining a second wind. Even a few years ago, it would
have been hard to believe that citizens of a majority of West
European countries would easily give up their currencies in favor
of a united currency, the euro. National currency has always been
one of the main symbols of state sovereignty! This is one more
proof that millions of people have begun to conceive of their
national history and national features as an inherent part of
European identity.

Where is the “heart” of Europe? European nations have argued for
centuries over what is the true center of the Old World. The French
never doubted that the “heart” of Europe is Paris. The Austrians
argued that it is their wonderful Vienna. The Italians were
confident that Rome was the cradle of culture. The Greeks were just
as confident about Athens; the legacy of antiquity has in many ways
shaped the destinies and the future of Europe. Debates like this
can continue unending. But European identity cannot be conceived of
without London, Berlin and Brussels, Stockholm and Helsinki, Warsaw
and Prague, Budapest and Madrid, Riga and Tallinn, Belgrade and
Copenhagen.

And what about Russia? Relations between Russia and Europe have
been central to many policymakers, thinkers and public figures on
both sides of the “dividing line.” Russian Europeanism – the
perception of Europe as a single entity – is a long-lasting
tradition. Firstly, the Russian social and political communities
kept a close watch over projects for European unification. Numerous
historical documents suggest that high society in Russian St.
Petersburg in the early 19th century knew the projects proposed by
Rousseau and other Europeanists perfectly well. The director of the
famous lycOe in Tsarskoye Selo, Vassily Malinovsky, came out with
his own vast project for unifying Europe. In it, Russia was
conceptually and practically pictured as an integral part of Europe
and an invariable participant in “all-European construction.” Other
ideas for European unification, proposed throughout the 19th
century, also drew public attention in St. Petersburg and
Moscow.

At the same time, however, an apparent watershed in Russian
society’s approaches to European ideas emerged. Ideological
disputes between Westernizers and Slavophiles in the mid-19th
century can be roughly compared to disagreement between the
opponents and proponents of Europeanism. In the 20th century, the
Bolsheviks actively opposed ideas for a united Europe. Lenin is
known to have castigated plans to establish a United States of
Europe (“A United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either
impossible or reactionary”), while the pan-European plans of
Coudenhove-Kalergi were described in Moscow as “imperialist” and
unfeasible.

The Kremlin’s reaction to initial steps toward European
integration after World War II was just as negative. In the late
1950s and the 1960s, the Politburo of the Soviet Communist Party’s
Central Committee discussed plans put forward by Robert Schuman and
Rene Pleven and denounced them. It rejected the possibility of the
Soviet Union joining in the European initiatives. “Russian
Europeanism” thereby lost any common ground with West European
political thought and European plans and realities.

It was only in the mid-1970s, when the Soviet Union joined in
the Helsinki process, that Soviet leaders embraced one of the
components of Europeanism – common responsibility of the countries
and citizens of Europe for the security of their continent and for
its role in the development of international relations. At the same
time, Moscow was very clear and very firm about rejecting such
essential features of Europeanism as the European tradition of
defending human rights and building a civil society on the
principles of democracy, pluralism, humanism and pacifism. Moscow
limited its possible integration into Europe to political and
military-strategic aspects. Thus, Europeanism, as a combination of
humanitarian, psychological and democratic components, lost its
very essence. Russia moved outside the idea of European identity in
the broader context of classical European civilization as well.

Such attitudes toward projects and plans for the unification of
Europe – viewing the continent not “from the inside” (as part of
Europe) but “from the outside” (as an outside observer) – were due
to a more general perception of Europe and to the problem of
whether or not Russia should be considered part of Europe. The
“window to Europe,” created so forcefully by Peter the Great, and
the Enlightenment reforms of Catherine II moved Russia closer to
Europe (including intellectually). But such reforms did not bridge
the considerable gap, even schism, in Russian social and political
thought with regard to European values. Ideas of Russian identity,
often perceived as different from and even hostile to European
ideas, were propagated in various forms in Russia all through the
19th and 20th centuries.

Very often the positions of Russian reactionaries and liberals
coincided on the issue of Russian identity. In many works and
treatises the “Russian idea” was opposed to the “European idea.”
Russian philosopher Nikolai Danilevsky, in his famous book Russia
and Europe (1871), gave the following answer to the question of
whether or not Russia belongs to Europe: “Unfortunately or
fortunately, no, it does not. It was not fed by any of the roots
through which Europe absorbed sap, both wholesome and harmful, from
the soil of the ancient world which it itself had destroyed – nor
was it fed by the roots that absorbed food from the depths of the
German spirit.” Russia should not seek to integrate into the family
of European nations. It will always be an alien there, Danilevsky
wrote. He believed that the West would always display corporate
hostility toward Russia, openly or covertly. “A united Europe can
be opposed only by a united Slavdom,” he pointed out. Such ideas
gave little ground for speaking of “Russian Europeanism” in an
all-European context.

The Soviet times added new “arguments” for the idea of Russia’s
isolation from the rest of Europe. The Soviet ideology described
Europeanism as an expression of cosmopolitan theory and practices
and as an embodiment of the negative features of bourgeois
liberalism and reformism. From their point of view, Soviet
ideologists had all grounds for thinking so since Europeanist ideas
had been developing for decades in the wake of European liberalism
and reformism. Addressing a Politburo meeting, which was discussing
the Schuman plan, the then U.S.S.R. foreign minister, Andrei
Gromyko, cited Lenin as saying that the ideas of European
unification were impregnated with the spirit of imperialism and
utopianism.

The situation began to change dramatically in the second half of
the 1980s when the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, came out
with an idea of a common European home involving the U.S.S.R. This
idea marked a basically new stage in the evolution of “Russian
Europeanism,” no matter how metaphoric and utopian the idea was.
Moscow embraced an approach toward Europeanism that it had declined
to accept in previous years. Regardless of current attitudes to the
Gorbachev era, Gorbachev’s speech at a European Parliament meeting
in Strasbourg opened a new stage in Russia’s attitude toward
European values. The European Parliament deputies gave a standing
ovation to the Soviet General Secretary who said that Moscow was
adopting fundamental European values, such as the priority of human
rights and civil society, and the principles of humanism and
pacifism. This approach brought Russia much closer to Europe,
creating a basis for linking Russian Europeanism to classical
European ideas.

Developments in Russia in the late 1980s and the 1990s
substantially changed the attitude of the Russian political elite
and the public at large to Europe. At the same time, however, the
1990s revived trends that distinguish “Russian” from “classical”
Europeanism. Russian society is heatedly debating Russia’s past and
future and its historical mission. Champions of the idea of
Russia’s “uniqueness,” conceived of as opposed to European values,
criticize numerous manifestations of the West’s “lack of
spirituality.” Although the criticism is directed, above all,
against the United States – perceived not only as Russia’s former
chief enemy but also as the symbol of the Western way of life –
Europe is another target.

These sentiments have brought about a new interest in the idea
of Eurasianism as opposed to Europeanism. Some contemporary
ideologists even quote, although indirectly, the famous triad of
Count Sergei Uvarov (Russia’s Minister of Education with Nicholas
I) – “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality” – which can be interpreted
as an alternative to Europeanism and its values. In this
connection, the more general question of the nature of such views
and sentiments arises. Why is this phenomenon so persistent and
widespread in Russian political thought and the Russian
consciousness? Perhaps here lies the answer to the question of the
nature of “Russian Europeanism” and its possible transformation in
the future.

First, Russia’s geographic and geopolitical position should be
taken into account. Russia’s vast territories stretch over Europe
and Asia. Russian civilization has for ages been developing under
the influence of both the East and the West. This interaction could
not help but influence the formation of the political and cultural
consciousness of the Russian population and the sentiments of the
Russian elite. Perhaps no other country in the world features such
geographic and natural diversity and so many distinctions in its
economic and cultural development.

Of course, Russia’s accelerated modernization in the late
19th-early 20th centuries and Soviet efforts to unify the country
changed the country’s political and cultural life substantially.
But they failed to eliminate fundamental differences between the
two great civilizations (the West and the East), between world
outlooks and cultural and historical traditions which existed in
different parts of Russia. Even geographic factors, such as
climatic differences which shaped the way of life in the Far North
and the hot South, had an impact on the country’s image and the
people’s world-view. These factors serve as the basis for a recent
notion that Russia is a bridge between the two civilizations, a
link between Europe and Asia, and that this circumstance has an
impact on the issue of Russia’s belonging to Europe.

Second, historical factors and peculiarities must also be
considered. The invasion of Russia by Mongols in the 12th-14th
centuries and the resultant devastation of the state, which was
just uniting, slowed down Russia’s development significantly and
placed it far behind European standards. Over the centuries, this
lagging behind, now greater, now less, has always been present in
Russian history. Painstaking efforts by Peter the Great and
Catherine II toward rapprochement with Europe yielded fruit but
failed to bridge the gap between completely. As a result of these
processes, various, often rather influential forces in Russia
sought to make up for the economic gap by placing special emphasis
on Russia’s spiritual superiority over the West. Such tendencies
have survived to this day. Many works by contemporary Russian
public figures and people in culture and science seek to prove the
“spiritual degradation” of the West and the priority of eternal
values in Russian spiritual thought.

Third, the development and establishment of “Russian
Europeanism” is directly connected to the achievements of
democratic reform in Russia. Introduction into daily life of the
principles of civil society and the norms of a rule-of-law state,
as well as the growth of the population’s political culture are
prerequisites for strengthening and expanding Russia’s ties with
Europe. The notion of democracy has been continuously present in
both European and Russian public opinion. That was the case in the
19th century. Naturally, in Soviet times, any rapprochement was out
of the question. Today, too, reform of the Russian political,
legislative and judicial systems is still on the agenda.

Fourth, much in the evolution of “Russian Europeanism” depends
on Western Europe. The idea that Russia belongs to Europe has been
continuously and persistently questioned in the West. Whereas
formerly Russia was portrayed as a mysterious Asiatic country, in
recent years much is spoken about “traditional Russian
expansionism” (in particular with regard to other CIS countries)
and about Russian society’s “immunity” to European values. Of
course, the time when “classical” Europe was conceived of as
stretching from Brest (France) to Brest (Belarus) has already
passed. Yet similar ideas continue to be floated in various parts
of Europe. Now that the European Union is enlarging, there is much
talk about “European borders” which happen to lie in the east along
Russia’s border.

Understandably, in various periods of its history Russia was
believed to be an integral part of the concert of European states,
without which not a single political system could be built in
Europe. In discussions of the cultural and psychological aspects of
European ideas, the theory of European identity and even the very
notion of what constitutes a “European,” however, West European
public figures, scholars and the cultural elite are often far from
granting European status to Russia and its citizens. Difficult
negotiations with the European Union on concrete issues of
interaction, such as Kaliningrad, for example, reinforce the
sentiment in Russia that this country is not welcome in Europe and
that Europeans’ statements about their readiness for rapprochement
with Russia are mere words. The combination of all the above
factors has an effect on what we have referred to as “Russian
Europeanism.” Internal and external circumstances produce a rather
odd and contradictory picture of what can be described as the
“Russia and Europe problem.”

Nevertheless, the words “cautious optimism” are in order when
speaking of prospects for the future. Much will depend on internal
factors, on achievements or failures on the road to economic reform
and stabilization of Russia’s political and legal systems. Russia’s
integration into the economic life of Europe, and accession to its
political, cultural, educational and scholarly structures and
establishments, will undoubtedly promote the establishment and
evolution of Russia’s ties with Europe.

Further development of individual contacts and continued growth
in Russians’ travel to European countries will help develop these
ties. The low level of anti-European sentiment in Russia will
undoubtedly also be significant in this process. “Russian
Europeanism” has a good chance to become a major factor in Russian
political and intellectual life. The next stage in the development
of Russian identity, which I hope will one day arrive, will be a
new psychological perception of Europe by Russians, as well as a
perception of Russia as an integral part of Europe, rather than
just its largest neighbor. Then “Russian Europeanism” will cease to
be an antipode to “European Europeanism.”