Evolution of the perception of the eastern question by Russian liberals in the second half of the 19th century

The article examines the attitude of Russian liberals of the second half of the XIX century to the Eastern question, that occupied an important place in the foreign policy of Russia and for more than half a century from the Crimean to the First World War, served as an object of reflection and debate, the causative agent of public opinion of the country. The authors reveal the liberals’ understanding of the content of the Eastern question and the evolution of its perception, the main vector of which was the transition from contemplative reflection and publicistic discussion to attempts to understand the internal development of the country through its prism and influence on government policy. The Eastern question itself in the views of some liberals gradually turned from an object of abstract reasoning into an urgent problem, where the practical solution on which the fate of the country largely depended. The article analyzes the liberal understanding of the essence and main components of the Eastern question. It is emphasized that the liberal view, without claiming to be a scientific and a comprehensive coverage of it, tried to clarify for itself and for society these main elements of the eastern question, which in various epochs was reduced either to Russia’s support of the national liberation movement of the Slavs in the Balkans, which created opportunities for asserting its influence in the region; or to ensuring control over the Black sea Straits; or to reaching agreements with leading European States on the division of the "Turkish inheritance." Attention is drawn to the fact that in contrast to the majority of Russian conservatives, liberals closely linked the solution to the Eastern question with the implementation of reforms in the country, and, at least until the beginning of the twentieth century, with the rejection of the use of force in the Balkans. The article is intended to determine the factors that influenced the evolution of the attitude of liberal publicists to the Eastern question, to consider the historical context: changes in the international situation and the political situation which were reflected in their foreign policy views. © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

  • 1 Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), Moscow, Russian Federation
Balkans; Berlin Congress; Eastern question; European values; expansion; liberal Empire; liberal journalism; national interests; Russian liberalism; South Slavs; sovereignty; Straits
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