The Slavic brothers who are drifting away

Ukrainian painter Stepan Kolesnikov depicts the Slavic national customs

In mid-summer July, the county of Vovodawa in eastern Poland is still in a cool breeze. Standing on the hillside here, you can see a field of green oil on the opposite side, not far from the borders of two other Slavic countries – Ukraine and Belarus. The three Slavic “brothers” countries formed the “Golden Triangle” here.

The border town of Vvodawa on the Polish side is like a bridgehead in eastern Poland. As a Sislav national, the Poles are here with two East Slavic countries across the river. On the hillside of the border of the Three Kingdoms, there is a giant Polish Catholic church, facing the Madonna, which is Ukraine and Belarus, which are mainly believed to be Orthodox Christians.

In the small area of ​​Eastern Europe, the impact of this different national borders has made the author think. Roughly speaking, the European language can be divided into three major languages: Latin (distributed in France, Italy, and other countries), Germanic (distributed in the country, etc.) and Slavic (distribution) In most countries in Eastern Europe). Looking back a hundred years after the end of the First World War, there is no goodwill between the Slavic countries, and more geopolitical intrigues.

Three branches
After the end of the Cold War, there were as many as 13 countries that could be called “Slavic.” Geographically, except for the few exceptions of the three Baltic countries, Albania, Romania and Hungary, the countries of the Greater Eastern Europe are basically Slavic countries; from the population point of view, the Slavic-speaking population is already the first in Europe. It occupies half of Europe.

However, the interior of the Slavic world is far from being a piece of iron. On the contrary, it is an exceptionally rich and diverse, even contradictory small world.

This geographically incoherent Slavic world is usually divided into Eastern Slavic (Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian), Western Slavic (Polish, Czech, Slovak), and Yugoslavia (here is a national-cultural concept, not only refers to the former The three branches of Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro in the “Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia” also include the Bulgarian branch of the main ethnic group with Bulgarian composition.

According to legend, in the dark years after the fall of the Roman Empire, three herders in central Europe decided to part ways, each looking for a place. One brother went south, one brother went east, and the third brother followed the white eagle in the air and headed northwest to settle down on the Vistula River.

The brothers who went south went to be the ancestors of the Czechs. The brothers who went east became the ancestors of the Russians, and the brothers who followed the white eagle became the ancestors of the Poles. This is the legend about the Slavic tribe’s “opening branches and leaves”. The shortcoming of this legend is that it does not contain the Yugoslav peoples.

In the long river of history, different foreign nationalities and cultures have their own influence on Slavic in different regions. Therefore, the diverse language, geographical characteristics and religious worldview make this Slavic cultural circle look like a kaleidoscope, which is confusing.

In the Middle Ages, the Slavic tribes of the same roots were linguistically reciprocal, and now, a Polish speaks Polish, and perhaps the Russians can only guess half of the meaning.

To follow Slav’s oldest words, head to the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea.

In the Croatian capital of Zagreb, the Assumption Cathedral is the most visible landmark in the entire Lower Town. On the marble walls of more than ten meters, all kinds of strange letter symbols are engraved. The Glagolitic is the oldest Slavic word that was handed down in the early Middle Ages. It was originally used by missionaries to translate the Bible into the ancient Slavic language.

The Glagory letters were once popular in the Bulgarian kingdom, the Bohemian region and the ancient Croatia, and have experienced a constant recession that can only be seen in some Croatian churches. In today’s Croatia, the Gragori alphabet has become a symbol of the uniqueness of the nation. Even the souvenir shop sells T-shirts and antique letters carved with the Glagory letters.

After the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the return of the subjectivity of the former republics of the various countries was the primary political project after the end of the Cold War. In Belgrade, the Serbian capital 369 km away from Zagreb, the ethnic landscape is very different. On the University Square in Belgrade, two huge bronze statues are erected: Saint Cyril and Saint-Medoc.

At the end of the 9th century, the Orthodox missionaries Cyril and Maddot, who were expelled by the Catholic Church, created a writing medium suitable for popularizing the Orthodox Church in the Slavic nation according to the Glagoli alphabet. For this reason, the Cyrillic alphabet has become an important language banner in the Orthodox world. To this day, the four southern Slavic nationalities of Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, as well as the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, use the Cyrillic alphabet.

Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Croatia and Serbia can be said to be “everything goes on”: the main faith is Catholic to Croatia, and Serbia, with the Orthodox Church as its core, maintains good relations with the great powers of the East. Although the two Yugoslav nationalities can communicate with each other in language, they are gradually drifting away from culture and politics.

The Croatian post-90s student Mislav, who studied linguistics in Zagreb, said to the author: “As a post-90s, it is really magic to watch the TV show in Yugoslavia in the 1960s. People from Zagreb, with people from Belgrade , using the standard Southern Slavic language, and this standard language seems to be very old-fashioned today. The daily language of young people in the two countries is very different, just like the border between Poland and Belarus and Ukraine. The Slavic countries are more emphatic about their respective subjectivity than commonality.

In the evolution of the European map, a series of Slavic kingdoms that appeared in the Middle Ages were left in the 18th century, and almost all of them were included in their sphere of influence by European powers. By 1878, there were only three independent Slavic countries in Europe: the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Serbia, and the Principality of Montenegro.

The Polish-Lithuanian United Kingdom, once the largest landlocked country in Europe in the Middle Ages, has been divided between the Russian Empire, Austria (Austrian-Hungarian Empire) and Prussia (German Empire). In the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time, 46% of the population was Slavs. Most of the southern Slavic people are subjects of the Ottoman Empire.

As the “leader” of the Slavic world, the Russian Empire offered the banner of “pan-Slavicism” and tried to inspire nationalism in other empire. In the Balkans, the Russian Empire has always supported the independence movement of the southern Slavic nationalities, such as the Bulgarian independence of 1908, a strategic victory for the Russian Empire to weaken the Ottoman forces in the Balkans. By fostering the independence of the Slavic nationals in the south, the Russian Empire attempted to drive its own forces into the Mediterranean.

In 1912, Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro formed the “Balkan League”, and under the support of the Russian Empire, they won the victory and eventually drove the Ottoman Empire out of the main part of Europe. Russia’s attempt to help the southern Slavic countries to try to get through the “Road to the Mediterranean” seems to have been successful. However, Serbia and Bulgaria under the umbrella of Tsarist Russia had their own small abacus after the Ottoman Empire was ousted. The area that was taken back from the Ottoman Empire, especially the Macedonian region, became the two southern Slavic countries of Bulgaria and Serbia. The fuse of the feud.

Before and after the end of World War I in 1918, the three empires in eastern Europe were declared annihilated. There were more than a dozen countries on the map of Europe, and many Slavic countries that had disappeared in history returned to the international arena. The newly established Polish Second Republic, Czechoslovakia, and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (before the name of the country “Serbia-Croatia-Slovenia Kingdom” before 1929) and the Slavic countries that emerged between the two world wars became the biggest beneficiaries of the demise of the old empire.

Bulgarian seaside city Varna, former villagers

The most harvested in the First World War was Serbia. Under the leadership of the Serbs, the three Yugoslav nationalities merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. However, within the kingdom, the Catholics of the Croatian community and the Serbian people who believe in the Orthodox Church have not been in harmony; the minority Slovenian and Croatian have always been wary of the dominant Serbian.

In 1928, Croatia’s important politician, the leader of the People’s Peasant Party, Stepan Radic, who had always opposed Serbia’s dominant position, was assassinated by Serbian militants. The relationship between the two Slavic peoples has turned sharply, laying the groundwork for the future split.

Clean up the old mountain river
The new international order and the post-war turbulent economic environment have made some geopolitical gamblers feel organic.

In the eastern Polish city of Lublin, an old document from 1569 is kept in the lobby of the town hall. On this document full of seals, it was stated that the Polish kingdom at that time merged with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to become a sovereign state. In the vastest quasi-inland country of the European medieval age, there are Poles, Lithuanians, Jews, Belarusians and Ukrainians. In Poland, which was divided for 123 years, the document that proved the merger of Poland and Lithuania was quietly lying in the dust of history, until the events changed, and the Polish name reappeared on the map of Europe.

Marshal Piłsudski, the leader of the military government of the Second Republic of Poland, made a ambition at the beginning of the restoration of the country and wanted to comprehensively restore the vast territory of the Polish-Lithuanian United Kingdom. In other words, the Polish heart of Marshal Piłsudski is not just a single nation state with only the Polish nation, but a multi-ethnic federal state. The country covers the western part of Ukraine, reaches the Black Sea to the south, covers Lithuania to the north, and reaches the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea.

It is precisely because of this “recovering the lost land” thinking that the Polish military government has attacked the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and claimed that it is a city that has an important position in the history of Poland. Poland, which has just recovered its vitality, has not yet talked about the prosperous and strong Poland. It has fought against the southern neighbors Czechoslovakia, the neighboring neighbor Lithuania, and the eastern Ukraine. The land in Eastern Europe is full of smoke.

Under the logic of the struggle for “survival space” between the nation-states before the Second World War after World War I, this phenomenon of realizing the change of national boundaries through military means is common in Europe. In the 21st century, the ruling right-wing government of Poland proposed a “three-sea strategy” to try to open up the energy transmission channels of the Baltic Sea, the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea, as well as the Great Polish spirit of Piłsudski in the past.

From 1918 to the present, Poland’s ambition is not to return to the position of the “Slavic” country. As a country with multiple resentments against Russia, Poland has always been wary of Russia’s use of “pan-Slavicism” to exert influence in Eastern Europe; in contrast, the Czech Republic, which is much weaker, has more enthusiasm for “pan-Slavicism.”

“Pan-Slavicism” pays more attention to the exchange of culture and folk art today. The Slavic cultural forums and social media accounts that have emerged on the European Internet are more often used to exchange and compare folk costumes, songs, dances and ancient customs of multiple Slavic nationalities, maintaining the ancient ties of almost 1,000 years ago.

Some network enthusiasts use Slavic elements to package some Internet brands and expression packs, which is at most a kind of folk subculture output. “Pan-Slavicism” currently does not have any institutional organization and operation. After the Cold War, the Slavic countries seemed to move in different directions.

Croatian linguistics student Mislav is firmly convinced that Croatia’s destination is in the EU, but this does not prevent the Slavic culture from maintaining a certain connection. There is no structural contradiction between the two. He said: “Today we (Slavic people) should learn from each other more, avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and repeat historical mistakes.”