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Vladimir Solovyov On Nationalism

From a speech delivered by Vladimir Solovyov at a university dinner on February 8th, 1890.

The dominating idea of the present time is the national idea. Of course, there is nothing bad about this. But the national idea as well as any other, can be very differently interpreted. The conception of nationalism which is very popular in our country reminds one of the famous answer made by a Hottentot to a missionary, who asked him whether he knows the difference between good and bad.

“Sure I know,” retorted the Hottentot. “Good—is when I steal other people’s cattle and wives, and bad—when my own are stolen.” In a like manner, many of our nationalists praise the love for their people and brand other people’s patriotism as treason.

In spite of the wide diffusion of this view, I persist in my belief that the Russian national idea cannot be based on a Hottentot-like morality, that it cannot exclude the principles of justice and all-human solidarity. It is time that we should see the realisation of the true Russian idea and of all that it implies, namely: Poland’s autonomy, Jewish equal rights and the untrammelled development of all the nationalities that people the Russian Empire.

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