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Alexei Khomiakov

Twelfth Letter to William Palmer

9 March 1854

Khomiakov on the Eastern Question * Khomiakov's opinion of Palmer's 'Dissertations' * Distinction between the two higher Sacraments and the other five * Khomiakov's letter on the outbreak of the Crimean War

Dear and Most Reverend Sir, —

The strangest thing in the world, and the most unexpected for me, is to find myself writing about politics. But every political question has its social meaning and, if well-understood, its religious tendency. This is particularly the case with the Eastern question, and I have been naturally impelled to show how this side of a great political event acts on the mind of the reflecting few, and the unreflecting but deep-feeling mass in Russia. I think the exposition of the public opinion as it stands in our country may be of some use even for the public opinion in England. I should be very glad if it was possible to have the lines which I send printed either in a newspaper or as a flying pamphlet with an English translation. The first course would certainly be the better, supposing any newspaper would admit my little article. You yourself, dear sir, and some few others, perhaps will, at least in part, sympathise with us, but even you will find my expressions rather, perhaps even very, harsh; yet, I am sure that the printing of such opinions and language cannot bring any disagreeable consequences to anyone, as it may be preceded by an introduction disclaiming anything like a total concordance of feelings and views, but asking at the same time for Russian opinion a right of publicity which has been given even to Chinese opinions and manifestoes. My expressions are not official (this you know very well), and they are perhaps the more interesting as being the most free and the most unsophisticated representation of the feelings which pervade the whole country of which Petersburg and the court are no very adequate representatives, though in the present case they are brought nearer to the country than in common occurrences. I will add a few words more which I have not said in the French article. The conditions exacted from the Sultan are quite ridiculous — another name for harratsch: and the right standing witness before a Mahometan judge, whose Codex is the Koran — very important indeed! That would have mightily saved the Armenian Jacobites when they were slaughtered by Beder Khan! In 1850, twelve thousand Armenians and Nestorians were massacred by the Kurds under the leadership of Beder Khan Beg, armed with Turkish governmental-issue riffles and financed, blessed, bribed and supported by the Turkish government. It would be laughable, if it were not an abominable trick and a dirty pretext for getting an apparent right to fight against Christians.

I know too much of history to indulge in a feeling of indignation against any political tricksters such as Lord John Russell lived 1792 - 1878, held offices of Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary; was Prime Minister 1846-1852, 1865-1866 and Lord Palmerston. born Henry John Temple, lived 1784 - 1865, Secretary of War 1809-1829, Prime Minister 1855-1858, 1859-1865 Machiavelism is no very new invention, and very worthless deeds have often been crowned by success, but I am sorry that England should become the instrument of a shabby intrigue, when it could have played such a noble part in the present events, without letting Russia usurp any exorbitant influence in the East. Russia came to the defence of Orthodox Christians under oppression from the Ottoman Empire and invaded Moldavia and Walachia, and destroyed the Ottoman fleet at Sinope. Britain, France, and Sardinia sided with the Ottomans (Mahometans) against the Russians (Christians) and Austria threatened to enter the war against Russia as well. Russia was defeated and Orthodox Christians continued to suffer great oppression. I should be glad, if I could be assured that Gladstone does not approve of this guilty and wicked war.

I have not yet had an occasion to inform you that I have at last received your Dissertations. Permit me to say that, though dissenting in some important points from your opinion, I cannot speak without admiration of the conscientiousness and earnestness of your researches and of the deep feeling of love for truth which pervades the whole work. After having read your magnificent chapter about the Seven Sacraments, I have been struck by an idea which I do not remember having met anywhere. Would not the following division answer some difficulties? viz., that the two higher Sacraments belong to the relation between man and the whole Church, and the five others to the relation of man to the earthly Church and its organism. This remark I submit to your impartial judgment. Of the work in general, I hope to write on the very next occasion.

I feel I am trespassing unpardonably upon your leisure and kindness, but I hope you will pardon me, considering the utter impossibility of us Russians to have any communication by print with other nations. I need not say that if the publication of my French letter is possible, it should go without the name of the writer.

Accept, dear sir, the assurance of my sincere respect and gratification for your constant friendship, and believe me to be, your most humble and obedient,

Alexei Khomiakov

9 March 1854

 

 

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