Anti-Slavic sentiment

Anti-Slavism, also known as Slavophobia, a form of racism, refers to various negative attitudes towards Slavic peoples, the most common manifestation being claims of inferiority of Slavic nations with respect to other ethnic groups, though most notably the Germanic peoples and Italian people. Slavophilia is a sentiment that celebrates Slavonic cultures or peoples, and has sometimes taken on supremacist or nationalist leanings, but can also refer to an animus of appreciation, love for, or gratitude for Slavic peoples or culture. Anti-Slavism reached its highest peak during World War II, when Nazi Germany declared Slavs, especially neighboring Poles to be subhuman and planned to exterminate the majority of Slavic people. [1] The persecution and systemic extermination of Slavonic persons in World War II for purely ethnic reasons has routinely been under-reported. Partly due to inability to differentiate political and resistance prisoners from those rounded up along the same lines as the Jews, and partly resulting from an anti-Communist sentiment of the West, the tendency of Western scholarship has been to downplay ethnic prejudice toward Slavic people and focus instead on Anti-Semitism, clearly the more profoundly emphasized German prejudice. Under the Generalplan Ost, an extermination plan written by the Nazis in 1941, approx. 31 of 45 million people of Eastern Europe of Slavonic heritage were to be executed or starved en mass through forced march into Siberia.

20th century


At the beginning of the 20th century, anti-Slavism developed in Albania by the work of the Franciscan friars who had studied in monasteries in Austria-Hungary,[2] after the recent massacres and expulsions of Albanians by their Slavic neighbours.[3] The Albanian intelligentsia proudly asserted, "We Albanians are the original and autochthonous race of the Balkans. The Slavs are conquerors and immigrants who came but yesterday from Asia".[4] In Soviet historiography, anti-Slavism in Albania was inspired by the Catholic clergy, which opposed the Slavic people because of the role the Catholic clergy played in preparations "for Italian aggression against Albania" and Slavs opposed "rapacious plans of Austro-Hungarian imperialism in Albania".[5]

An emaciated male inmate suffering from severe malnutrition at the Italian Rab concentration camp on the island of Rab in what is now Croatia. This Italian concentration camp largely detained Slavs.

Fascism and Nazism

Anti-Slavism was a notable component of Italian Fascism and Nazism both prior to and during World War II.

In the 1920s, Italian fascists targeted Yugoslavs, especially Serbs. They accused Serbs of having "atavistic impulses" and they claimed that the Yugoslavs were conspiring together on behalf of "Grand Orient masonry and its funds". One anti-Semitic claim was that Serbs were part of a "social-democratic, masonic Jewish internationalist plot".[6]

Benito Mussolini viewed the Slavic race as inferior and barbaric.[7] He identified the Yugoslavs (Croats) as a threat to Italy and he viewed them as competitors over the region of Dalmatia, which was claimed by Italy, and he claimed that the threat rallied Italians together at the end of World War I: "The danger of seeing the Jugo-Slavians settle along the whole Adriatic shore had caused a bringing together in Rome of the cream of our unhappy regions. Students, professors, workmen, citizens—representative men—were entreating the ministers and the professional politicians".[8] These claims often tended to emphasize the "foreignness" of the Yugoslavs as newcomers to the area, unlike the ancient Italians, whose territories the Slavs occupied. Ironically, the ancient sources refer to the Slavic peoples as the Adriatic Veneti, or the Wends, who were likely one of the settlers of Northern Italy around the time the Germanic tribes also arrived, shortly before the fall of the Roman Empire, and whose name the Veneto region and Venice both carry.

Anti-Slavic racism was an essential component of Nazism.[9] Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party regarded Slavic countries (especially Poland, Russia, and Serbia) and their peoples as non-Aryan Untermenschen (subhumans), they were deemed to be foreign nations that could not be considered part of the Aryan master race.[1] There were exceptions for some minorities in these states which were deemed by the Nazis to be the descendants of ethnic German settlers and not Slavs who were willing to be Germanized.[9] Hitler considered the Slavs to be inferior, because the Bolshevik Revolution had put the Jews in power over the mass of Slavs, who were, by his own definition, incapable of ruling themselves but were instead being ruled by Jewish masters.[10] He considered the development of Modern Russia to have been the work of Germanic, not Slavic, elements in the nation, but believed those achievements had been undone and destroyed by the October Revolution.[11]

Because, according to the Nazis, the German people needed more territory to sustain its surplus population, an ideology of conquest and depopulation was formulated for Central and Eastern Europe according to the principle of Lebensraum, itself based on an older theme in German nationalism which maintained that Germany had a "natural yearning" to expand its borders eastward (Drang Nach Osten).[9] The Nazis' policy towards Slavs was to exterminate or enslave the vast majority of the Slavic population and repopulate their lands with millions of ethnic Germans and other Germanic peoples.[12][13] According to the resulting genocidal Generalplan Ost, millions of German and other "Germanic" settlers would be moved into the conquered territories, and the original Slavic inhabitants were to be annihilated, removed or enslaved.[9] The policy was focused especially towards the Soviet Union, as it alone was deemed capable of providing enough territory to accomplish this goal.[14] As part of this policy, the Hunger Plan was developed, which included seizing food produced on the occupied Soviet territory and delivering it primarily to German army. This should ultimately result in the starvation and death of 20 to 30 million people (mainly Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians). It is estimated that in 1941–1944 over four million Soviet citizens were starved according to this plan.[15] The resettlement policy reached a much more advanced state in Occupied Poland because of its immediate proximity to Germany.[9]

To deviate from ideological theories for strategic reasons by forging alliances with Croatia (a puppet state created after the invasion of Yugoslavia) and Bulgaria, the Croats were officially described as being "more Germanic than Slav", a notion supported by Croatia's fascist dictator Ante Pavelić who maintained the view that the "Croatians were the descendants of the ancient Goths" who "had the Panslav idea forced upon them as something artificial".[16][17] However the Nazi regime continued to classify the Croats as "subhumans" despite its alliance with them.[18] Hitler also deemed the Bulgarians to be "Turkoman" in origin.[17]