Correspondence between Henry Spalding and Petr Souvchinsky

Letter by H.N. Spalding to P.P. Souvchinsky, February 10th 1928 [1]

Dear Mr. Souvtchinsky,

I feel very graceless in not having written before to thank you for your very kind wishes for my wife and myself. We heartily reciprocate them for the New Year.

I am greatly interested and encouraged to know that you feel so optimistic about the perspectives both inside and outside R.[ussia] during this year. It certainly seems that the émigrés ought to be attracted by the Europasian views and aims; therefore it seems important to present them in as attractive and conciliatory a way as possible (conciliatory with both), as the movement needs all the friends it can get. I have done what I could in this direction in the little book to which you kindly refer (by the way, it is to be anonymous).[2] I certainly should not have taken the hardihood (insufficiently equipped as I am), had I known that M.[alevich] and possibly others were taking the field [with books] in English.[3] However it is founded almost entirely on talks with M.[alevich] and A.[rapov], so I hope the picture of the movement is not far from the truth.

I should much like to meet you again, for I am constantly hearing about you. Mirsky is perfectly delightful! His twinkle itself is a joy, and the mind behind the twinkle a still greater one. I want very much indeed to meet Professor Karsavin, and it is very good news that he is coming to England at Easter. He has shown me great kindness in sending me (through M.[alevich]) his valuable memoranda. One of them (that on sobornost, contrasting the Orthodox and the Roman Churches), is so illuminating as to be [Ancient Greek., illegible ]. I cannot feel grateful enough to him. Well, the quotation reminds me of another – that quoted by Shelley as the motto of his poem on Hellas – MANTIε EIΜ EεΘλΩN AГ ΩNΩN [4]. That applied not only to Hellas!

With very good wishes, yours sincerely, H N Spalding.

Letter by H.N. Spalding to P.P. Souvchinsky, February 23rd 1928.

Dear Mr. Souvtchinsky,

Thank you so much for Alexiev’s book, and for Prof. Karsavin’s manuscript [5]. Being an ignoramus I don’t read German. But I will get Jacqueline to read it and tell me its purpose. It is very kind of you to think of me. I am extremely sorry to hear that “your work has been almost completely suspended for some weeks”. What a pity! There was not the very slightest need, if only I had known. The very moment I got news from Malevsky (the first time I heard you wanted anything), I took the necessary steps. If only he had authorized you or Arapoff to draw on me during his absence, there would have been no difficulty at all, and no delay. Do let me know if you want more before he returns. I can send it by return.

Malevsky’s book is just going to print. My wife joins me in very kind regards,

Sincerely yours, H N Spalding

I incline to think there may be real interest in England in Europasianism, especially if say: many starting [неразборчиво] happiness in Russia.

Letter by H.N. Spalding to P.P. Souvchinsky, April 12th 1928.

Dear Mr. Souvtchinsky,

Let me send you my best wishes for the Easter. Christos woskrese! I hope those great words will for long have special significance for Russia and those who like Russia.

I fear I have never thanked you for a most kind letter I received recently. The success of the E[urop]A[sianism] seems to me of the utmost importance, not only for Russia but for the entire world. In India, in China, in Japan, in several states of Islam an intelligentsia is arising, Westernized and secularized, fundamentally like that of Russia: is it going to follow the lead of the old mother Russia into Bolshevism or on the other hand the lead of Europasians in their attempt to build a state upon the principles of the Gospel? To my mind it is the crucial question of our century; and it is a privilege to help towards the right solution, in however small a degree.

Yours sincerely, H N Spalding.

Letter by H.N. Spalding to P.P. Souvchinsky, November 22nd 1929.

Dear Mr. Souvtchinsky,

Referring to my letter of the 15th instant I have now had time to read the translation of yours of the 6th with more care, and desire once again to thank you very warmly for your friendly words as to what I have been able to do for E[urop]A[sianism]. In this country, as you know, one may differ sharply in opinion and yet remain in perfect friendliness; that is my position in regard to yourself. If I speak frankly therefore you will understand, I am certain, that it is not from any lack of goodwill.

First let me have the pleasant task of saying where we agree. I have always understood that the change of policy – from attack to persuasion – which was adopted after the misfortunes of 1927 was partly, or even largely, due to you [6]. I heartily concur in it, and feel that just in so far as you were its author E[urope]A[sianism] lies under a real debt of obligation to you.

It is upon the way in which this policy has been carried out, particularly in the paper, that we differ [7]. The line adopted in it seems to me to be wrong, alike intellectually and practically.

May I here say that you are wholly mistaken when you write that you are profoundly sorry that “before condemning our standpoint you should have made an attempt to find out its real meaning and – I make bold to believe – its value”. I have taken great pains to ascertain and to comprehend it. I first became aware of a serious cleavage of opinion in the middle of March, when I received a long letter from SA[vitsky] in reply to one I had written him at the end of January severely criticizing his schism. I sent it at once to M.[alevich] for his comments, and wrote on the 15th of March to Nikitine [8] : “Sa[vitsky] states a very reasonable case – to the general effect that Clamart was overturning fundamental E[urop]A[sianism] principles wholesale [9]. I wish I understood the Clamartian side equally clearly. Why is it so necessary to accommodate E[urop]A[sianism] to M[ar]x[is]m, and how is it being done? How does Feodorov’s philosophy (with which I am unfamiliar) come in [10]? If you or anyone can refer me to a summary of the Clamartian view, I shall be most grateful. If it is in Russian, I will have it translated. But I really base my view exclusively on your own articles in the paper, of which I have had a number translated. Could there be better evidence? I have tried to study them most carefully.

As I said, I am afraid neither their philosophy nor their political wisdom convinces me. To take the philosophy of history you are kind enough to sketch in your letter. I am in total disagreement both with its methods and with its results. Far from thinking that history should be treated as in a different plane from religion above and politics below, I think the great mistake of historians has been to regard only one side of man’s nature – generally either the political or the economical. Marx is a special offender in this respect. The right view of history (in my view) is to regard mankind as approaching nearer and nearer to that Reality which alone can give it happiness. Providence seems to have ordained that different peoples should respectively pay special attention to and gain special insights into the three forms or aspects of Reality – China to spirit, modern Europe to Nature, India and Russia to God, and so on. On these lines (speaking very roughly), a science of history seems to be possible; not indeed strictly a philosophy, as there is no a priori necessity to think of mankind as attaining these objects, as there is to think of individual men ultimately doing so. (It would of course take far too much space to elaborate this view here). Or again, take your use (elsewhere) of the terms such as “moment” or “dialectic”: I am afraid that competent philosophers think you misunderstand Hegel.

But even were your philosophy as right as I believe it to be wrong, I think it would be entirely out of place in a newspaper intended to convert the general public, both in Europe and elsewhere, to the principles and policies of E[urop]A[sianism]. The ordinary reader does not require subtleties, which only puzzle or mislead him. You write to me: “You are well aware – I should think – that I am neither a “materialist” nor an atheist”. Certainly I am; but your articles are full of indiscriminate praise of a system which is penetrated with aggressive atheism and materialism in its crudest and worst sense; hence, though you yourself intend to draw a distinction between it and E[urop]A[sianism], almost every reader gets the impression that, though wishing for some reform, you are on the whole a warm admirer of Communism with all its evils. For instance, your article “E[ur]A[asianism] and the USSR” (Evrazia, N35) was translated for me by an extremely intelligent young Russian. I said to him: “Well, what do you think of it?” His reply was: “It is what they might have written in Moscow; only it is about twelve years out of date and it is not so brightly written.” That is not, I am sure, the impression that you wanted to create; but it is the impression (as I hear from many sides) that has been actually created, with most disastrous results.

To illustrate a little of what I mean from this article. It applauds the Marxist-Leninist tradition – without excluding the vile features which have been so prominent in it. It sneers at political democracy, forgetting that it used to be a principle of E[urop]A[sianism] that countries were best served by their native institutions, and that one country or continent should not impose its own institutions on another; as well as the fact that Western democracy has long been steadily and successfully improving labour conditions of all kinds, and resolutely and skillfully organizing peace since the war, and so on – in striking contrast to the poverty and terrorism of the Soviet Union. It approves class warfare – a principle fundamentally opposed to the command that we should “love our neighbours as ourselves”. It praises the “cultural pioneership” of the Soviet Union; a culture which notoriously limps along in the fetters of Marxian theory, instead of marching freely towards Truth. These are merely samples of the writing I hold to be mischievous. I fully realize that your meaning is often better than your words; but unfortunately it is the words that count, for from them follow results, and those have proved disastrous.

May I also say a word about the way in which the affairs of E[urop]A[sianism] have been conducted in general? I do not think it is possible for any party to succeed so long as its members fail in consideration for the views and feelings of one another. It is impossible for a party to remain strong and united, if, with pontifical infallibility one leader persists in pushing his views without regard to the criticisms of his colleagues; if another hastily rushes into schism; if this, that and the other man or body is to be excluded, because their views do not quite tally with one’s own; if expenses are to be incurred without regard to ability to meet them; if there is to be no loyalty to party leaders. And so on. The Englishman is brought up to play team games, with the consideration for others and the sacrifices of himself which these necessarily involve. Will not E[urop]A[sianism] in future be better served by a good deal more of the team spirit on all sides?

There is a further point, recently revealed in all its fullness: the Marxian theories are now happily out of date; those to whom the articles were intended to appeal (I have it from sources outside E[urop]A[sianism] as well as inside) repudiate the theories they expound, and are looking for something better and newer.[11] Is not this our opportunity? Do not the original principles of E[urop]A[sianism], if sympathetically presented, just meet the case? These principles clearly distinguish between what in the present system we consider to be good, and what bad. I believe that, if we act boldly upon these lines, E[urop]A[sianist] principles, by filling the void left by the repudiation of Marxian principles, will give new men and the younger generation in general just what they need and are looking for, and will eventually carry all before them.

Have we not tended to forget that E[urop]A[sianism] is fundamentally spiritual, and that, though we may speak persuasively, we must not compromise that fact?[12] As the Gospel puts it, we cannot serve God and Mammon. Even though Marx has a better side (“There is some soul of goodness in things evil”), it is to Christ, not to Marx, that we want to lead the Russian people; and it is the Gospel, not the Communist Manifesto, that will satisfy the needs of which they are now so conscious. It was by a religious appeal that Russia was freed both from Mongol and Polish yoke; and, while allowing for difference of methods, we ought to remember this, as well on the ground of statesmanship as on that of religion.

It may be that at this stage I stand too far upon one side, and you too far upon the other; the new Programme may be too Marxian for me, and not Marxian enough for you. It remains to be seen. If this should be so, neither of us (fortunately) is left without resource. The world contains many things besides politics; in particular, you and I are both devoted to art – you especially to music, I to poetry. If I stand aside, it will be without bitterness; I shall still try to serve E[urop]A[sianism], though outside the organized movement [13]. Let us best serve the world in the way we best can.

I have written with great frankness, not seeking to minimize our differences. Let me end with the pleasure of thanking you again for your kind words about what I have tried to do, and by renewing my expression of friendly feeling. I hope we shall meet when you come to London, or I to Paris.

Yours very sincerely,

H N Spalding.


1. Bibiotheque Nationale Française Mus Rés Vm. Dos. 91 (77).

2. Spalding H.N. Russia in Russurrection. A Summary of the View and of the Aims of a New Party in Russia. By an English Europasian. London, 1928 // BNF Mus Rés Vm. Dos. 91 (77).

3. P.N. Malevsky-Malevich. A New Party in Russia. London, 1928.

4. Sophocles. Oedipus Colonnus. «I am the prophet of glorious battles …» (Ancient Greek).

5. Perhaps he is talking about the pamphlet: N. Alekseev. On the Paths to the Future of Russia: the Soviet system and its political possibilities. Berlin. Eurasian Publishing House, 1927. [Н.Н. Алексеев. Ну путях к будущей России: советский строй и его политические возможности. Берлин. Евраз. Кн. Изд-во, 1927.].

6. «the misfortunes of 1927» — Spalding meant the finding that the «Trust» was a fictitious organization created by the Soviet secret services.

7. Newspaper «Eurasia».

8. Vasiliy Petrovich Nikitin.

9. Clamart (Clamart) — a suburb of Paris, where Petr Suvchinsky lived . It gave the name to the «left» pro-Soviet group of the Eurasianist movement.

10. He means the «Philosophy of the Common Cause» by Nikolay Fyedorov.

11. Spalding means the common among Eurasianists belief that the Soviet leadership was growing disillusined with the Marxist ideology. Mirsky and Karsavin claimed during an interrogation in the USSR that the Eurasianists had planned to turn Eurasianism into a «laboratory of thought» and the newspaper «Eurasia» into the press organ of the Eurasianist (i.e. right) opposition within the USSR (of course, these sources must be treated with caution).

12. Here Spalding practically repeats the criticism by Nikolay Trubetskoy, who argued to restrict the political activities of the Eurasianist movement. At the same time Troubetzkoy always agreed with the majority of the movement in relation to political activities and took them as a fact.

13. Later on Spalding would sponsor individual projects of Savitsky’s Prague group, as well as help the few Eurasianists left in Europe after World War 2.

Source: Sergey Glebov. From the correspondence of the Eurasianists. Ab Imperio. №2. 2003.

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