History, Technology and Russian Values
Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences,
University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
Major Themes of Russian History
- Outside Greco-Roman sphere of influence
- Asia and Middle East had
a much greater influence on Russia than on the rest of Europe
- Slavic languages not spoken in Western Europe.
- Does not use the Roman Alphabet
- Intense suffering
- Cult of Authority
- Obsession with secrecy
- Dissimulation, "read between the lines"
- Vast distances
Trans-Siberian Railroad--4300 mi. 1891-1905
Formation of Russia; The Early Era
- 900 Byzantine missionaries penetrate the Slavic realm
- Implantation of the Orthodox Church
- Development of the Cyrillic alphabet
A modified Greek alphabet with a few Hebrew and invented characters
- 900 Vikings gain control of northern Russia
Vikings trade with Constantinople through Russia
- 1238-1500's Mongol (Tartar) rule of Russia
Mongol insistence on absolute and degrading submission probably
played a role in rise of authority cult.
- 1246-1462 Dukes of Muscovy
- 1462-1584 Early Tsars
- Ivan IV, "the Terrible" 1547-1584
By destroying the nobility and creating a corps of followers in
their place, Ivan helped further centralize authority.
- 1584-1613 "Time of Troubles": A period of internal strife
- Concept of the "Third Rome"
- Russia, as guardian of the Orthodox Church, was the lawful
successor of Rome and Constantinople.
- Philotheos, a monk of the early 1500's: "Two Romes have indeed
fallen, but the third stands, and there will be no fourth."
Growth of the Russian Empire
Romanov Dynasty, 1613-1917
- 1582 Conquest of Sibyr (western Siberia)
- 1640 Russians Reach Pacific
Surprisingly little opposition to eastward expansion.
One possible explanation: Mongol culture saw no disgrace in
submitting to a more powerful authority (it was viewed as sharing in his power), and by absorbing formerly Mongol lands, Tsars may have been seen as legitimate successors of Mongol Khans.
- Peter I "The Great" 1682-1725
- The Great Embassy
- Construction of Petersburg, "Window on the West"
- Replaces Moscow as capital
- Subordination of church
- Refusal to call council to replace Patriarch
- "Third Rome" concept enhanced
- Catherine II "The Great" 1762-1796
1801-1917 Reform and Reaction
The plight of 19th Century tsars might be likened to someone who discovers the safety valve on a boiler has been blocked. Do you attempt to lessen the pressure and risk an explosion, or keep the valve blocked and postpone the disaster as long as possible?
Paul I, 1796-1801
Catherine had to struggle bitterly to keep her throne in her early years, and kept her weakling son out of the loop as he grew up. His reign was predictably brief.
Alexander I, 1801-1825 (Reform)
Decembrist Revolt, 1825. First attempt to establish a democracy in Russia.
Nicholas I, 1825-1855 (Reaction)
Visit of DeCustine, 1839
This flawed French writer witnessed the dark underside of Russian life. His writings, rediscovered by Westerners during the 1930's, show a Russia scarcely distinuguishable from Stalin's
Alexander II, 1855-1881 (Reform)
- Liberation of serfs, 1861
- Liberation of Balkans, 1877
Reason for Bulgarian devotion to USSR
- Flowering of Russian arts
- Assassination of Tsar, 1881, ironically by a radical who felt reforms weren't moving fast enough.
Alexander III, 1881-1894 (Reaction)
Lesson learned: Reforms get tsars killed. Avoid them.
Nicholas II, 1894-1917 (Somewhat Reactionary)
In other times, Nicholas might have lived out his reign as a well-meaning if somewhat inept autocrat
- Need for reform vs. need to control forces unleashed by long-overdue reforms.
- Advocates of reform vs. advocates of repression.
End of the Empire
Alexander III, 1881-1894
- Pogroms, 1881
- Birth of Zionist movement.
- 1,000,000 Russian Jews to U.S. by 1914.
Nicholas II, 1894-1917
- Russo-Japanese War, 1905-1906
- A disaster for Russia.
- Emergence of Japan as a world power.
- Discontent over war leads to revolution, 1905
- Formation of Duma (parliament)
- Stolypin, 1906-1911--reforms
- Influence of Rasputin, 1911-1916
- Rasputin, a megalomaniac cleric, held an almost mystical hold on Nicholas' wife.
- Rasputin's reactionary ideas heavily influenced the Tsar
- World War I, 1914-1917
- Russian disasters at the front created mass unrest.
- Liberals and moderates, who supported the war (for fear of losing territory where much of Russia's industry was located), were thereby discredited.
- Rasputin persuaded Nicholas to stay in the war; his motive was a mystical attachment to "Holy Russia" and the "Third Rome"
- March revolution
- Provisional government
- Refusal to accept harsh surrender terms for fear of collapse of Russia
- October revolution
- Bolsheviks seize power.
- Bolsheviks accept harsh surrender terms as the price of ending
the war and avoiding being deposed themselves.
The Soviet Experience
- 1917 Revolution
- 1918-1921 Civil War
- Red (Bolshevik) vs. White (Czarist and others)
- 75% of Russia in White control, 1918
- Minor U.S. military intervention
- 1924-1952 Stalin Era
- Periodic purges kill perhaps 20 million
- Exaltation of the cult of suspicion and authority to an all-time peak
1940-45 World War II -- The Great Fatherland War
- 20 million Russian deaths
- Occupation of Eastern Europe
- Traditionally seen as Russia's natural sphere.
- Desire to create defensive buffer.
- Division of Germany, Russia's traditional rival in West
- Invasion of Manchuria, August 1945
- Not just a quick land grab at the expense of a defeated Japan.
- There were still 1,000,000 Japanese troops in Manchuria.
- A well-planned tank invasion over a variety of terrains.
- Much of Soviet military thinking was based on the
success of this campaign
The Cold War
- Development of nuclear weapons, 1950.
- Sputnik, 1957
Post-Cold War Russia
- Collapse and Fragmentation of Soviet Union 1992
- Reform-Reaction tensions of 19th Century still at work
- The Russian historical theme of suffering leads Russians to endure economic dislocations with much greater patience than Americans would.
- Russia is far too big to disappear; Russia will re-emerge as a superpower.
- A reunion of some of the former Soviet states is by no means impossible.
- Islamic radicalism in Kazakhstan and other states.
- The Russian Mafia
- Have appeared and grown far too quickly to be solely a post-Soviet phenomenon.
- Must have been deeply entrenched under former Soviet system
- Probably allowed to run their operations in return for reporting on and intimidating dissidents, and doing occasional dirty jobs (mokrie dela - "wet affairs") where deniability is important.
- Probably employ many of their former KGB masters and allies.
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Created 22 May 1997
Last Update 22 May 1997
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