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HIS241 - November 17 - Russian Empire as Empire.docx

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Anthony Cantor

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HIS241 November 17 Kristen Young
Thinking about the Russian Empire as an Empire
There are 2 types of empire
o Western European (Britain, France, Netherlands)
Trading empires
Overseas colonies
o Multi-ethnic multi-national states with monarchs ruling over agrarian societies
Russia was a hybrid of the 2 kinds of empire
Had been a great power since the mid-18th century
Has elements of the first type of empire because its successful expansion was due to the
adoption of their techniques
Was a Christian society
Victims of Russian expansion were normally nomadic Muslims
Huge continental territory
Centralised absolutist bureaucratic monarchy
Didn't have economic development that was elemental to western Europe
Russia wondered what type of state it would be
o Would it be modern? Or part of the declining group?
Western historians look at Russia in its own category and therefore don't compare it to
any other country
Some of the pressing contemporary political dilemmas show up during this period of
Key dilemma - how to hold together polities of great empire while keeping up the policies
of nationalism and democracy while bringing forth the economic policies
Slow spread of industrialisation from west to east was a problem
o Was uneven and slow progress
Geopolitics, the nations status in the world was also a problem
o Had benefitted, like Britain, from policies that the continent had decided on
o Had a good position of power, in terms of land
o By 1900, position had worsened because of the unification of Germany
Made Russia unable to play against the powers within the German empire
Made the German state an uncomfortable neighbour
o Russia's position in the status quo was destabilized by the German nation
The Austro-German Alliance created even more problems
The Ottoman Empire was friend friend with Germany and that freaked out the Russian
Princes and statesmen
Parts of Asia in Russia's control were sparsely populated and Japan wanted to absorb
those places
Russia's resources didn't match its security requirements
o There was no way to face serious pressure from three fronts
And in the age of imperialism, that kind of weakness was an immediate pull for the
'enemies' of Russia
Population growth was seen as significant for Russia's potential power
Russia can be understood as a modern state but not as a consolidated, political
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