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Russia's Historical Legacy, Part III

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Presentation on theme: "Russia's Historical Legacy, Part III"— Presentation transcript:

1 Russia's Historical Legacy, Part III

2 Russia 4 ( ) The Russian Empire A modern European project

3 Tsar Peter the Great, first Emperor of All Russias
(reign )

4 Keen sense of Russia’s backwardness compared to Europe (notions of the Third Rome are long forgotten) This backwardness is seen as a major threat to both security and development Determination to catch up rapidly, by introducing modern Western ways Main goal – building a powerful military to to regain Russia’s access to warm seas Emulation of the West for the sake of making Russia more powerful Westernize or perish

5 The modernizing reforms are enforced by the iron hand of the state
Creation of an autocratic state Concentration of enormous power in the hands of the Emperor The state imposes itself on society, extracting surplus and reducing civic freedoms to a minimum Exploitation of labour rises to unprecedented levels Everybody, including the aristocracy, are ordered to serve the Russian state Cretaion of a modern bureaucracy The Church falls under direct state control Creation of a massive modern army and a ruthless police apparatus State-led economic development

6 The Battle of Poltava, 1709: Peter’s new army defeats Sweden

7 St. Petersburg: new capital founded in 1703 as Russia’s “window to Europe”

8 Under Peter the Great, Russia becomes a naval power

9 The Bronze Horseman: monument to Peter I in St. Petersburg

10 Through Peter’s emergency program, Russia gets a massive upgrade
His modernizing totalitarianism, when viewed in retrospect, becomes an attractive model for those bent on rapid progressive change But the security and development costs are so high that society cannot be maintained in such a condition permanently After Peter’s death, the state’s grip on society relaxes to some degree, but the basic features of the regime remain in place The state continues to grow Society periodically rebels against it


12 The Russian Empire, 1914

13 The empire’s free people: the Stepan Razin rebellion (17thcent.)

14 Stepan Razin: a 20th century view

15 The empire’s free people: The Pugachev rebellion (18th century)

16 Pugachev captured

17 The Battle of Borodino, 1812: Napoleon vs. Russia

18 Napoleon’s retreat from Russia, winter of 1812-13

19 St. Petersburg, December 18, 1825: Young officers rebel against autocracy

20 Grain production in Russia, late 19th century*:
1/3 of the German level 1/7 of the British level ½ of the French and Austrian levels *Richard Pipes, Russia Under the old Regime. Penguin Books, 1974, p.8 The issue of the surplus. The costs of security and development

21 Deceptive appearances of Russia:
The image of stability vs. The potential for revolution Lenin’s conversation with a police investigator: “Yes, it is a wall, but it is all rotten: just push it, and it will fall down” REFORM VS. REVOLUTION: IS THE SYSTEM REFORMABLE? RUSSIA’S REBELS Cossack uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries (Razin, Bolotnikov, Pugachev) The Decembrists – 1825 The Revolutionary Democrats (Chernyshevsky, Herzen) The Populists The Anarchists (Kropotkin, Bakunin) The Social Democrats (Plekhanov, Lenin)

22 The apex of expansion – and the lag behind the West
Russia’s 19th century The apex of expansion – and the lag behind the West From the triumph of 1812 (victory over Napoleon) to the disaster of 1855 (defeat in the Crimean War) The pressures for change The reforms of Alexander II Development of capitalism vs. Political modernization Capitalism was creating new classes, new issues, new conflicts – and the state was expected to evolve to be able to deal with them. But the Russian state was not up to the task. It was increasingly ineffective in adapting to – and managing – the processes of socioeconomic change

23 By the end of the 19th century, the flaws of the Russian system become manifest
The gap between Europe and Russia widens fast, the Russian system is too inefficient, too rigid, resistant to reform The war with Japan and then World War I exhaust the Russian state and expose its flaws : 12 YEARS OF UPHEAVAL WHICH DESTROYED THE RUSSIAN AUTOCRACY AND EMPIRE

24 Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05: A Russian cartoon

25 Beginning of the end of the Romanov Empire: Defeat of the Russian navy in the battle of Tsushima, May 1905

26 Russo-Japanese war triggers a Russian revolution

27 Tests of the Russian “battle order”
The effects of wars on the Russian system: successful wars (1721, 1815, 1878, 1945) – reaffirmed the status-quo, strengthened the state, discouraged reforms unsuccessful wars (1856, 1905, 1917, 1989) – fostered reforms and revolutions

28 Tsar Nicholas II

29 Russian soldiers pledge allegiance to the Tsar: World War I

30 Russia 5 The Soviet Union The world revolutionary project

31 Russia as “the weakest link of the global system”:
the sudden fall of the state (the February 1917 Revolution) A key conflict within the February revolution in Russia: Reform-minded elites saw removal of autocracy as a way to make Russia more successful in the war The masses revolted, above all, against the war (as well as against imperialism, autocracy, and capitalism)

32 Symbol of state power - or weapon of revolution?
Russian battleship “Potemkin”, taken over by revolutionary sailors in 1905

33 Symbol of state power - or weapon of revolution?
Russian cruiser “Avrora”, used by Bolsheviks in the October, 1917 uprising

34 The 1917 revolution: The state collapsed, citizen militias in charge

35 Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), leader of the Bolsheviks

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