An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

WHILE the development of the Russian State may not be, as the Slavophils seem to imply, absolutely unique, the immensity of the area of the Empire, the complete contiguity of its territories, the comparative recency of some of its conquests and annexations, the ethnical diversity of its people, the prolicity of its nuclear race, the "particularism" of many of its constituent nations, and the variety of its physical geography and of its natural resources, produce a total of characteristics to which there is no exact contemporary parallel. The nuclear group whose descendants, mingled as the original stock has been with the blood of other races, eventually acquired political control over the whole imperial dominion, was the group of Eastern Slavs. This group makes its first appearance in history, not in Asia; but in Europe--on the northern slopes of the Carpathians. From thence they made their incursions into the Roman Empire, and later made numerous migrations by means of which they overran the Great Russian Plain. When the Eastern Slavs lived in the forests and swamps of the upper waters of the Vistula and the Dnieper, their mode of existence, and probably also their polity, can hardly have differed materially from those of the tribes of other races which at the same or earlier epochs occupied the forests and swamps of the Central European Plain. The characteristic features of both regions appear to have been the growth of trading towns on the river systems, the political and military control of the river routes and of the surrounding regions by these trading towns, the rise of petty principalities, the union of these into groups, and in Europe and Russia at somewhat different periods, their imperial organization. In Europe the fabric of wide extended empire was erected only to be destroyed; in Russia it was effectively constructed and it is still remaining. In the latter case this result was rendered

-vii-

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