United Government and Foreign Policy in Russia, 1900-1914

United Government and Foreign Policy in Russia, 1900-1914

United Government and Foreign Policy in Russia, 1900-1914

United Government and Foreign Policy in Russia, 1900-1914

Excerpt

In 1904, Russia stumbled into war with Japan as the result of policies forced by Nicholas II and a group of personal advisers upon the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of war, and the minister of finances, S. Iu. Witte, who paid for his opposition with his ministerial portfolio in 1903. These and other officials saw this conflict as unnecessary and dangerous to internal order at a time of rising social unrest. Their worst fears were violently confirmed in the revolutions of 1905-1907, which almost overthrew the autocracy and transformed the nature of politics in imperial Russia.

The war with Japan and Russia's defeat hung over official and public life in Russia throughout the years that separated the revolution it spawned from the Great War. The terms "Tsushima" and "Mukden" entered discourse as evocations of the autocracy's bankruptcy. Moreover, the fashion in which the war and its origins were remembered by senior officials affected the foreign policy and "high politics" of late imperial Russia in ways that are often overlooked but that concerned the very bases of the autocratic order as it sought to reform itself in response to defeat abroad and revolution at home.

This book examines how memories of the war with Japan and its origins affected the course and making of Russian foreign policy from 1905 until 1914. After 1905 there was broad agreement among state officials and members of "society" alike--whatever their political orientation--that as in 1904, war abroad would bring the threat of renewed revolution at home. In official spheres, this perceived connection acted as arguably the most significant constraint on Russian policy at a time of growing instability in the Balkans, an area of special interest to official and nonofficial Russia. The link between the threat of complications abroad and domestic unrest was so compelling that after 1905 Russian statesmen sought to minimize . . .

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