A Short History of Russia

A Short History of Russia

A Short History of Russia

A Short History of Russia

Excerpt

THE SOVIET UNION -- four times the size of Europe, but with less than half its population; as large both in extent and numbers as the whole of the North American continent -- is the outcome of revolution on an immense scale and in all spheres of life. Despite the break with the past and just because of the very extent of its success, the Soviet Union has inherited from the Russian empire two of its most pervasive features: it continues to be a land of many peoples and to be a land of colonization. Throughout Russian history one dominating theme has been the frontier; the theme of the struggle for the mastering of the natural resources of an untamed country, expanded into a continent by the ever-shifting movement of the Russian people and their conquest of and intermingling with other peoples.

For many centuries the frontier played the same part in the history of western Europe, but owing to its diminutive size internal colonization for the most part ceased to be a dominating theme after the later Middle Ages; overseas colonization took its place, and the peoples of Europe struggled with new frontier conditions in new worlds. In contrast, Russian expansion has always been into contiguous lands and, owing to vast size and the material level of the people, internal colonization, even west of the Urals, has remained right down to the present day an outstanding element in Russian life.

The political frontier is the consequence of the Bolshevik triumph after three years of the most bitter, swaying civil war (1918-20), at the end of which the new Soviet state had gained almost exactly the same frontiers, except on the west, as those of the Romanov empire before its disruption through the First World War. On the west the Bolsheviks failed to restore . . .

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