Soviet Russia in World Politics

Soviet Russia in World Politics

Soviet Russia in World Politics

Soviet Russia in World Politics

Excerpt

On the eve of World War I, Tsar Nicholas II, the last and one of the weakest of Russia's hereditary monarchs, ruled an empire of approximately 175,000,000 people and 8,660,000 square miles. By far the largest country in the world, this immense land mass sprawling across the northern hemisphere of two continents excited both fear and envy in Russia's smaller neighbors. But their attitude was not unmixed with contempt, for this "giant with feet of clay" had for centuries lagged behind the advanced nations of Europe. Russia seemed bound to the archaic traditions of Oriental despotism: the parliamentary, industrialized society of the West was still an alien civilization. With a half- literate and overwhelmingly agricultural population, an antiquated social and economic system designed for the benefit of the landed gentry, and a political leadership devoid of initiative and ideas, the Tsar's "absolute" authority rested on a fragile base soon to crumble beneath the punishing blows of the Imperial German Army.

That so backward a nation could be ranked as a "great power" in 1914 was proof that Russia's leadership in the jungle of international politics had not always been inept. It was through victory over powerful neighbors--Sweden, Poland, and Turkey--that Russia in modern times won her place as a ranking power. Prior to her clash with these formidable rivals, the impact of the Muscovite state upon European civilization had been slight indeed. Isolated from the forces that were gradually removing the stamp of "medievalism" from the features of Western society, the Russian people experienced no equivalent economic and cultural resurgence. Even their semblance of national unity had been lost under two-and-a-half centuries of Tartar domination; and it was not until the fifteenth century that it was regained in a measure through the expansion of the once tiny principality of Moscow.

Under a succession of able sovereigns, Muscovy parried the Tartar threat. Simultaneously the lengthy process began of "gathering in the . . .

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