The Grand Strategy of the Russian Empire, 1650-1831

By John P. Ledonne | Go to book overview

1
The Geopolitical
Background

A knowledge of the geopolitical context in which Russia's grand strategy developed is a fundamental necessity. Not only did that context shape a global vision, it helps us understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of the rival powers engaged in a struggle for hegemony in the three theaters making up the Heartland, and it determined what was possible at a given time as well as the stakes involved in committing military power to the transformation of that vision into a blueprint for troop movements and diplomatic negotiations.


The Western Theater

The western theater included the entire basin of the Baltic Sea and the broad corridor between the Dniepr and the Prut along the eastern curve of the Carpathian Mountains. The Baltic Basin was the aggregate of the basins of all the rivers flowing into the Gulf of Bothnia, the Gulf of Finland, and the Baltic proper, from Lübeck to Reval. The Norwegian Alps and the Elbe River descending from the Sudeten Mountains formed the outer periphery of the western theater and of the Heartland as well, beyond which began the European Coastland facing outward toward the Atlantic Ocean. 1 This periphery was an arc of a circle on which the distances from Moscow to Hamburg and to Magdeburg on the Elbe via Warsaw and Berlin were within a 2,000-kilometer radius. The geography of the western theater created a natural system of radial roads emanating from Moscow toward the northwest, the west, and the southwest, intersecting a succession of “vertical” roads following the course of rivers—the Volkhov, the Dvina, the Niemen, the Vistula, the Oder, and the Elbe—and in the south, the Dniepr, the Dniestr, and the Prut. This network of intersecting roads provided axes of penetration and retreat, interior lines for communication, reinforcements, troop circulation, and supply.

The theater of effective Russian operations within this broadly conceived western theater was smaller and can be divided into three sectors. Lake Il'men, with Novgorod at its northern end, drained the waters of the Valdai Hills and gave its

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The Grand Strategy of the Russian Empire, 1650-1831
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Maps xv
  • The Grand Strategy of the Russian Empire, 1650–1831 *
  • Introduction 3
  • Part I - The Formation of Russia's Grand Strategy, 1650–1743 13
  • 1 - The Geopolitical Background 15
  • 2 - Mobile Armies 38
  • 3 - Client States and Societies 61
  • Part II - Hegemonic Expansionism, 1743–1796 83
  • 4 - Deep Strikes 85
  • 5 - Peripheral Deployment 108
  • 6 - Economy, Culture, Client Societies 132
  • Part III - The Territorialization of the Empire, 1797–1831 154
  • 7 - Strategic Penetration 155
  • 8 - Dispersion of the Strategic Force 177
  • 9 - Fortress Empire 198
  • Conclusion 219
  • Notes 235
  • Bibliography 251
  • Index 259
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