The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non- Russian Nationalities

By Lowell Tillett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15.
THE PROCESSES OF RUSSIAN EXPANSION

" Moscow appeared as a magnetic center for all peoples who were suffering disaster, such as the Ukrainians, Belorussians, Georgians, Armenians, Cherkessi, Kabardinians, Chechens, Avars, and other peoples presently constituting the Soviet Union." V. L. Tatishvili, Gruziny v Moskve (istoricheskii ocherk, 1653- 1722) [Georgians in Moscow: An Historical Sketch, 1653- 1722 ] ( Tbilisi, 1959), p. 8.

With the advent of Soviet patriotism, it became axiomatic that Russian acquisitions of land were, regardless of the circumstances, historically progressive acts. In time the manner of acquisition itself has been re-examined and reinterpreted. In a large number of cases territories are said to have been acquired voluntarily, through the wishes of their leaders, and even of their peoples. Even when the use of force is admitted, it has been softened by a great variety of euphemisms and justified by extenuating circumstances, involving the defense of the local people, the growth of the Russian state, and the economic and cultural betterment of the population.

Underlying all these arguments is a kind of Russian manifest destiny. The old concept of "the gathering of the Russian lands," which is held more eagerly by recent Soviet historians than by their tsarist predecessors, has been extended to include non-Russian territory. The case is stated in The Peoples of Siberia ( 1956), a major Soviet work on the history and ethnography of Siberia, as follows: "The Russian state, growing economically and strengthening itself politically, required the expansion and fortification of its frontiers. The incorporation of Siberia, discovered by Russians, was in com-

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