To what extent and in what ways has the development

To what extent and in what ways has the development of ModernSoviet unionin the period 1850-1964 been shaped by Western influence?

Analyzing the history and the political set up in Russia is an inherently complex undertaking – one that is fraught with contradictions and paradoxes. Although, on the one manus, Russia would look to be a unquestionably ‘eastern’ state with a clearly autocratic and bossy societal and political heritage, on the other manus, we can see many discernibly ‘western’ characterises in Russian history, particularly during the period 1850 to 1964 when the state underwent an unprecedented modernising enlargement. The undermentioned essay seeks exactly to analyze this period of Russian history from this self-contradictory point of position. We intend to undertake the job by charting this modernization of Russia from a chronological point of view so that we are in a better place to determine the extent to which the collective ‘West’ was responsible for the switching political paradigms that affected Russian history in the period 1850 to 1964. This by definition means we will be researching both the Tsarist period and the communist period – both of which appear to be wholly divorced from western political tradition. However, as we shall see, there have been a series of brief interludes in Russian history through which we can chart the impact of the western political tradition upon the modern Russian clerisy. Ultimately, though, as we intend to reason, the over siting bossy jussive mood has historically been the most of import factor in the brand up the Russian organic structure politic. Continuity should accordingly be seen as being a more of import finding force than alteration. We will get down our analysis at the chronological get downing point of the essay, viz. the half manner point of the 19th century when Tsar Nicholas I was the governing tyrant of pre industrial Russia.

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As Tsar Nicholas I presided over the geographically huge and demographically diverse imperium over which he ruled there was a fixed position quo within the continent of Europe and the domain of power political relations which Europe represented and it was Nicholas’ occupation to continue Russia’s position within this position quo – a place which had foremost been established by Catherine the Great during the 18th century. Indeed, the dramatic expansive accomplishments of Catherine the Great had served as a benchmark by which Russian political power in mainland Europe would be judged. Not merely did she annex districts in Poland ( districts which would be rapidly lost by Nicholas I ) she besides carved out a function for herself as the great go-between in Continental European political relations moving, for illustration, as the go-between in the War of Bavarian Succession in 1778 to 1779 which took topographic point between Prussia and Austria. In this manner, she made the Russian caput of province an of import political and diplomatic figure in Europe, promoting the significance of the state as a whole in the procedure. In add-on, she presided over a series of wars with the Turks ensuing in the licking of the Ottomans and the sign language of the Treaty of Jassy in 1792 – move which eventually legitimised Russian claims to Turkish district in Crimea. Therefore, we can see that by the clip that Catherine the Great died in St. Petersburg in 1796 she had left two of import bequests. First, she had left the bequest of the “dominant swayer myth” [ 1 ] in Russia, go oning in the tradition of Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible. This would hold major effects for the Tsars of the 19th and 20th centuries who were unable to populate up to the dominant swayer myth either domestically or on the battleground abroad. Second, we can see that she had inadvertently left Tsar Nicholas I with the job of how to support Russia’s involvement in the Crimea – an issue which came to the surface in 1854 when Anglo-French forces were sent into the part to throw out Russia during the Crimean War ( 1854-1856 ) .

The Crimean War was an of import war for Russia because it brought to the forefront economic and military truths that had been ignored for far excessively long, in peculiar the fact that the Russian armed forces had been entirely unable to get by with the progresss in military engineering that had benefited the British and the Gallic. Therefore, licking in the Crimean War highlighted the ‘backwardness’ of Russia’s ground forces and the antique nature of assuming that Russia was still to be treated as a ‘great power’ in European poltics. Indeed, after the decision of the Crimean War, Russia was – along with the Ottoman Empire – progressively marginalised by the more economically and politically advanced western European state provinces such as France, Britain, Austria and Prussia.

This increasing sense of marginalization that Russia felt during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I was non, it should be noted, entirely the consequence of a black Crimean run. There were other issues confronting Russia and Europe as a whole, triping a series of revolutions and reforms which would finally force out of many good established bossy monarchies in Europe as a consequence of the continent-wide 1848 revolutions. As was to be expected from an bossy sovereign, Nicolas I and the Tsars who would follow him over the extroverted 60 old ages would make all they could to continue the anachronic system of Russian administration which categorically refused to open up to the thought of democracy or representative regulation. As John Merriman declares:

“The Tsar had no purpose of making any sort of national representative establishment that would undersell his authority.” [ 2 ]

Therefore, whereas the modernising effects of urbanization and capitalization resulted in societal and political alteration in Western Europe ( including the fusions of both Italy and Germany ) , in Russia the deep-rooted desire for political alteration was rendered about disused by a prolongation of bossy, monarchal ideals enshrined in the absolute regulation of the Tsar. This was the instance during the reigns of Alexander II ( 1855-1881 ) , Alexander III ( 1881-1894 ) and Nicholas II ( 1894-1917 ) – all of whom made the saving of autarchy the primary aim within their highly limited political authoritiess. Although Alexander II officially emancipated the helot in 1861- a long delinquent act of freedom that released Russia’s agricultural hapless from being tithed to the land that they tilled – the world was that really small changed as a consequence of the ‘Great Emancipation’ , surely non in Russia’s huge rural countries where the provincials lived in feudal conditions akin to Western Europe some four centuries earlier, a point which Simpson and Jones underscore.

“The restrictions of this emancipation were considerable … the load of salvation payments and the clasp of themirover the peasantry restricted the outgrowth of labor mobility which rapid industrialization would require.” [ 3 ]

The combined effects of the prolongation of peasant agitation in the countryside, the limitations imposed on the outgrowth of a on the job category in Russia and the ruinous loss of international prestigiousness which licking in the Crimea represented served to, on the one manus, farther disability Russia economically and politically and, on the other manus, to present the inquiry of how best to maintain up with Western Europe, its superior armed forces, burgeoning foreign districts and immensely increasing international trade. Whereas Russia was a mediaeval state masquerading as a modern state province, states such as Britain and France were to the full fledged planetary powers with political nervus Centres scattered across the universe. Their wealth and their military art far exceeded that of Russia – surely by the terminal of the 19th century when the doomed Tsar Nicholas II came to power. This, in bend, had of import effects for the hereafter of Russian autarchy via increasing the sense of alienation genteelness non merely in the provincials but besides in the Russian aristocracy and steadily turning in-between categories which had jointly already made itself heard in the Decembrist Movement of 1825 [ 4 ] . The spread outing divide between Russia and Western Europe served to fuel the fires of discontent throughout the class of Tsar Nicholas II’s reign – a sense of discontent which was heightened by the mortifying licking to the Nipponese Navy in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. As Geoffrey Jukes duly observes, “the war exacerbated the strains already present in Russian society.” [ 5 ]

Richard Connaughton refers to the Russo-Japanese War in footings of the ‘rising sun’ of the new Nipponese Empire and the ‘tumbling bear’ of the decadent Russian Empire with the licking of the Russian forces at the start of the 20th century cabling the black capitulations which would characterize the Russian experience of the Great War between 1914 and 1918. However, at the point of licking in 1905, the jobs confronting Russia and its beleaguered Tsar were of a much more political nature with country-wide agitation turning into a full graduated table revolution during the twelvemonth 1905.

The Russian Revolution of 1905 is a extremely of import watershed minute in modern Russian history and it is particularly important within the context of the essay at manus exactly because it highlighted a brief minute when Russian progressives, aided and abetted by the urban workers and the agricultural provincials, experimented with the thought of implementing a discernibly western solution to a unquestionably Russian job with the constitution of a Russian Parliament ( theDuma) between 1905 and 1907 traveling some manner towards democratizing the bossy political establishments of the Russian Empire.

That the Russian Revolution in 1905 failed is of small surprise given the deficiency of democratic tradition in Russia, the hapless communicative substructures in the state which prevented the effectual transmittal of information with respects to events blossoming in St. Petersburg and Moscow and the dead Russian economic system. When Lenin came to power he claimed that the 1905 revolution was a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the duplicate revolutions of February and October 1917 and this position of history was the dominant position which prevailed over the extroverted 70 old ages. Viewed through this prism, there appears to be a sense of continuity between the failed revolution of 1905 and the successful revolution of 1917. Yet this masks the true nature of both revolutions and the much greater western influence which marked the 1905 revolution. Whereas the revolutions of 1917 marked a move towards a uninterrupted signifier of autocratic, bossy authorities in the pretense of hardline socialist political orientation, in 1905 theDumawas established in order to disassociate Russian political relations from its autocratic, bossy ideological tradition. Therefore, its failure resided in the inability of the broad clerisy to profess political district to the workers and the provincials on whose popular support they depended and, furthermore, the revolution can be seen to hold failed because it did non imagine political power in Russia without the Tsar keeping his function as front man and caput of province. As Heywood and Smele conclude:

“Historians tend to disregard as wholly unequal grants made by the authorities and reject the possibility of Russia’s peaceable transmutation into a constitutional monarchy on the Western model.” [ 6 ]

This, of class, is non to province that the 1917 revolution succeeded where the 1905 revolution failed entirely because in 1917 the influence of the western political tradition was wholly negated. Rather, as an ideological outgrowth of Marxism, Bolshevism was an per se western construct garnered from the societal and economic observations of the famed Prussian political philosopher, Karl Marx. Indeed, reading Marx’s review of the capitalist political economic system informs us that the writer believed that it would be the most economically and politically advanced province which would foremost undergo a proletariat revolution. Therefore, Marx earmarked England, non Russia, as the state most likely to go a communist political province. Therefore, while communism became over the class of the 20th century the ideological dividing line that separated East from West ; dictatorship from democracy ; and command economic sciences from free market economic sciences, the drift behind the revolution had clear western influences and the political orientation of communism itself was conceived of by a western political philosopher who envisaged his pronunciamento coming to fruition in a western European state province.

Furthermore, we can see other similarities between the failed revolution of 1905 and the successful Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Both, for case, came approximately as the direct consequence of black military runs which highlighted the extent to which Russia lagged behind the West in footings of military capablenesss and logistical resources. Both, in add-on, would hold been impossible to hold conceptualised without the active support of the urban workers and the agricultural provincials populating in Russia at the clip. Both, hence, were unquestionablyRussianrevolutions, which the Marxists later termed revolutions ‘from below’ ( connoting the force of call uping mass proletariat public sentiment ) . McCauley, for illustration, sees this unquestionably Russian radical spirit prevalent in the revolutions of both February and October 1917 brought approximately by the unprecedented rough conditions of the historical period. “It [ the revolution ] had non been organised by any political party, it was the self-generated look of increasing aggravation at the wants and deficits, exacerbated by war.” [ 7 ] This is clearly an avowal of the theory of ‘revolution from below’ and grounds of the manner in which Russia’s passage to communism should be understood as being a crowned head Russian matter tinged with western political influences which came in the pretense of Marx’s alone trade name of autocratic socialism.

Evidence of the deep-rooted historical divide between Russia and the West was besides to be found in the resulting Russian Civil War ( 1917-1923 ) , which was fought between the Bolsheviks ( the Red Russians ) and the protagonists of the Tsar ( the White Russians ) . Yet while the Red Russians relied entirely on domestic forces, the White Russian Army was comprised of an international set of forces made up from all of the major western powers that were purpose on seeing the Tsar return to bossy power. Therefore, instead than being a ‘normal’ civil war ( characterised as war between rival cabals within the same autonomous state province ) , the Russian Civil War was, harmonizing to Ewan Mawdsley, “the transmutation of World War into international civil war.” [ 8 ] Consequently, we can see how the West was jointly distraught at the thought of Russia going a socialist province and it would travel to any lengths in order to continue the European position quo.

The outgrowth of Stalin as the dominant tyrant in the period after the terminal of the Civil War and the decease of Lenin constitutes farther grounds of a divergency off from western democratic political ideals with his regulation of Russia being particularly Draconian and autocratic. This was peculiarly true during the 1930s when Stalin initiated the ‘purges’ of the clerisy and the armed forces in order to politicize every aspect of Russian political relations and administration. Stalin was hence much more bossy than Lenin and he represented continuity with the bossy political administration of the regulation of Tsars. Indeed, harmonizing to Simon Sebag Montefiore Stalin should be seen in footings of being a ‘red’ Tsar with his authorities holding more in common with the bossy Tsarist tribunals of the pre-industrial period than with the effectual disposal of a modern industrial world power. Political oppositions were either killed or sent into expatriate and the ‘dominant swayer myth’ which Stalin cultivated in province propaganda can be seen to hold clear analogues with the dominant leader myths promulgated by Alexander II and Alexander III. Yet whereas old bossy leaders had led Russia to successive military calamities, Stalin was finally winning in the Second World War and, as a consequence, “the war raised Stalin’s stature to new highs ; afterwards he basked in the brooding glorification of military success.” [ 9 ]

The glorification of military success, coupled with the monolithic programme of industrial enlargement that this entailed, intend that Russia was, along with the USA, an international world power during the 1950s and 1960s. Furthermore, after the decease of the despotic Stalin in 1953, Russian leaders were able to prosecute a policy of ( comparative ) liberalization – free from the ‘dominant leader myth’ , which Stalin promulgated. Khrushchev, for case, embarked upon a procedure of destalinization, liberalising, among other things, agribusiness and foreign policy. This did non signal an terminal to the intense competition with the West, nevertheless, with Khrushchev open uping the ‘space race’ with America which would finally travel a long manner towards ruining the Soviet Union during the last decennaries of the 20th century.


Looking back over the class of Russian history between 1850 and 1964 high spots the manner in which Russia is, as we noted in the debut, represents something of a political paradox whereby, on the one manus, the state appears portion of a broader European tradition while, on the other manus, the state appears to be entirely separated from Europe – surely Western Europe and the broad democracies that emerged in England, France and even Germany during this period. Clearly, we must take note of the built-in differences of governing a state as big and every bit diverse as Russia, which made the demand for a dominant, bossy leader all the more intense. Yet, finally, we must besides observe that the western democratic influences were marginalised in Russia during this period exactly because of this deep-seated autocratic, bossy tradition which helped to further a sense of continuity between the despotic regulation of the Tsars and the despotic regulation of the one-party Socialist State to the extent that even when Lenin and the Bolsheviks adopted a western political doctrine, they had to accommodate it to the societal and cultural worlds of governing the Russian Empire. Thus, the greatest influence that the West had had upon domestic Russian political relations in the period 1850 and 1964 was as a symbol of competition and a changeless reminder of the demand to economically and militarily modernise.


Connaughton, R. ( 2007 )Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear: Russia’s War with JapanLondon: Cassell

Dixon, S. ( 2001 )Catherine the GreatLondon: Longman

Heywood, A.J. and Smele, J.D. ( 2005 )The Russian Revolution of 1905: Centennial Positions London and New York: Routledge

Mawdsley, E. ( 2005 )The Russian Civil WarEdinburgh Birlinn Ltd.

Merriman, J. ( 2004 )A History ofEuropefrom the Renaissance to the Present: Second EditionLondon: W.W. Norton & A ; Co.

Montefiore, S.S. ( 2004 )Iosif vissarionovich dzhugashvili: The Court of the Red TsarLondon: Capital of arizona

Jukes, G. ( 2002 )The Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905Oxford: Osprey Printing

Mazour, A.G. ( 1961 )The First Russian Revolution, 1825: The Decembrist Movement: Its Beginnings, Development and SignificanceChicago: Stanford University Press

McCauley, M. ( 1981 )TheSoviet UnionSince 1917London: Longman

McCauley, M. ( 1995 )Stalin and Stalinism: Second EditionLondon: Longman

Simpson, W. and Jones, M. ( 2000 )Europe, 1783-1914London and New York: Routledge


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