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Russian American Relations in the 19th Century - History

Russian American Relations in the 19th Century - History

By Professor Dmitriy Nikolayev

New Archanagel in 1837

There were different times in the history of American-Russian relations, including the periods of "freezing" and "thawing," mutual admiration and denunciation of each other's vices, cooperation and enmity. Such attitudes changed several times not only in the twentieth century, but also in the nineteenth century. Those relationships which changed from friendly to negative will be shown in this article.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States were established in 1807. But back in 1780, Catherine the Great announced “Declaration of Armed Neutrality”. Russia decided to protect the right of any neutral vessels to travel to Russian ports. That was the time when the young American state fought the war for its independence. The British Empire tried to block its trade and thus strangle it economically. So In fact, this statement by Catherine the Great was a sign of support for Americans.

It must be said that the emerging relations between the United States and Russia in the first half of the nineteenth century were sometimes complicated by trade contradictions in the Pacific Northwest. Those included the disagreements on fishing and whaling. But it was always possible to reach a compromise. Thus, in 1824, the important “Russo-American treaty” was signed. The United States were granted the right to fish and trade with local residents in Russian territories in America within the next ten years. It also established the boundary between Russian possessions in America and Oregon County. Another important document signed between Russia and the USA was the first trade agreement of 1832. This agreement regulated the terms of trade between Russia and the United States, and also established the most favored relations between the two countries.

The Russian Empire supported the young overseas republic, not seeing it as a rival, and relied on the United States in order to weaken its competitors, primarily England.

America at that time aroused the interest of Russians not only because of its democracy, but also because it was a "country of Indians." In this regard, it’s interesting to mention the life of a very controversial personality - Fedor Tolstoy. He was a nobleman, a gambler (and not always honest one), a poet, a duelist, and a man known for his extraordinary pranks. In a trip around the world he was disembarked from the ship for his inappropriate behavior somewhere in Russian America. There, according to rumors, he lived among Indians. Later in St. Petersburg he showed the tattoos that they made for him...

Russians began to be actively interested in America from the 1830s. It was the reign of Emperor Nicholas I. It is amazing that the monarch, whose name is associated with the time of conservatism and even reaction in Russia, who considered the constitution to be a contagion that must be eradicated in every way, admired George Washington and the young American state. At the same time, in 1825, he sent to Siberian hard labor Nikita Muravyov, a participant in the Decembrist uprising, who advocated the creation of a US-style constitution in Russia.

From the 1830s Russians began to admire American technological advances. American engineers were increasingly invited to Russia for the construction of railways, in particular, the Petersburg-Moscow Railway, river steamboats, and telegraphs. The rifles of the American engineer Hyrum Berdan’s system became the main weapon of the Russian army. It was also caused by the desire to get rid of technical dependence on Britain, relations with which became tense at that time. Later, in 1887, a man named Hiram Maxim introduced his machine gun in Russia. Russians liked the new weapon, and in 1888 even Emperor Alexander III shot from it. These deadly weapons played a crucial role on the battlefields of Russia in the following decades. In Russia they began to be called “Maxim” with an emphasis on the last syllable (as one of the famous Russian names).

The activities of one of the most famous American gunsmiths and inventor Samuel Colt are also connected to Russia. In the 1850s Colt traveled to the Russian empire, signed business contracts, and launched the production of Colt revolvers in Russia. He presented Alexander II a custom-made set of rifles and pistols. Though, in the 1870s the Russian military preferred to use the revolvers of another American company “Smith & Wesson.”

If the word “American” was present in an advertisement of a product, this fact itself attracted the attention of buyers, being the embodiment of quality, like American kerosene, nails or sewing machines. Even in a Russian school textbook T. Edison was called "the most remarkable inventor who have ever lived."

Regular mutual visits of Russian and American navy were the proofs of friendly relations and cooperation between the two states. Thanks to such relations, it became possible to build a new Russian squadron at American shipyards. Mutual visits of important statesmen took place as well. Generals Grant and Sherman traveled across Russia, Grand Duke Alexey traveled to various cities of the United States, danced at local balls and hunted buffalo with the chiefs of American Indians.

The Crimean War (1853-1856) was a military and political disaster for Russia in the 19th century. Russia entered the war with a coalition of European states which was technically ahead of the Russian empire. But during the Crimean War Russians got unexpected moral support from Americans. And not only moral! The United States refused to send volunteers on the British side. The American press was on the side of Russia and condemned the demonization of Russia in the press of England and France. Dozens of American doctors came to the Crimea to assist Russian soldiers. Some of them died of typhoid. Buy the way, Samuel Colt produced his revolvers for the Russian army and at the same time had contracts with the British government. Nothing personal – just business!

As the US Civil War started, Russia turned out to be the only country that from the very beginning directly supported the North and the Union government of Abraham Lincoln. In 1863 Russia sent a part of its Baltic Fleet to New York and San Francisco. With this gesture, Russia showed that it morally supported the side of the northern United States.

Another way to draw an analogy between the two countries in that time is to compare the attitudes to the murder of their rulers - Abraham Lincoln and Alexander II. The murder of Lincoln in 1865 caused a lot of sympathy in Russia. The official authorities and the public saw this as a tragedy and sent condolences to the American people. Although the motives of the people who killed the leaders of their countries were completely different. American lawyer Charles Guiteau, who had campaigned for Garfield, but did not receive an appointment to the post of ambassador after his election victory, decided to take revenge on the president in a violent way. The members of the Russian terrorist organization "People's Will" were not satisfied with the reforms carried out by Emperor Alexander II. At the same time, they believed that in a country such as the United States, assassination of a president were senseless, since the presidents there were elected for only four years…

Russia and America exchanged the visits of warships several times. In 1866, when two American ships, headed by Deputy Minister G. Fox, conveyed congratulations to the Russian Emperor on the failed assassination attempt on him. Another visit took place in 1867. In 1871 Russian ships arrived to New York and were welcomed by Americans very warmly.

In 1867 Russia sold Alaska to the United States. This fact can also be viewed in the context of Russia's assistance to the United States on the world stage. Russia became the first European power to voluntarily abandon overseas possessions. The development of its territories in Siberia and the Far East of the European continent was of greater importance. “The winged arrow” took the last group of Russian military personal and administrators from Novo-Arkhangelsk on November 30, 1868. In total, 309 people left on this ship.

Of course, mutual cultural influence between Russia and the United States in the nineteenth century cannot be compared with what would take place in the twentieth century. But something is worth to be mentioned. On May 5, 1891, a concert of the New York Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Tchaikovsky, opened Carnegie Hall in New York. The performance included the solemn march written for the coronation ceremony of the Russian Emperor Alexander III in 1883.

Americans read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and Russian literature lovers admired Poe and Twain. By the way, Mark Twain wrote: "America owes a lot to Russia." The great American writer visited the south of Russia and even met with Emperor Alexander II in 1867. However, his admiration for Russia would disappear in the future…

In the 1880s, the attitude towards Russia in the United States changed for the worse. In particular, due to political repression, discrimination against national minorities, Jewish pogroms, whose victims moved to the United States. Of course, they started to say not the best things about the Russian Empire. And if only five thousand people emigrated to America in 1881, then in 1900 this figure became already ninety thousand. American journalists described Russia as a prison of nations, a state where human rights were violated and autocracy reigns supreme. For example, George Kennan, who visited Siberia and met Russian political prisoners there, traveled across the United States with public lectures, describing the brutality and reactionary nature of the Russian regime. By the way, he lectured in Russian prison uniform and in shackles on his feet. Also, towards the end of the 19th century, the rivalry between Russia and the USA on the world oil and grain markets intensified and it increased the political tension as well.

In general, It's possible to state that in the nineteenth century Russia and the USA were mostly allies. This doesn’t mean that there were no contradictions and conflicts between the two countries. But they were resolved successfully and calmly. This cannot be said about the following twentieth century, when the two superpowers, two ideologies would fight in the Cold War for the world domination.


In 1917–18, the Irish Convention attempted to resolve what sort of Home Rule would follow the First World War. Unionist and nationalist politicians met in a common forum for the last time before partition. As a result of this, in April 1921 the island was partitioned into Southern and Northern Ireland.

The Decembrist revolt was an aristocratic movement whose chief actors were army officers and members of the nobility. A group of officers commanding about 3,000 men refused to swear allegiance to the new tsar, Alexander’s brother Nicholas, proclaiming instead their loyalty to the idea of a Russian constitution.


Russians establish Fort Ross in California

Staking a tenuous claim to the riches of the Far West, Russians establish Fort Ross on the coast north of San Francisco.

As a growing empire with a long Pacific coastline, Russia was in many ways well positioned to play a leading role in the settlement and development of the West. The Russians had begun their expansion into the North American continent in 1741 with a massive scientific expedition to Alaska. Returning with news of abundant sea otters, the explorers inspired Russian investment in the Alaskan fur trade and some permanent settlement. By the early 19th century, the semi-governmental Russian-American Company was actively competing with British and American fur-trading interests as far south as the shores of Spanish-controlled California.

Russia’s Alaskan colonists found it difficult to produce their own food because of the short growing season of the far north. Officials of the Russian-American Company reasoned that a permanent settlement along the more temperate shores of California could serve both as a source of food and a base for exploiting the abundant sea otters in the region. To that end, a large party of Russians and Aleuts sailed for California where they established Fort Ross (short for Russia) on the coast north of San Francisco.

Fort Ross, though, proved unable to fulfill either of its expected functions for very long. By the 1820s, the once plentiful sea otters in the region had been hunted almost to extinction. Likewise, the colonists’ attempts at farming proved disappointing, because the cool foggy summers along the coast made it difficult to grow the desired fruits and grains. Potatoes thrived, but they could be grown just as easily in Alaska.

At the same time, the Russians were increasingly coming into conflict with the Mexicans and the growing numbers of Americans settling in the region. Disappointed with the commercial potential of the Fort Ross settlement and realizing they had no realistic chance of making a political claim for the region, the Russians decided to sell out. After making unsuccessful attempts to interest both the British and Mexicans in the fort, the Russians finally found a buyer in John Sutter. An American emigrant to California, Sutter bought Fort Ross in 1841 with an unsecured note for $30,000 that he never paid. He cannibalized the fort to provide supplies for his colony in the Sacramento Valley where, seven years later, a chance discovery ignited the California Gold Rush.


The Great Game, 1856-1907: Russo-British Relations in Central and East Asia

In The Great Game, 1856–1907: Russo-British Relations in Central and East Asia, Evgeny Sergeev –Professor of History and Head of the Center for the Study of 20th-Century Socio-Political and Economic Problems within the Institute of World History at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow – makes a substantial, indeed impressive and welcome, if at times eclipsed and provocative, contribution to the historical study of the ‘Great Game’ played out on the ‘chess-board’ of Asia by Russia and Britain amidst a host of other supportive as well as not-so-supportive actors in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The work situates itself primarily within the fields of diplomatic history and the history of international relations, with contributions to the fields of military and strategic, (comparative) colonial and post-colonial, transnational, world and global historical, as well as Middle Eastern, Central Asian, South Asian, and East Asian studies, among others.

With most of the scholarship on the Great Game having emerged from the Cold War, revisiting the Great Game via such a careful sifting of the sources is justified, in the author’s mind, not simply by recent access to formerly inaccessible archives, but more importantly by the need to help correct ‘a distorted image of Russia in the West’ as well as ‘an imprecise perception of the Occidental countries by many Russians’ still lingering in the post-Soviet period (p. 2). Sergeev is especially concerned to subvert understandings in which the Great Game is viewed as ‘”a Victorian cold war”’(p. 347) serving as ‘a prelude to the Cold War’. This is particularly the case when such approaches are framed as a Huntingtonion ‘clash of civilizations’, ‘a permanent Cold War between Slavdom and the West’ (p. 12) whose origins are traced to ‘a dramatic’ and apparently irreconcilable ‘difference between Russian and Western belief systems’ (p. 9). This holds true in spite of the author’s contention that ‘[t]he Great Game deserves to be remembered as making a highly significant contribution … to … the general contour of world politics in the twentieth century’ (p. 347), namely that ‘long-standing political alliances began to replace the fragile ad hoc coalitions of states in international affairs that had been typical of the so-called Vienna world order throughout the nineteenth century’ (p. 328). It also helped ‘elucidate geographical motives in the struggle for world leadership’, solidify ‘classification of international state systems’, engender such modern geopolitical terms as ‘“buffer state,” “scientific frontier,” and “sphere of influence” (or “interests”)’, and bring ‘into diplomatic practice the concepts of détente and entente’ (pp. 7, 347).

The subject of study should not, therefore, be simplified to its strictly political or economic aspects (pp. 8-9), viewed primarily ‘through the prism of either military planning or espionage’ (p. 10), or ‘reduced to expeditions of explorers or intelligence operations’ (p. 344), as it has been in most Cold War and even more recent post-Cold War works (cf. also the influence of Kipling’s interpretation, p. 6). Feminist approaches which portray it as a ‘network of men’s clubs that reinforced the spatial and social barriers separating the sexes’ (p. 10) are, likewise, insufficient. It is, instead, a complex narrative which needs to be re-constructed according to three, possibly four, ‘interrelated dimensions': 1- ‘the competition for goods and capital investments in the preindustrial Asian markets’ 2- a competition between two distinct ‘models of early globalization’, namely the two main empires of Russia and Great Britain which both aimed to integrate ‘non-European decadent societies’ into their domains of rule socially, politically, and economically 3- ‘as a complex, multilevel decision-making and decision-implementing activity directed by their ruling elites’ and 4- as a vital era in the history of Russo-British relations across Eurasia which ‘precipitated their consequent rapprochement and military alliance in World War I’ (pp. 5, 13).

Regarding the last of these, Sergeev paints the broad outlines of Russo-British relations in the post-Crimean War (i.e. post-1856) period as marked by re-emerging tensions in the late 1850s down to the mid-1860s (1), moving toward ‘peaceful coexistence’ by the early 1870s, becoming aggravated again, to the point at times of serious potential for war, during the late 1880s (particularly 1877–88). Relations then return to ‘peaceful coexistence’ in the mid-1890s, with ‘a final tottering on the brink of war’ in the early 1900s leading to their ultimate and lasting rapprochement between December 1905 and August 1907 when, in the author’s view, the Great Game came to an official close (pp. 298, 305, 315, 343). Thus the author – contra multiple other interpretations which place its beginning as far back as 1757 and its end as late as 1991(pp. 8, 13–14) – emphatically dates the Great Game as falling precisely within the period 1856–1907. Throughout the entire period, and notwithstanding other aims and motives, Britain’s primary objective remained safeguarding the ‘jewel in her crown’, India, while Russia kept ever in view access to strategic oceanic waterways, whether through the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf, or the Pacific.

A ‘combination of six key driving forces put this process in motion': the cessation of the Caucasus War (1828–59) releasing Russian troops to Central Asia, ‘the Sepoy Mutiny’ (1857–8) and its consequences, the Second Opium War (1856–60) in China, the Anglo-Persian War (1856–7), the end of British and beginning of Russian territorial expansionism in relation to processes of industrialization in the mid-1800s, and the American Civil War (1861–5) which sent Britain and Russia in search of alternative sources of cotton. Additionally, ‘the first world economic crisis of 1857–58’ pushed Britain into Asian markets ‘to compensate for Britain’s deficit in its balance of payments with continental Europe and America’ (pp. 14–15).

Against the above backdrop, the author begins his work by offering a 'selected chronology' running from 1856 to 1907 (pp. xiii–xix). This proves a helpful reference while moving through the book since he does not take a strictly chronological approach, but regularly revisits the same time periods in relation to each main geographical region covered.

The introduction is aimed at 'Reconsidering Anglo-Russian relations in Asia' (pp. 1–22) by moving through the post-Cold War need to study ‘the Great Game’ (pp. 1–2), various definitions and understandings of the phrase within the history of its study in both Western and Russian traditions (pp. 2-13), the author's purpose and aims (pp. 3 and 13), debates over ‘the chronological frame of the Great Game’ (pp. 13–18), a working definition of ‘the geographical frames’ (pp. 18–19), and a description of the research project and the sources consulted, along with other miscellaneous clarifications concerning monetary units, calendars, etc. (pp. 19–22). The quintessence of all this has been distilled in the introductory overview above.

'Chapter one: the prologue of the Great Game' (pp. 23–64) opens with coverage of 'Russian and British motives in their advances into Asia' (pp. 24–35), arguing that though economic and Christian civilizing aims are present, it was predominantly geostrategic motives grounded in 'the quest for natural, or “scientific”, frontiers above all' which shaped both Russian and British foreign policy in Asia in the initial stages of the Game (pp. 23, 63). Following from this are the 'Profiles of the Game’s players' (pp. 35–49) ‘who', the author tells us, 'fell into three main categories’: ‘monarchs and high-standing bureaucrats’, ‘military and diplomatic agents in the state’s service’, and ‘explorers, journalists, and other freelancers, who often acted at their own risk’ (p. 23). Asian nationals played their role as well, employed within the ranks of each empire 'as surveyors, scouts, and secret informants' (p. 49). These included, among others, not only (those posing as) Muslim merchants, but even Siberian and Mongolian Buddhist monks on sacred pilgrimage to Tibet (pp. 250–9, 270–1). Chapter one closes with the provocative suggestion that the primary role of the Asian nations within the Great Game's prologue (and throughout) was that of 'decadent Oriental states' being incorporated 'into the global system of relations’ forged by 'the great powers' (p. 23 see critique below).

Chapter two (pp. 65–104) portrays 'the military party at the Tsarist court and the so-called forwardists among the British ruling elite’ (p. 66) as those bearing primary responsibility for the start of the Great Game in the aftermath of the Crimean (1853–6) and Caucasus (1828–59) wars. It was they who dictated the outlines of 'Russia’s challenge and Britain’s response, 1856–1864', with the former pressing Russia's agenda in Central Asia and related war plans against British India, orchestrated around Russian political missions to Asian countries which ushered in a new season of strained relations between the two empires (see esp. pp. 65–7). On the Russian side, the author seems to pin sizeable blame on the Russian need to save face after their Crimean defeat as the catalyst which 'finally overruled the cautious policy that Saint Petersburg had pursued in Central Asia during the Caucasian War and Crimean War in the first half of the 19th century’ (p. 94). But ultimately it was both Tsarist militants and British ‘forwardists’ together who squandered ‘an opportunity to make a new, peaceful start in their relationship' in the post-Crimean War period, an opportunity provided by, among other factors, the accession of Alexander II (1855–81) who had surrendered to the British (French, and Ottomans) in the Crimean War and then launched into his Westernizing economic, social, and political reforms (p. 66).

'Chapter three: the road to the Oxus, 1864–1873' (pp. 105–48) outlines the Russian conquest of the three primary Central Asian states of Khokand, Bokhara, and Khiva, resulting in the establishment of Russian Turkestan and moving Russia within striking distance of India. Amidst the conquest, complex networks of relations are highlighted between the Central Asian states, British India, and the Ottoman Empire, facilitated in part by a pan-Islamic movement which sometimes worked to one or the other imperial power's favor, and at other times to the potential detriment of both (p. 117). These networks extended into Eastern (later called Chinese) Turkestan with its center at Kashgar where Yakub Beg, taking advantage of the region's destabilization through fallout from the Taiping Rebellion (1850–64), took power in this period only to become a pawn in the Great Game (pp. 133–42). But while 'the political crisis in Chinese Turkestan contributed to the general deterioration of not only Russo-Chinese but also Russo-British relations' (p. 142), it was the Russian conquest of Khiva which, above all, compelled Britain to undertake 'a fundamental rethinking' of the defence of India (p. 142). Up until this time, Britain had been vacillating between '“Masterly Inactivity”' and '“Imbecility”', uncertain as to whether or not they should be seriously concerned by the Russian conquest of Central Asia (pp. 125–33). Most importantly, however, 'the first, fragile seeds of future collaboration had been planted' via 'the Gorchakov-Granville compromise' of 1873, which would not only serve as a reference point for later negotiations (cf. e.g. p. 223), but 'anticipated the forthcoming end' of rivalry between Russia and Britain over Asia (pp. 106, 148).

With chapter four comes 'The climax of the Great Game, 1874–1885' (pp. 149–210), marking its highpoint, not its end. This was reached between 1884–5 in the 'strategic stalemate' which resulted in a 'fragile equilibrium' through negotiations over boundaries and spheres of influence in Afghanistan and Persia which were finalized in 1887 (why then 1885?) after Russia finally realized that, all practical matters considered, they would have to abandon their very real and strategically-prepared decades-long war plans to attack British India. Thus, Russia maintained 'their strategic position in Central Asia' while their 'threat to India as well as Britain’s menace to Turkestan lost pressing urgency’. And with this, 'the focus of the Great Game gradually shifted to other parts of Asia – the Pamirs, Tibet, and Manchuria’ (pp. 209–10). But not before Russia annexed in 1881–5 the last remaining independent Central Asian region lying in between –Turkmenia – thereby contributing to the urgency of negotiations. 'The fall of the Liberal Cabinet in June 1885' in Britain, 'German intrigues' destabilizing Europe and threatening the Middle East, and 'the French peril in Africa' all played their part in bringing about this temporary rapprochement (p. 209 cf. p. 237), but only after tensions had originally been aggravated a decade earlier by the Russian annexation of Khokand (1875–6) and the related vying for power across the mountains in neighboring Kashgaria (pp. 159–72).

Chapter five further elucidates how the 'Strategic stalemate, 1886–1903' (pp. 211–74) initially reached between 1884–7 was worked out in, first, ‘the scramble for the Pamirs, which Britain, Russia, and China, along with the emir of Afghanistan, conducted throughout the 1880s and 1890s’ (p. 214). Here both Russia and China in particular claimed rights to dominion based on past historic precedents, while Britain strategically supported China against Russia, gaining economic concessions for themselves along the way (pp. 213–15). Down closer to sea-level, it was in 'the final round of the Great Game at the western approaches to India' that 'the Admiralty proposed introducing a two-power standard which was to become the famous core of British naval policy for the next forty years’, all as a response to potential Russian naval power approaching India via the Mediterranean, Black, or Caspian seas (p. 233). Meanwhile, back up in Tibet, Russia aimed to 'neutralize' British ability to 'manipulat[e] the adepts of Lamaism' who inhabited the far reaches of Russian 'Siberia, Altai, and Kalmykia’. They sought to accomplish this by employing these very monks in secret spy missions while on their sacred pilgrimages, hoping to gain political leverage in and even form an anti-British alliance with Tibet. This resulted in three Tibetan embassies visiting Saint Petersburg (pp. 249–59, 270–1). Russia also 'endeavored to create a springboard' from Tibet 'for the encirclement of the Qing Empire in the south along with opening a second front against British rule in India in the northeast direction’ (p. 252). But all this came to nothing following the controversial conquest of Tibet by the British via Curzon's 1903–4 expedition (pp. 267–9). As for Britain, her main aim turned out to be, not Buddhist inroads into Russia, but the linking of 'India to China via Tibet' (p. 252). Sergeev thus amply demonstrates that this otherwise remote ‘Rooftop of the World’ 'had no less significance to the rival powers than Persia, Afghanistan, or the khanates of Central Asia’ (pp. 211–12, 274). Off in the Far East, concerns developed for the territorial integrity of the Qing Empire in the aftermath of the Sino-Japanese War (1894–5), with Britain's primary focus being the northern frontiers along the Russo-Chinese borders for obvious reasons (p. 260).

Chapter six (pp. 275–335) heralds ‘The end of the Game’ ushered in by the ultimate and lasting rapprochement between Russia and Britain. This process began in December 1905 and climaxed in the three Anglo-Russian agreements (misnamed a single ‘Convention’) of August 1907 which delineated respective spheres of interest in the borderlands between British India and Russian Central Asia – namely Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet (pp. 276, 298, 305, 315 cf. pp. 17, 343). The ‘two epochal events’ which confirmed and contributed to this end are the emergence of Britain from ‘splendid isolation’ (1902–7) and the failed attempt by Germany to lead a Franco-German-Russian coalition against Britain in 1905–6 (p. 17). Emerging from all this vying and shifting of relations was ‘the diplomatic revolution of 1902–7’ which marked ‘the crucial turning point in world politics at the onset of the 20th century’: the replacement of ‘fragile ad hoc coalitions of states in international affairs that had been typical of the so-called Vienna world order throughout the 19th century’ with the ‘long-standing political alliances’ which largely shaped 20th-century world politics (pp. 276, 328–9). While relational dynamics within the Middle East and Inner Asia remained integral to the overall ‘struggle for supremacy in Asia’, it was in East Asia (in the face of Qing China’s demise following especially the Sino-Japanese War (1894–5), the resulting Anglo-Japanese alliances (1902, 1905), and the aftermath of Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5)) that Britain and Russia were finally forced to come to the bargaining table (cf. p. 275). The author here contests interpretations of the Russo-Japanese War ‘as an event that delayed the start of official Russo-British diplomatic negotiations’, insisting ‘to the contrary’ that it ‘accelerated Russo-British rapprochement’ due not only to the Tsarist government’s concerns over the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, but the undermining impact which the Asian (Japanese) victory over a Western (Russian) power had on Western empires, both British and Russian, thus helping drive the two together (p. 308). Concerning ‘The Game’s final impact on Asian countries’ (pp. 329–35), no trace of damage or injustice to them is noted. To the contrary, '[t]his study … reveals that it would not be fair to ignore the achievements under Russian rule' (p. 332). Even more, '[i]t is disputable whether Russian rule was less progressive than British', a progressiveness which, so we are told, 'even natives' appreciated (pp. 332–3).

The epilogue (pp. 337–48) reviews the course of Russo-British Relations following the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 down to the beginnings of World War I (pp. 337–43), providing also the final conclusions and implications of the study (pp. 343–7). ‘A nominal roll of the rulers, statesman, diplomats, and military officers engaged in the Great Game, 1856–1907’ (pp. 349–54) serves as a helpful appendix, followed by the ‘Notes’ (pp. 355–460), ‘Selected archival sources and bibliography’ (pp. 461–514), and ‘Index’ (pp. 515–30).

Breadth and Depth of Sources

Sergeev demonstrates an acquaintance with the Russian sources which far surpasses that of any related work to date, making his contribution invaluable. And this should not distract attention from his impressive depth of knowledge in the English sources as well, not to mention occasional reference to French and German. Conversely, he is entirely lacking in relevant Turkish (2), Persian, Tajik (Farsi), Uzbek, Kazakh (3), Tatar, Hindi, Urdu, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and other Eurasian language sources. While this should properly temper the praise offered on the back cover regarding his ‘virtuosity … across several languages’, it should also highlight the necessary interdependence of the global scholarly community in light of such a vast array of sources which few scholars could ever hope to master. While his work cannot, therefore, be counted the final word, Sergeev has, particularly again in reference to the Russian sources, made a vital and lasting contribution to Great Game studies.

The work also embraces an impressive world historical scope. We thus encounter how, for example, Russian plans included 'recruitment of a gang of saboteurs from the Irish living in San Francisco to organize a terrorist attack on the harbor of Vancouver in British Canada' (pp. 165–6), or 'relied upon a few local Armenian communities living in India’ (p. 78), including 'Armenian priests' (p. 180), or how British plans to aid the Turkmen against the Russians failed due to 'Kurds and Armenians' who 'drastically repulsed any overtures by the emissaries from Calcutta' (p. 191). There is, likewise, ‘an incident at Fashoda, an African settlement where British and French expeditionary forces collided in 1898’ (p. 234) along with, more broadly, ‘the first world economic crisis of 1857–58' (pp. 14–15, 74), the cotton shortage caused by 'the American Civil War of 1861–65' (pp. 15, 30), and 'the economic depression of 1873–96' (p. 150), together with numerous other references to international locations, peoples, and events.

Without detracting from his genuinely impressive mastery of the broader world historical context, I would like to suggest some additional threads which could have enhanced the storyline. Note that all of the sources I reference here, and throughout the remainder of this critique, are not included in the author's already impressive bibliography – in some cases understandably, in others not as easily so.

First, the author's discussion of the Russian conquest of Central Asia, drawing on essential post-1950s Soviet scholarship, certainly contains reference to political, economic, and religious (especially pan-Islamic) ties between 19th-century India and the Central Asian states. He, nonetheless, could have added greater depth and clarity to the discussion by highlighting how the process of industrialization in both Russia and Britain along with the Russian ‘imposition of a state banking infrastructure’ in Central Asia ‘effectively remov[ed] Indians from their central role in the Central Asian rural credit system’ so that ‘in just a few short decades, the centuries-old Indian diaspora in Central Asia came to an end’.(4) This in turn, I suggest, must have affected the leverage of India in its political and possibly even religious (Islamic) relations with the Central Asian states, which certainly continued, though with decreasing frequency and economic clout. It must also have impacted the economy and thus even politics of British India, adding to the sense of competition with Russia, not only in general, but particularly in the Central Asian realms.

A good deal more could, likewise, have been said regarding the development and impact of the pan-Islamic and broader pan-Asian movements upon the dynamics of Russo-British and other ‘great power’ relations. In describing how ‘[t]here emerged for the first time a perspective on the coalescence of Asian states under Russia’s patronage to renounce a British civilizing mission’ among ‘some native princelings’ of India following the Sepoy Uprising of 1857-58 (pp. 73–4), Sergeev offers fair, but limited coverage. He has, for starters, overlooked the fact that ‘[d]uring the [Sepoy] Mutiny, the British took full advantage of the help they had given to the Ottomans during the Crimean War’ by ‘not only obtain[ing] permission from the Porte for the passage of their troops to India through Egypt and Suez, but also secur[ing] a proclamation from the Sultan, as Caliph, advising the Indian Muslims not to fight against them’, with the proclamation then ‘circulated and read in the mosques of India’. While Indian Muslims certainly retained a measure of bitterness toward the British, the Ottoman Sultan’s proclamation ‘had a remarkable influence over them’, so much so that ‘”in this way the debt that Turkey owed to Great Britain for British support in the Crimean war was paid in full”’.(5) Indeed, with the Sepoy incident leading to the official end of the Mughal Dynasty and, thus, the dethroning of Muslim power in India, Indian Muslims were, more and more, driven to look toward the Ottoman Sultan as the sole Caliph of the Muslim world, as well as the Meccan ulema who were also under Ottoman rule, so that in due course debates over ‘jihad’ against the British as ‘infidels’ were deemed unnecessary and even un-Islamic by the remaining Muslim leadership in India.(6)

But this is not all. Sergeev’s Great Game narrative is simply incomplete without mention of Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (1838–97), a Persian Shia Muslim who was to become the preeminent figurehead of the pan-Islamic movement. Al-Afghani, after completing his theological training in Iran, was journeying in India when the Sepoy Uprising took place. His witnessing of that event led him to launch into a career traveling all around the Middle East, with excursions into Central Asia, promoting the pan-Islamic cause.(7) The Shia Persian Afghani would eventually be courted by the Sunni Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876–1908), who himself made significant contributions to Pan-Islamism at time when ‘a conscious Pan-Islamic tendency [was] becoming evident in the Porte’s policy’.(8) This coincided with, one, the Balkan crisis of 1875–6 in which ‘Ottoman counter measures in Bulgaria created a strong anti-Turkish and anti-Muslim feeling, especially in Britain’, and two, the ensuing Russo-Turkish War (1877–8), which hardened Indian Muslim attitudes against the Russians to the point that ‘the Government of India was showered with numerous petitions condemning Russian action and demanding British support for the Ottomans’.(9) But ‘Britain, still under the influence of Gladstone’s [anti-Ottoman] campaign, chose to remain neutral after the Russian assurance that they would not threaten British interests by occupying Istanbul and the Straits’.(10) Thus, both Britain and Russia, as Christian powers, became the objects of Pan-Islamic scorn across much of the Middle East, Central Asia, and India during the 1870 and 1880s in particular. This is essential, but overlooked material in such a study.

Another important figure missing from Sergeev’s narrative is the international Pan-Turkic, Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian collaborator Abdurreshid Ibrahim (1857–1944) who was born in Siberia in a family from Bukhara and educated in the medreses in Kazan, Tatarstan. He not only held aspirations for Kazakh and Turkestani territorial autonomy (11) and significantly influenced the career of Zeki Velidi Togan (1890–1970) – another significant Pan-Turkic, Pan-Islamic leader from Bashkorkistan (aka Bashkiria), Central Asia (12) – he was instrumental in helping forge alliances between Central Asian, Ottoman, and Japanese reformers in opposition to Russian and British ‘Great Game’ imperialism across Asia. Thus he published a pamphlet in 1885 in Istanbul entitled Liva ul-Hamd to encourage Russian Muslims to emigrate to Turkey, later himself emigrating there from Ufa, Bashkortistan in 1894, though continuing to travel back and forth between Russian Central Asia and the Ottoman realms.(13) Then, in 1902, the same year as the first Anglo-Japanese Alliance, he made his first visit to Japan. This would later result in the relocation of some 5000 Tatar (along with some Bashkir and other Central Asian Turkic) Muslims to Japan during and after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5, the establishment of a small Muslim community and literature press as well as an Islamic Studies initiative in Japan, and a continuing alliance between the Japanese Pan-Asianists and Middle Eastern as well as Central Asian Pan-Islamists, with the latter coming from both Russia and northern China. The Muslim community in Japan and their ongoing alliance there with Japanese Pan-Asian groups would continue down to the end of the Second World War. Ibrahim himself had, among others, maintained close ties with Akashi Motojiro, chief Japanese Intelligence Officer for Europe, who is suspected by some of working among Russian Muslims to help instigate the 1905 Revolution.(14)

Meanwhile back in Russia, Great Game developments leading to the Russo-Japanese War and related 1905 Revolution had prompted three All-Russian Muslim Congresses as part of the State Duma sessions instituted during that period, the first in August 1905, the second in January 1906, and the third in late August, early September 1906. These were attended by Muslim delegates representing the Volga Tatars, Crimean Tatars, Azeris, Turkmen, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Bashkir, Lezgin, Dargin, and Chechens.(15) Many (though not all) of them were, like Ibrahim, ‘Jadidists’, that is, ‘new method’ Turkic Muslim reformers in Russia. The Tatar, Bashkir, Kazakh, Uzbek, Uighur, and other branches of these Jadid movements had become increasingly active since the 1860s, particularly after the accession of Alexander III in 1881 and the renewed thrust of Russian Orthodox missions legalized by his conservative politics in reversal of Catherine II’s ‘enlightened’ pro-Islamic religious policies, which came under increasing criticism from the 1850s onward due to the Sepoy Uprising and other related events.(16) These Jadidists were all interconnected with the larger Pan-Islamic, Pan-Turkic, Pan-Arab, and Pan-Indian movements flowing between the Russian, Ottoman, Persian, Indian, and northwestern Chinese domains, in many (though not all) cases peacefully and diplomatically seeking cultural and even political autonomy or independence from Britain, Russia, and China.(17) Their peaceful, diplomatic approach is demonstrated by their establishment of educational institutions, open publishing of journals, newspapers, textbooks, and other materials, and attendance of the three Muslim congresses in Saint Petersburg, among other activities. A number of those participating in the Jadid movements and States Dumas were top intellectuals functioning as ‘statespersons’ on behalf of Russia’s Muslims.

Apart however from brief, passing reference to ‘Pan-Islamic dissidents' (p. 332) on several occasions – which are typically equated in Sergeev’s mind with a possible ‘Muslim uprising’ or ‘Muslim rebellion in the khanates’ representing ‘the threat of a Muslim holy war against infidels – jihad’ (18) – none of these more nuanced details receives attention in his work. This is not for want of material, whether primary or secondary sources, since proceedings and studies have been published in English and Russian.(19) Nor is it for lack of relevance to his topic, since, for example, in the State Duma meetings the Muslim Congress members addressed issues of ‘the government’s colonization policy’ in Central Asia and the Caucasus, including ‘opposition to specific actions on the part of the authorities causing permanent dissatisfaction among frontier peoples, and especially the Kazakhs’. Though unable to introduce them, the Muslim Congress members thus ‘prepared two bills “on local self-government in the Caucasus” and “on the position of Kazakh lands”’ as part of their attempts to address ‘the situation in the national borderlands’.(20) All of this transpired as part of Russia’s concern to ‘restore the domestic order violated by the Russian Revolution of 1905’ which, in turn, drove even the most avid anti-British factions in Russia to agree to ‘the urgency’ of signing the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 (p. 303). Yet Sergeev has no place in his discussion for this. Instead, he portrays it all as only potentially “rebellious Muslims” threatening possible ‘uprisings’ and ‘holy wars’. The ignoring of such important diplomatic source material by a diplomatic historian, combined with his strictly negative caricature of those behind it, represents not only a major omission, but reflects a clear bias which manifests itself in other areas of his study as well (see below). The closest Sergeev comes to any of this is fleeting reference to the fact that ‘it was the national liberation movement that molded a certain basis for Russo-British collaboration in 1907’ (p. 327). Symptomatically, he offers no coverage of what the Kazakh sources explain, telling how:

On November 19, 1905 a convocation was organized by "The Union for Autonomy" in which 83 representatives participated from Azerbaizhan, Armenia, Georgia, Poland, Latvia, Ukraine, the Kazakhs, the Tatars and others from among the ethnonationally oppressed nations. In the gathering, … the resolution was put forth that … every ethnonational people should receive autonomy in which they run their own affairs.(21)

In like manner, he omits entirely any discussion, let alone even mention, of the Indian National Congress and its essential predecessors.(22) In relation to both the Turkic Russian and Indian contexts, Sergeev could have made at least passing reference to one of the leading Jadid voices, Ismail bey Gaspirali (1851–1914) as well as the anti-British Indian Muslim reformer Abdul Hafiz Muhammad Barakatullah (1859–1927) who traveled internationally opposing Western imperialism while agitating for Indian independence from British rule.

Yet another essential strand of this same story, harkening back to Abdurreshid Ibrahim but appearing nowhere in the pages of Sergeev, is the developing relationship between Japan and the Ottoman Empire which emerged as early as 1870. Following from this, Genichiro Fukuchi, who had served as interpreter in the Iwakura Mission (1871–3), visited Istanbul in 1873, leading eventually to the official commencement of Japanese-Ottoman diplomatic relations in 1875. Numerous political, military, economic, and even religious exchanges took place, some no doubt involving discussions of their common enemy Russia.(23) Indeed, Colonel Yasumasa Fukushima, serving as an intelligence agent, conducted several intelligence gathering missions amidst these developing relations: the first in 1889–90 traveling between Tokyo, Istanbul and Berlin, a second trip in 1892 between Tokyo and Berlin via Russian Siberia, and a third from October 1895 to March 1897 traveling between Tokyo and Istanbul via Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Iraq.(24) All this lies behind Sergeev’s passing mention of ‘a projected tripartite Anglo-Japanese-Turkish coalition’ (pp. 300–1).

Additional details integral to the Great Game could, likewise, have enriched Sergeev’s otherwise limited references to the South African Boer War (1899–1902). While he notes its distant connection to Great Game developments (pp. 232, 234, 236, 245–6, 256–7), he omits from his sources not only the single, most important work on the subject – Davidson and Filatova, The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902 – but a great many relevant details drawn therefrom. For example, Yevgeny Maximov, once a lieutenant colonel in the Russian army, was apparently sent on ‘a secret mission in South Africa on behalf of the Russian War Ministry’. The combined results of Maximov’s and other Russian (as well as Boer?) contributions yielded a total of 3561 pages of reports published in 21 volumes. One wonders why Sergeev, so focused on Russian diplomatic sources, makes no substantive use or mention of these important archival records? There was also an embassy of Boer ministers sent to Saint Petersburg in 1900 along with ‘an enormous volume’ of works published in Russian, including translations of Boer literature as well as Russian popular fiction whose setting was the Boer War. Indeed, ‘Boer mania reached fever pitch’ in Russia in those years. Later, seeking to return the favor, Boers supported Russia against Japan in the Russo-Japanese War. Overall, Davidson and Filatova’s book ‘"demonstrates the significance of the South African War in Russia's international and internal policy”’. And while Sergeev denies historical connections between the Great Game and the later Cold War (pp. 2, 12), these Great Game relations between Russia and South Africa laid the ground work for later Soviet-South African cooperation in the Cold War.(25)

Great Game Historiography:

Chronological, Geographical and Geopolitical Considerations

As to the question of a clear, decisive start to the Great Game in 1856, Sergeev’s entire first chapter reads more like the actual ‘beginnings’ rather than simply ‘The prologue of the Great Game’. There (and into the second chapter) we read, for instance, that ‘[a]s early as 1800, a British commentator argued that “unless the progress of Russia was stopped, Persia, Turkey and India would become preys of her devouring ambition’ (p. 54). There is, likewise, strategic vying for power and position between Britain and Russia in relation to the treaties of Gulistan (1813), Tehran (1814), and Turkmanchai (1829) (p. 51), as well as ‘the Russo-Turkish War and Russo-Persian War of 1827–28 and 1828–29’ and ‘the Anglo-Afghan War of 1839–42’ (p. 50) thus, in 1829 a British officer published On the Practicability of an Invasion of British India (26), with further explicit British concern expressed in 1836 over ‘Russia’s strategic projects’ in the region via John McNeill’s The Progress and Present Position of Russia in the East (p. 53) (27) then ‘Britain outwitted Russia in a preventative mission’ in Central Asia in 1837 (p. 55), while in 1838 another work was published on India, Great Britain, and Russia in which ‘[t]he author stigmatized “an unprecedented Russian aggression in all directions”’ (p. 70) indeed, the Russian assault on Herat in 1838 struck uncomfortably close to British India, with the British sending a force to the Persian Gulf in response (28) against the backdrop of these developments come two explicit declarations by Arthur Conolly in 1840 regarding ‘the great game that is before us’ from which the term ‘Great Game’ is technically drawn (pp. 1, 3) these are followed by the 1843 proposition that the Central Asian khanates be preserved ‘as a neutral zone interposed between the empires’ (p. 57) also, while the evidence in my view supports an even earlier start, Sergeev’s own suggestion that ‘Tsarist strategists … had ignored the Indian direction until the outbreak of the Crimean War’ would place the start at 1853 (cf. ‘outbreak’), not 1856 (p. 70), with the schemes of a Russian attack upon India being presented to Tsar Nicholas I in 1854, two years prior to the alleged start (p. 71).

Behind much of this we have not only British expansion into northwestern India occurring in the 1840s, but Russian expansion southward into Central Asia. Central Asia as a strategic base for gaining access ‘to the fabulous wealth of India’ and other Asian regions southward had been on the radar of Russia since Peter the Great had set sights upon it as the ‘key and gate’ for fulfilling those aims. Following from this, he sent three reconnaissance missions (1715–20) to spy out the region, establishing also three military outposts along the northern borders of the Kazakh steppe.(29) Afterwards the three Kazakh khanates signed protectorate treaties with Russia (in 1731, 1740, 1742) based on mutual concerns over Jungar raids into Kazakh territories. After the Qing slaughter of the Jungars (1758) produced a period of relative tranquility, an official pronouncement of the annexation of Kazakh lands came in 1822 followed by the subsequent advance of the military to Novo-Alexandrovsk in the western steppe in 1834, the attempted but failed Russian assault on Khiva in 1839 (cf. p. 55), the establishment of Ayaguz (Sergiopol) in 1841 and Kopal in 1847, just above and below the eastern tip of Lake Balkhash respectively, as well as Turgai and Irgiz in 1845 and Aralsk in 1848, together with the abolishment of the khanate of ‘Great Zhuz’ of the Kazakhs in Zhetisu (aka Semirich’e) accompanied by the establishment of Verny (present-day Almaty) in 1854.(30) Though not detailed by him, particularly not in clear chronological terms (31), all this is behind Sergeev’s passing citation of the official Russian declaration to Tsar Alexander II that ‘“by 1854, we have reached the lake of Issyk Kul and the River Chu from West Siberia we have erected, likewise, strongholds in the lower flow of the Syr Daria.”’ (p. 99).

Thus the Russian advance into Central Asia was already under way well before the Crimean War was even on the horizon. It was not commenced following the war, simply resumed. The same can be said for Russia's war plans against British India (cf. pp. 13, 68). The Crimean War simply interrupted the Central Asian advance on the one hand, and stoked the fires of fury and determination to attack British India all the more brightly on the other. It resulted in a definite intensification, but not the commencement of Great Game activities.

‘Orientalist’ Frames of Study? Russo-British Relations, ‘the Great Powers’, and ‘Decadent Oriental States’

One final question here, indeed the most serious and involved, is that of using Russo-British relations to frame the study. Certainly Britain and Russia were two of the ‘great powers’ of the day – along with France, Germany, and the United States.(32) The main concern here is that ‘great’ implies ‘not-so-great’, that is, ‘less than’ those who are ‘great’. And how ‘great’ versus ‘less’ of a role do we assign the multiple ‘powers’ involved in the various struggles going on across Asia? As explicitly stated by Sergeev regarding his book: ‘Its purpose is to shatter myths and correct evident inaccuracies in our understanding of how preindustrial states and peoples were incorporated into modern civilization owing to the great powers’ competition for supremacy in Asia’ (p. 3). By this he means it was the ‘great powers’ of industrialized (or industrializing) Europe, primarily Russia and Britain, who were ‘incorporating decadent Oriental states into the global system of relations’ (p. 63 cf. p. 347). In his view, this was inevitable, for ‘the traditional despotic regimes in Central and East Asia … had been lagging far behind the European countries throughout the period in question, and thus they were doomed to be subjugated by the more dynamic non-Asian powers’ (pp. 14–15). Indeed: ‘Above all … the modernization of backward, traditional, preindustrial societies underlay the Game’s agenda’ (p. 346). All these ideas are poignantly summed up in his conclusion:

At the beginning of the Great Game, Central and East Asia were characterized by more or less medieval political, social, economic, and cultural features. Then the competition between British and Russian civilizing patterns led to modern changes in all spheres of daily routine. Instead of the social apathy, economic backwardness, and political anarchy in which they had been stuck for centuries, local nations gradually began to awake under the influence of innovations that were brought to them by the Great Game's "players" of different caliber (pp. 329–30).

We, likewise, encounter ‘decadent and cruel Oriental potentates’ (p. 309), who, borrowing from The Times in London, are ‘”semi-barbarous states, ever at feud with one another”’ (p. 97). These are the Central Asian states of Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand as depicted by Sergeev. In similar fashion, we have ‘predatory tribes’ (p. 80), ‘[n]umerous gangs of mounted bandits’ (pp. 56–7), and ‘savage nomads' (p. 145) creating ‘turmoil’ (pp. 117 –18), or, in the words of the Russian war minister, Miliutin, ‘”[t]he ultimate chaos that is reigning now”’(p. 134). Both together are portrayed as locked in ‘permanent internecine feuds among local rulers and warlords’ (p. 80 cf. p. 191). Such is how the ‘Oriental’ (aka ‘Asian’) peoples are integrated into his narrative.

What this means for the Russian advance into Central Asia is summed up most effectively in one particular passage:

‘Nevertheless, in 1716, the Russians embarked on the construction of the so-called Orenburg-Siberian defensive line…protecting the southern frontier of the Russian Empire. …However, nomadic tribes regularly raided the frontier area during the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries—as, for example, they did under the command of the self-proclaimed Kazakh “sultan” Kenessary Kasimov in 1841-47. Numerous gangs of mounted bandits frequently broke through defensive lines of cordon posts, looted Russian colonists, captured many people, and sold them as white slaves on the markets of Khiva and Bokhara, while frontier guards were enlisted mostly to garrison service. The ignorance of local specialities, inadequate mobility, and a scarcity of the means of offensive prevented frontier guards from conducting effective punitive expeditions on a regular basis … to eliminate banditry and slavery in Central Asia (pp. 56–57 cf. p. 144, 159, 221).

Note carefully here how Sergeev portrays the Russian side as an orderly, civilized, ‘tolerant’ people simply defending and ‘protecting … the Russian Empire’ while being ‘prevented … from conducting effective punitive expeditions’ against ‘“[t]hese darkest of all the dark places of the Earth [which] were full of the habitations of cruelty”’. The latter phrase forms part of a citation which Sergeev, apparently with affirmation, quotes from ‘the renowned British scholar Charles Trevelyan … in The Times, referring to the Russian conquest of Turmkenia’ as part of his conclusion (pp. 332–3).

That Sergeev generally shares this opinion is reflected in his derogatory representation of Kenessary Kasimov as nothing but a ‘self-proclaimed “sultan”’ who heads up nothing more than one of the ‘[n]umerous gangs of mounted bandits’ who ‘raided the frontier area’. To the contrary, Kenessary was the grandson of the great Kazakh khan Ablai (1711–81) and, therefore, rightful heir to the Kazakh khanship. He was clearly affirmed and embraced by a large portion of the Kazakh population as the last khan to rule the Kazakh khanate before a Russian provincial governing system was instituted on the Kazakh Steppe.(33) The Kazakh historian Zh. Kasimbaev, in his article on ‘The ethnonational independence movement of the Kazakh people led by Kenesari Kasimuhli’, makes clear that Kenessary, when conducting his campaign,

set before himself the [clear] intention of restoring the territorial solidarity and independence. of the Kazakh nation. Before commencing any armed revolt he sent letters on numerous occasions to the rulers of the Russian empire setting forth the required demands.(34)

This disregard by a diplomatic historian of both the diplomatic correspondence and the proper honored diplomatic status of an Asian national leader which forms an integral part of the history he is treating harkens back to his manner of handling the Jadid Muslim reformers. It once again exposes not only Sergeev’s demeaning attitude toward these peoples, but his misrepresentation of them. This is not surprising, however, for someone drawing so heavily on Soviet scholarship, for all such interpretations of Kenessary as ‘a national hero fighting for independence’ leading ‘a national liberation movement and not a counterrevolutionary one’ were condemned by Soviet historiography. This is evidenced most vividly in the sentencing of the noted Kazakh historian Yermukhan Bekmakhanov in 1952 to 25 years in prison for attempting precisely such an interpretation in his 1948 work on Kazakhstan in the 1820s and 1840s. ‘The Soviet regime viewed his historical analysis as threatening’.(35)

Preceding Kenessary were a host of earlier uprisings against Russian rule, including not only the Pugachev Revolt (1773–5) in which thousands of Kazakhs participated, but the Kazakh uprising led by Batir Srim Datov (1783–97), the joint struggles led by Zholaman Tlenshiev (1820–35) and Sarzhan Kasimuhli (1824–36), and the mutually cooperative movements of Isatai Taimanov and Mahambet Utemisov (1836–1840).(36) In Sergeev’s view though, it was ‘Russian tolerance for local traditions’ which ‘revived the aspirations of dissidents to stir up anti-Russian uprisings’, with his only example being the Andijan uprising of 1897–8 (pp. 332–3). But rather than offer serious attention to genuine opposition against the Russian advance, Sergeev instead highlights those Central Asians who ‘often acted as pathfinders’, ‘voluntarily allied with Russian armies’, ‘welcomed’ the invading conquerors, ‘bec[a]me Russian subjects by their own will’, and ‘agreed that the incorporation of the Central Asian peoples into the Russian Empire was more progressive than’ the other available options (pp. 58, 111, 332). Taking this angle of approach of course lends support to his contention that ‘Russian rule was definitely more understandable for natives who were not really ready to fully accept Western civilization’ (p. 332).

Still more, Sergeev’s choice to use the adjective ‘punitive’ (in the text cited above) carries a clear, intended sense of ‘just, deserved punishment’ for aggressive violations against the innocent, assaulted Russian victims.(37) Meanwhile, the Kazakh scholar Akseleu Seidimbek insists, from the perspective of the colonized, that for his people it accomplished not justice, but instead only ‘cast the hell of colonization into their consciousness’.(38) Another Kazakh scholar, Abdizhapar Abdakimuhli, agrees, calling it nothing but ‘oppressive over-lordship’.(39)

Indeed, Sergeev confesses in fair and frank manner that the Russian assaults on Central Asia were at times ‘accompanied by the massacre of not merely armed defenders but also noncombatant townsfolk, including elderly people, women, and children’, and in the case of the Youmud Turkmen, their ‘wholesale slaughter’.(40) Certain ‘eyewitnesses of these hostilities’, including ‘[e]ven Russian observers … disclosed these vicious practices’, reporting in newspapers and journals ‘on the dreadful scenes of atrocities committed by Tsarist troops’ (pp. 109, 190 cf. also p. 198). He, likewise, on occasion describes these Russian attacks as having been carried out on ‘a pretext’ (pp. 114–15, 190). But not just on these occasions rather, in the words of General Kaufmann to the Russian foreign minister Miliutin: ‘”Until the present time, we have failed to undertake any action in a noncombatant manner each new step in our diplomacy, each success in trade, has been achieved with blood"' (pp. 124–5).(41) One may justifiably ask, then, who the true ‘semi-barbarous savages’ producing the ‘ultimate chaos’ were? Of course, ‘the Foreign Office vehemently protested against the acts of violence committed by Tsarist expeditionary forces in South Trans-Caspia’, but this was ‘especially in view of the Russo-British negotiations on the Afghan boundary’s delimitation, which were in full swing’ (p. 206), not on any moral-ethical basis. In like manner, ‘open criticism was given by a minor group of Russian political observers’, but this did not concern the Russian propagandistic misrepresentation of the ‘oriental’ peoples nor their subjugation, it was rather ‘with regard to the pattern of military rule in Turkestan’ which took shape following the conquests (p. 115–16).

The entire caricature here, then, of ‘dynamic, progressive, orderly, and civilized’ Europeans acting upon “static, backward, apathetic, anarchic, and chaotic” Asians harkens uncomfortably back to earlier 19th- and 20th-century white European racist views as reflected, for example, in British attitudes toward Indians which held that they were ‘”grossly ignorant, steeped in idolatrous superstition, unenergetic, fatalistic”’ and, thus, in need of ‘”the essential parts of European civilization”’.(42) More to the point, Sergeev continues a Russian imperial tradition dating back to at least the eighteenth century of depicting ‘the neighboring nomadic peoples … as “wild, untamed horses”, “wild animals”, “wild, unruly, and disloyal peoples”, whose khans practiced “savage customs”’, while ‘[b]y contrast, the Russian Empire was proudly portrayed by government officials as “the world’s respected and glorious state”’.(43) Going back still further, Abdakimuhli notes that:

a good number of present-day historians are still unable to rid themselves of the falsely convincing opinions which have been soaked into their heads through the writings of the middle centuries, particularly the chronicles of Ancient Russia. According to them, nomads … cannot even be placed on a level with human beings. They are even ascribed the position of being the offspring of demons and devils who suddenly came forth from hell on the day humanity came into being.(44)

Granted, much like the Cherokee leader Elias Boudinout in the context of ‘Indian Removal’ in the U.S. in 1828 (45), Shokan Ualihanuhli (aka Chokan Valikhanov), a Kazakh serving in the Tsarist military in the 1850–1860s, called his own people ‘a wild and barbarous race, demoralized by Islamism, and reduced almost to idiocy by [the] political and religious despotism of their native rulers’ (pp. 32–3). But Sergeev omits the fact that near the end of his life Ualihanuhli ‘grew disillusioned with the methods that the Russian administration used in establishing its authority in Turkestan and resigned from state service’.(46)

Regardless, Eurocentric ‘orientalist’ approaches did not end with the fall of the Tsarist Empire, for Kazakh and other non-Slavic peoples were themselves forced, during the Soviet period, to confess something directly akin to such creeds as part of the national anthems imposed upon their republics, declaring in bold fashion: ‘Protectors of the nations, we express much gratitude to the great Russian people’.(47)

And so, Sergeev still carries on not only a long-standing Tsarist tradition, but the post-Stalinist approach of the 1950s and 1960s which he himself highlights when ‘the champions of the so-called concept of the lesser evil advocated the Russian penetration of Central Asia as a progressive development aimed at the reformation of preindustrial societies’ (p. 11). His direct descent from this line of scholarship is only reinforced by the continuation of the same quote which clarifies that

all Soviet scholars shared the opinion that Britain had always been an aggressive imperialistic power in the Orient and that British colonial rule should be considered far crueler and less acceptable to indigenous ethnicities than that inaugurated by Tsarist civil and military authorities (p. 11).

And so, Sergeev, following in the footsteps of Soviet scholarship, highlights that:

Symptomatically, many Europeans were convinced that [the] Russian … pattern of colonial government proved to be not less progressive and sometimes more efficient than that of the British. … It is disputable whether Russian rule was less progressive than British rule in the fields of education, industry, and social standards, but Russian rule was definitely more understandable for natives who were not really ready to fully accept Western civilization …whereas the British caused the local people to feel inferior, the Russians wished them to behave somewhat as if they were at home … Durand quite correctly held that whereas the Russian position in Asia was natural, the British one proved to be artificial' (pp. 332–3 cf. pp. 149, 156).

Thus indeed, ‘a good deal’ of the ‘contemporary patterns of Orientology and historiography in Central Asia, the Caucasus and Russia … is still following the paradigms set in the Soviet period’ (48), with those paradigms reaching even further back deep into the Tsarist period. This is also confirmed by Anara Tabyshalieva, a Kyrgyz scholar offering critical comments on this review essay before its publication, saying:

I fully agree with your critique of the Eurocentric approach of E. Sergeev. His statements remind me of some pre-Soviet and Soviet publications. …Seems to me, the author disregarded post-Soviet publications of Central Asian historians.(49)

As for a Kazakh perspective, Kereihan Amanzholov insists, contra Sergeev, that Russian colonization offered ‘no essential difference with the colonialist policies of Britain, France, and other European powers’ since all of them were ‘Eurocentric’ and exploitative.(50)

Apparently, though, from Sergeev’s perspective, he is more concerned to correct ‘a distorted image of Russia in the West’ (p. 2) than a distorted image of Asia in both Russia and the West. We certainly welcome the former. But, alas, Sergeev leaves us still awaiting the day when ‘the great powers’ offer greater recognition and respect to the ‘non-Western’ peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, portraying them in a more respectful manner while also acknowledging their genuine ‘dynamic, progressive, civilizational’ achievements and contributions to world history. Only then will they be given their rightful place within the storyline, as opposed to justifying their paternalistic subjugation by virtue of their alleged “backward, despotic” ways. It is one thing to simply portray the 19th-century Russian views as they were expressed. But this does not keep the historian from critically analyzing those views in relation to and in light of the modern setting in which they are investigated, especially when framing introductions and drawing conclusions. Thus, while Sergeev recognizes that the former Tsarist Russian attitudes were ‘orientalist’ in the truest sense of Edward Said’s intended critical meaning (pp. 5, 31–4), he himself does little to correct them, but rather reinforces and more deeply entrenches them.

Whatever other strengths or weaknesses the work may have, Sergeev’s effort remains an impressive undertaking and no belittling of that accomplishment is intended in this critique. His clear strength is Russian and British diplomatic history within the broader context of ‘great power’ relations. To this he makes an important contribution, one from which the reader will richly benefit, just as this reviewer has, provided that the book is read with a critical eye.

Endnotes (drawn only from sources not included in Sergeev’s study):

*Special thanks to Dr. Anara Tabyshalieva (co-editor with M. Palat of History of the Civilizations of Central Asia: Volume 6: towards the contemporary period: From the mid-nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century, UNESCO, 2005) for offering critical comments on this review before its publication. Responsibility for all content remains my own.


Russian American Relations in the 19th Century - History

In this article the influential Moroccan historian provides a history of the role of the United States in the Middle East and North Africa. The essay provides an excellent introductory survey, beginning with the recognition of the young American republic by Morocco in the 19th century through recent events. The paper is a concise and necessarily general survey that provides a useful overview of historical developments. Through written over ten years ago, so many of the points raised by El Mansour remain salient today.

The U.S.-Middle East Connection: Interests, Attitudes and Images

The first contacts the U.S. had with the Middle East go back to the late 18th century when immediately after achieving independence, the American administration sought to negotiate peace treaties with the North African states with the objective of securing safe passage for American ships to the Mediterranean. It was within this perspective that the U.S. signed their treaty with Morocco in 1786, the first treaty to be signed with a non-Western nation. However, North Africa was never the focus of American interests and in the 19th century it was rather the Middle East which attracted the efforts of American missionaries. Aside from spreading Christianity, missionaries focused on creating educational institutions, primarily in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. One of the most important of these was the Syrian Protestant College established in 1866 and which became known later as the American University of Beirut. Similar efforts in Turkey led to the foundation of Robert College in 1863. Both institutions had a major impact on the Middle East because they educated members of the local elites.

Up to World War I the United States refrained from intervention in the Middle East region mainly because they wanted to avoid competing with British interests there. Oil exploitation was also at its beginnings and British Petroleum had the monopoly of it. For the countries of the region the U.S. enjoyed a favorable image since they had no imperial designs in the Middle East. This view was reinforced at the end of World War I by President Wilson’s 14 Points and by America’s championing of the principle of self-determination at the Versailles peace conference. The Middle Eastern countries which were resisting the encroachment of European powers even hoped for American protection against European imperialism. This hope was expressed forcefully in the King-Crane Commission dispatched by Wilson to Syria and Palestine to ascertain the preferences of the populations regarding which mandatory power should be chosen to help them toward independence, according to the goals set by the League of Nations. The King-Crane Commission left a favorable impression in Syria and Palestine as the majority of those interviewed expressed a desire for an American mandate in preference to a British or a French one.

America’s Growing Interests

However, once the war was over the U.S. became a vigilant watcher of Soviet behavior not only in Europe, but also in the Middle East. For strategic reasons the U.S. could no longer ignore the region especially that their allies there, France and Britain, had been weakened by the war and were in no position to contain the Soviet ambitions in Iran, Turkey, and the Middle East in general. American concern with the Middle East as a strategic region has grown steadily since then.

During the 1930s the U.S. moved to compete with the British in the field of oil exploitation. As the world learned more about the value of oil as a significant, long-term source of energy American oil companies became increasingly motivated to push for a share in prospecting and exploiting overseas resources (Seikal, 46). To avoid coming into friction with the British in Iran the U.S. chose to concentrate on Saudi Arabia where the Wahhabis were ready to grant oil concessions to the Americans in return for U.S. military protection. In 1933 the Saudis granted a friend of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and head of a Californian oil company the first oil concession. Export of Saudi oil to the U.S. started as early as 1937. The theocratic character of the Wahhabi monarchy did not seem to concern President Roosevelt who secretly committed the United States to Saudi Arabia’s security and defense (Seikal, 48).

After the Second World War, as the Soviet Union and the U.S. emerged as the two main global adversaries, Washington adopted a strategy designed to deter the Soviets from further expansion and to deprive them at the same time from vital oil resources in Iran and elsewhere in the region. This strategy, known as the Truman Doctrine, essentially aimed at defeating the Soviets by whatever means possible short of direct military confrontation. For the Middle East this strategy meant that the U.S. would fill in the vacuum left by the two old colonial powers, France and Britain. Thus the U.S. embarked on open diplomatic and military interventionism in the Middle Eastern region. It did so along a three-dimensional approach:

  1. A firm support for anti-communist conservative rulers who after the war came under increasing pressure from their peoples who were expecting more political freedom and social justice. For Washington it made no difference whether the governments were theocratic, autocratic or democratic, as long as they were anti-communist and willing to side with the West.
  1. The second approach consisted in treating all communists, socialists, or even nationalists as ideologically monolithic. No differences were recognized among them. A radical nationalist reformer was not less worse than a Marxist communist.
  1. The third dimension required that for the achievement of American strategic goals any means short of military confrontation with the Soviet Union could be deployed. Economic and military assistance, cash distribution, bilateral and multi-lateral pacts were used as means of promoting American interests. Political and economic pragmatism was the only norm that governed U.S. policy in the region.

Within these parameters the U.S. focused on three major countries in the region: Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. In 1950 the Truman administration committed the U.S. to the defense of Saudi Arabia and toward this end it upgraded the facilities at the military base of Dahran, turning it into one of the most important American bases. The U.S. also moved to strengthen its ties with the conservative forces in Iran. Reza Shah Pahlavi, a pro-Western by education and conviction, became Washington’s man in this country. He actively cooperated with the Americans to transform his country from a non-aligned country into a close ally of the U.S. As a result, the Americans stepped up their military and economic aid to Iran. They also helped in the restructuring of the Iranian army and security (Seikal, 51).

Washington’s breakthrough in Iran occurred in 1953 when they acted jointly with the British to overthrow Mossadaq, the democratically elected prime minister. Mossadaq was a nationalist who was not satisfied with the share his country got from the oil concession that the British enjoyed. After difficult negotiations between the two parties ended in failure, Mossadaq decided to nationalize the oil industry. His overthrow was the result of a coordinated action by the CIA and British intelligence services and led to the reimposition of the autocratic rule of the Shah. This operation was the first large-scale American intervention in the Middle East and had far-reaching consequences. It confirmed Iran’s position as an anti-communist frontline state and close ally or the U.S. It further provided the U.S. with a centrally important strategic foothold on the Soviet border. It also marked the end of British monopoly over Iranian oil and a severe blow to the British presence in the region in general. In October 1953 John Foster Dulles commissioned Herbert Hoover Jr., a petroleum advisor and son of a former president, to solve the oil dispute in Iran and above all make sure American companies acquired a share in the Iranian oil industry.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Meanwhile, another dimension was added to the U.S. involvement in the region. It stemmed from U.S. support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and its subsequent support for Israel. During World War II, and before the British disengagement from Palestine, the U.S. began to show increasing signs of interest in the question. Zionist leaders like Ben Gurion worked actively during the war to win over the support of both the American administration and the American Jewish community. In 1946 Washington demanded the immediate entry into Palestine of 100,000 survivors of the Holocaust after the Europeans and the United States themselves refused to admit them on their territories. Once the British decided to hand over the Palestinian issue to the United Nations, the U.S. became the main supporter of the Zionist cause. In 1948 they were the first to recognize the newly created state of Israel.

To the Arabs the significance of the U.S. role in constructing what they regarded as another Western colonial obstacle to self-determination cannot be overstated. By backing the creation of the Jewish state, President Truman was largely motivated by domestic political concerns. As one American official of the State Department formulated it, Truman wanted to solve the problem of Jewish refugees by another refugee problem, that of the Arab Palestinians. The implications for U.S.-Arab relations were catastrophic. This is what this official, Evan Wilson, later wrote: “It is no exaggeration to say that our relations with the entire Arab world have never recovered from the events of 1947-1948 when we sided with the Jews against the Arabs and advocated a solution in Palestine which went contrary to self-determination as far as the majority population of the country was concerned” (Evan Wilson, 154).

Henceforth the security and survival of Israel became one of the pillars of U.S. policy in the Middle East, not only because the Jewish state fitted very well in their Cold War politics, but also because for many Americans, Israel represented part of their culture and a Western presence in an alien and threatening region. During the fifties, with the radicalization of Arab nationalism (Nasserism and Baathism), the objective of American policy in the region consisted in enabling Israel to maintain a strategic edge over its Arab neighbors through massive financial and military assistance.

The American preoccupation with the growth of Soviet influence in the region became a consistent .pattern during the next three decades. The Eisenhower doctrine announced in 1957 committed the U.S. to come to the aid of any state threatened by “international communism”. In fact what this doctrine did was to allow the U.S. to assist unpopular rulers who were threatened by the insurgency of their own peoples. This happened in Jordan in 1957 and in Lebanon the following year, 1958, when the U.S. deployed their military to prevent the fall of King Hussein of Jordan and of Camille Chamoun in Lebanon. Such a policy angered the Arab peoples and generated anti-American resentment among Muslims in general. The favorable image the Arabs had of the U.S. as a non-colonial power and champion of anti-colonialism simply faded away.

The turning point came with the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 which resulted in Israeli occupation of more Arab land, at the expense of the Palestinians, but also at the expense of countries such as Egypt and Syria. The adoption of dozens of resolutions by the UN calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Arab occupied territories did not prevent Israel from pursuing its policy of annexation and expropriation of Palestinian lands. The American administration, especially under the Republicans, tended to sanction Israel’s policy of settlements in the West Bank and in the Gaza strip. Despite the illegal character of these settlements under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the U.S. never challenged Israeli policy in this regard and continued to provide Israel with financial assistance that was used in the building and extension of settlements. This attitude resulted in Israel’s taking over more than half the West Bank, not to mention the annexation of Eastern Jerusalem.

From the perspective of Arab countries, U.S. strategic partnership with Israel has been crucial in enabling the Jewish state to defy UN resolutions and defeat any attempt to settle the Palestinian question. What angers the Arabs most is the perception they have of a double-standard U.S. policy consisting of two approaches, one for Israel and another for the Arab countries. In fact the U.S. have always been reluctant to pressurize Israel to comply with UN resolutions concerning the occupied territories while it showed a firm determination to implement international resolutions pertaining to Arab countries. This was particularly clear in the case of Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

The double-standard policy can also be seen in the way Washington has dealt with the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the region. While the U.S. administration is insisting on clearing the Middle East region from such weapons it never mentions Israel’s holding of nuclear armaments. This policy has largely contributed to the growth of anti-American sentiment in the region and fueled Islamic radical groups.

Arabs and Muslims in the American Mind

The image of the Arab in the American mind is older than the history of American-Arab relations. In fact, it is part of a Western view which concerns not only the Arabs but the Muslims in general. The perception of Muslims as a threat is not something born in the 20th or 21st century. Islam, according to the British historian Albert Hourani, was always a problem for the West from the very beginning. In the Middle Ages Christians found it hard to accept Islam as a religion, stating that “Islam is a false religion, Allah, the God of Muslims is not God, and Muhammad is not a prophet”.

Centuries of interaction have left a bitter legacy between the worlds of Islam and the Christian West, deriving largely from the fact that both civilizations claim a universal message and mission and share much of the Judeo-Christian heritage. Separated by conflict and held together by common spiritual and material ties, Christians and Muslims presented a religious, intellectual, and military challenge to each other. However, this portrait of unremitting Western-Muslim hostility is misleading. In fact, the pendulum of relations between the two sides has swung between confrontation and collaboration. Although conflict arising from cultural, religious, and ideological factors has been the norm, real politik and interstate interests have also shaped the relationship between the two civilizations.

Historically, Western powers had no scruples about aligning themselves with Muslims against fellow Christian powers. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the French, the English and the Germans joined ranks with the Ottoman Muslims against their European opponents. The Ottoman Empire itself was for centuries part of the European system of alliances and counter-alliances. During the 20th century Western interests in the Arab and Muslim lands were more influenced by the requirements of colonial policy than by religious sentiment. In the case of the U.S., the American administration had been throughout much of the 20th century the main supporter of the Wahhabi state in Saudi Arabia. More recently Islamist movements would be backed to undermine Communist regimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

However, unlike Europe, the U.S. did not engage in any prolonged, bloody encounters with Muslim states and societies. Apart from the current occupation of Iraq, the U.S. never ruled over Arab and Muslim lands, or developed Europe’s complex imperial system. In the first part of the 20th century, the U.S. developed dynamic and cordial relations with Arabs and Muslims who viewed America as a progressive power compared to European colonial countries. Even after it became a superpower, the U.S. was much less constrained by colonial or historical antagonisms that we find in the case of the European powers. For the U.S., political and economic concerns have always been the driving force behind Washington’s Middle Eastern policy. Although the religious and cultural challenge of Islam continues to seize the imagination of many people in the U.S., it is the security and strategic implications of Islam that resonate in the minds of Americans.

During the last fifty years, however, U.S.-Middle Eastern relations have witnessed a dramatic change. While in the first half of the 20th century, U.S. officials supported the concept of self-determination and opposed the perpetuation of colonialism, in the second half of the century they tended to look with suspicion on populist Third World movements and ideologies. By the 1950s, containing the perceived Communist threat and keeping Soviet influence out of the Middle East became the driving motivation of U.S. policy. Within the American administration the scale weighed in favor of those who mistrusted nationalists like Mosadaq in Iran or Nasser in Egypt, and suspected them of being allied to the Soviets in order to overthrow the existing regional order. In U.S. eyes, revolutionary nationalism, not political Islam, represented a security threat to the pro-Western, conservative monarchies of the region.

In fact, during much of the 1950s and 1960s the U.S. hoped to construct an alliance of Islamic states with sufficient power and prestige to counterbalance “godless communists” and the secular nationalist forces as represented by Nasser. During the 1960s, one of the reasons behind the deterioration of relations between the U.S. and Nasser was the encouragement given by the Americans to the Saudis in order to sponsor a holy Islamic alliance which would bring together all conservative regimes in the region to isolate Egypt and the radical secularist regimes in the Arab world. At the time Islam was seen to serve Western interests while Arab secular nationalism was considered to be dangerous as an objective ally of communism.

The U.S. perception of the Middle East situation and the nature of the threat saw a radical shift in the 1970s largely because of the explosion of Islamic politics on the scene. Regional events such as the 1967 war between the Arabs and Israel brought about a discredit of secular nationalism in the region and allowed radical Islamist ideologies to move to the central stage.

While Nasser had fought the 1967 war under the banner of Arab nationalism, Sadat, his successor, fought his war in 1973 under the banner of Islam. The timing of the war itself was decided in such a way as to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan. This war led to an oil embargo which for the first time affected the lives of Americans in peacetime.

But it was the Iranian revolution of 1978 which contributed more than any other factor in bringing the so-called “Islamic threat” to the attention of ordinary Americans. Accustomed to seeing their country as the model of democracy and generosity, the Americans were shocked when they heard Ayatullah Khomeini call it “the great Satan”. Never before had the American administration been confronted to this type of irrational and uncompromising attitudes on the part of the Iranian Mullahs. By holding 52 American hostages for more than one year, Khomeini’s Iran inflicted daily humiliation on the U.S., underlying at the same time their unfamiliar sense of powerlessness. Iran really became a national obsession for the Americans, and the image of Islam for them had acquired its most negative aspect. As with Arab nationalism of the 1950s, labels such as “fanatical” or “terrorist” were now applied to the Iranian Islamic revolution. As the specter of communism was retreating it was now Islamism which rose to prominence as the number one security threat. Worse than communism this new threat aroused the fears of a clash of civilizations which would bring about a direct confrontation between Islam and the West.

The Iranian revolution resulted in real damage to U.S. presence and interests in the Middle East. The loss of the Shah of Iran, a staunch American ally whose role was to police the Gulf region, was deeply felt in Washington. More than that the whole security system the U.S. built around conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies was in jeopardy now, especially after Khomeini denounced these regimes as “un-Islamic”, or characterized their Islam as “American Islam”.

American fears were confirmed during the few years that followed the Iranian revolution. In 1979 Saudi Arabia witnessed a two-week take-over of the Grand Mosque at Mecca by radical Islamists and the following year President Sadat of Egypt was assassinated by Islamist extremists. The bloody attacks against U.S. personnel and installations in Lebanon, Kuwait and elsewhere heightened American concern over the export of Iranian “fundamentalism” (Gerges, 78).

The result, according to many scholars and observers, was that Iran’s brand of revolutionary Islam overshadowed much of the debate in the U.S. about the rise of political Islam. When asked what comes to mind when the words “Islam” or “Muslim” were mentioned, more than half of the Americans interviewed in 1981 responded with the words “Muhammad” and “Iran”.

The Specter of Terrorism

Unlike many European countries the U.S. had virtually escaped the horror of terrorism during the second world war. Now in the 80s and 90s, it became a target for terrorist actions. Perhaps the most memorable terrorist attack before the September 11 events, was the 1993 World Trade Center bombing which deepened Americans’ fear about the security threats associated with Islamists. This incident did considerable damage to the Muslim image and presence in the United States. The Muslim community in the U.S. became an easy target for racism and political discrimination. Professor Richard Bulliet of Columbia University expressed fears that American Muslims might become the target of a new kind of anti-Semitism, based not on theories of Semitic race but on Islam. “What I mean by anti-Semitism, wrote Bulliet, is a willingness on the part of substantial portions of the American population to vilify others, both in this country and abroad, because of the accident of birth into a Muslim family or their choice of the Muslim religion. It is a hateful prospect…” (Bulliet,16). Other analysts compared the situation of American Muslims on the morrow of September 11 to that of American Germans during World War I, or to that of American Japanese during World War II.

The World Trade Center bombing had broader implications for U.S. foreign policy. For President Clinton who was working for a positive accommodationist policy toward Islam, violent actions like this one were a real setback. In the Middle East some regimes, particularly Israel and Egypt, sought to capitalize on American fears to escalate their repression of local Islamist groups. In the U.S. itself the advocates of the clash-of-civilizations hypothesis used it to recommend tougher policies toward Islamists. Therefore, the World Trade Center blast of 1993 provided hard-liners both inside the U.S. and abroad with the opportunity to lobby the Clinton administration to come up with a harsher policy toward the Islamists.

The 1995 Oklahoma terrorist attacks, although the work of local American terrorists, were used to bring about a harsher legislation against terrorism, which in the minds of the legislators meant primarily Middle Eastern terrorism. President Clinton had cautioned against associating the Oklahoma attacks with Middle Eastern Islamists but the media tended most of the time to reflect a different opinion. Instead of treating terrorist attacks as an aberration and acts by a radical minority, most of the analysts and commentators would exaggerate their importance and portray them as part of a systematic war against Western civilization. In this sense terrorism has poisoned even more U.S.-Arab and U.S.-Muslim relations.

U.S. Foreign Policy and the Media

It is not easy to determine how much the media contribute to the shaping U.S. foreign policy. To many, the dominant media are themselves part of the corporate-elite establishment, therefore tensions between media and foreign policy makers seldom arise. The advocates of such a view would point to the media’s overwhelming dependence on government sources for their news stories which are often delivered in an ideological wrapping with a label of anticommunism, Islamic fundamentalism or similar threats.

Another view would underline the determinant role of the media itself in shaping public opinion and indirectly influencing foreign policy making. According to this view the media do not wait to receive their guidelines from the administration since it has developed its own agenda in the name of national security, anticommunism and the need to keep way the Islamist threat. The media might not be part of the foreign policy establishment but it is a participant in foreign policy making in so far as it helps establish the boundaries within which this policy can be made. This is particularly clear in the case of Muslims and Arabs who are often portrayed in a negative light, thus placing them at a considerable disadvantage in U.S. public opinion. In fact, the media’s negative portrayal of Arabs and Muslims has become an integral part of public consciousness in America. And because decision makers are attentive to public opinion and get much of their information from the media as well, then their policies would necessarily reflect the views of the media.

During the Clinton administration a number of U.S. officials held critical ideas of the media coverage of Islam and the Middle East. The Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau, for example, criticized the media for coverage that fosters the tendency, both in scholarship and in the public debate, to equate Islam with Islamic fundamentalism and extremism. Another official of the State Department acknowledged that the media’s hostile coverage of “extremist Islamic groups” reinforces American perceptions of Islam, thus complicating the task of U.S. policy-makers (Gerges, 82). However, under the Republican administration such a discrepancy between the influential conservative media and foreign policy-makers has vanished or weakened to a large degree. The two seem to work in perfect harmony and critical voices are rarely heard. Those rare academics who dare challenge the dominant views would be labeled as apologists of Islamism, or advocates of “radical Anti-Americanism”. Middle East specialists from the academia are rarely called upon to comment on major news events related to the region. Instead the media tend to prefer this new breed of “terrorologists” or newly recycled analysts who are presented as experts in the field and whose so-called “authoritative opinions” tend in general to sanction state policies.

Implications for Academia

It would be interesting to see how events in the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy in the region influence Middle Eastern studies in this country. It is clear that the Arab-Israeli conflict, Islamic resurgence and terrorism have had a negative influence on the field, in the sense that these phenomena are perceived by the American public as the sum total of what the Middle East stands for. Acts of war and violence related to the Middle East are often accompanied by increased media coverage of the region, something which in academia provokes student interest and enhances enrollment in Middle East centered courses. However, such interest tends to be temporary and usually recedes into the background of the popular imagination until the next upsurge of violence. Thus, it seems as if the region is worthy of study only against the background of violence and tension.

More than any other factor the Arab-Israeli conflict has colored Middle Eastern studies in a rather unfortunate way. The main academic forum for the study of the Middle East, the Middle East Studies Association of North America, founded in 1966, has come under increased criticism for its alleged anti-Israeli attitudes, long before the emergence of the so-called “Islamic threat”. Debate rages between two groups of experts: those who are concerned about safeguarding a minimum degree of academic independence within the universities, and those who warn of a growing Islamic threat as the major force seeking to undermine Western values of democracy and freedom. Developments since September 11 have tended to favor the latter tendency with the prevailing security concerns and the political ascendancy of the neo-conservatives. Among the possible repercussions on the field one might mention the possible diversion of funding from the universities, usually considered to be the hot-bed of leftist or liberal intellectuals, to the more cooperative and docile think tanks. Another possible repercussion on academia might be a tighter control by the government over funds allocated to Middle Eastern studies. Lately the House of Representatives, after intensive lobbying by the neo-conservatives who argue that Middle Eastern studies in the U.S. tend to be anti-Israeli and anti-American, adopted a bill that would create an advisory board to ensure that federal money is well spent. Many members of the academia have already expressed their fears that the presence of such an advisory board might limit their freedom in both teaching and research. Actually the proponents of this bill known as bill HR 3077 have made it clear that they prefer federal money to be used not so much in research or recruiting new faculty but rather in raising the number of graduate students with practical expertise on the Muslim world with the hope that they would join government service.

But events after September 11 have also prompted the Federal authorities to allocate additional funds for the promotion of a better knowledge of the Middle East. Perhaps the most important U.S. government program is the Fulbright Scholar Program which has brought an increasing number of scholars from the region to American colleges and universities. Sometimes these Fulbright scholars from abroad contribute to a growing awareness of Middle Eastern issues among their American colleagues and occasionally, the presence of a Middle Eastern Fulbright visitor encourages a university or a college to hire someone in the field. More recently, and as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Fulbright program has launched a new short-term formula by which U.S. colleges are allowed to enrich their international programs by having a Muslim scholar on their campus for a period that does not exceed 6 weeks. So in the few years to come Middle Eastern Studies might witness the granting of additional federal and corporate funds even if the use of these funds might become function of the government’s present priorities in its war on terrorism.

Short Bibliography

Richard Bulliet, “Rhetoric, Discourse and the Future of Hope” in Aslam Syed ed., Islam: Enduring Myths and Changing Realities, published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 588 (July 2003), pp. 10-17.

Fawaz A. Gerges, “Islam and MU.S.lims in the Mind of America” in Aslam Syed ed., Islam: Enduring Myths and Changing Realities, published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 588 (July 2003), pp. 73-89.

Amin Seikal, Islam and the West: Conflict or Cooperation? Palgrave, NY, 2003.


The Complicated History of U.S. Relations with China

Americans have been interested in China for a long time. In 1784, when the American War for Independence was barely over, the first ship to sail under an American flag left New York. It was the merchant ship Empress of China, bound for Canton (now Guangdong), China.

At first, the American interest in China was economic. Americans were looking for new markets to buy goods, as the British refused to deal with Americans. And the Chinese preferred to work with Americans, who bought Chinese goods. The Europeans only wanted to sell them things.

By the middle of the 19th century, though, the relationship had grown. American churches led the way, seeking converts to Christianity among China’s enormous population. American missionaries began preaching in China in the 1830s, even when they could not legally visit many areas. Missionaries were among the first Americans to study the Chinese culture and language, and helped to shape American perceptions of Imperial China.

For their part, many Chinese saw America as a land of opportunity, just like immigrants from Europe did. Many Chinese immigrated during the California Gold Rush, and more helped to build the Transcontinental Railroad. The United States signed a treaty to encourage Chinese immigration and guaranteed them protection from discrimination.

Some Chinese leaders were inspired by the American political system. Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, is said to have modeled his political philosophy of the “Three Principles of the People” after Abraham Lincoln’s belief in government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” When Sun helped to overthrow the Qing Dynasty in 1911, and to found the Republic of China, his principles became part of the new republic’s constitution.

U.S. Relations with China in the Age of Imperialism

The result of these commercial, religious, and political connections was that relations between the U.S. and China were good for much of American history. In the late 1800s, the powers of Europe and Japan were expanding their colonial empires. Some of them wanted to break China up into colonies, but U.S. leaders believed it would be better for American interests if China remained independent and united. So, the U.S. supported an “Open Door” policy, which meant that China would have an “open door” to foreign investment and trade, but no nation would control it. This was a fundamental part of U.S. policy toward China through the end of World War II, and it kept China from fragmenting and limited foreign exploitation.

When Japan tried to expand its empire in the early 1930s, the U.S. believed this violated the “Open Door” policy. America’s opposition to Japanese expansion ultimately led the U.S. to deploy its Pacific Fleet to Pearl Harbor, where Japan attacked it on December 7, 1941. Even before then, American volunteers, such as the famed “Flying Tigers,” were fighting in China. When the U.S. entered the war, it flew squadrons of B-29s from China, and sent it substantial amounts of aid. After the war, it was the U.S. that insisted that China be included as one of the five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council.

Sino-American relations were not always good. The U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 this marked the first time the U.S. had restricted immigration. The U.S. later prohibited Chinese immigrants from obtaining citizenship because of their race, which it had never done before. When U.S. forces joined other nations in protecting Americans and Europeans in Peking during a rebellion (called the Boxer Rebellion) that began in 1899, some Chinese branded the U.S. a foreign exploiter. Yet, after the war, the U.S. used some of the reparations that China paid to establish the “Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Fund,” an influential education program in China.

The Rise of Communist China

The longest period of Sino-American tension came after the founding of the mainland People’s Republic of China (the PRC) in 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists drove Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists onto the island of Taiwan. American and Communist Chinese forces fought each other during the Korean War, which began in 1949. Communist threats against Taiwan in the 1950s drove the U.S. and the PRC to the brink of nuclear war. The U.S. went to war in Vietnam in part to prevent the expansion of Chinese Communism.

But in 1972, President Richard Nixon reestablished relations with the PRC. Nixon hoped to use better relations with China to balance the rising power of the Soviet Union. Chinese leaders were receptive because they too were worried about the USSR. Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, sought to bring China closer to the West, but he also believed that the Communist Party had to remain in power. So even as he opened the economy, he sought to prevent political liberalization at home. The result was the start of China’s economic rise, but also the killing of protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The Tiananmen Massacre and the end of the Cold War reshaped U.S. relations with China. While the U.S. and China grew closer economically, their foreign policies diverged. When NATO mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, during its war in the Balkans, it convinced many Chinese that the U.S. was trying to contain China. At the same time, China’s lack of respect for human rights, its efforts to steal American technology, and its growing military power raised American doubts about whether the U.S. could work with China.

Sino-American Relations Today

Today, the United States and the People’s Republic of China are like the European great powers of a century ago. They trade with each other, but do not trust each other. They have the largest economies in the world, and they have a financial and trading relationship that shapes the global economy. But at the same time, they have different, and often opposing, views on many national security and foreign policy issues.

Washington and Beijing disagree fundamentally on how to deal with rogue states like North Korea, Iran, and Syria. The PRC does not appear to worry about the spread of nuclear weapons. It is a close friend to Pakistan, which spread nuclear weapons technology around the world.

Nor do the U.S. and China agree on human rights. At home, China remains a dictatorship under the Communist Party. Average Chinese citizens do not have a right to decide how many children they can have or where they can worship, or to say what they want to about their leaders.

Abroad, China supports odious dictators like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, who supply China with raw materials. The Chinese government would rather deal with dictators than trust the United States, other free countries, or the free market.


U.S. Relations With Russia

Russia recognized the United States on October 28, 1803, and diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia were formally established in 1809. Diplomatic relations were interrupted following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. On December 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson instructed all American diplomatic representatives in Russia to refrain from any direct communication with representatives of the Bolshevik Government. Although diplomatic relations were never formally severed, the United States refused to recognize or have any formal relations with the Bolshevik/Soviet governments until 1933. Normal diplomatic relations were resumed on November 16, 1933. On December 25, 1991, the United States recognized the Russian Federation as the successor to the Soviet Union and established diplomatic relations on December 31, 1991.

The United States has long sought a full and constructive relationship with Russia. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States adopted a bipartisan strategy to facilitate cooperation on global issues and promote foreign investment and trade. The United States supported Russia’s integration into European and global institutions and a deepened bilateral partnership in security cooperation to reinforce the foundations of stability and predictability. Russia ultimately rejected this approach in favor of aggressive pursuit of its unilateral interests. In response to the Russian violation in 2014 of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the United States downgraded the bilateral political and military relationship and suspended the Bilateral Presidential Commission, a body jointly founded in 2009 by the United States and Russia to promote cooperation between the two countries. In addition to ongoing Russian aggression in Georgia and Ukraine, Russia has attempted to position itself as a great power competitor to the United States by undermining norms within the existing international system using a suite of “hybrid” tools. Russia’s campaign aims to undermine core institutions of the West, such as NATO and the EU, and to weaken faith in the democratic and free-market system. Russia’s aggressive foreign policy is driven at least in part by an effort to use foreign adventurism to distract from significant domestic political and economic issues. The Kremlin increasingly relies on repression to stifle civil society and critical voices, even using the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to further restrict freedom of expression and assembly. New constitutional amendments approved by the government and endorsed in a nationwide vote in July 2020 will, inter alia, provide President Putin the opportunity to remain in power until 2036.

This pattern of Russian repression at home, aggression against its neighbors, attacks on democratic institutions against our allies and here in the United States, and adventurism in the Middle East, Africa, and South America, all spring from this relative weakness and insecurity. The United States has sought to deter Russian aggression through the projection of strength and unity with U.S. allies and partners, and by building resilience and reducing vulnerability among allies and partners facing Russian pressure and coercion. The United States would like to move beyond the current low level of trust with Russia, stabilize our relationship, and cooperate where possible and when it is in the core U.S. national security interest to do so. To achieve this, Russia must take demonstrable steps to show it is willing to be a responsible global actor, starting with a cessation of efforts to interfere in democratic processes. The long-term goal of the United States is to see Russia become a constructive stakeholder in the global community.

Bilateral Economic Relations

In response to Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, the United States has suspended bilateral engagement with the Russian government on most economic issues. The United States continues to investigate allegations of mistreatment of or discrimination against U.S. investors in Russia and to urge Russia to improve its investment climate, adherence to the rule of law, and transparency. In Russia, the U.S. Commercial Service continues to assist U.S. firms interested in developing market opportunities that do not violate sanctions.

Since 2014, the United States and our European and G-7 partners have imposed sanctions on Russia for its aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine, occupation of Crimea, and interference in U.S. elections. Sectoral sanctions have reduced Russia’s ability to access financing in the financial, energy, and defense sectors, as well as limited its access to certain technologies in those sectors. The United States has also imposed a number of unilateral sanctions on Russia or Russian entities, via both administrative action and legislation.

A combination of low oil prices, structural limitations, and sanctions pushed Russia into a deep recession in 2015, with the economy contracting by four percent that year and one percent in 2016. Russia’s economy returned to modest growth starting in 2017, owing to a global rebound in oil prices. The economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the drop in oil price resulting from the Russian-Saudi oil price war of early 2020 and a decrease in global demand, have pushed the Russian economy into another recession. An OPEC+ agreement in April 2020 caused oil prices to rebound somewhat, but the economic forecast for Russia remains uncertain at best.

Russia’s Status in International Organizations

Russia is one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council and a member of the Council of Europe. Russia’s participation in the G8 (now G-7) was suspended in March 2014 in response to its purported annexation of Crimea. Although Russia is not a member of NATO, NATO suspended all practical civilian and military cooperation with Russia as a result of Russia’s 2014 actions in Ukraine however, necessary political and military channels of communication between NATO and Russia remain open. Russia is a participating State in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and East Asia Summit (EAS), and an observer state to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Russia also takes part in a number of regional organizations including the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Eurasian Economic Community, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Bilateral Representation

Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

Russia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2650 Wisconsin Ave, Washington, DC 20007, tel. (202) 298-5700.

More information about Russia is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:


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Relationships between men and women in 19 th -century Russia did not follow the widely accepted clichés.

An Ordinary Marriage is based upon the rich and eccentric private documents of the Chikhachev family — gentry landowners who lived in provincial Russia — and offers a fascinating take on 19 th -century Russian history and culture. The microhistory probes the family’s various activities as well as their reactions to the major ideas sweeping across Tsarist Russia, such as domesticity, sentimentalism and Romanticism.

In an interview with James Blake Wiener, author Katherine Antonova talks about the everyday lives of the Russian gentry, how it differed from the western model, and how surprisingly modern the relationships between men and women were at the time.

James Blake Wiener: At the heart of An Ordinary Marriage is an argument that the western cult of domesticity did not pervade the gentry class in late imperial Russia. The family’s patriarch, Andrei Chikhachev (1798-c. 1875), was the primary educator of his two children, while his wife, Natalia Chikhachev (1799-1866), oversaw the management of the estate, serfs and family finances. In your own words, why is it important for scholars to consider and study the activities of Russian gentry families?

Katherine Antonova: Well, it’s actually nothing new to say that not everyone lived according to the cliché of the cult of domesticity (with the wife as an “angel of the house” and the husband out in the world making a living). Historians have known for decades that people didn’t really live that way even in Victorian Britain, at the point of origin for that myth. If you think about any prevailing cultural myth that gets a lot of media attention today — for example, the idea of a “millennial” generation that is narcissistic, plugged-in to technology, tuned-out socially — does it really apply to you or people you know who technically fit the category? No, usually it doesn’t, or only partially. Such cultural clichés are partly generalizations, partly myths that serve the creators and consumers of media to help us talk through controversies and fears that mean a lot to us, even if we do it through sort of stick-figure stand-ins to represent real people and real concerns.

So, it’s not really anything exciting to show that Russian families, too, just like British, American or French families of that era, lived in a variety of ways that suited their personal circumstances, influenced by, but not enslaved to, prevalent cultural attitudes about men’s and women’s places at home and in the world. What is significant and interesting about what I’m showing is how this Russian case differed from the model of domesticity, and why. Which circumstances caused them to behave in given ways, and what did they think about it? Did it work for them? How much, or how little, were they like their neighbors and other peers? In general, these are the kinds of questions historians are interested in: how and why — cause and effect.

In the context of what historians know about Russian history today, one of the things my book also contributes is a really in-depth look into ordinary life for a slice of the population that has been really hard to pin down. The group I’m talking about were in some ways incredibly privileged — the Chikhachevs had hereditary legal nobility, which came with the exclusive right to own land with serfs, and various other legal privileges.

But, while only about 3% of the Russian population in the 19 th century had hereditary nobility, only 3% of them were the super-rich aristocrats we recognize from Tolstoy’s novels. The vast majority of the nobility had rather middling income or less — many, in fact, were poor and lived essentially as peasants or anonymous townspeople. We know quite a lot about that most elite group of aristocrats. Many of them were prominent in government, their letters and diaries were preserved, often their writings were published in their lifetimes. And we know something about how their estates worked, because they usually had paid estate managers who would correspond with and keep records for the owners. Those people owned the majority of serfs in Russia. Yet the majority of serf owners were people like the Chikhachevs, who were not prominent, whose names have never been famous, whose papers were usually not preserved.

Andrei was mostly involved in bringing up their children, but he categorized this — explicitly — as intellectual and moral leadership, and therefore a masculine role.

The “long” 19 th century (roughly from the death of Catherine the Great in 1796 to the revolution in 1917) saw Russia go from, arguably, its peak of power and status, through decades of tremendous social upheaval, to the collapse of a 300-year-old regime and the socialist revolution. One of the central mysteries for historians has been why Russia did not have what we saw develop in western Europe and the US during that same period: a growing, prospering, increasingly vocal, property-owning middle social group that demanded progress and change, and fought off both the overwhelming power of old-regime privileged castes and outright revolution from the working classes. My book is part of a growing body of scholarship that is trying, bit by bit, to trace those people, what they were doing, what they thought and what roles they played — and didn’t play — in the social upheavals of the long 19 th century.

Wiener: Could you perhaps offer a comment on why gendered marital roles differed in Russia from those found in Great Britain, France or the United States?

Antonova: The cult of domesticity was born out of incredibly unusual circumstances in Britain, France and the US, which offered propertied men unprecedented opportunities in what we have come to call a “public sphere.” Gradually or suddenly, at different times and in different degrees, such men started to vote, to be elected to office even without inherited rank to make extraordinary profits in new commercial ventures to participate independently in professional organizations, political parties and other institutions and to become educated in specialized fields like law and medicine that brought social status and steady income. The theory goes that it was this drawing out of western middling-status men into economic and social activities separate from the family that forms part of the basis of domestic ideology. Tensions about the effects of these massive changes made people worry about the place — and purity — of home and family. So an image was created of the wife and mother as preserver of these values. Meanwhile, in real life, of course, many men continued to work from home, or be involved fathers, or to simply not be bothered by these concerns. Women went to work both inside and outside the home in this period. Real conditions varied from region to region, family to family. But the rhetoric was there, and rhetoric can color people’s attitudes and expectations, even where practical circumstances vary widely.

Russia in the middle of the 19 th century was — like almost every other country on earth — still largely rural, did not have representative government, and had very limited nongovernmental institutions. Propertied Russian men didn’t get any kind of meaningful vote until much later (if ever!), and real influence in government was largely restricted to an elite few. Commercial activity was deliberately restricted by Tsar Nicholas I, who feared social upheaval if too much of the peasantry moved to towns and cities to become workers. Similarly, Nicholas restricted most forms of independent organization (he came to power in the midst of a coup intended to dethrone him, which had been organized through secret societies). So, one of the primary preconditions for the western model of domesticity was simply absent.

Then, what Russian propertied men were expected to do was perform state service, which is to say that they served as officers in the military, or mid-level bureaucrats, for at least a few years. This took them physically away from their estates. Those who weren’t rich enough to employ an outside manager and still depended on their income came from those estates, so noblewomen of this middling group generally needed to at least be capable of stepping in to take over management temporarily. Some, like Natalia Chikhacheva, did it for most of their active adulthood, even when husbands were at home. In Natalia’s case, she did it because she was good at it, Andrei was not, and they were deeply indebted. She eventually succeeded in paying off their debts with two decades of hard-work.

Finally, one sphere that was open to Russian men of middling status, education and income like Andrei Chikhachev was cultural and intellectual activity, so long as they kept themselves within the accepted bounds approved by government censors. So one of the main ways Russian men could assert or improve their status, and also simply take some part in social life beyond their homes, was what Andrei did: read and write and, to whatever degree their talents allowed them, take part in a public intellectual sphere through the written word. This is what Andrei considered a proper masculine role, because he understood it as both existing “beyond the home” (metaphorically in his case) and involving intellectual and moral leadership. In contrast, he saw the terrific skill Natalia applied to estate management as merely “practical,” therefore lesser, and appropriate to women. In terms of hours spent, Andrei was mostly involved in bringing up their children, but he categorized this — explicitly — as intellectual and moral leadership, and therefore, a masculine role. Later he wrote articles for newspapers, and made a modest local reputation for himself.

Wiener: I am curious to know what specific challenges you faced when researching An Ordinary Marriage? Did you enjoy working in the Russian archives?

Antonova: If such a cache of primary sources were preserved in the US or Britain, there would be several books written about it already. Part of the reason the Chikhachev papers have been relatively obscure until now is that they were preserved in a regional archive and, as it happens, in a city that didn’t even exist in the Chikhachevs’ time. So it’s not a place any researcher would think of first when looking for 19 th -century documents — the papers ended up there more or less by chance. Then, until the 1990s, Western researchers couldn’t go to that archive at all — there’s an important military base nearby and the area was restricted. Finally, the topics that these papers are most revealing of — gender, women’s lives, provincial nobility, everyday life — were not considered very important for Soviet researchers.

Any good social history should teach us a really important lesson: to unsettle our stereotypes, and remember instead the endless variety of ways in which people respond to their circumstances.

By the time I got there in 2004, travel and research in a provincial archive was not nearly so difficult, but it did have its challenges. When these archives were founded, their purpose was largely to control who could access historical documents — to restrict access rather than facilitate it. That principle has arguably been less of a defining force in the operation of Russian archives since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but change is slow and uneven. When I was there, any form of reproduction of documents was strictly controlled (and expensive), so I copied almost the entire Chikhachev archive by hand over the course of ten months. But, partly because such papers have never really been considered very important, I was able to access everything, albeit slowly, a few documents at a time.

Wiener: An Ordinary Marriage is a work of microhistory. It is built upon intimate and unusual primary source documents, namely, the Chikhachev family’s notebooks, letters, diaries, periodicals, journalistic essays and academic journals. Which surprised you the most and why?

Antonova: The most surprising thing of all is just that all these documents were preserved together: an ordinary woman’s diary of the mid-19 th century, extending to many pages over several years, is an extraordinary find anywhere, but to also have her husband’s, son’s and brother’s diaries from the same time? I know of no other example of anything like it for a family of that time that wasn’t prominent, or professional writers. And there are also letters and legal documents and even maps and drawings!

Of all the types of documents preserved, there is one that represents a totally unexpected and revealing genre. They called it a “notebook correspondence”: It’s a series of books that were kept by the Chikhachevs and Natalia’s brother (and Andrei’s best friend), Yakov Chernavin, who lived on a neighboring estate. Each “side” kept a notebook, and wrote down messages or thoughts as they occurred to them then every so often a messenger would exchange the notebooks. They would comment on each other’s writings in the margins, and add replies. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a recording of everyday conversation from the 19 th century. This is amazing, because ordinary letters at that time tended to be very formal, closely following formulae that mostly left out the everyday activities that historians care about, but that were taken for granted by writers at the time. It was only really talented writers that tended to write rich, interesting letters. But here we have ordinary people interacting informally, almost in real time.

Wiener: What lessons can we draw from the experiences of the Chikhachev household and the activities of the Russian gentry class as a whole? Do you believe that any are applicable to present-day Russia? Could they perhaps allow us to better understand the evolution of Russian norms and culture?

Antonova: Any good social history should teach us a really important lesson: to unsettle our stereotypes, and remember instead the endless variety of ways in which people respond to their circumstances. One of the “trends” the media picks up on lately is a supposedly new phenomenon of “stay-at-home-dads,” but we see here that Andrei Chikhachev was doing that in Russia in the 1830s and nobody found it strange, let alone emasculating. We tend to think of domestic ideology both as “how it was” and perhaps how it always was, but history tells us that’s not true. The Chikhachev story broadens our view of the incredible degree to which people could be living very differently from that model, without even considering themselves, or being considered, remarkable, right at the height of the public rhetoric about it. Families have always arranged themselves in different ways there is no “normal.” And change is constant: The Chikhachevs’ arrangement was completely unsettled in the next generation because the economic basis of it — serfdom — was abolished. The next generation of Chikhachevs suddenly look astonishingly modern: Natalia and Andrei’s son moved to a city, worked for the railroad and became separated from his wife, who had an advanced education in mathematics.

Broadening our understanding of ordinary Russians, specifically, is not only important for scholars trying to revise or expand on our narrative of the development of major events like the collapse of the Romanov dynasty and the 1917 revolution. It’s important for everyone as a corrective to the ways media and political narratives can color our ideas about the world. For example, we know so little about middling groups in the 19 th century because, first, in the late-19 th century, forward-looking intellectuals were motivated to paint everything they wanted to change about their world as archaic, backward, destructive.

Then, after the revolution, the Soviet leadership aggressively worked to overturn cultural attitudes about who were the “heroes” and “enemies” of Russian history, and serf owners like the Chikhachevs were reviled or ignored. During the Cold War, American historians suddenly became very interested in everything about Russia. And for our own reasons we, too, bought into various stereotypes about an “absent” or “passive” Russian middle-class, and drew overly broad conclusions about what that meant about the nature of Russia itself. Some of us read too many novels and populate the historical Russia of our imagination with fictional characters.

Today, with the crisis in Ukraine, there’s a lot of very dangerous rhetoric on all sides that paints huge, diverse populations with broad ideological brushes. I think looking back very deeply at ordinary families like the Chikhachevs, and reading social history in general, can serve as a corrective to all this, forcing us to destabilize such easy stereotypes.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


Assorted References

…is now the territory of Russia since the 2nd millennium bce , but little is known about their ethnic identity, institutions, and activities. In ancient times, Greek and Iranian settlements appeared in the southernmost portions of what is now Ukraine. Trading empires of that era seem to have known and exploited…

1400–1599

…of the 16th century, the Russians had established a commercial route via the Arctic to the fur-trading centre of Mangazeya on the Taz River in western Siberia. From the mouth of the Northern (Severnaya) Dvina River, the route ran coastwise, through Yugorsky Shar Strait to the west coast of Yamal…

…IV (the Terrible) and other Muscovite tsars showed interest in the little Christian kingdoms of Georgia, but the Russians were powerless to stop the Muslim powers—Ṣavafid Iran and the Ottoman Empire, both near their zenith—from partitioning the country and oppressing its inhabitants. In 1578 the Ottomans overran the whole of…

When Russia invaded the area (beginning the Livonian War, 1558–83) in an effort to prevent Poland-Lithuania from gaining dominance over it, the Livonian Knights were unable to defend themselves. They disbanded their order and dismembered Livonia (Union of Wilno, 1561). Lithuania incorporated the knights’ territory north…

…prolonged military conflict, during which Russia unsuccessfully fought Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden for control of greater Livonia—the area including Estonia, Livonia, Courland, and the island of Oesel—which was ruled by the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights (Order of the Brothers of the Sword).

Poland, and Russia. These reactionary manorial developments were not reversed in eastern Europe until the 19th century in most cases.

…power in the Levant, and Russia worked to extend its reach through the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles to the Aegean. Only the European enemies of the coalition, led by France and Sweden, tried to support Ottoman integrity. They were backed in that stance by neutral

The most spectacular advance of the Russians into Central Asia carried them eastward through the forest belt, where the hunting and fishing populations offered little resistance and where the much-coveted furs of Siberia could be found in abundance. Acting on behalf of the…

…formed an alliance with the Muscovite Ivan III Vasilyevich directed against Sweden, which led to an unsuccessful Russian attack on Finland in 1495. The council became discontented with Sten’s acquisition of power and in 1497 called on John, whose army defeated Sten’s. John was crowned and Sten returned to Finland.…

1600–1699

Successive elective kings of Poland failed to overcome the inherent weaknesses of the state, and the belated reforms of Stanisław II served only to provoke the final dismemberments of 1793 and 1795. Russia was a prime beneficiary, having long shown that vast size was…

Although Russian explorers and traders began entering the area north of the Amur during the 17th century, the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), confirmed Chinese sovereignty over the entire basin. Despite the treaty, Russians and others from the west settled north of the Amur. Further Russian encroachment…

…the Baltic region faced increasing Russian pressure. During the first decade of the 18th century, Estland and Livonia came under Russian rule. By the end of the century, the remainder of Latvia and Lithuania had likewise been incorporated into the Russian Empire. In the middle of the 17th century, peasant…

The Turks and the Russians concluded only a two-year armistice at Carlowitz, but in 1700 they signed the Treaty of Constantinople, which gave Azov to Russia (Azov was returned to the Turks in 1711 and restored to Russia only in 1783) and also allowed the tsar to establish a…

Russia’s conquest of the region began in the 17th century and continued until the last independent Uzbek khanates were annexed or made into protectorates in the 1870s. Soviet rule replaced that of the Russian tsars after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and thereafter the region…

Russia, meanwhile, had sent peaceful missions overland to Beijing, and by the end of the Ming dynasty the Russians’ eastward expansion across Siberia had carried them finally to the shores of the Pacific north of the Amur River.

…a zone of competition between Russia and China. Bands of musket-bearing Cossacks had been exacting tribute in furs from the tribes living along the Amur River, and in 1650 a Russian fort was built at Albazino on the river’s north bank. The Qing dynasty appointed a military governor to administer…

…Cossacks signed a treaty with Russia in 1654, under which their autonomy was to be respected. The Russians likewise used the Cossacks first as defenders of the Russian frontier and later as advance guards for the territorial extension of the Russian Empire. Internally, the Cossacks regained a greater degree of…

…they encountered agents of the Russian tsar. The Russians had begun to overrun the steppe and forest peoples of northern Eurasia after 1480, when the Grand Duke of Moscow formally renounced the suzerainty of the Golden Horde. By 1556 Russian soldiers controlled the length of the Volga. Others crossed the…

The line between Orthodox Russia and the rest of Christian Europe had never been so sharp as that which divided Christendom and Islam. Uncertainties engendered by the nature of Russian religion, rule, society, and manners perpetuated former ambivalent attitudes toward Byzantium. Unmapped spaces, where Europe petered out in marshes,…

The war in Russia was much more serious, and it was here that Gustavus, in a succession of difficult and indecisive campaigns, learned the rudiments of warfare. It dragged on until ended by the Peace of Stolbova in 1617, by which time it had clearly changed its character.…

…Nerchinsk, (1689), peace settlement between Russia and the Manchu Chinese empire that checked Russia’s eastward expansion by removing its outposts from the Amur River basin. By the treaty’s terms Russia lost easy access to the Sea of Okhotsk and Far Eastern markets but secured its claim to Transbaikalia (the area…

…however, no real peace with Muscovy, then going through its Time of Troubles. The support extended by some Polish magnates to the False Dmitry (who claimed to be the son of Ivan the Terrible) eventually embroiled Poland in hostilities. The victory at Klushino in 1610 by Hetman Stanisław Zółkiewski resulted…

…wars, series of wars between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in the 17th–19th century. The wars reflected the decline of the Ottoman Empire and resulted in the gradual southward extension of Russia’s frontier and influence into Ottoman territory. The wars took place in 1676–81, 1687, 1689, 1695–96, 1710–12 (part of…

…as early as 1520 in Russia it was legally imposed in the Ulozhenie (Law Code) of 1649. At least in Poland, the western market for cereals was a principal factor in reviving serfdom, in bringing back a seemingly primitive form of labour organization.

The Russian was less attached to a particular site than his western counterparts living in more densely populated countries and had to be held down by a government determined to secure taxes and soldiers. The imposition of serfdom was outlined in the Ulozhenie, the legal code…

between Sweden and Russia ending Sweden’s intervention in Russia’s internal political affairs and blocking Russia from the Baltic Sea. In 1610 Muscovite leaders, faced with a succession crisis, a war with Poland, and peasant uprisings (Time of Troubles, 1606–13), offered the Russian throne to Władysław, the son of…

…its own ambitions by attacking Russia and establishing a dictatorship in Moscow under Władysław, Poland’s future king. The Russo-Polish Peace of Polyanov in 1634 ended Poland’s claim to the tsarist throne but freed Poland to resume hostilities against its Baltic archenemy, Sweden, which was now deeply embroiled in Germany. Here,…

…Sweden managed to engineer a Russian invasion of Poland in the autumn of 1632 that tied down the forces of both powers for almost two years. Meanwhile, in Germany, Oxenstierna crafted a military alliance that transferred much of the cost of the war onto the shoulders of the German Protestant…

between Poland and Russia that had their beginning with the death of Ivan IV (the Terrible) in 1584 and continued through a prolonged dispute over the Russian throne. The truce placed Smolensk, as well as other conquered western Russian territories, in Poland’s possession.

…nature has generated enormous controversy: Russian historians have emphasized Ukraine’s acceptance of the tsar’s suzerainty, which subsequently legitimized Russian rule, but Ukrainian historiography has stressed Moscow’s recognition of Ukraine’s autonomy (including an elective hetmancy, self-government, and the right to conduct foreign relations) that was virtually tantamount to independence (see Pereyaslav…

1700–1799

…they were seized by the Russian tsar Peter I the Great after his naval victory over Sweden. When the grand duchy of Finland was ceded to Russia in 1809, the islands were included with the provision that they would not be fortified. Russia began fortification in the 1830s, however, with…

In 1728 the Russian tsar Peter I (the Great) supported an expedition to the northern Pacific. Led by Vitus Bering, the expedition set out to determine whether Siberia and North America were connected and, if not, whether there was a navigable sea route connecting the commercial centres of…

…was established in 1784 by Russians at Three Saints Bay, near present-day Kodiak. With the arrival of the Russian fur traders, many Aleuts were killed by the newcomers or overworked in the hunting of fur seals. Many other Aleuts died of diseases brought by the Russians.

In 1741 the Russians sent the Dane Vitus Bering and the Russian Aleksey Chirikov on a voyage of discovery. After their ships became separated in a storm, Chirikov discovered several of the eastern islands, while Bering discovered several of the western islands. Bering died during the voyage, but…

But soon after Russia was won over to the Habsburg cause, Prussia changed sides. As the outbreak of a European war seemed imminent, attempts were made at the Congress of Soissons to relax political tensions. Spain abruptly changed its alliances and concluded a treaty (1729) with England and…

Russia joined Austria in a defensive accord in 1746, primarily to prevent Prussia from reentering the war after it had concluded the Treaty of Dresden with Austria in 1745.

…time as if the Austro-Russian forces would win. However, a terrible defeat inflicted upon the coalition in Switzerland, followed by recrimination and blame heaped upon each ally by the other, resulted in Russia’s leaving the alliance as the campaign of 1799 ended. Thugut convinced Francis to continue the struggle,…

…the independence of Poland from Russian encroachment. Its activities precipitated a civil war, foreign intervention, and the First Partition of Poland.

By way of the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Catherine II of Russia acquired the eastern portion of present-day Belarus, including the towns of Vitsyebsk (Russian: Vitebsk), Mahilyow (Mogilyov), and Homyel (Gomel). The Second Partition (1793) gave Russia Minsk and the central…

In 1710 a Russian army fighting Swedish forces barricaded in Reval (now Tallinn, Estonia) also hurled plague-infested corpses over the city’s walls. In 1763 British troops besieged at Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh) during Pontiac’s Rebellion passed blankets infected with smallpox virus to the Indians, causing a

…powers, first Austria and then Russia, saw the Bulgarian Christians as potential allies. Austrian propaganda helped to provoke an uprising at Tŭrnovo in 1598, and two others occurred in 1686 and 1688 after the Turks were forced to lift the Siege of Vienna. Under Catherine II (the Great), Russia began…

Petersburg, Russia), German-born empress of Russia (1762–96) who led her country into full participation in the political and cultural life of Europe, carrying on the work begun by Peter the Great. With her ministers she reorganized the administration and law of the Russian Empire and extended Russian territory, adding Crimea…

… (November 1700), which drove the Russians away from the Swedish trans-Baltic provinces and the crossing of the Western Dvina River (1701), which scattered the troops of Augustus II (elector of Saxony and king of Poland)—were all planned and directed by the officers whom Charles had inherited from his father but…

…tributary ideal, Chinese relations with Russia being a case in point. The early Qing rulers attempted to check the Russian advance in northern Asia and used the Russians as a buffer against the Mongols. The Sino-Russian Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), which tried to fix a common border, was an agreement…

This necessitated alliances with Russia and the Netherlands and, from time to time, France. This policy succeeded for the rest of the 18th century, probably because of the common European need for free access to the Baltic. Finally, in the 1770s, the Gottorp lands in Schleswig and Holstein were…

…in Catherine the Great’s vast Russian lands represented the overriding imperative, the security of the state. In Portugal, Pombal, the rebuilder of post-earthquake Lisbon, was motivated chiefly by the need to restore vitality to a country with a pioneering maritime past. Leopold of Tuscany was able to draw on a…

The “good old Swedish days” for Estonia were more a legend than reality, and they ended with the Second Northern War (Great Northern War). The Russian tsar, Peter I (the Great), was finally able to achieve the dream of his predecessors and conquer…

…threat to his plans was Russian support for Maria Theresa, which he hoped to avert by judicious bribery in St. Petersburg and by exploiting the confusion that was likely to follow the imminent death of the empress Anna. He also hoped that Maria Theresa would cede most of Silesia in…

This coalition of Austria, Russia, Turkey, and Great Britain won great successes during the spring and summer of 1799 and drove back the French armies to the frontiers. Bonaparte thereupon returned to France to exploit his own great prestige and the disrepute into which the military reverses had brought…

” In Russia, St. Petersburg’s Imperial Russian Geographical Society promoted the discipline in a variety of ways, establishing it early at Moscow State University. The Italian Geographical Society was founded in 1867, following the creation of the first university professorships in 1859 it too promoted “exploratory” geography…

…the Treaty of Georgievsk, whereby Russia guaranteed Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity in return for Erekle’s acceptance of Russian suzerainty. Yet Georgia alone faced the Persian Āghā Moḥammad Khan, first of the Qājār dynasty. Tbilisi was sacked in 1795, and Erekle died in 1798. His invalid son Giorgi XII sought…

…empire from the Austrians, the Russians, and the Persians. The Russian threat culminated in the 1768–74 war with Turkey, and the Russians subsequently claimed the right to exercise a protectorate over all the Orthodox Christians of the Ottoman Empire on the basis of their interpretation of the terms of the…

Its redevelopment was hindered by Russian attacks later in the 18th century, but in 1748 the settlement became more secure when a fortress, called Sveaborg by the Swedes and Suomenlinna by the Finns, was constructed on a group of small islands outside the harbour.

Claimed by Russia to have been part of Rus from the 9th century, the isthmus was captured by Sweden at the beginning of the 17th century. It was ceded to Russia in 1721 with the Treaty of Nystad, but it was further negotiated as part of independent…

…to resist the encroachments of Russia from the north. The advance onto the Kazakh steppe began with the construction of a line of forts—Omsk in 1716, Semipalatinsk in 1718, Ust-Kamenogorsk in 1719, and Orsk in 1735—which was then steadily advanced southward. The Russian advance into Kazakh

…bulk of it went to Russia. However, lands southwest of the Nemunas River were annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia. This region was incorporated in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw established by Napoleon in 1807. In 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, the duchy became the Kingdom of Poland and…

…subject to the Ottoman Empire, Russian influence in the principality increased, and the region became a source of contention between the Turks and the Russians, then embroiled in the Russo-Turkish wars. In 1774 Moldavia lost its northwestern territory of Bukovina to Austria in 1812 it gave up its eastern portion,…

…with Peter I (the Great), Russia drove toward the Danube delta. The Russians occupied Moldavia five times between 1711 and 1812 and finally secured Turkey’s cession of Bessarabia—approximately half of historic Moldavia—in the Treaty of Bucharest (1812).

…Pacific trade was dominated by Russia, although explorers and traders from other countries also visited the region.

In Russia, at the height of the conservative reaction that had already secured the abolition (1762) of the service obligation imposed by Peter I, Catherine II the Great was forced to abandon liberal reforms. The Pugachov rising (1773–74) alerted landowners to the dangers of serfdom, but…

… Sea were first explored by Russian ships under Semyon Dezhnyov, in 1648. They are named for Vitus Bering, a Danish captain who was taken into Russian service by Peter the Great, in 1724. He sailed into the strait four years later but did not see the Alaskan coast, although he…

Petersburg), emperor of Russia from 1796 to 1801.

…divisions of Poland, perpetrated by Russia, Prussia, and Austria, by which Poland’s size was progressively reduced until, after the final partition, the state of Poland ceased to exist.

…Peter I (the Great) of Russia at the Battle of Poltava (Ukraine, Russian Empire) in 1709 eventually restored Augustus to the throne but made him dependent on the tsar. Having failed to strengthen his position through war and territorial acquisitions, Augustus contemplated domestic reforms while his entourage played with the…

…Catherine II (the Great) of Russia not only because he had been her lover but because she felt that he would be completely dependent on her. The Czartoryskis in turn saw him as their puppet. Thus, from the beginning Stanisław II—a highly intelligent man, a patron of the arts, and…

In the final count Russia annexed 62 percent of Poland’s area and 45 percent of the population, Prussia 20 percent of the area and 23 percent of the population, and Austria 18 and 32 percent, respectively. The three monarchs engaged themselves not to include Poland in their respective titles…

The immediate objective of Romanian boyars—the traditional leaders of society—was independence. In the last quarter of the 18th century, success seemed near, as Russia, in the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774), gained the right to protect the Orthodox Christians of the Ottoman Empire. As…

…(1700–21), military conflict in which Russia, Denmark-Norway, and Saxony-Poland challenged the supremacy of Sweden in the Baltic area. The war resulted in the decline of Swedish influence and the emergence of Russia as a major power in that region.

Saxony, Sweden, and Russia were aligned on one side against Prussia, Hanover, and Great Britain on the other. The war arose out of the attempt of the Austrian Habsburgs to win back the rich province of Silesia, which had been wrested from them by

In Russia, laws regarding apparel were used to modernize the country. As soon as Tsar Peter I the Great returned from working in the dockyards of Amsterdam and London in 1697–98, he began requiring his princes to shave their beards. Then in 1701 he ruled that…

Brandenburg and Russia, together with such older states as Denmark and Poland, were natural enemies of Sweden. Denmark, Poland, and Russia made a treaty in 1699, while Prussia preferred to wait and see. The Second Northern War (also known as the Great Northern War) began when the…

Russia penetrated deeply into what is now Kazakhstan during the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century it had established itself on the northern frontiers of Turkistan and held a line of forts running roughly east and west, on both sides of the…

…eventually gained enormous influence in Russia, within the Hetmanate itself in the course of the 18th century the church progressively lost its traditional autonomy and distinctive Ukrainian character.

Russian influence in Walachia increased during the 18th century, and in 1774 Russia asserted the right to intervene in its affairs, though it continued to recognize Turkish suzerainty.

1800–1899

China

Following the advice of the Russian negotiator, Prince Gong exchanged ratification of the 1858 treaties in addition, he signed new conventions with the British and the French. The U.S. and Russian negotiators had already exchanged the ratification in 1859, but the latter’s diplomatic performance in 1860 was remarkable.

…in 1864, which terrorized the Russian borders in defiance of the Sino-Russian Treaty of Kuldja in 1851. The Russians, therefore, occupied Kuldja in 1871 and remained there for 10 years.

…Railway was constructed by the Russians between 1896 and 1903. This railway linked the new Liaodong port of Dalian (Dairen) with Changchun, in Jilin province, as well as with Harbin in Heilongjiang province and with the then new Chinese Eastern Railway branch of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The South Manchurian Railway…

…was in response to the Russian occupation of Port Arthur (now the Lüshunkou district of the city of Dalian). With the advent of World War I, Japan took over German interests in the peninsula and in 1915, as one of its infamous Twenty-One Demands, compelled the Chinese to give official…

>Russia and China over the Chinese region centred on the Ili (Yili) River, an area in the northern part of Chinese Turkistan (East Turkistan), near Russian Turkistan (West Turkistan).

…he lost the Caucasus to Russia by the treaties of Golestān in 1813 and Turkmanchay (Torkmān Chāy) in 1828, the latter of which granted Russian commercial and consular agents access to Iran. This began a diplomatic rivalry between Russia and Britain—with Iran the ultimate victim—that resulted in the 1907 Anglo-Russian…

… in 1879 and modeled after Russian Cossack formations. It began as a regiment and was enlarged within a few months to a brigade and later, during World War I, into a division.

…by the United States from Russia of 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 square km) of land at the northwestern tip of the North American continent, comprising the current U.S. state of Alaska.

…(essentially the governor of the Russian colonies), Aleksandr Baranov, was an aggressive administrator. His first effort to establish a settlement at Old Harbor near Sitka was destroyed by the Tlingit. His second attempt, in 1804 at Novo-Arkhangelsk (“New Archangel,” now Sitka), was successful, but not without a struggle that resulted…

France, England, and Russia colonized Northern America for reasons that differed from one another’s and that were reflected in their formal policies concerning indigenous peoples. The Spanish colonized the Southeast, the Southwest, and California. Their goal was to create a local peasant class indigenous peoples were missionized, relocated,…

…the face of Turkish and Russian domination. Armenian writers did much to awaken the national consciousness of the Armenians, who became increasingly impatient with foreign rule. Growing nationalism on the part of Armenians provoked massacres by the Turks and confiscations by the Russians. The greatest single disaster was the Armenian…

…of the 19th century the Russians advanced into the Caucasus. In 1813 the Persians were obliged to acknowledge Russia’s authority over Georgia, northern Azerbaijan, and Karabakh, and in 1828 they ceded Yerevan and Nakhichevan. Contact with liberal thought in Russia and western Europe was a factor in the Armenian cultural…

Bakunin had been a supporter of nationalist revolutionary movements in various Slav countries. In the 1840s he had come under the influence of Proudhon, and by the 1860s, when he entered the International, he had not only founded his own proto-anarchist organization—the…

…believed that an alliance with Russia in late 1804 would deter rather than encourage Napoleon from attacking either of the eastern empires. Napoleon had gathered his major force along the French Atlantic coast for a possible invasion of Great Britain, and the Austrian statesmen believed that, even should they receive…

…the Kingdom of Sardinia against Russia. Since the mid-18th century, Austrian statesmen had generally agreed that it was better to have as the monarchy’s southeastern neighbour a weak Ottoman Empire than any strong power—especially Russia. So, in this war the monarchy declared its neutrality but also insisted that Russia not…

…in a possible confrontation with Russia over problems in the Balkans. The Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors’ League) of 1873, by which Franz Joseph and the German and Russian emperors agreed to work together for peace, gave expression to that policy and made a change of the status quo in the Balkans…

…the possibility of conflict with Russia in this area, Austria-Hungary had looked for an ally, with the result that in 1879 Austria-Hungary and the German Empire had joined in the Dual Alliance, by which the two sovereigns promised each other support in the case of Russian aggression. The signing of…

…series of wars between the Russian Empire and Iran, the treaties of Golestān (Gulistan 1813) and Turkmenchay (Torkmānchāy 1828) established a new border between the empires. Russia acquired Baku, Shirvan, Ganja, Nakhichevan (Naxçıvan), and Yerevan. Henceforth the Azerbaijani Turks of Caucasia were separated from the majority of their linguistic and…

…of particular groups was common: Russia aided the Serbs and Bulgarians, while Britain, France, and Russia intervened for the Greeks. The Romanians benefited from the wars of Italian and German unification, and Albanian independence would have been impossible had the Balkan states not smashed Ottoman power in Europe in the…

…Lithuania, which were ceded to Russia. As a result of the third and last partition, the bulk of the ethnographically Lithuanian lands passed to Russia as well. Only the southwestern part, between the Neman River and East Prussia, was annexed by Prussia. In 1815 that area also came under Russian…

…13 and then pursued the Russian and Austrian allied armies into Moravia. The arrival of the Russian emperor Alexander I virtually deprived Kutuzov of supreme control of his troops. The allies decided to fight Napoleon west of Austerlitz and occupied the Pratzen Plateau, which Napoleon had deliberately evacuated to create…

…fought during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, about 70 miles (110 km) west of Moscow, near the river Moskva. It was fought between Napoleon’s 130,000 troops, with more than 500 guns, and 120,000 Russians with more than 600 guns. Napoleon’s success allowed him to occupy Moscow. The Russians were commanded by…

…Russians at Eylau (modern Bagrationovsk, Russia), 23 miles (37 km) south of Königsberg (Kaliningrad). The unrelenting winter conditions added to the horror of the fighting, as the wounded froze to death in the battle’s aftermath.

…then waited for the slow-moving Russians under M.I. Kutuzov to join him. Mack expected Napoleon to have no more than 70,000 troops to meet him. Napoleon, however, chose to make Germany the main battleground and massed the Grand Army to annihilate Mack before the Russians arrived. On September 25 the…

…which had been signed by Russia and Turkey (March 3, 1878) at the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. Officially convoked by the Austrian foreign minister, Count Gyula Andrassy, the congress met in Berlin on June 13.

Then Russia, whose interest in the area had developed during the 18th century (it had occupied the region five times between 1711 and 1812), acquired Bessarabia and half of Moldavia (Treaty of Bucharest, 1812). The name Bessarabia was applied to the entire region. Russia retained control…

Russia came into the war on their behalf in the following year. After the Serbo-Turkish War ended in 1878, the other great powers of Europe intervened at the Congress of Berlin to counterbalance Russia’s new influence in the Balkans. The congress decided that Bosnia and…

…sultan refused to implement them, Russia declared war. In the ensuing campaign, Bulgarian volunteer forces fought alongside the Russian army, earning particular distinction in the epic battle for Shipka Pass.

The Russian horizontal tricolour of white-blue-red was modified in the Bulgarian flag by the substitution of green for blue.

Implicitly directed against Russia, which had signed the Tilsit (1807) and Erfurt (1808) agreements with Napoleonic France, the Treaty of Çanak offered security to the British against the entry of the Russian fleet from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean. It also reaffirmed in full Great Britain’s capitulary…

…in Manchuria (northeastern China) by Russia in the late 19th century. The privileges for the line were obtained from China in the wake of the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) as part of a secret alliance (1896) between Russia and China. Two years later Russia extracted from China a further agreement to…

Ottoman Empire and Russia, whereby the Ottomans accepted, under threat of war, Russia’s demands concerning Serbia and the Danube principalities of Moldavia and Walachia.

…the Crimean Peninsula between the Russians and the British, French, and Ottoman Turkish, with support from January 1855 by the army of Sardinia-Piedmont. The war arose from the conflict of great powers in the Middle East and was more directly caused by Russian demands to exercise protection over the Orthodox

…main naval base of the Russian Black Sea fleet. Sevastopol’s defenses had been built by the military engineer Colonel Eduard Totleben, and the Russian troops were commanded by Prince Aleksandr Menshikov. The siege lasted 11 months because the allies lacked heavy artillery to smash the defenses effectively, while all Russian…

Russia, which was eager to acquire an ice-free port on the Pacific, occupied the Liaodong Peninsula in 1897 after the Germans had taken Jiaozhou (Kiaochow) on the southern side of the Shandong Peninsula. In 1898 Russia acquired a lease of the Liaodong Peninsula and the…

of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, devised by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. It aimed at neutralizing the rivalry between Germany’s two neighbours by an agreement over their respective spheres of influence in the Balkans and at isolating Germany’s enemy, France.

…that developed between France and Russia from friendly contacts in 1891 to a secret treaty in 1894 it became one of the basic European alignments of the pre-World War I era. Germany, assuming that ideological differences and lack of common interest would keep republican France and tsarist Russia apart, allowed…

Russia, victorious on the Balkan and Caucasus fronts, preferred a weakened Ottoman Empire to one that was dismembered by other powers. The treaty allowed Russia to annex the islands controlling the mouth of the Danube River and the Caucasus coastal strip of the Black Sea,…

…who had revolted against the Russian tsar. Their revolt was ruthlessly suppressed, and Poland was incorporated into the Russian Empire. Revolts in Italy and the German kingdoms were equally unsuccessful. Belgium declared its independence from the Netherlands, and it was recognized in 1831 as a separate nation. For several years…

…1861), manifesto issued by the Russian emperor Alexander II that accompanied 17 legislative acts that freed the serfs of the Russian Empire. (The acts were collectively called Statutes Concerning Peasants Leaving Serf Dependence, or Polozheniya o Krestyanakh Vykhodyashchikh iz Krepostnoy Zavisimosty.)

Russia, indeed, seemed largely exempt from the political currents swirling in the rest of the continent, partly because of the absence of significant social and economic change. A revolt by some liberal-minded army officers in 1825 (the Decembrist revolt) was put down with ease, and…

Russia continued a reformist mode for several years after the emancipation of the serfs. New local governments were created to replace manorial rule, and local assemblies helped regulate their activities, giving outlet for political expression to many professional people who served these governments as doctors,…

15, 1899) a Russian imperial proclamation that abrogated Finland’s autonomy within the Russian Empire. After Finland was ceded by Sweden to Russia in 1809, it gained the status of a grand duchy, and its constitution was respected beginning in 1890, however, unconstitutional “Russification” measures were introduced. The February…

…near Helsinki capitulated to the Russians. In 1809 the Finns themselves had to carry the responsibility of coming to terms with Russia. Alexander I offered to recognize constitutional developments in Finland and to give it autonomy as a grand duchy under his throne.

…conflict between Habsburg-ruled Austria-Hungary and Russia—and France, which desired revenge against the German victors. Each might spark a general European conflagration that would inevitably involve Germany.

After Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign, Hardenberg preserved the appearance of the alliance but increased armaments and watched for the favourable moment for liberation. With great discretion, he advised the king to break away only when Prussia had an alliance with Russia. This was achieved, on the basis of…

…1815, by Alexander I of Russia, Francis I of Austria, and Frederick William III of Prussia when they were negotiating the Second Peace of Paris after the final defeat of Napoleon. The avowed purpose was to promote the influence of Christian principles in the affairs of nations. The alliance was…

…appealed for help to the Russian tsar, who sent an army across the Carpathians. Bitter fighting went on for some weeks more, led by György Klapka and other generals, but the odds were too heavy. On August 12, Kossuth fled the country, transferring his authority to Görgey, who the next…

…between the Ottoman Empire and Russia at the village of Hünkâr İskelesi, near Istanbul, by which the Ottoman Empire became a virtual protectorate of Russia.

…as a point from which Russia could threaten British India or Britain could embarrass Russia. Lord Auckland (served 1836–42) was sent as governor-general, charged with forestalling the Russians, and from this stemmed his Afghan adventure and the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838–42). The method adopted was to restore Shah Shojāʿ, the…

Russia’s glacial advance into Turkistan sufficiently alarmed Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and his secretary of state for India, Robert Salisbury, that by 1874, when they came to power in London, they pressed the government of India to pursue a more vigorous interventionist line with the…

…Insurrection, (1863–64), Polish rebellion against Russian rule in Poland the insurrection was unsuccessful and resulted in the imposition of tighter Russian control over Poland.

In 1804 another Russian envoy, N.P. Rezanov, visited Japan—this time at Nagasaki, where the Dutch by law were allowed to call—to request commercial relations. The bakufu refused Rezanov’s request, and during the next three years Russians attacked Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. Earlier in 1804, the bakufu had…

…with him, false rumours aroused Russian mobs in more than 200 cities and towns to attack Jews and destroy their property. In the two decades following, pogroms gradually became less prevalent but from 1903 to 1906 they were common throughout the country. Thereafter, to the end of the Russian monarchy,…

… in Manchuria were more than Russia, with its long-cherished dream of southward expansion in East Asia, could tolerate. With German and French support, Russia pressured Japan to return the peninsula to China. At the same time, encouraged by Russia, the Korean government began to take an anti-Japanese course. The Japanese…

…(1851), treaty between China and Russia to regulate trade between the two countries. The treaty was preceded by a gradual Russian advance throughout the 18th century into Kazakhstan.

…Bugu voluntarily submitted to the Russians, and it was at their request that the Russians built the fort of Aksu in 1863.

The earliest Russian labour organizations emerged among artisans in the form of legal guilds, which were not autonomous or spontaneous institutions but rather subject to close state supervision. Late in the 19th century, these were joined by mutual-aid societies, which spread among the more skilled and literate…

Attended by the monarchs of Russia, Austria, and Prussia and their chief ministers, the kings of the Two Sicilies and Sardinia-Piedmont, the dukes of Modena and Tuscany, and British and French observers, the congress proclaimed its hostility to revolutionary regimes, agreed to abolish the Neapolitan constitution, and authorized the

Das Kapital was translated into Russian in 1872. Marx kept up more or less steady relations with the Russian socialists and took an interest in the economic and social conditions of the tsarist empire. The person who originally introduced Marxism into…

…in the Treaty of Adrianople, Russia pushed the frontier south to include the Danube delta. After the Crimean War, the Treaty of Paris in 1856 restored southern Bessarabia (at that time divided into three districts: Izmail, Kagul [or Cahul], and Bolgrad) to Moldavia, but in 1878, despite Romania’s having fought…

…most quixotic aggression—an invasion of Russia designed to humble “the colossus of Northern barbarism” and exclude Russia from any influence in Europe. The Grand Army of 600,000 men that crossed into Russia reached Moscow without inflicting a decisive defeat on the Russian armies. By the time Napoleon on October 19…

In Russia, the penetration of nationalism produced two opposing schools of thought. Some nationalists proposed a Westernized Russia, associated with the progressive, liberal forces of the rest of Europe. Others stressed the distinctive character of Russia and Russianism, its independent and different destiny based upon its…

…that unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Russian rule in the Congress Kingdom of Poland as well as in the Polish provinces of western Russia and parts of Lithuania, Belorussia, (now Belarus), and Ukraine.

European nations and Japan at the end of the 19th century spread their influence and control throughout the continent of Asia. Russia, because of its geographic position, was the only occupying power whose Asian conquests were overland. In that respect there is…

…never to find France and Russia arrayed together against Britain and to practice the technique of “restraint by cooperation.” The France of Louis-Philippe acted for most of the 1830s as Britain’s ally, and Palmerston’s riposte to Metternich’s coalition of the three emperors (of Austria, Prussia, and Russia) at Münchengrätz in…

Russia, it was decided, would deal with Sweden, while Napoleon, allied to Spain since 1796, summoned (July 19) the Portuguese “to close their ports to the British and declare war on Britain.” His intention was to complete the Continental System designed to make economic war…

…reconstitute Poland in union with Russia. This approach failed when Alexander committed himself to a struggle against France on the side of Prussia.

Illegal under Russian rule, it had a counterpart in Galicia in the Polish Social Democratic Party led by Ignacy Daszyński. The dominant figure in the PPS was Józef Piłsudski, who saw the historic role of socialism in Poland as that of a destroyer of reactionary tsardom.

They were even adopted by Russia, a country that became France’s enemy. In 1811 Tsar Alexander I created a Ministry of Police on the French model although the ministry was abolished in 1819, Tsar Nicholas I reinstated a secret Third Department for intelligence and an associated Corps of Gendarmes. Indeed,…

…Walachia, which became protectorates of Russia in 1829, were placed under international protection in 1856 and in 1878 united to form the independent state of Romania.

…the Napoleonic Wars, by Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, for the purpose of defeating Napoleon, but conventionally dated from Nov. 20, 1815, when it was officially renewed to prevent recurrence of French aggression and to provide machinery to enforce the peace settlement concluded at the Congress of Vienna. The members…

…secret agreement between Germany and Russia arranged by the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck after the German-Austrian-Russian Dreikaiserbund, or Three Emperors’ League, collapsed in 1887 because of competition between Austria-Hungary and Russia for spheres of influence in the Balkans. The treaty provided that each party would remain neutral if the…

In 1853 the first Russians entered the northern part. By an agreement of 1855, Russia and Japan shared control of the island, but in 1875 Russia acquired all Sakhalin in exchange for the Kurils. The island soon gained notoriety as a Russian penal colony. As a result of the…

Ottoman government by Russia at the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. It provided for a new disposition of the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire that would have ended any effective Turkish control over the Balkans if its provisions had not later been modified.

…most of Carinthia and Carniola Russia, having backed Napoleon, received the Tarnopol section of East Galicia the Grand Duchy of Warsaw obtained West Galicia, with Kraków and Lublin and Bavaria acquired Salzburg, Berchtesgaden, the Innviertel, and half of the Hausruckviertel. Austria also

…situation was most complex in Russia. Stung by the loss of the Crimean War (1854–56) to Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire, literally in their own backyard, Russian leaders decided on a modernization program. The key ingredient was an end to the rigid manorial system, and in 1861 Alexander II,…

…Ottomans and an alliance of Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787, the Austrian emperor called upon the Serbs to rise once more against the Turks, which they did with some success. The Treaties of Sistova (1791) and Jassy (1792), which concluded hostilities, included guarantees of the rights of the…

…war on the Ottoman Empire Russia entered the conflict in 1877. Following the defeat of the Turks, the Treaty of San Stefano (March 1878) proposed a radical redrawing of frontiers in the Balkans, including the creation of a large Bulgarian state extending westward to Lake Ohrid. This solution was unacceptable…

Only then did Russia present an ultimatum to the Turks and force them to conclude an armistice (Oct. 31, 1876).

The serfs of Russia were not given their personal freedom and their own allotments of land until Alexander II’s Edict of Emancipation of 1861.

Russian history, member of a 19th-century intellectual movement that wanted Russia’s future development to be based on values and institutions derived from the country’s early history. Developing in the 1830s from study circles concerned with German philosophy, the Slavophiles were influenced greatly by Friedrich Schelling.…

When France and Russia signed the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, Gustav stubbornly accepted war, even with Russia. Denmark, which had sided with France in October 1807, declared war against Sweden in 1808. England, at the moment busy in Spain, could offer little help. Sweden thus became politically…

Russian conquests in Central Asia in the 1860s and ’70s brought a number of Tajiks in the Zeravshan and Fergana valleys under the direct government of Russia, while the emirate of Bukhara in effect became a Russian protectorate in 1868.

Russian encroachments in the eastern Balkans culminated in the Russo-Turkish Wars (1828–29 and 1877–78), but Russia failed to create a “Greater Bulgaria” that would include the northern portions of Thrace at the expense of Turkey. The whole of Thrace therefore remained under Turkish domination. During…

…agreements that France signed with Russia and with Prussia (respectively) at Tilsit, northern Prussia (now Sovetsk, Russia), after Napoleon’s victories over the Prussians at Jena and at Auerstädt and over the Russians at Friedland.

During the 18th century Russia occupied the northern Caucasus, annexing part of Georgia in 1801. Throughout the 19th century Russia extended its occupation to much of Caucasia western Armenia, however, was subject to Turkish rule. Nationalist movements emerged in the region at the end of the 19th century. With…

…terms of the treaty allowed Russia to annex Bessarabia but required it to return Walachia and the remainder of Moldavia, which it had occupied. The Russians also secured amnesty and a promise of autonomy for the Serbs, who had been rebelling against Turkish rule, but Turkish garrisons were given control…

…the principal opponents of the Russian invasion in the 1860s and ’70s, the other tribes either failed to support them or helped the Russians.

Following the abolition of autonomy in the Hetmanate and Sloboda Ukraine and the annexation of the Right Bank and Volhynia, Ukrainian lands in the Russian Empire formally lost all traces of their national distinctiveness. The territories were reorganized into regular Russian provinces (guberniyas)…

…slowed the southward advance of Russian forces, Bukhara was invaded in 1868 and Khiva in 1873 both khanates became Russian protectorates. An uprising in Kokand was crushed in 1875 and the khanate formally annexed the following year, completing the Russian conquest of Uzbek territory the region became part of the…

Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain, the four powers that were chiefly instrumental in the overthrow of Napoleon, had concluded a special alliance among themselves with the Treaty of Chaumont, on March 9, 1814, a month before Napoleon’s first abdication. The subsequent treaties of peace with France,

…his 1887 Reinsurance Treaty with Russia. Superficially, this decision again could be justified, but it opened the way for Russia in 1891 to make an alliance with France.

1900–1916

Economic recession early in the 1900s was followed by a shocking loss in a war with Japan (1904–05). These conditions led to outright revolution in 1905, as worker strikes and peasant rioting spread through the country. Nicholas II responded with a number of concessions. Redemption payments were eased on peasants,…

World War I

…one last year of war, Russia succumbed. In three years of war Russia had mobilized roughly 10 percent of its entire population and lost over half of that number in battle. The home economy was stretched to the limit, and even the arms and food it could produce were subject…

…relying on Germany to deter Russia from intervention. Though the terms of the ultimatum were finally approved on July 19, its delivery was postponed to the evening of July 23, since by that time the French president, Raymond Poincaré, and his premier, René Viviani, who had set off on a…

…were rapidly fading away in Russia proper during the late summer and autumn of 1917. The Bolshevik Revolution of November (October, O.S.) 1917 overthrew the provisional government and brought to power the Marxist Bolsheviks under the leadership of Vladimir I. Lenin. The Bolshevik Revolution spelled the end of Russia’s participation…

…in terms of casualties, and Russia lacked the resources to exploit or repeat this success.

…that end Aehrenthal met the Russian foreign minister, Aleksandr P. Izvolsky, at Buchlau, in Moravia and, on Sept. 16, 1908, Izvolsky agreed that Russia would not object to the annexation. Aehrenthal pledged that in return Austria would not object to opening the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to Russian warships, an…

…19th and 20th centuries, the Russians used Cossacks extensively in military actions and to suppress revolutionary activities. During the Russian Civil War (1918–20), the Cossacks were divided. Those in southern Russia formed the core of the White armies there, and about 30,000 fled Russia with the White armies. Under Soviet…

…France had had none but Russia, soon to be discredited in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05. The agreement was consequently upsetting to Germany, whose policy had long been to rely on Franco-British antagonism. A German attempt to check the French in Morocco in 1905 (the Tangier Incident, or First Moroccan…

…Finland if such laws affected Russian interests. Direct attempts at Russification were then made. The gradual imposition of Russian as the third official language was ordered in 1900, and in 1901 it was decreed that Finns should serve in Russian units and that Finland’s own army should be disbanded. Increasing…

By contrast, Russian Futurism was fragmented into a number of splinter groups (Ego-Futurists, Cubo-Futurists, Hylaea [Russian Gileya]) associated with a large number of anthologies representing continually regrouping artistic factions. While there was an urbanist strand to Russian Futurism, especially in the poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Yelena…

…emancipation of the serfs in Russia (1861), and the adoption of free trade by the major European states all seemed to justify faith in the peaceful evolution of Europe toward liberal institutions and prosperity.

…the German boundaries when the Russian Revolution intervened.

>Russia—which he regarded as the alliance most likely to favour the implementation of Greece’s remaining irredentist ambitions. The entente had, in an effort to lure Greece into the war, held out the luring prospect of territorial gain for Greece at the expense of Turkey, which…

Meanwhile, France, Russia, and Germany were not willing to endorse Japanese gains and forced the return of the Liaotung Peninsula to China. Insult was added to injury when Russia leased the same territory with its important naval base, Port Arthur (now Lü-shun), from China in 1898. The…

In 1893 he settled in St. Petersburg and became actively involved with the revolutionary workers. With his pamphlet Chto delat? (1902 What Is to Be Done?), he specified the theoretical principles and organization of a Marxist party as he thought it should be constituted. He took part in the second…

…the 20th century, Japan and Russia were competing to expand their empires into northeastern Asia at the expense of the Qing (Manchu) rulers in China. Russia had encroached southward into northern Manchuria. Meanwhile, Japan had fought and won the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95 and had demanded that China cede the…

…1916 Great Britain, France, and Russia had reached an agreement (the Sykes-Picot Agreement) according to which, inter alia, the bulk of Palestine was to be internationalized. Further complicating the situation, in November 1917 Arthur Balfour, the British secretary of state for foreign affairs, addressed a letter to Lord Lionel Walter…

…and unification came from the Russian commander in chief, Grand Duke Nicholas, on August 14, 1914. Subsequent moves by the Russian government, however, revealed the hollowness of such promises. Russian concessions to the Poles, culminating in the tsar’s Christmas Day 1916 order, were made only in reaction to the Central…

Theodore Roosevelt, the defeated Russians recognized Japan as the dominant power in Korea and made significant territorial concessions in China.

Russia encountered a new opponent in the Far East in the rise of Japan. The Japanese, fearful of Russian expansion in northern China, defeated the tsarist forces in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904–05, winning Korea in the process. The unstable Russian regime looked for compensatory…

…with the assent of imperial Russia, for the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. The agreement led to the division of Turkish-held Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine into various French- and

The Russian intelligence service initially enjoyed great success against the Austrians because of the treason of an Austrian general staff officer, but it subsequently performed no better than the services of other countries involved in the war. The British succeeded in breaking German naval codes, and…

1917–1991

…civil code of the former Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (1964) provided the following order of intestate succession: (1) children, spouse, and parents of the decedent, in equal shares, a deceased child being represented by his child or children and a deceased grandchild by his child or children, and (2)…

Insurance in Russia was nationalized after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Domestic insurance in the Soviet Union was offered by a single agency, Gosstrakh, and insurance on foreign risks by a companion company, Ingosstrakh. Ingosstrakh continues to insure foreign-owned property in Russia and Russian-owned…

After the Nazi attack on Russia in 1941, the Japanese were torn between German urgings to join the war against the Soviets and their natural inclination to seek richer prizes from the European colonial territories to the south. In 1940 Japan occupied northern Indochina in an attempt to block access…

…planners first defined hypothetical enemies, Russia, the United States, and France fell into this category. From the geostrategic standpoint, the Army would have the major role in a war against Russia, the Navy in one against the United States. Except for a few occasional revisions, the gist of this war…

Russia then argued in support of Serbia and promoted its own plan for a partition of Bosnia. Clinton vetoed any plan that rewarded “Serbian aggression,” yet he also refused to lift the arms embargo on the beleaguered Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks).

…in 2002, Belarus’s relations with Russia had deteriorated, partly over the desire of Gazprom, the Russian state-owned natural gas company, to raise the price of gas exported to Belarus to world levels. Another source of discord was Russia’s military conflict with Georgia in 2008, as Lukashenko failed to follow Russia’s…

…Caucasus republic of North Ossetia, Russia, in September 2004. Perpetrated by militants linked to the separatist insurgency in the nearby republic of Chechnya, the attack resulted in the deaths of more than 330 people, the majority of them children. The scale of the violence at Beslan and, in particular, the…

Dudayev pursued aggressively nationalistic, anti-Russian policies, and during 1994 armed Chechen opposition groups with Russian military backing tried unsuccessfully to depose Dudayev.

…the oldest petroleum institute of Russia (established in 1920) and also a teacher-training institute.

…from the United States and Russia (following the breakup of the Soviet Union), the UN Conference on Disarmament adopted the CWC treaty on September 3, 1992, and the treaty was opened to signature by all states on January 13, 1993. The CWC entered into force on April 29, 1997, 180…

…was formed in 1991 by Russia and 11 other republics that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had its origins on December 8, 1991, when the elected leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (Belorussia) signed an agreement forming a new association to replace…

In the 21st century, under Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, Cossacks resumed their historical relationship with Moscow. Cossack auxiliaries bolstered local police forces within Russia, most notably at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, but their use of harsh tactics and enforcement of a conservative moral code sparked concerns among human…

…new agreement was reached with Russia in 1992, in which the two countries simply pledged to settle disputes between them peacefully. Finland, now freed from any restrictions, applied for membership to the European Community (from 1993 the European Union [EU]), which it joined in 1995. In 1999 it adopted the…

Beginning in 1994, Russia joined the discussions, and the group became known as the Group of 8 (G8) or the “Political Eight” Russia officially became the eighth member in 1997. In March 2014 Russia precipitated an international crisis when it occupied and annexed Crimea, an autonomous republic of…

…built a media empire in Russia in the late 20th century. His holdings included television, radio, newspapers, and magazines known both for their professionalism and for the critical stance they often adopted toward Kremlin policies.

…two reactors was completed with Russian assistance and began operation in 2011, using nuclear fuel provided by Russia there were no plans to complete the second reactor. The revelation in 2002 of a previously undeclared uranium enrichment facility under construction in Iran provoked suspicions that Iran was seeking to construct…

Relations with Russia have remained decidedly cool. A formal peace treaty was never concluded with the Soviet Union before its dissolution. The major sticking point for the Japanese has been the disposition of the “northern territories,” the four small islands in the southern Kuril chain that the…

…its military with that of Russia, establishing a joint command for training and planning and for border patrols. During the Soviet period, a vast nuclear arsenal was stationed in Kazakh territory. Kazakhstan ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1993, however, and by 1995 it had dismantled or returned to Russia…

…of tension, Kazakhstan’s relations with Russia in the years since independence have remained close, marked by economic partnerships, treaties of accord, and cooperation on matters of security and intelligence. In consideration of both demographic and cultural factors, Russian continues to function as an official language. Kazakhstan also maintains an important…

…announced in September 1993 that Russia would oppose NATO expansion unless Russia were included. Defense Secretary Aspin floated Clinton’s attempt at a solution on October 21, 1993, when he announced that NATO would offer less formal partnerships for peace to former Soviet-bloc states, including Russia. Clinton toured Europe in January…

…of NATO membership to include Russia. Most suggested alternative roles, including peacekeeping. By the start of the second decade of the 21st century, it appeared likely that the EU would not develop capabilities competitive with those of NATO or even seek to do so as a result, earlier worries associated…

Yeltsin first rose to prominence in 1985 as an ally of Gorbachev, but he bristled at the slow pace of reform and soon found himself cast into the political wilderness. During his short time as the mayor of Moscow, however, Yeltsin won great popular…

…of eastern Europe, above all Russia. Western relations with the new Russia began auspiciously. In early 1992 Yeltsin toured western Europe and signed friendship treaties with Britain and France in exchange for aid and credits. On January 3, 1993, Bush and Yeltsin signed the START II pact, promising to slash…

Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia. In May 1992 the Lisbon Protocol was signed, which allowed for all four to become parties to START I and for Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan either to destroy their strategic nuclear warheads or to turn them over to Russia. This made possible ratification by…

…with the Soviet Union (later Russia) over maritime boundaries around Svalbard. The issue was resolved in 2010, when the two countries agreed on a border in the Barents Sea. The negotiated boundary divided the region into roughly equal areas. The Svalbard Science Centre (opened 2006) houses the Norwegian Polar Institute,…

…military intervention, but Syria’s allies Russia and Iran continued to object, calling for the Syrian government to be given more time to deal with internal unrest. In October, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian crackdown, effectively blocking the path to UN sanctions or a…

…resulting in an agreement between Russia, Syria, and the United States on September 14 to place all of Syria’s chemical weapons under international control so that they could be destroyed. The UN inspectors’ report, released two days later, confirmed that rockets carrying the nerve gas sarin had been used on…

…turned in Assad’s favour when Russia launched its own military intervention in Syria in support of his regime. Following a buildup of Russian troops and military equipment, Russia began launching air strikes in September 2015. At first Russian officials claimed that it was targeting ISIL, but it soon became clear…

…earlier the United States and Russia, a key supporter of the Assad regime, had brokered an agreement on a framework under which Syria would accede to the international Chemical Weapons Convention and submit to the controls of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, provide a comprehensive listing of…

Russia, China, and Iran spoke out against military action, and Assad vowed to fight what he described as Western aggression.

)—a federation of Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (S.F.S.R.)—was proclaimed. The first constitution for the new multinational federation was ratified in January 1924. Although the constituent republics retained the formal right of secession, their jurisdiction was limited to domestic affairs, while authority over…

…and membership were assumed by Russia in 1991), the United Kingdom, and the United States—concur on the admission of new members at times posed serious obstacles. By 1950 only 9 of 31 applicants had been admitted to the organization. In 1955 the 10th Assembly proposed a package deal that, after…

395–1399

The Russians lay far outside the Roman jurisdiction. Their warships, sailing down the Dnepr from Kiev to the Black Sea, first attacked Constantinople in 860. They were beaten off, and almost at once Byzantine missionaries were sent into Russia. The Russians were granted trading…

Russian interest in the Caucasus began early. In ad 943 Varangian, or Russified Norse, adventurers had sailed down the Caspian from the Volga River and captured the fortress of Bärdä. Subsequently, certain marriage alliances were concluded between the Russian and Georgian royal families, and in…

…are some scattered data on Russia. For some time a Russian guards regiment existed in Dadu, and some Russian soldiers were settled in military colonies in eastern Manchuria. As a whole, however, the civilizations of Europe and China did not meet, although contacts were made easy Europe remained for the…

…made on the area, where Russians and Germans also traded.

The Russian princes, particularly those of Muscovy, soon obtained responsibility for collecting the local tribute. The Horde carried on an extensive trade with Mediterranean peoples, particularly their allies in Mamlūk Egypt and the Genoese.

…the West—with which, through the Russians, they had excellent links—offered a more fertile ground for further expansion than the sunbaked deserts of Turkistan. The khans of the Golden Horde, instead of controlling the Russian and Lithuanian princes, increasingly relied upon their help in internal and dynastic struggles that were rending…

…armies into Iran, Iraq, and Russia. With the sacking of Kiev in 1240, the Mongols finally crushed Russian resistance. In the next year Mongol forces defeated a joint army of German and Polish troops and then marched through Hungary and reached the Adriatic Sea. Thereafter for more than 200 years…

…December 1240—with incalculable consequences for Russian history—was followed by a Mongol invasion of Hungary in 1241–42. Although victorious against the forces of King Béla IV, the Mongols evacuated Hungary and withdrew to southern and central Russia. Ruled by Batu (d. c. 1255), the Mongols of eastern Europe (the so-called Golden…

…in imposing their rule on Russia. By defeating a Swedish invasion force at the confluence of the Rivers Izhora and Neva (1240), he won the name Nevsky, “of the Neva.”

…principality of Novgorod (now in Russia) and Norway. The conflicts took place in what was then generally known as Finnmark (including the present Norwegian province of Finnmark and Russia’s Kola Peninsula). The treaty, rather than delimiting a clear frontier between Norway and Novgorod, created a buffer zone, the “common districts.”…

…the trade routes along the Russian rivers to the Baltic Sea acquired enhanced importance. In the second half of the 9th century, Swedish peasant chieftains secured a firm foothold in what is now western Russia and Ukraine and ruthlessly exploited the Slav population. From their strongholds, which included the river…

…them into the heart of Russia. The extent of this penetration is difficult to assess, for, although the Scandinavians were at one time dominant at Novgorod, Kiev, and other centres, they were rapidly absorbed by the Slavonic population, to which, however, they gave their name Rus, “Russians.”

…which had suzerainty over the Russian lands) over the Lithuanian ruler Vytautas, which ended his attempt to extend his control over all southern Russia.


How did Africans prosper in Tsarist Russia?

Painting of Emperor's palace with an arap serving there.

Mihály Zichy/Hermitage Museum

&ldquoThey looked at the young Negro as if he was a miracle, surrounded him, showering him with greetings and questions but this kind of curiosity annoyed his self-esteem&hellip He felt like some a kind of rare animal,&rdquo wrote Alexander Pushkin, the famous 19th-century poet, in his historical novel, The Moor of Peter the Great, which described the life of an African man, Ibrahim, at the tsar&rsquos court.

Pushkin had personal reasons to write this novel. Ibrahim was a historical figure, a slave from Africa who later thrived in Russia, became a nobleman and helped establish a dynasty. Even more, Pushkin was his great-grandson.

Making it big in Russia

Abram Hannibal's monument in the Petrovskoye village, Pskov Region, Russia.

Several centuries have passed, so it&rsquos hard to determine from where exactly Ibrahim (1696 &ndash 1781) originated. The older versions of his biography suggest he was born in Ethiopia, but later research by Dieudonné Gnammankou, a Beninese Slavist, insists that Ibrahim was from Cameroon.

Whatever his true homeland might be, it&rsquos almost certain that the Turks kidnapped him, and through the slave trade he ended up in the Russian court. Peter the Great treated Ibrahim well, and not only did he grant him freedom, but he baptized him as Abram Petrovich Hannibal, (after the famous North African commander of Ancient Carthage, a surname Ibrahim chose himself) .

(Allegedly) portrait of young Abram Hannibal.

Ibrahim completed military and engineering courses, studied in France and worked as the Emperor&rsquos secretary. Gnammankou emphasizes that Hannibal helped to develop Russian-French relations when visiting Paris along with his sovereign.

&ldquoThe African, or should I say the African-Russian, witnessed and helped to establish diplomatic, scientific and cultural relations between the two great European countries: Russia and France,&rdquo Gnammankou said in an interview with TASS.

Hannibal also had his share of hardships. After Peter the Great died in 1725, his African favorite fell out of grace with Russia&rsquos new ruler and was exiled to Siberia. When Peter&rsquos daughter, Elizabeth, ascended the throne, Hannibal returned to his estate and led a long life, having 11 children. Among them was Pushkin&rsquos grandfather, Osip Hannibal, and so the poet always remembered his African heritage.

Black courtiers

Peter the Great's portrait with a black valet,

Baron Gustav von Mardefeld

Hannibal&rsquos story is quite unusual, but not unique. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many people of color served at the Russian court as araps. Don&rsquot confuse them with Arabs. An arap, according to Vladimir Dal&rsquos 1863 dictionary, meant &ldquoa black-skinned person from the hot countries, mainly Africa.&rdquo The second meaning was &ldquoa porter, a gatekeeper,&rdquo and that&rsquos what the araps did at court.

Sophie Buxhoeveden, a maid of honor for Empress Alexandra (Nicholas II&rsquos wife), recalled: &ldquoBlack servants, dressed in Oriental clothes, gave a special, exotic taste to everything in the palace.&rdquo Their presence symbolized how large and powerful the empire was, embracing the whole world with its influence.

Sounds racist? Perhaps, but remember that such practice was common at the courts of most European monarchs of that time, and it paid very well.

&ldquoThe araps were among the few at the Tsar&rsquos palace who had a salary and it was quite large,&rdquo historian Igor Zimin explains in his book, Court of the Russian Emperors. Most servants worked for room and board.

Russia or bust

George Maria, an arap from Cape-Verde, who settled in Russia.

In the 19th century, many Africans in the U.S. saw a move to Russia as a chance for a better life, to escape the brutality of American slavery.

&ldquoThe first American arap at the Russian court was an ex-valet of the U.S. envoy to St. Petersburg, who got his new job in 1810. It seems that news of this fine job spread fast in American ports, and many black adventurers rushed to Russia, usually as sailors on those few ships heading to St. Petersburg,&rdquo Zimin writes.

Job competition was intense, however, and during the reign of Nicholas I (1825 &ndash 1855) the number of court araps was limited to eight. Previous empresses with a penchant for exoticism had had dozens of black servants. The blacker and taller the potential employee, the better, according to Zimin. Also, anyone wanting to serve at the court was obliged to be baptized into Christianity (not necessarily Orthodoxy).

It wasn&rsquot only Americans who became araps. Nina Tarasova, who works at the State Hermitage Museum, tells the story of George Maria from Cape Verde (a Portuguese colony) who served at the tsarist court for many years and stayed in Russia long after Nicholas II&rsquos abdication.

&ldquoBoth sons fought in the Great Patriotic War, one died and the other made it to Victory Day,&rdquo said Tarasova.

As you can see, some araps laid deep roots in Russia. In general, however, their best days ended with the fall of the empire in 1917. During the Soviet period, a new type of African, as well as African-Americans, found opportunity in the county &ndash as students, engineers, and socialist leaders. But that&rsquos a whole other story.

An outstanding example of the African-Americans who made it to Russia was Robert Robinson, who lived in the USSR for 44 years (though wasn't always happy about it). Read his story now &ndash you won't regret it.

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