ANTECEDENTS OF THE SOVIET REGIME IN RUSSIA
7 March 1960
INTRODUCTION--Mr. Michael S. Poluhoff
Member of the Faculty, ICAF
SPEAKER--Dr. Carroll Quigley,
Professor of History,
School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.
Publication No. 1.60-143
INDUSTRIAL COLLEGE OF THE ARMED FORCES
Washington, D. C.
Dr. Carroll Quigley, Professor of History, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, was born in Boston, Massachusetts,
9 November 1910. He was educated at Boston Latin School and at Harvard University, obtaining an A. B. (magna cum laude) in 1933, an M.A. in 1934* and a Ph. D. in 1938. He was an instructor in history at Princeton University from 1935 to 1937, leaving there to do research work at the public archives of Paris and Milan on the Woodberry Lowery Traveling Fellowship of Harvard University. While abroad he wrote his doctoral dissertation on "The Public Administration of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, 1805-1814. From 1938 to 1941 he was instructor and tutor in the division of history, government, and economics at Harvard University. Since 1941 he has been at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, first as lecturer in history and civilization and now as professor of European history. He is regarded as an authority on the comparative history of civilizations and the history of Europe in the 20th century. He is a member of the American Historical Association, the American Economic Association, the American Anthropological Association, and other learned societies. He is engaged at present in writing a book on 20th century world history. His most recent published articles were in "Current History" for February and August 1958. He is an honorary staff member of the Smithsonian Institution, a contributing editor of Current History, and in 1958 was a consultant to the Select Committee on
Astronautics and Space Exploration which set up the present National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This is his seventh lecture at the Industrial College.
COMPARATIVE NATIONAL CULTURES
7 March 1960
Gentlemen, we continue our studies in contemporary international politics this morning with a lecture by Dr. Carroll Quigley, of Georgetown University, who will talk to us on the subject "Antecedents of the Soviet Regime in Russia."
Our speaker has been on this platform a number of times; so we
consider him virtually a member of our faculty. He will trace the
historical evolution of Russia and attempt to explain the present-day
character of the Soviet regime in relationship to Che influences and
actions of czarist Russia. I am sure that Dr. Quigley will give us
considerable light on this subject, and I am happy to introduce Dr.
Quigley again to the Industrial College.
Thank you, Mr. Poluhoff.
General Mundy, Gentlemen: In the social sciences, nothing has a single
cause; and if I attempt today to give you the causes of why Russians are
Russians, I hope you will realize that I am oversimplifying to a very
great extent. In the first place, I am going to eliminate everything since
1917. There can be no doubt that the Russians behave today the way they
behave to some extent because they have a Marxist ideology; but, rather,
what I want to point out to you today is the more remote causes and
motivations behind their behavior.
In examining the Russians or the Russian society, a historian will
approach it very much the same way a psychologist would approach a
patient. He would ask the patient to sit down and talk about what
happened to him in his early life. And in some cases the further back
the patient can go, the happier the psychologist is. Today I am sure in
the history of Russia I am going to go back so far that most of you won It be happy at all.
First we have the materials with which we begin and the site in which
they were. And the materials with which we begin, say, 5, 000 years ago,
are mostly a very scattered Finnish or Proto-Finnish-speaking people in
European Russia, particularly in the forest areas. These people lived with
a very low economic system--subsistence or hunting, with a very
rudimentary knowledge of agriculture.
About 4, 000 years ago, in the eastern edges of Poland, around the
Pripet Marshes, a people began to appear called the Slavs; and the Slavs
have spread outward from that area until they cover most of eastern Europe,
a good part of the Balkans, and a good part of northern Asia, as you know.
Now, these people are the materials with which we begin, and what we
have to ask ourselves is, What made these materials turn into what we have
today? In answering that question I want to cover approximately five points.
First, the parents of the Russian culture into which these people were
formed were what we call the Varangians, that is, Vikings, Scandinavian
peoples, who came down through the river system of European Russia in the
years after 700 A.D. And then again we want to speak of the mother of this
culture, the Russian culture; and that is the Byzantine civilization, which
was flourishing down on the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea around Byzantium
and Constantinople. These are the parents; and we might say that Russian
society throughout its history has been the child of the Vikings from the
north and the Byzantine culture from the south.
Now, we are much more than what we get from our parents; and in the
case of the Russian society the "much more" seems to me can be summed up
from two factors. On the one hand, from the east came hordes of fighting,
horseback-riding, aggressive peoples, mostly speaking Ural-Altaic
languages, like the Mongols. And from the west came European culture, which
was a force on Russia, not because it was European, but because it had a
very much higher technology.
The picture that I am going to try to describe to you, then, is of the basic Slavic people, with their primitive economic status, mostly a subsistence, forest-dwelling culture; and how that was turned into a society from the Vikings in the north and the Byzantine society in the south, and how the society which rose from that mixture was then hammered out between the aggressive horseback-riding warriors of the steppes to the east and the high technology of the European to the west.
I would like to begin by saying a few words about geography and
possibly also about chronology. If we look at Eurasia on this map, or
simply recall to mind the configuration of Russia as it is today, it
consists of a series of horizontal zones. There are approximately six of
those zones. I am not going to bother you with them. In most cases I
imagine that you are familiar with them.
The one line that I do wish to emphasize, however, is the line
between the forest in the north and the grass lands to the south.
That line runs across just south of Moscow. South of it we have
steppes, divided into two parts - the grassy steppes in the northern
part and the desert and salt steppes in the southern part. And,
again, north of that line we have the forest zone, which is also
subdivided into two-the deciduous forest in the southern part of the
forest zone, that is, the trees whose leaves fall in the autumn; and
in the northern part of the forest zone the coniferous or evergreen
Now, that dividing line between the forest and the grass lands is
very significant in the history of Russia. In the first place, in the
forest you have the area where the Slavs could live the kind of
primitive existence that I have mentioned - hunting, gleaning, in
scattered communities, no centralized authority, no knowledge whatever
of the State or of public authority. A low subsistence level.
In the grass lands, on the other hand, are wide-open spaces, made
significant by the fact that in the 4th millennium B.C., maybe 3000 B.C.,
the inhabitants of the grasslands domesticated the horse. As a result of
that, you have in the grasslands a people of very high mobility, who
could cover tremendous areas, could centralize them into political units,
perhaps temporary units, but very large and fluctuating units; and people
who were extremely warlike.
It was the warlike warrior peoples of this area, mostly Ural-Altaic
speaking peoples, some of whom in the period we're concerned with - about
700 A. D. -- came into Europe and established the Hungarians, the Turks,
the Bulgars; and, of course, the Mongols, who were the chief influence in
the pressure from the east in Russian history. The chief Mongol invasion
was about 1240.
Now, this system of horizontal bands is cut across in the extreme
west by a magnificent system of rivers. And if we examine the system of
rivers, we will see that there is a point on which they converge,
approximately at Smolensk. From Smolensk you can go only a short
distance and reach a river which will take you to one of the four great
bodies of water, that is, down here to the Caspian Sea, like the Volga;
down here to the Black Sea, like the Dnieper; up here to the Baltic Sea;
and up here even to the White Sea.
If we look only at communications, it would seem that this area of parallel bands should have been centralized by a political force centered around Smolensk. As you know, that has not occurred. Smolensk at no time was the supreme political authority in Russia. Instead, from the very early period, from 1400 or a little after that, the center has been at Moscow.
Now, Moscow is much further east than Smolensk, and it is further north. The reason for that movement of the political center away from the point where you would have had the most convenient transportation center is due to the forces that I have spoken of the pressure of European technology, in the hands of, originally, the Swedes, the Poles, and the Turks, later the Germans. The pressure of that western technology moved the political center of power from Smolensk eastward. And, similarly, the ravages of the fast-riding peoples of the steppes, coming in through the gap which we call the steppes corridor between the Caspian Sea and the Urals forced the political center northward away from the grass lands into the forest zone.
At one time, before Moscow became the center, the political center of Russia was at Kiev. But Kiev was destroyed by these migratory, fast-riding invaders from the steppes.
Now, I would like to examine what were the contributions that cam e from these different forces and gave us the five consequences which I have listed at the bottom of the mimeographed sheet. Those five consequences, it seems to me, are the permanent contribution, or among the perm anent contributions, which have come from the forest that I am talking about.
First, a fissure between government and people - the people always treated as subordinates, the government frequently foreigners and not Russians or Slavs at all.
Secondly, the totalitarian, almost semidivine, private-property aspect of the governmental system, which included in its operations all aspects of life; which regarded the chief, the head man, the Czar for most of Russian history, as being so far above ordinary humans that he was directly endowed with power by God.
Thirdly, what I call the private-property aspect--that the government regarded the whole system as a private-property organization, to be exploited as they judged best.
Fourthly, xenophobia, which is one of the striking characteristics of the Russian outlook, that is, fear and hatred and a distrust of foreigners, of outsiders.
Lastly, expansionism--the fact that the Russian people have been constantly pushing outward. Even when their population was not thickly concentrated, they tended to move further and further.
If we start with the primitive economy that I spoke of, and the scattered group of forest-dwelling Slavs, who first appeared in history around the Pripet Marshes--the Pripet Marshes today are in what we would call Poland, or close to the Polish eastern frontier--these people received about the year 700 or 800 an intrusion of Scandinavian peoples, who came down through the river system that I have spoken of. In Russian history these are called Varangians; but to us if we say "Vikings! t we are expressing it more clearly. It is the Swedish people, coming in to exploit the area - for example, they were looking for furs, they were looking for wax, they were looking for honey, and forest products in general - they came in in a way which is not far different from the way in which the French, or even later the British, came in through the St. Lawrence and tried to exploit Canada.
The French, as you know, came in through the St. Lawrence and very quickly went through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi to New Orleans; so that Quebec is a French city and New Orleans is a French city. And this is approximately the way the Varangians did this. They came in as a militaristic people, with a love for booty, a belief that a way of life could be made out of war and plunder. They made no distinction between what we would call booty and legitimate trade. Whatever they could take they took.
They had a private-property conception. They did not believe, or they did not even consider,
that they were setting up a public authority or a State. Their attitude was approximately
like that of the Hudson Bay Company coming into the forests of Canada - a private-property
conception toward what they found. They organized a much higher economic system upon the
subsistence economy which they found there. And they did that by establishing commercial
relationships, by encouraging the people to produce surpluses which could be traded; by
demanding food, which led to an intensification of agriculture; and so forth. Very quickly,
just as the French went down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, the Varangians went
all the way from the Baltic down to the Black Sea, reached Odessa and ultimately Byzantium.
Now, from Byzantium came other influences, which working together with these Varangian
influences, give us the basic heritage out of which Russian society has emerged. From
Byzantium the Russians obtained certain obvious things - their form of writing, their Greek alphabet; their religion, the Russian Orthodox Church; their form of architecture, the use of the dome, for example, in so many buildings, particularly, of course, ecclesiastical buildings; and, above all, their political organization. The word "Czar" means "Caesar"; and he was called that because the ruler in Byzantium was regarded as a descendant of the Caesars.
But, more important than the new things which seem fairly obvious--the alphabet, the religion,
the architecture, and the political organization - are intangible things. One of these intangibles is the fact that all of these things were brought in by outsiders, that is, by the Viking Varangians, or by Greeks from Byzantium who followed the pathways up the river routes carrying the religion and the missionary enterprises. Outsiders brought these things in, and they were imposed upon the basic Slav population.
Secondly - and this is something that I'll spend a little time on there came in from the Byzantium outlook a general attitude which I sum up as totalitarian. I want to speak very briefly about the background of that totalitarian outlook.
If you visit primitive people who still live in tribes, they have in many cases a name for themselves;
and if we translate that name it is frequently their own word for human beings. In other words, the Navahos
and many other tribes speak of themselves as men. People who are not members of their tribe are not really men.
They are like the animals. They know that they're not animals, but they're not men either. They're sort of in
between. They're outsiders.
Such tribesmen do not feel any compunction, in most cases, in inflicting injury, or death, or stealing from, these outsiders.
And, furthermore, in such a tribe, the tribe absorbs the whole of life. It provides its members with a religion, with protection, with economic necessities, with ideology, with social satisfaction for their gregarious needs--with all of the things that are necessary in human life. All come from membership in the tribe.
The member of such a system very quickly gets the idea that the tribe is everything. He cannot distinguish between
the man who is in the tribe and the tribe which gives him life, gives him activities, gives him satisfactions. The
two cannot be separated. Where we might say man versus the State as Herbert Spencer did in a little pamphlet which
he wrote 80 or 90 years ago, to a member of a tribe such opposition is unthinkable. Outside of the tribe he's nothing.
Now, this is what we might call a tribal totalitarian outlook Such an outlook came into classical antiquity,
at its origin, and in such a powerful form that for centuries it was embodied in the thinking of the greatest
of the classicists. In the early days they expressed it as the "polis." We translate the word "polis" to mean "city-state."
But it's a poor translation. The word "polis" cannot be translated. It means the whole of society in which the human
being lives and obtains satisfactions for everything that he needs.
Aristotle, who was one of the later and more enlightened of the classical thinkers, says:
"A man cut off from the polis is not a man. He is either a god or an animal, because man cannot
live separated from his fellows." He says: "A man cut off from the polis is like a thumb cut off
from the hand. There it lies on the floor."That isn't a thumb. It's just a piece of meat. In fact,
Now, this means that the polis was, from the point of view of the Greeks, a totalitarian thing. We could sum it up quite clearly by saying that the distinction which we make between State and society was not made by the Greeks. The polis was both.
Later, when the Romans conquered the whole of the Mediterranean Basin, they didn't speak so
much of the polis. Instead, they spoke of the imperium. But the imperium to them was the same
kind of a totalitarian entity, which was both a political unit and a social unit. It was the
everything that man needed. You didn't become a member of a religious group in antiquity by
conversion and joining ordinarily. You were born into it. It was the group to which you belonged.
When the Christians came along, they were persecuted, as you well know, for refusing to worship the emperor, to sacrifice to the emperor. This was not religious intolerance. It was because by refusing to sacrifice to the emperor, the Christians were regarded as being nonmembers of the Roman society and traitors to the Roman system, including the Roman State.
Now, that view, the totalitarian point of view, of classical antiquity, was challenged by many thinkers in the late period, chiefly by the Stoics and others. But on the whole it was maintained and continued until the very end. And when I speak of the end, I am talking about two entirely different things, because the system of which I speak ended in the western Mediterranean in 476. It did not end in the eastern Mediterranean until almost a thousand years later--1453.
In 476 a German military leader came to the emperor in Rome and said: "Resign. Get out. Vanish." This ended the Roman Empire.
It ended the political system in the Latin-speaking West. But in the Greek-speaking East the political system continued. There still was an emperor in Constantinople. And there you had a totalitarian system in which the imperium meant everything that makes a man a man.
Now, this idea was directly taken from Byzantium up into Russia when the Varangian rulers adopted the Byzantine point of view as the way in which they would organize the society in which they lived.
In the West we said that the disappearance of the emperor in 476 was followed by the Dark Ages for several centuries. The Dark Ages are usually regarded as a very bad period. It was dark not only because we know very little about it, but also because it was at such a low level of culture.
I would like to point out that the Dark Ages contributed to our system some of the greatest things we have. And perhaps the greatest of them is this: that the disappearance of the Empire in the West showed conclusively that State and society are not the same thing, because the State disappeared, but the society continued. And, indeed, it was a society which, without a public authority and without a State--something which is unthinkable to many people today--could provide the necessities of life for human beings. It provided them with protection through the feudal system. It provided them with food and other economic necessities through the manorial system. It provided them with an ideology through the various philosophical movements, culminating in scholasticism, as we call it. It provided them with a religion - Christianity. It provided them with social togetherness, because they lived in those little isolated communities which we call manors.
And thus it became perfectly clear that in order to have a religion, in order to have security, in order to have the necessities of life, and all the rest of it in the West, you did not need a State. Out of this comes the essential figure of speeches, many of the essential features of the western outlook--liberalism, freedom for groups to do in general what they may need to do without interference from central authority, laissez faire that an economic system can function without the State telling exactly how it should be done, and what should be done, and who should do it, and so forth.
Now, this great heritage which has come to the West from the Dark Ages never got into Russia. Instead, through the Varangians' private property conception, exploitative, external, outsiders imposed upon the Slavic people, there was now added this intensified, highly sophisticated, totalitarian system of which we speak when we speak of the Byzantium outlook.
Those are the parents, and from those parents appeared this child - Russian society - organized on the river systems to the extreme western part of European Russia.
Now, we must add to this the two other forces which hammered out the Russian society that we know in recent centuries. Those two other forces I have already mentioned, namely, the movement of the hard-riding warrior people from the East and the pressure of European technology from the West.
The Mongols by the year 1237 had come in a tremendous raid and occupied most of Russia. Naturally, coming in the steppe corridor, they first occupied the grassland in the southern part. They cut across the river system. They destroyed much of the centralized character which the river system had provided for that whole western end of the great Eurasian plain.
That raid was so tremendous that the Mongols went all the way west. They went as far as Genoa. They circled into France. But in western and central Europe they stayed only a couple of years. In Russia they stayed for about 150 years. And in this long period of 150 years once again you had in Russia a foreign exploitative system, organizing what it found to get the most out of it for themselves.
In this organization the chief collaborators were the Dukes of Moscow. Originally Moscow didn't seem very important. It was on a small tributary of a river that flowed to the Caspian Sea. But soon the Mongols made the Dukes of Moscow the chief collaborators and the chief agents through which they exploited these areas.
One of the reasons that they did that is perhaps accidental. In most of Russia and in most Russian cities there was no
established system of political succession. Because they had a private-property concept, even of public authority, when
it was imported from Byzantium, they did not have a constitutional system of succession. In Kiev, Smolensk, Novgorod up
in the north, and in these other areas, generally the succession was left by testament, just as if it were private
property. "I, the ruler, about to die, leave to this one my holdings."
In some cases he left it to his eldest son, but in some cases he would think a second son was more able, or a nephew,
In fact, for a considerable period, when they organized the system more or less as a single commercial exploitative
river system, they left it to the oldest member of the whole exploitative group, who might well be a person from a
distant city - the oldest member of the clan, so to speak.
Now, in Moscow they established a system which looks like primogenesis. It was not exactly that, because the ruler still had the right to give it to whomever he wished by testament. And for many centuries there was always a capable heir to whom to give it. This is of significance.
Over the long time stretch a succession of fairly capable rulers is far more important in achieving a united political organization than an alternation of capable, even extremely capable, rulers interspersed with incompetents; or a system where you have a broken, disputed succession, which will disrupt any political system.
Now, to this rather accidental feature the Mongols added two very important features. They found collecting tribute and they found settling disputes in this great area more than they themselves wished to do. It was a burden. So they made at the beginning, under Ivan the First-whose dates are down there--1325 to 1341--they made the Duke of Moscow the collector of the Mongol tribute for the whole area. After 1380, when the Mongols were going, the Dukes of Moscow continued to use the tribute-collecting machinery as a taxation system.
Secondly, the Mongols made the Grand Duke of Moscow the court of appeal for disputes from other cities.
The Mongols could not permit a dispute to get out of hand. They wanted order; they wanted submission;
they wanted tribute. Accordingly, disputes had to be settled. If they couldn't be settled locally, let
them go to the Grand Duke of Moscow.
And from these three things--a steady, capable succession, the tribute--collecting administration; and the judicial appeal aspect--there came a centralized system when finally the Mongols were hurled out. That hurling out was begun by Dimitri Donskoi, about 1380.
Out of this comes what we call the Moscovite Period, from 1380 down to 1694. This is the period in which Russia really took shape.
Now, just as the pressure from the east was relieved by the expulsion of the Mongols, the pressure from the west, from western technology,
became stronger and stronger. It took the shape of pressure from the Swedes, the Poles, even the Bulgars, and the Turks, from Turkey, because, as you know, after 1453 the Turks had destroyed the Byzantine Empire and captured Constantinople.
This western technology of which I speak is a very great thing. It is the basis of much of the greatness of our western civilization as we know it, and I include in it many things which we just accept as a matter of course. For example, we have an alphabetic system of writing. If you compare that to the Chinese system of writing, you can see what a tremendously important element it is. It meant you can communicate and you can teach writing quite quickly to many people.
We have a good number system. As you compare that number system, with positional notation and the use of the zero, to the number system, let us say, of the Romans, you can see at once how very important this is--our method of keeping records and accounts.
In addition to this, there are other things. An organized productive system. To most people who have not studied the Middle Ages or the late Medieval Period in Western Europe it seems as if the manorial, feudal system must be extraordinarily primitive and weak. This is not true. Let me just contrast two events.
In 732 the Saracens, who almost exactly a hundred years before had started here (indicating Arabia), by 732 had crossed Gibraltar (in 711) crossed Spain and the Pyrenees, and were advancing on Paris. Western Christendom was really on the ropes, ready for the knockout blow. Yet the Saracens were defeated at the Battle of Tours in 732 by Charles Martel.
Well, that, we could say, is explicable. The Saracens had a tremendously long line of communications. They were in strange terrain, and so forth. And, after all, they only fell back to the Pyreness. But from that date, 732, when Christendom was saved from the Moslem horde, to 1099, when western Christendom captured Jerusalem, you have an amazing counteroffensive. To mount an offensive in the year 1099 from France which could capture Jerusalem is a very great exploit. If you stop and think of the difficulties which the British had in 1956 in getting Cairo, you can see that this was a very great achievement.
Now, I simply mention it to show you that there was power in that manorial-feudal system. And it continued to develop in the direction of increasing power.
One of the things which made it powerful were weapons, gunpowder. The first record we have of gunpowder being used in the West, or at least being available, is approximately 1325. We have the receipted bill that the King of England paid for two cannons. The Mongols had probably had it from the Chinese earlier. The Turks had artillery of a sort. And this weapons pressure upon the Slavs became one of the chief methods of western pressure.
Naturally, if the Slav system was going to survive, it had to adopt these western things; and from 1380 onward there was a consistent effort by the rulers of the Slav system to adopt and impose upon the Slavs, whether they wished it or not, western technology and these western techniques.
Now I'd like to deal with a rather technical point, which is this: Weapons were expensive. In the West, in Western Europe, weapons became cheaper and cheaper. And they became cheaper for two reasons. First, our manufacture of weapons became so effective that the price of weapons steadily fell. By 1840 you could buy a Colt revolver for about $40. This was not expensive, and you had a quite effective weapon.
The second thing is, standards of living in the West, because of the effectiveness of their agricultural system, were steadily rising. And when these two lines cross--rising standards of living of the masses of the people and decreasing prices of weapons--combined with another point--increasing simplicity in the use of weapons - you get a situation where weapons are widely distributed.
By 1850 in much of the West, and, above all, of course, in America, the ordinary person could afford the best available weapon. If the ordinary person has the best weapon available, all men are in fact equal. And if they are in fact equal, then a majority can make a minority yield and you can get majority rule, and ultimately you can get democracy.
In Russia that never happened. And the reason it did not happen was this: In order to resist the pressure from western technology, coming subsequent to the pressure of the horseback-riding steppes raiders, the ruling group at the top of the Slav system had to pay for these things expensive prices and import them and get the goods with which to pay for them by taking them from the masses of the peasantry.
This meant that the ruling group had weapons. The peasantry didn't. It meant that the ruling group had
to steadily increase their pressure on the peasantry, taking from them by taxation more and more of what
they produced in order to pay for this western technology. And this included western shipbuilding, the
western system of printing, all kinds of things as you might well imagine. I don't have to enumerate them. The second thing. Not only the tax collector was coming out looking for the peasants, but the recruiting officer was also coming. And when the peasant was recruited into the army and given a weapon, he ceased to be a part of ordinary society.
Now, indeed, the peasant himself was not really a part of ordinary society. Throughout Russian history the peasant has always been regarded as an exceptional outsider to the system. In most cases for long periods the ordinary Russian law and the ordinary Russian courts did not apply to the peasantry.
Thus you have a kind of outcast peasantry, characterized by this more and more well-organized, more and more powerful, upper exploitative system, which had to arise to defend the whole area against the pressure of the West.
The only solution which the peasant had to that was to move. So as they could do so, they fled. They fled, moving through the forests and even through the grasslands, until by the year 1850 they had in large numbers moved out. The system, the rulers, did not welcome this movement of the peasantry. They wanted the peasantry to stay fixed where they were.
The rulers also needed administrators of a higher level. To obtain these administrators, they handed
the peasantry more or less over to the landlords and gentry, over to their tender mercy, to whip or
chastise or injure or exploit, as they saw fit. And in return the governmental system demanded from
these "boyars," as we call them in the earlier period, the gentry, the landlords demanded from them
service to the State.
Of course, they could not permit the peasantry to move without chasing them. And we might well say that the movement of the Slavs eastward in that long period from about 1400 to practically 1900 was essentially a movement of the peasants trying to escape from the pressure of the system and being pursued by the recruiting officer and the tax collector.
Poverty thus made the possession of firearms a State prerogative. Fiscalism drained from the people much of their wealth, so they could not get firearms. This meant they could not resist the autocracy, and the peasants were finally subjected to the gentry and to other classes of the State in order that they might give services to the system.
From 1694 to the revolution of 1917 we have the period that we speak of as Imperial Russia. There was
throughout this period deliberate effort at westernization. Economic advances, improvements in education,
improvements in administration - all of these different aspects of progress in this Slavic system were imported by the governmental group and imposed upon the people. They were not brought in or locally invented by the masses. Peter the Great, of course, as you know, is famous for this. He went and served in a shipyard and other activities in western Europe in order to find out how these things actually could be done,
By the year 1750 you still had a foreign exploitative governmental system imposed upon the masses of the
Slav society. But by 1750 the pressure was relieving, because by 1750 clearly Turkey, Poland, and Sweden
were in decline; and Germany was at that stage no real threat, because exactly a hundred years before,
in 1648, the French, with the help of Richelieu, had succeeded in decentralizing Germany under the
Treaty of Westphalia. And it wasn't until, as you well know, 1870 that the German Empire was centralized.
Thus we had almost a hundred years from 1750 to 1850 approximately - in which the pressures of the West
and the pressure of the East were both relieved from the Slavic system. And this had a strange result,
to which I will refer only briefly.
The result was that it gave the ruling group a guilty conscience. They got religion. They got religion,
however, only in alternate reigns. And the reason for that is that whenever a czar attempted to reform,
or relieve the pressure, as, for example, Alexander I for much of his life a reformer - the result was
the revolution of 1825, the Decembrist Revolt. Accordingly, his successor, Nicholas, was an oppressor.
He said, " You see what reform does. It just leads to disturbance and uprising."
When Nicholas passed from the scene, in 1855, after the disasters, or in the middle of the disasters of the Crimean War, we got another czar, Alexander Il, who was a reformer. He ended serfdom, among other things. He was rewarded for this by assassination, in 1881.
After him came Alexander 111--again a reactionary for 13 years. And finally, at the end, Nicholas Il, who was neither an oppressor nor a reformer, who was nothing.
I think we can show what Nicholas Il was by quoting one sentence from his diary. As you know, in the war
with Japan the Russians were badly defeated. The naval disaster to their fleet, which went all the way
around to Japan and was destroyed on arrival, reached the Czar on a certain day. The next morning in
his diary he has this: "Went walking in the morning and shot two crows. In the afternoon walked with Anastasia."
This shows how important this tremendous disaster was to him.
Now, I'll attempt briefly to sum up: from the original material of the Slav people, long suffering, patient, evasive, suspicious, there was constructed a system which had the qualities that I have listed, from the Vikings to the north and the Byzantines to the south. Then that system was hammered into shape from western technology and eastern nomadic peoples to create the kind of a despotic system which we know today, naturally, of course, with additions.
Thank you very much.
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