Category Archives: Russian history

Nicolas I of Russia

/ en.wikipedia.org

/ en.wikipedia.org

This younger brother of Alexander I was born in 1796, and became Tsar in 1825 at nearly thirty years old. Any chance that there might have been to make him a reformist monarch was destroyed in the Decembrist Conspiracy. Secret societies had been formed in northern and southern Russia, mostly by army officers who had experienced the West for the first time in their lives during the Napoleonic Wars. One of these, the Prince Volkonsky, wrote: ‘the campaigns of eighteen twelve to fourteen brought Europe nearer to us, made us familiar with its forms of state, its public institutions, the rights of the people. By contrast with our own state of life, the laughably limited rights which our people possessed, the despotism of our regime first became truly present in our hearts and understanding.’ Continue reading

Russia versus Turkey (1787, 1806, 1828, 1853, 1877 etc.)

Modern Odessa / bbc.com

Modern Odessa / bbc.com

The only major European power to make war on Turkey in the nineteenth century was Russia – at least five times. Russia intended to increase her territory around the Black Sea (I have often wondered about that ‘black‘). She also felt she must help the Orthodox Slavs scattered about the Balkans, always under Turkish domination, and badly bullied. The Balkans, one must remember, were part of the Ottoman Empire (q.v.). Continue reading

The Charter of the (Russian) nobility

Catherine the Great ( gogmsite.net

Catherine the Great ( gogmsite.net

Catherine II, known as the Great, had few illusions about the Russian nobility, but, unlike other rulers supported or hated by the aristocracy, she chose to be chummy, rather than chop off their heads. This Charter (1785) was intended as an ensconcement of the nobles’ privileges, designed to cement their good relations with the monarchy in the future. Continue reading

The USSR and its leaders

/ commons.wikimedia.org

/ commons.wikimedia.org

This article deals with the former Soviet Union, a.k.a. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The USSR was a federation of fifteen republics, forming what was the world’s largest sovereign state from the 1920s until dissolution in 1991. To call it a ‘sovereign’ state is perhaps a misnomer, as the regime that ruled the Soviet Union was 100% Communist, having executed most of the Russian royal family in Siberia in 1918. Continue reading

A brief history of Russia

Peter the Great, a portrait made in 1838 / en.wikipedia.org

Peter the Great, a portrait made in 1838 / en.wikipedia.org

Russia is a vast area of land occupying most of eastern Europe and much of northern Asia. So little is known about this country that Winston Churchill said of it in 1939 “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia: it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” But we do know that it has boundaries to the north with the Arctic Ocean; to the west with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, the Ukraine (including the Crimean Peninsula) and the Black Sea. Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and the Ukraine were Soviet Republics when the USSR existed (Finland was Russian in the nineteenth century). Russia has borders to the south with Georgia, Azerbaijan,the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. As might be expected, closeness to all these except the Caspian Sea has meant trouble of one kind or another. To the east there are the seas of Okhotsk and Bering. Continue reading

The War in the Pacific

/ pinterest.com

/ pinterest.com

Officially, this war lasted from December 1941,

/ ww2db.com

/ ww2db.com

when the United States entered the Second World War, until 1945. But the Pacific War really started with the Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937, when Japan’s concern was to defeat China. This was to be achieved by expanding in South-East Asia, so that Japan could control the raw materials on which she so much depended – oil from Dutch East Indies and Burma (now Myanmar); and tin and rubber from Malaya. She had to cut off China’s supply routes from the south, even if this involved friction with the United States. Moving further south involved risk of conflict with Russia in Manchuria (the Russians came off best after a battle with Japan’s army in 1939 at Nomonhan. Then a non-aggression pact was signed with Russia in April, 1941: thankfully, Adolf Hitler did the double-cross and invaded the Soviet Union in June with his Operation Barbarossa (q.v.) Continue reading

The Czechoslovakian Crisis

The historic meeting at Bad Godesberg / collections.yadvashem.org

The historic meeting at Bad Godesberg / collections.yadvashem.org

Many years before The Czech Republic and Slovakia freed themselves from the yoke of being simply Czechoslovakia, this crisis evolved from territorial demands made by Adolf Hitler. One of the results of the Treaty of Versailles of unhappy memory was that over three million Germans were living in the Sudetenland, bordering with Germany and Austria. When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, he stated that he wanted the inclusion of these three million in Germany. Continue reading

The battle of Tannenberg

Russian P.O.W. after Tannenberg /probertencyclopaedia.com

Russian P.O.W. after Tannenberg /probertencyclopaedia.com

The battle of Tannenberg. In one of the better Hollywood attempts to re-produce the Second War on celluloid, The Night of the Generals had Peter O’Toole at his best playing a German general called ‘Tannenberg’ who mixes winning war strategies with a double life as a serial murderer. The name is well-chosen: Tannenberg (26 – 29 August, 1914) had the fresh German armies defeating numerically superior Russian soldiers at the beginning of the Great War. Continue reading

The battle of the Marne (September 1914)

The river Marne is a tributary of the Seine, leaving it at a point east of Paris. It was also famed for being the site of the furthest advance of the imperial German army into France during the Great War. Readers will remember that the Schlieffen Plan (q.v.) was designed to knock France out of the game in six weeks, before the mobilization of the enormous Russian army. Germany would advance in strength through Belgium, bypassing French defences along the German border, and then sweep down to surround Paris before attacking French forces in the rear.

The Schlieffen Plan might have worked had von Moltke (chief of staff) not enfeebled it by transferring forces from the German right-wing to East Prussia, which the Russians had already invaded. Still the Germans made swift progress through Belgium and northern France, leaving the French to make useless and expensive attacks on German forces in Lorraine and the Ardennes. Continue reading

The Kadets

In 1905 during the first Russian revolution, Young revolutionaries founded the Kadets, a political party with the official name of ‘Constitutional Democrats’. Mostly young middle-class, they formed the largest party in the first Duma, representing professionals such as architects, teachers, musicians and artists, and the zemstva (district and provincial councils in the most westerly Russian territories, elected by landsmen, peasants and landlords, the latter with the biggest representation). Quite successful, they provided schools and hospitals; they even received the approval of the royal family. Continue reading