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Russian expansion

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    Posted: 03 Sep 2009 at 09:55

Some speculations about the character and determining factors of the remarkable russian expansion on different continents (Asia, Europe and the Americas). Is it to be compared with western european colonialism (Asian parts, the Kaukasian region, Alaska and North America? Perhaps even in some ways an immitation of it? The european part of its expansion may have had much more  to do with being part of the "right" (winning) alliances in great european conflicts -nordic wars, napoleonic wars, intriguing with Austria and Prussia, and not least on the winning side in parts of the two world wars (though loosing its own WW1, and only being part of USSR in WW2).

May the intitial phases of this expansion bne compared to the iberian - another frontier zone of christianity, were the once conquered first throw out the conqueror from "home", and then continue the expanding movement, for power and wealth but also as a sort of religious war (in both cases against "infidel" moslems, mongols, tartars, turks) perhaps even here a parralel fight also against "heretics" .From Russias point of view the western confessions- catholicism and lutheranism.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Sep 2009 at 18:16
I am no expert on this subject, suppose Samart is who should answer this best.

As far as I know, the Russian expansion, VERY distinct to the Spanish or the Ottoman, is that it was motivated little by religion and more by territorial needs or tactical issues.

By all means, Russian expansion was very slow. It started around 1500 and over reached its full extent in the early 1800s.
In the early period, Russian expansion had a lot to do with the struggle against the Tatars. Even after the Russians had gained independence from the Golden Horde in the 15th century, they were still surrounded by Tatar Khanates: the Kazan, the Crimean, and the Siberian; who occupied vast territories and threatened the very existence of the Russian state.

It took the Russians a good few centuries to subjugate these Tatar khanates; but once they had done so, they had also control over the numerous subject peoples who lived under the Tatar yoke. For example, the conquest of the Crimean khanate brought Russian control into the Caucasus; a region inhabitted by diverse nations previously controlled by the Crimean Tatars.
There is a saying that the Russians had "inherited" their empire from the Mongols.

The spearhead of the Russian conquest were the Cossacks; a caste of frontiersmen descended from runaway serfs and Mongol-Tatar deserters. By adapting to many of the local customs and traditions of the local peoples, they expanded the Russian territory further and futher out.
The irony is that in the beginning; the Cossacks were more or less independent hosts who fought the Tsar as much as they fought the frontier tribes; yet in later centuries they were "bought over" by the Imperial powers as mercenaries.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Sep 2009 at 18:52
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

I am no expert on this subject, suppose Samart is who should answer this best.

As far as I know, the Russian expansion, VERY distinct to the Spanish or the Ottoman, is that it was motivated little by religion and more by territorial needs or tactical issues.

By all means, Russian expansion was very slow. It started around 1500 and over reached its full extent in the early 1800s.
In the early period, Russian expansion had a lot to do with the struggle against the Tatars. Even after the Russians had gained independence from the Golden Horde in the 15th century, they were still surrounded by Tatar Khanates: the Kazan, the Crimean, and the Siberian; who occupied vast territories and threatened the very existence of the Russian state.

It took the Russians a good few centuries to subjugate these Tatar khanates; but once they had done so, they had also control over the numerous subject peoples who lived under the Tatar yoke. For example, the conquest of the Crimean khanate brought Russian control into the Caucasus; a region inhabitted by diverse nations previously controlled by the Crimean Tatars.
There is a saying that the Russians had "inherited" their empire from the Mongols.

The spearhead of the Russian conquest were the Cossacks; a caste of frontiersmen descended from runaway serfs and Mongol-Tatar deserters. By adapting to many of the local customs and traditions of the local peoples, they expanded the Russian territory further and futher out.
The irony is that in the beginning; the Cossacks were more or less independent hosts who fought the Tsar as much as they fought the frontier tribes; yet in later centuries they were "bought over" by the Imperial powers as mercenaries.


From historical atlasses, and some short reading one does not get the impression of a slow, steady expansion through centuries. On the eastern edge a movement over Ural to the Pacific in less than a century from about 1580 to Eastern tip of Eurasian Mainland (Cap Dezjnov).
There was russian and cossac explorers like Jermak and Dezjnov and others, and foreign participants, explorers, scientists, in the service of the russian emperors, especially under and after Peter 1. "the Great", who made conquests in the west, like the Sct. Petersburg area, and sent huge expeditions across Siberia with ambitions in eastern Asia (Japan), east coast of siberia, and not least the Americas. The leader of two of those expeditions (Eastern, Siberia, Kamtjatka, Japan, Aleutians and Alaska) was Bering, a dane in russian service, and the leading scientist was a german. Undoubtly there is much more to russian expansion in the east, were fur trade was an important commercial motive. "Foreign experts" played some part in it, and we may say this expansion is perhaps only seriously reverted after the collapse of the soviet regime, though in terms of area, russia has only "lost" a minor part (not even as big as the United States!)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Sep 2009 at 19:30
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

...foreign participants, explorers, scientists, in the service of the russian emperors, especially under and after Peter 1. "the Great", who made conquests in the west, like the Sct. Petersburg area, and sent huge expeditions across Siberia with ambitions in eastern Asia (Japan), east coast of siberia, and not least the Americas. The leader of two of those expeditions (Eastern, Siberia, Kamtjatka, Japan, Aleutians and Alaska) was Bering...


Bering wasn't the first to any of those areas though.

I don't know more than the general happenings of the Russian expansion so I'll leave that for others, but I can elaborate on the early mapping and exploration of Far Siberia.


edit: I have to run, will continue later.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Sep 2009 at 19:53
The Siberian expansion was rather fast because most of Siberia was empty space sparsely populated by hunter-gatherer tribes whose population was very small.
Very often, whichever area that Cossacks had set up hosts, and areas around them, was classed as "Russian territory".
The truth is that Russian exploration of the Far East continued way into the 1800s as special expeditions were organized to explore the Siberian taiga.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Sep 2009 at 21:05
Originally posted by Styrbiorn Styrbiorn wrote:

Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

...foreign participants, explorers, scientists, in the service of the russian emperors, especially under and after Peter 1. "the Great", who made conquests in the west, like the Sct. Petersburg area, and sent huge expeditions across Siberia with ambitions in eastern Asia (Japan), east coast of siberia, and not least the Americas. The leader of two of those expeditions (Eastern, Siberia, Kamtjatka, Japan, Aleutians and Alaska) was Bering...


Bering wasn't the first to any of those areas though.

I don't know more than the general happenings of the Russian expansion so I'll leave that for others, but I can elaborate on the early mapping and exploration of Far Siberia.


edit: I have to run, will continue later.
There were native populations nearly all places the russians explored (as almost everywhere else europeans came, except some parts of the arctic areas, some ocean islands).But the expeditions led by Bering, including split offs, were the first russian and european expeditions in many of those places (though not eastern cap, were Deznjev came late 17.th century). The two expeditions has beeen described as some of the greatest in terms of ressouces, manpower and ambitions ever. The emperor may have got the idea, inspired by the Low Countries.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Sep 2009 at 00:44
I would put the end of Russian expansion east at 1860, when by the Treaty of Beijing the China recognized Russian rights to the left bank regions of the Amur river. This treaty also gave Russia a small border with Korea. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Sep 2009 at 01:46
The Tatars in all their states were relatively small upper caste ruling over a majority Slavic/christian peasantry. Their "threat" to the existance of Moscovy was limited and never materialised. They burned the city but couldn't hold it and in any case Moscovy was alread the biggest european country of the 15th century and conquering it was simply impossible. With the help of the Cossacks, the Bashkirs and many small Tatar nobility the Moscovites were able to conquere Kazan and then Siberia.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Sep 2009 at 04:27
Most of the mapping of the Russian Far East and of the Northern Ocean was done by non-Russian native (though I'm not saying 'not-Russian Empire-native') persons (Bering, Bellingshausen, there was a chap whose name began with a K but can't remember him atm).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Sep 2009 at 06:24
I have read somewhere that early on (primarily before mongolian invasions, though of course they cannot explain everything) Russia was regarded as much a northern as an eastern european country. One gets the impression of many relations not least with other parts of north, and not a very alien or closed region. Neither of so extremely large and expansive , centralist and authoritarian state.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 01:54
Regarding the Russian struggle with Tatar Khanates. I would say it's not really similar to Spanish reconquista.
 
While Arabs did conquered the lands that had been initially controlled by Christian kingdoms. That wasn't the case in Russia.
 
Russian principalities were vassal states of the Golden Horde. The Horde took tribute, but it didn't directly interfere in the local Russian affairs.
 
Tatars were steppe people and depended on steppe regions both economically and military, unlike sedentary Arabs that needed cities and agricultural lands to develop; it wasn't the case with the Golden Horde.
 
In fact, the regions which were directly under control of the Horde like Kazan, Astrakhan and Crimea, never were within the Ancient Rus area of influence.
 
So, first, Moscow was able to get rid of Horde's control, but later it counter-attacked and started its own conquest of Hordes possessions. So, it was rather a "conquista" than "reconquista." Perhaps, a better analogy for this would be Portuguese and Spanish expansion into North Africa after the end of reconquista.
 
But, the Russian exploration of Siberia is indeed very similar to the American exploration of the Great Western Lands.  In both cases vast, uninhabitted lands were explored by bands of adventurous "knights of fortune" that were looking for new lands, riches and discoveries. In the Russian case, those were mainly Cossacks. Interestingly, Native Siberian tribes also resembled native Americans to certain extent.
 
However, unlike the American conquest of the West that was very bloody and violent, Russian conquest was relatively peaceful. Siberia was more scarcely inhabited than America and Cossacks prefered to put tribute on local tribes or obtain their allegiance by different means, examples of massive bloosheds and massacres were very limited.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 02:56
I admiot I have this idea that spanish and portuguese conquests in some sense followed "naturally" from the "reconquests, but Your objections seems plausible. Even with my limited knowledge of russian history (it does not help if one does not understand a word), I have rad about the multiple struggles with Tartars in souther Russia, Ukraine and Crimea, and the long hostillity with the ottoman empire, a primary adversary for very long. Of course history is full of very bitter struggles, even with closely related peoles with basically similar form of government and confessions(and alliances between powers with alien cultures and different confessions purely based on mutual interests!) Still one may ask if not the religious or ideological differences gives some "extra dimension". Perhaps allso was a "spur" for expansion in european expansion over the world (some other peoples, chinese, eastern asians, and indonesians and malays, mayu have lacked this "spur", though of course simple greed is very important too -they do not exclude each other!)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 03:36
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

Still one may ask if not the religious or ideological differences gives some "extra dimension". Perhaps allso was a "spur" for expansion in european expansion over the world (some other peoples, chinese, eastern asians, and indonesians and malays, mayu have lacked this "spur", though of course simple greed is very important too -they do not exclude each other!)
 
I would say there was an ideological dimension behind the expansion to the west. The main idea was to regain the ancient lost lands of Ancient Rus. Since Moscow rules regarded themselves direct discendants of Ancient Rus kings as the only independent Riurikid monarkhs.
 
So, that was a kind of anti-Polish "reconquista."  Russian clergy also vigorously fought to get back those Ukrainians and Belorussians that were "lured" into the Union with Roman "heretics" back to the true Orthodox church.
 
The Eastern expansion however, was rather a "spur" for expansion and adventure without such a strong religious component as, for example, Spanish expansion had in America.
 
The conversion of indigenous tribes into Orthodox Christianity was slow and unsophisticated. And Muslims were left almost intact (there were two big attempts of conversion of Muslims into Orthodox Christianity one under Ivan the Terrble and another one under Peter I, but both attempts were soon left unfinished).
 
Ironically, but it were in fact Russian emperors who contributed to the Islamization of Central Asia, by sending Islamic missionaries from Russia controlled Kazan. It was, for some reasons, believed that "controlled" Islamization would better fit the purposes of the empire than massive Christianization.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 03:57

Seems like that the Russian Orthodox church was more tolerant than its Catholic counterpart.

Most Spanish-occupied territories were forcely converted to Catholicism at the cost of destroying much of the previous wisdom.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 04:33
Well. It also depends. At some points it was very violent tolerant towards inner schisms. In the 17th and 18th centurydue to the reform commenced by Patriarkh Nikon the Russian Church has briefly splited into a new and old believers fractions. The New believers fraction that enjoued Tsar's support quite brutally crushed the old believers. Though all that was to a much lesser scale than the religious wars and prosecutions in Western Europe.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 08:00
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

But, the Russian exploration of Siberia is indeed very similar to the American exploration of the Great Western Lands.  In both cases vast, uninhabitted lands were explored by bands of adventurous "knights of fortune" that were looking for new lands, riches and discoveries. In the Russian case, those were mainly Cossacks. Interestingly, Native Siberian tribes also resembled native Americans to certain extent.


Yeah, the expansion can be seen as almost parallel; European states expanding both west and east, across vast plains largely inhabited by nomads.

There the similarities stop however. As you pointed out the Russian expansion was less dramatic and the lands conquered sparsely populated and offering little large-scale organized resistance. Also, and this is an interest point IMO, the conquest of America was followed by a colossal wave of immigration, whereas eastern Russia remained largely empty. I'd hazard a guess that the Russians had enough room already.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 19:21
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Also, and this is an interest point IMO, the conquest of America was followed by a colossal wave of immigration, whereas eastern Russia remained largely empty. I'd hazard a guess that the Russians had enough room already.
It could be more relevant to compare with other lands as far north, or better, with same climate, as Canada. Then the population density may not be so different. One may rather see the parts of Europe at the same distance from the equator as "extremely populated"(that may seem a strange point of view, but fits with facts).
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