"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Friday, August 15, 2008

What Everyone should consider As They Look At The Russian Georgian Situation

While the world of self anointed experts and foreign policy wonks insist on pontification over recent events in Georgia, on Stalin’s Native Ground, correct analysis is in short supply, and then only contemporaneous and veneer thin.

Yes; there are elements of pay back and getting in America’s face over our role in Kosovo.

Yes; there is an element of Russian muscle flexing in play.

Yes; there is a certain degree of attempting to re-cement some of the lost components of the old Soviet Union, n0t reclaim but reestablish working linkages, political, economic and military security as regards the soft southern under belly of Russia.

Yes; there is an element of testing America and embarrassing America by putting us in a position of having anyone find a cease fire solution, even the French who have we much abused.

And Yes; there is a signal flare that Russia has launched in terms of a willingness to awaken their military, a signal that they are at a state of readiness to act on behalf of their ally Iran should anyone decide to launch the much talked about and anticipated attack.

But once again, this nation is acting within the framework of existing commitments that are of a political and geopolitical nature. Our relationship with Georgia is both a thorn in the side of, and a strategic threat/concern to Russia.

We again are guilty of myopic vision and understanding of the depth of the issue, limiting our thinking to the Pentagon War Room and the financial/political ties that this administration has identified as important to their vision of the world, at the expense of utterly no understanding of the historical cultural content of event in that area of the world.

Russia is a European Nation and we should realize that centuries of invasions and experience have given rise to a nation with some important Eastern outlooks such as continuing battle while negotiating but such simple-minded generalizations as ''scratch a Russian and you will find a Tartar'' must be set aside in the assumptions of foreign policy relationships. Russia is unique, as are all cultures, and it is our failure to take into account those unique components that walks us time and time again down the path of failure and finds us rolling tanks on the road of confrontation.

Inserted commentary below will address in short hand form some of those weaknesses of thought.

Russia masses naval force opposite Georgia’s third sensitive region, Ajaria

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 12, 2008, 1:31 PM (GMT+02:00)

Georgian president addresses mass rally in Tbilisi.

While the world’s attention was fixed on the Russian-Georgian contest over two breakaway, tiny pro-Russian separatist territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia , which threw off Tbilisi's control in the 1990s, DEBKA file’s exclusive military sources reveal that Russia has amassed a fleet of warships and marine forces opposite the Georgia’s semi-autonomous Black Sea region of Ajaria.

(That comes as no surprise to me whatsoever given Russia’s perceived need to be prepared for an Iranian event and positioning themselves for a short warm water access to the region. The Soviet/Russian drive in this area has long been conditioned by the need for that access economically and later historically militarily. That is not an expression of some manifestation of Russian militarism or belligerence; it is part of its national fabric and desire to survive as well as being a participant in the modern world.) (Ed.)

Moscow is preparing to punish what it regards as Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili’s further provocations by occupying this coastal strip on Georgia’s southwestern border with Turkey.

(Here again we have an age old Russian theme: the protection of the soft southern under belly of Russia which has been vulnerable and violated countless times by numerous invaders across The Steppe. There is no greater truism in Russian Geopolitical history than that of: “The entire History of Russia has been “conditioned by The Steppe”. )

(Despite some of the recent totally ludicrous writing I have seen in the past few days that allude to the “protective mountains of Eurasia”; I am obligated to say that such an idea is so fallacious that one would flunk Russian History 101 for having even written or uttered such drivel. Those mountains have never impeded an invader; they are low lying worn hills at best not really deserving of the designation “mountains”.)

(During the Cold War Years America never understood or was never, and deliberately so, educated to the historical fact that Soviet Russia was always a militaristic state by necessity. Their standing armies, (from the Cossack Line to Missile launch Pads) ,were their substitute for natural protective geographic boundaries. Once one gets by the acceptance of that fact, then, and only then can one begin to study and understand the truth and the dynamics of the “Cold War Years”. )

The appearance of Ukraine’s president Viktor Yushchenko alongside Saakashvili, leaders of the pro-Western Orange and Rose Revolutions, at a huge national rally outside the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi Tuesday night, Aug. 12, may well be seen by the Kremlin as over the top.

(It certainly will as Russia will not bow to him.)

It came hours after Russian President Dimitry Medvedev’s gesture to the European mediation bid of ordering the Russian military operation in Georgia halted there and then.

Half of Ajaria’s ethnically Georgian population professes Islam, in contrast to the country’s Christian majority. The other half is Russian.

(Do you have that fact firmly in mind?)

Ajarian has come to mean a Georgian Muslim. (A cultural/historical problem.)

The Russian Black Sea buildup is deployed opposite the Ajurian capital of Batumi, an important port for the shipment of oil from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Its oil refinery handles Caspian oil from Azerbaijan.

(There is that damned contemporary problem again.)

When Saakashvili was elected president five years ago, the region’s leaders refused to recognize his authority and maintained close ties with Moscow up until May 2004 when, after Ajurians demonstrated against Tbilisi, he ordered them to obey the Georgian constitution and disarm.

Russia maintained a military base at Batumi which it agreed to close by November 2007.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that by recovering the base, Moscow will not only punish the Georgian president, but also profit from the turmoil of the past week in three ways:

1. A third semi-autonomous province will be hacked off Georgian territory after the loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. (This is quite within keeping with age old Russian inclinations.)

2. Russia will gain a strategic Black Sea foothold at Turkey’s back door.

(Just go back to the Bay of Pigs invasion and revisit the fact that the trade off was the removal of our albeit outdated missiles on Turkish soil and you will be well-reminded of what Russia perceives as necessary security safe guards at her Southern, or Southern Sphere of influence borders. There is no surprise or mystery here!)

3. It will also control a gateway to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

(Call that the linkage reestablishment program. The breakup of the old Soviet Union or Empire was a debacle insofar as Moscow was unprepared and failed to exercise any kind of negotiated economic arrangements with the departing states all of whom had become to some degree or another “specialists” within the Soviet economic scheme, and for that she has suffered greatly and is only now beginning to rectify that failing. Peaceful cooperative arrangements are of course preferred over military adventures.)

The issue of Georgia’s territorial integrity appeared increasingly uncertain after Mr. Medvedev met with the leaders of two separatist regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

His foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, declared that Georgia “can forget about” reclaiming sovereignty over the regions. (That does not sound like uncertainty and it is certainly not inconsistent with Russian interests and historical needs.)

Extended Videos

After war in Georgia, what does Russia want?

The road to the capital, Tbilisi, is open, but apparently Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has temporarily chosen to seek his objectives through military pressure and Western acquiescence rather than by naked occupation.

His objectives are clear. They go beyond detaching South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and absorbing them into Russia. They go beyond destroying the Georgian army, leaving the country at Russia’s mercy.

The real objective is the Finlandization of Georgia through the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his replacement by a Russian puppet.

Given preexisting forces in Georgia to dump Saakashvili, his precipitous move to prove a point is likely to produce the Russian desired result at the expense of the Bush administration desires and plans. Europe will not interfere with that out come as it will reflect a form of token “self-determination” and that can avoid embroilment in a situation that they perceive as a Russian-Bush conflict. Peace on any terms will be fine with the European community.

US Ties With Russia Being Reassessed, Bush Aides Say: (I doubt any of his Bullshit as BP and American Oil Companies are already at the negotiations table with Russia! And we know how that works…right?)

And In Part, As Far As We Are Myopically Concerned…( FEBRUARY 12, 1998…Just Look At That Date And How Far We Have Come…Sarcasm.)

Our Problems

War stirs energy corridor in Georgia

It's About Oil! Mr. Maresca. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's nice to see you again. I am John Maresca, vice president for international relations of the Unocal Corporation. Unocal, as you know, is one of the world's leading energy resource and project development companies. I appreciate your invitation to speak here today. I believe these hearings are important and timely. I congratulate you for focusing on Central Asia oil and gas reserves and the role they play in shaping U.S. policy.

I would like to focus today on three issues. First, the need for multiple pipeline routes for Central Asian oil and gas resources. Second, the need for U.S. support for international and regional efforts to achieve balanced and lasting political settlements to the conflicts in the region, including Afghanistan. Third, the need for structured assistance to encourage economic reforms and the development of appropriate investment climates in the region. In this regard, we specifically support repeal or removal of section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.

Mr. Chairman, the Caspian region contains tremendous untapped hydrocarbon reserves. Just to give an idea of the scale, proven natural gas reserves equal more than 236 trillion cubic feet. The region's total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels. In 1995, the region was producing only 870,000 barrels per day. By 2010, western companies could increase production to about 4.5 million barrels a day, an increase of more than 500 percent in only 15 years. If this occurs, the region would represent about 5 percent of the world's total oil production.

One major problem has yet to be resolved: how to get the region's vast energy resources to the markets where they are needed. Central Asia is isolated. Their natural resources are land locked, both geographically and politically.

Each of the countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia faces difficult political challenges. Some have unsettled wars or latent conflicts. Others have evolving systems where the laws and even the courts are dynamic and changing. In addition, a chief technical obstacle which we in the industry face in transporting oil is the region's existing pipeline infrastructure.

Because the region's pipelines were constructed during the Moscow-centered Soviet period, they tend to head north and west toward Russia. There are no connections to the south and east. But Russia is currently unlikely to absorb large new quantities of foreign oil. It's unlikely to be a significant market for new energy in the next decade. It lacks the capacity to deliver it to other markets.

Two major infrastructure projects are seeking to meet the need for additional export capacity. One, under the aegis of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, plans to build a pipeline west from the northern Caspian to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. Oil would then go by tanker through the Bosporus to the Mediterranean and world markets.

The other project is sponsored by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, a consortium of 11 foreign oil companies, including four American companies, Unocal, Amoco, Exxon and Pennzoil. This consortium conceives of two possible routes, one line would angle north and cross the north Caucasus to Novorossiysk. The other route would cross Georgia to a shipping terminal on the Black Sea. This second route could be extended west and south across Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

But even if both pipelines were built, they would not have enough total capacity to transport all the oil expected to flow from the region in the future. Nor would they have the capability to move it to the right markets. Other export pipelines must be built.

At Unocal, we believe that the central factor in planning these pipelines should be the location of the future energy markets that are most likely to need these new supplies. Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union are all slow growth markets where demand will grow at only a half a percent to perhaps 1.2 percent per year during the period 1995 to 2010.

Asia is a different story all together. It will have a rapidly increasing energy consumption need. Prior to the recent turbulence in the Asian Pacific economies, we at Unocal anticipated that this region's demand for oil would almost double by 2010. Although the short-term increase in demand will probably not meet these expectations, we stand behind our long-term estimates.

I should note that it is in everyone's interest that there be adequate supplies for Asia's increasing energy requirements. If Asia's energy needs are not satisfied, they will simply put pressure on all world markets, driving prices upwards everywhere.

The key question then is how the energy resources of Central Asia can be made available to nearby Asian markets. There are two possible solutions, with several variations. One option is to go east across China, but this would mean constructing a pipeline of more than 3,000 kilometers just to reach Central China. In addition, there would have to be a 2,000-kilometer connection to reach the main population centers along the coast. The question then is what will be the cost of transporting oil through this pipeline, and what would be the netback which the producers would receive.

For those who are not familiar with the terminology, the netback is the price which the producer receives for his oil or gas at the well head after all the transportation costs have been deducted. So it's the price he receives for the oil he produces at the well head.

The second option is to build a pipeline south from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean. One obvious route south would cross Iran, but this is foreclosed for American companies because of U.S. sanctions legislation. The only other possible route is across Afghanistan, which has of course its own unique challenges. The country has been involved in bitter warfare for almost two decades, and is still divided by civil war. From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, we have worked very closely with the University of Nebraska at Omaha in developing a training program for Afghanistan which will be open to both men and women, and which will operate in both parts of the country, the north and south.

Unocal foresees a pipeline which would become part of a regional system that will gather oil from existing pipeline infrastructure in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. The 1,040-mile long oil pipeline would extend south through Afghanistan to an export terminal that would be constructed on the Pakistan coast. This 42-inch diameter pipeline will have a shipping capacity of one million barrels of oil per day. The estimated cost of the project, which is similar in scope to the trans-Alaska pipeline, is about $2.5 billion.

Given the plentiful natural gas supplies of Central Asia, our aim is to link gas resources with the nearest viable markets. This is basic for the commercial viability of any gas project. But these projects also face geopolitical challenges. Unocal and the Turkish company Koc Holding are interested in bringing competitive gas supplies to Turkey. The proposed Eurasia natural gas pipeline would transport gas from Turkmenistan directly across the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey. Of course the demarcation of the Caspian remains an issue.

Last October, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline Consortium, called CentGas, in which Unocal holds an interest, was formed to develop a gas pipeline which will link Turkmenistan's vast Dauletabad gas field with markets in Pakistan and possibly India. The proposed 790-mile pipeline will open up new markets for this gas, traveling from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Multan in Pakistan. The proposed extension would move gas on to New Delhi, where it would connect with an existing pipeline. As with the proposed Central Asia oil pipeline, CentGas can not begin construction until an internationally recognized Afghanistan Government is in place.

The Central Asia and Caspian region is blessed with abundant oil and gas that can enhance the lives of the region's residents, and provide energy for growth in both Europe and Asia. The impact of these resources on U.S. commercial interests and U.S. foreign policy is also significant. Without peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the region, cross-border oil and gas pipelines are not likely to be built. We urge the Administration and the Congress to give strong support to the U.N.-led peace process in Afghanistan. The U.S. Government should use its influence to help find solutions to all of the region's conflicts.

U.S. assistance in developing these new economies will be crucial to business success. We thus also encourage strong technical assistance programs throughout the region. Specifically, we urge repeal or removal of section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. This section unfairly restricts U.S. Government assistance to the government of Azerbaijan and limits U.S. influence in the region.

Developing cost-effective export routes for Central Asian resources is a formidable task, but not an impossible one. Unocal and other American companies like it are fully prepared to undertake the job and to make Central Asia once again into the crossroads it has been in the past. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

George Vernadsky A History Of Russia Research Links

Vasiliy Kluchevsky : Most famous work of the scientist is “Course of Russian History” in 5 volumes, which occupied Kluchevsky’s mind and time for 30 years. The scientist dares to publish the work of his life only in the beginning of the 20th century Historian suggests colonization to be the main factor, affecting Russian history, which allows diving the whole history into four periods.

First period lies between 8th and 13th centuries, when Russian people concentrated at the Middle and Upper Dnepr with accompanying small rivers. At that time Russia consisted of independent towns, which maintained foreign commerce.

The second period, dating 13th - middle of 15th century, saw main part of the population moving to territories between two rivers – the Upper Volga and Oka. The country was still in fragmented state, however fragments became larger – independent principalities.

The third period took place from the middle of 15th century to the second decade of 17th century, when Russian population colonized south-eastern steppes near the river Don with rich chernozem soils, and the lands began uniting, and peasants became serfs.

The last, but not the least, fourth period of Russian history covered times, when Russian Empire was formed, and monarchy found support in military men. Economy of that period turned to industry of plants and factories. Vasiliy Kluchevsky’s scientific concept reflects public and science ideas of the second part of the 19th century. Importance of the natural factor and geographical position for historical development of a nation meets demands of positive philosophy.

Nikolay Karamzin Memoir On Ancient And Modern Russia

As an historian Karamzin has deservedly a very high reputation. Till the appearance of his work little had been done in this direction in Russia. The preceding attempt of Tatishchev was merely a rough sketch, inelegant in style, and without the true spirit of criticism. Karamzin was most industrious in accumulating materials, and the notes to his volumes are mines of curious information. Perhaps Karamzin may justly be censured for the false gloss and romantic air thrown over the early Russian annals; in this respect he reminds us of Sir Walter Scott, whose writings were at this time creating a great sensation throughout Europe, and probably had their influence upon him.

Karamzin appears openly as the panegyrist of the autocracy; indeed, his work has been styled the Epic of Despotism. He does not hesitate to avow his admiration of Ivan the Terrible, and considers him and his grandfather Ivan III as the architects of Russian greatness, a glory which in his earlier writings, perhaps at that time more under the influence of Western ideas, he had assigned to Peter the Great. In the battle-pieces we find considerable powers, of description; and the characters of many of the chief personages in the Russian annals are drawn in firm and bold lines. As a critic Karamzin was of great service to his country; in fact he may be regarded as the founder of the review and essay (in the Western style) among the Russians.

Also, Karamzin is sometimes considered to be a founding father of the Russian conservatism. Upon appointing him a state historian, Alexander I highly valued Karamzin's advice on political matters. His conservative views were clearly expounded in The Memoir on Old and New Russia, written for Alexander I in 1812. This scathing attack on reforms proposed by Mikhail Speransky was to become a cornerstone of official ideology of imperial Russia for years to come.

Sergey Solovyov Sergey Mikhaylovich Solovyov (Soloviev, Solovyev) May 17 (May 5 (O.S.) 1820April 16 (April 4, (O.S.)), 1879 was one of the greatest historians of Imperial Russia.

Dmitry Ilovaisky : http://www.experiencefestival.com/dmitry_ilovaisky

Dmitry Ivanovich Ilovaisky (1832-1920) was an anti-Normanist Russian historian who penned a number of standard history textbooks. Ilovaisky graduated from the Moscow University in 1854 and first attracted critical attention with his thesis on the Principality of Ryazan in 1858. He was wounded during the Siege of Pleven, in which he took an active part. In the 1870s, Ilovaisky started publishing his extensive overview of Russian history, which was snubbed by reputable scholars as a mere compilation. In his later writings, he expounded a controversial hypothesis of Azov Rus, which was alleged to have been centered on Sarkel and Tmutarakan. Ilovaisky was the father-in-law of Ivan Tsvetayev, who founded the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts (see the article on Marina Tsvetayeva).

A. A. Kizevetter Historiography of Imperial Russia

Alexander Akhiezer

M. K. Lyubavsky.

The Impact Of The Steppe On Russian History

The southward succession is continued by the wooded steppe, which, as its name suggests, is transitional between the forest zone and the steppe proper. Forests of oak and other species (now largely cleared for agriculture) in the European section and birch and aspen across the West Siberian Plain alternate with areas of open grassland that become increasingly extensive toward the south. The wooded steppe eventually gives way to the true steppe, which occupies a belt some 200 miles (320 km) across and extends from southern Ukraine through northern Kazakhstan to the Altai. Russia has a relatively small share of the Eurasian Steppe, mainly in the North Caucasus and lower Volga regions, though pockets of wooded steppe and steppe also occur in basins among the mountains of southern Siberia.

The natural steppe vegetation is composed mainly of turf grasses such as bunchgrass, fescue, bluegrass, and agropyron. Perennial grasses, mosses, and lichens also grow on the steppe, and drought-resistant species are common in the south, where the sequence continues in Kazakhstan through dry steppe and semidesert to the great deserts of Central Asia. Woodland is by no means wholly absent, occurring in damper areas in river valleys and depressions. Much of the steppe vegetation, particularly in the west, has been replaced by grain cultivation.

The absence of natural shelter on the open steppe has conditioned the kind of animals that inhabit it. Typical rodents of the zone include the marmot and other such burrowing animals and various mouse species. Skunks, foxes, and wolves are common, and antelope inhabit the south. The most common birds are bustards, eagles, kestrels, larks, and gray partridge.

Chernozem (black earth) is the distinctive soil of the steppe, taking its name from the very dark upper horizon—often more than three feet (one metre) thick—which is rich in humus derived from the thick grass cover. Winter frost and summer drought inhibit the decomposition of organic matter, and high evaporation rates prevent leaching; as a result, humus accumulates. Calcium compounds are leached downward by the spring snowmelt but are drawn upward in summer and become concentrated in a lime-rich horizon beneath the humus layer. Low acidity and a high humus content combine to give the chernozems a high natural fertility, which has helped make the steppe the country’s main source of grain.

People » Ethnic groups and languages

Although ethnic Russians comprise more than four-fifths of the country’s total population, Russia is a diverse, multiethnic society. More than 120 ethnic groups, many with their own national territories, speaking some 100 languages live within Russia’s borders. Many of these groups are small—in some cases consisting of fewer than a thousand individuals—and, in addition to Russians, only a handful of groups have more than a million members each: the Tatars, Ukrainians, Chuvash, Bashkir, Chechens, and Armenians.

The diversity of peoples is reflected in the 21 minority republics, 10 autonomous districts, and autonomous region contained within the Russian Federation. In most of these divisions, the eponymous nationality (which gives its name to the division) is outnumbered by Russians. Since the early 1990s, ethnicity has underlain numerous conflicts (e.g., in Chechnya and Dagestan) within and between these units; many national minorities have demanded more autonomy and, in a few cases, even complete independence. Those parts of Russia that do not form autonomous ethnic units are divided into various territories (kraya) and regions (oblasti), and there are two federal cities (St. Petersburg and Moscow). For more detail on Russian regions, see below Regional and local government.

Linguistically, the population of Russia can be divided into the Indo-European group, comprising East Slavic speakers and smaller numbers speaking several other languages; the Altaic group, including Turkic, Manchu-Tungus, and Mongolian; the Uralic group, including Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic; and the Caucasian group, comprising Abkhazo-Adyghian and Nakho-Dagestanian. Because few of the languages of the smaller indigenous minorities are taught in the schools, it is likely that some will disappear.

Historicism, N. A. Polevoi and Rewriting Russian History

... dissertations of M. K. Liubavskii, M. M. Bogoslovskii, and A. A. Kizevetter, the only ones completed under his supervision before he died in 1911. ...

Sergey Platonov http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergey_Platonov

Having graduated from the University of St. Petersburg in 1882, Platonov held various academic posts at that institution and elsewhere. After 1920 he was a member of the U.S.S.R.’s Academy of Sciences. Most of Platonov’s scholarly work dealt with the Time of Troubles, the chaotic interregnum (1598–1613) between the demise of the Rurik dynasty and the election of the first Romanov tsar. His major work on this subject was the monumental Studies in the History of the Time of Troubles in the Muscovite State During the 16th and 17th Centuries (1899). Platonov founded a new school of historiography in Russia based on careful and exhaustive archival research and analysis.

His History of Russia (1909) and Lectures on Russian History (1899) remained, respectively, the standard high school and university textbooks on the subject for more than 20 years. Platonov’s enormous prestige ensured his toleration by the Bolsheviks in the years immediately after the Revolution of 1917, and he continued to teach at Leningrad University (formerly the University of St. Petersburg) as he had since becoming a professor there in 1899. However, the apolitical Platonov came increasingly under attack from Marxist critics in the late 1920s, and in 1930 he was arrested, tried, and convicted on trumped-up charges of participating in a plot to restore the monarchy. He was exiled to Samara (now Kuybyshev), where he died.


Why Study Russian History?

A. Because it is there.

Like the proverbial mountain climber who justifies his exertions by the mere fact of the mountain's existence, so the study of Russian history has its own self-consistent logic. Curiosity is an irresistible, unquenchable trait common to all people, in all walks of life, at all stages of physical and mental evolution. The existence of a problem seems to spawn problem-solvers, ranging from individuals to groups and finally, in our own day, complex institutions.

It has always been that way and it will continue to be that way. For man is a social animal and his survival depends on interaction, confrontation and communion with other men, other peoples and other civilizations and cultures. The self-contained, self-sufficient hermit-individual or hermit-nation is a psychological and historical freak. The days of super-nationalism or selfish isolationism are over. The complexity or interdependence of the modern world will not tolerate it.

If the existence of a problem guarantees the attempt to solve it, then in the case of Russia we certainly have a problem. That problem is ignorance. Despite periodic burst of energetic curiosity as in the Sputnik era we still suffer from the incongruous malady of intellectual malnutrition with regard to Russia. The average man in the street or student in the classroom, for that matter, knows little about the Russian people or their fascinating journey through time. The average American has absorbed a mixed hag of curious mental trick about Russia. His ideas and attitudes about Russia have been conditioned largely by the Cold War environment, professional anti-Communists and militant seekers for simple and uninformed generalizations. Conspiracy, world domination and subversive activities are the daily fare of these fearful peddlers of hate, chauvinism and war.

If by a careful and open-minded study of Russian history we can begin to understand the Russians as people, we will have come a long way towards solving a major modern problem. For historical study cannot be converted into dollars and cents. The significance of systematic historical investigation lies on a higher realm--it consists of opening closed and narrow minds, of widening provincial horizons, of satisfying the human need to know and understand, of enriching the poverty-stricken life of uninformed, uncivilized minds. A study of history has its own intrinsic rewards. The French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal once wrote that ''The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.'' History too has its reasons which the material world does not know. A study of Russian history therefore needs no justification. It has its own justification: Russia exists.

B. Because it is unique.

For centuries Russians and non-Russians have argued over the identity of Russia. There is a problem here which every student of Russia must tackle whether he takes a single course or makes a career out of studying Russian history. What is Russia? How do you define it? Geographically Ethnically? Historically? Is Russia part of Europe? Or part of Asia? Or a combination of both? Who are the true Russians? the Little Russians or Ukrainians? The White Russians or Western Russians? The Great Russians of the North? Which is the real heart of Russia--Kiev, Leningrad or Moscow? And what about the Baltic, Ruthenia, the Caucasus, Turkestan or the massive plains of Siberia and Vladisvostok? What is typically Russian--the frozen tundra, the dark, forbidding forests, the undulating endless steppes, the warm Black Sea beaches, the tropical orchards of the South or the dreary desserts beyond the Caspian Sea?

In terms of terrain, climate, vegetation, ethnic variety, racial composition and historic evolution--Russia is unique. With a gigantic land mass, its variety and abundance of natural resources, its variety and largeness of population--Russia is self-contained, self-sufficient it seems. In short Russia is unique. No other country, with the possible exception of the United States, has the same combination of vital factors and endowments.

But there are significant differences even with the United States. The land area is about the same if you are talking about usable land. The population is about the same although Russia is pulling ahead. But there are difference in the way the population is distributed. Most Russians live West of the Ural mountains. Siberia, the area beyond the Urals, is still relatively unexploited. The vast regions of the north-east are still terra incognito. There is room for development and expansion. There is tremendous un-tapped wealth in the Russian earth. Russia could have two or three more industrial revolutions. Khrushchev's ''virgin lands'' projects attests to that. The Russian frontier has not yet been conquered. She is unique in that respect.

Historically Russia too is unique. Beginning with a small semi-civilized enclave on the lower Dnepre the Russian state developed into a giant political empire straddling two major continents and stretching its tentacles from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Pripet Marshes, from the borders of Afghanistan and Turkey to the Arctic Ocean. If we include politics in our definition of expansion then we must include her recently acquired and lost satellites in Eastern Europe and push her western border to the Berlin wall and Adriatic Sea, the very heart of traditionally defined Central Europe. Where except in modern China or the temporary empires of Alexander the Great, the Romans or Napoleon and Hitler can you find any parallels worth comparing.

American westward expansion was limited to a single continent. Russia's was not. But this unparalleled expansion, spanning some ten centuries, brought with it a host of problems. Overpopulation in relation to resources was not one of them. But multiplicity of languages and racial differences certainly was.

But there was a common bond that cemented most Russians; a unity unique in historic national experience. That commonality is known as religion. Christianity brought a kind of social and spiritual unity to most of the Western nations which inherited the Roman Empire, but Russia adopted the Greek Orthodox version of the Christian faith from the Eastern Byzantine Empire and hence acquired a cultural tradition which distinguished it in many essentials from the West.

Historically Russia did not experience several of the formative Western revolutions, such as the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and most importantly the Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Her industrial metamorphosis did not occur until Stalin's Five Year Plans of the 1930's. When she was finally industrialized and modernized it occurred under far different circumstances than that of the West European countries and the US--possibly also Japan. This fact makes her unique among major world powers.

*Russia went her own way.

She met the challenges of nature and history in her own peculiar fashion. She was and is different. This calls for study, perception and understanding on our part. Why did she react differently to similar challenges? Why did she remain agricultural when the West was becoming industrial. Why did most of her people endure the lash of serfdom while other nations broke the chains of primitive bondage.? Why did education and literacy make more rapid strides in the West than in the East?

Why did major metropolitan areas develop more rapidly west of the Oder and the Pruth than to the East of them? Why did the Russian Revolution come a century after the French? Why did Western countries develop representative democratic institutions while Russia still languished in oppressive political absolutism and autocracy? Was Russia, in fact, a European country at all before the Revolution? Was she not more Asiatic and oriental than European?

*She was and is most certainly not Asiatic. Although there are Asiatic features in Russian culture and custom and a large part of her territory is formally within Asia, Russians are essentially Europeans. These Asiatic features stem from prolonged contact with oriental peoples, especially during the 200-year occupation of Russia by the Tartar-Mongols. Intermarriage gave many Russians Mongoloid physical features. Many of them also reveal mystical, inscrutable attitudes and moods thought to be characteristic of oriental peoples. Stalin is a prime example. This fact has mislead many Westerners to believe such simple-minded generalizations as ''scratch a Russian and you will find a Tartar.''

But the original Slavic tribes belonged to the Indo-European family of peoples. The Greek-Orthodox religion is only a slight variant of Western Romanized Christianity. The Russians are Europeans living on the broad and largely artificial border between Europe and Asia. If there is such a thing as western Civilization and Eastern Civilization the Russians have historically provided all peoples with a natural bridge between them. Rudyard Kipling said, ''East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.'' The Russians and their history are living proof that such facile generalities are stupid and dangerous. In this respect as in so many others Russian history is unique.

C. Because it presents the Challenge of the New

In a very large sense history is the study of change in human affairs. If there were no change, if history did repeat itself, if it were merely, as Henry Ford once said, ''one damn thing after another,'' than there would be no reason for studying it. Fortunately Henry Ford was a better automotive engineer then he was student of history. History never repeats itself. There seem to be certain observable cyclical trends in national developments, but nothing is ever exactly the way it was before. Change is the guts of history. It makes life worth living and history worth studying.

Arnold Toynbee in his twelve-volume Study of History has developed the theory that most civilizations developed through a process of challenge and response. This fits in with other notions that history is one long argument, that conflict and confrontation is endemic, is natural to the human species. The challenge of the unfamiliar, the challenge of the new gives the study of history living relevance. In this sense the study of Russian history, particularly Soviet history, provides those of us living in the West with the challenge of the new.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 transformed not only the old traditional Russia, it also flung a challenge at the rest of the world as the French and American Revolutions did a hundred years before. There is now a new Russia, a new society, a new political system, a new ideology. Or at least there was until the death of communism in 1990. The cosmopolitan revolutionaries of 1917 engaged in a historic social experiment. They flung the challenge of something new in human relationships at the world. All of us are affected by it. All of us are forced to respond to it in one way or another. None of us can avoid it.

First of all, it is something new politically. Politics as usual does not apply to Russia after 1917. Three hundred years of Romanov absolutism was destroyed in a single year. All the old political institutions went down the drain. The tsar faded into oblivion with a whimper and a wince. The privileges of royalty and nobility were replaced with political equality and proletarian solidarity. All the old discriminatory laws were wiped off the statute books. The Soviets replaced the Duma and the royal chambers and privileged orders. All the old government officials went out the back door. New governmental bodies were set up, new laws were passed, new hopes were born. It was a thorough and major change in the political structure of Russia. A new political system was built up from the ground.

The fact that certain features of the old system came creeping back in disguised form latter on does not concern us here. The fact is that to contemporary Russians and foreign observers it was an entirely new thing. Even after the promise of revolutionary change had faded and certain features of political bondage and oppression reasserted themselves, it was still not the same as before. There was greater political freedom and greater political equality for the great majority of Russians than there was under the tsars. So the political experiment in Russia no matter how tentative and uncertain represented a challenge to the rest of the world practicing politics as usual.

It was also something new socially. For the first time in the long centuries of social inequality an attempt was made on a national scale to attach the same social value to every man and woman. Classes and social orders vanished. Social privilege and social distinctions based on birth and wealth were abolished. Every man was the equal of his neighbor. No more serfs and nobles, no more lords and peasants. The only ones treated unequally were those who opposed the new equality and strove to return to a class society.

It was a social experiment unparalleled in history. There were small scale attempts to create a social commonwealth throughout history--of which the New Testament Christian community and the utopian socialist experiments are examples--but never did a whole nation seek to accomplish such a noble scheme. Since it was the first experiment of its type it was bound to meet with difficulties. Human nature had to be re- formed since man tend to feel superior or inferior to other man by force of habit or tradition. But the Soviet revolutionaries believed with Marx that human nature was pliable, capable of change.

This conception and its historic application to practical life represents a challenge to other societies convinced of the immutability of human nature and the rightness and naturalness of differing qualities among man. A classless society is the inevitable nemesis of a class society. Whether soviet society was truly classless or not is beside the point. The fact is that the challenge of a classless society was made and the rest of the world had to respond to it whether it wanted to or not.

The soviet experiment was finally something new economically. Marxism is primarily a social-political theory based on economic determinism. This means that all the basic motivations and institutional expressions of man are economic in their essential parts. Capitalism, the profit incentive, the free market were all abolished by the Soviets. This is certainly something new in history. No society or nation had ever based all its premises and policies on economic facts alone. Lenin and his friends did. The result was that the Russian economy was turned on its head. A planned economy replaced the law of supply and demand. Prices, profits, salaries were determined by the government. It was a national, permanent wage-price freeze.

Income differences were at first completely abolished. Private wealth no longer existed. Even later, when wage differentials were reintroduced, there were no millionaires in Russia. until recently. All the land, natural resources and industrial output was commonly owned, although controlled by those in power. The wages of working men were certainly more equal than those of other countries and no one had the opportunity to accumulate large fortunes.

This certainly represented a challenge to the capitalist world, especially to those who seem to suffer from functional poverty in the West. It also served as an attractive example to the underdeveloped world which was trying to modernize and industrialize without contracting the socio-economic ills of the capitalist model.

D. All in all Russian history is well worth studying because it is there, because it is unique,
and because it is a challenge to which we must respond constructively.

The author has spent thirty one (31) years of his life in America’s classrooms as an instructor of American, Latin American and Russian History and occasional stints teaching research techniques. An avid life-long researcher, my specialties have and continue to be: The American Colonial/Revolutionary Period, Brazil, The Latin American Revolutions, the totality of Russian History, and though I have never taught it, The French Revolution.

These areas of concentration really should come as no surprise to those frequent readers of my blog spots/rooms.