Cover Osteuropa 4/2007

In Osteuropa 4/2007
Teil des Lesepaket Geschichtswissenschaft

The Russian Empire in Slipstream
Geography, History and the Global Dynamic of Development

Carsten Goehrke

Deutsche Fassung


Why does a world power like Russia – with its enormous wealth of raw materials, its respectable level of education, and its partially advanced technology – continue to produce an average in-come typical of a moderately developed industrialised country? The causes are, first of all, its geographical and geopolitical conditions for development. In the global competition among em-pires for colonies overseas, continental Russia’s starting point was a poor one. Furthermore, expansion into the thinly populated expanses of northern Asia did not force an intensification of the economy. More important are cultural influences, especially the understanding of state and society in Orthodox Europe. In Muscovy, the balance of power between prince, nobility, church, and cities shifted in lopsided fashion to an autocracy along the lines of the Byzantine model. In competition with Western industrial powers, autocracy and a “state-fixated society” proved immobile. Over the course of the modern period, the global dynamic of development moved from the Islamic orient and China to the realm of the North Atlantic, where state, ethnic, and religious polymorphism helped find the right balance between too much and too little state.

(Osteuropa 4/2007, pp. 3–32)