Twice in little over One Century an Enemy Invaded and Overran Russia/the Soviet Union
On June 24, 1812, Napoleon’s Grande Armée invaded Russia. And made it all the way to Moscow. Which they took. But the Russian army didn’t want anything to do with Napoleon or his Grande Armée so they kept retreating in front of it. Foiling Napoleon’s plans of engaging and defeating the Russian army. While drawing them deeper and deeper into Russia. In a scorched earth retreat. Leaving nothing for the French. Making it difficult to feed his massive army. Then the bitter Russian winter came. Having expected the Russians to have sued for peace by then they had no winter clothing. Leaving Napoleon no choice but to retreat.
On June 22, 1941, Joseph Stalin’s ally, Adolf Hitler, broke the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. And invaded the Soviet Union. About one month later than planned due to some trouble their Italian allies were having in the Balkans. The Nazi armies advanced through the Soviet armies and reached Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad. Then the bitter Russian winter came. And like the French the Germans had no winter clothing. Having expected a victory before the onset of winter. They tried to hold their ground as they froze and starved. But the Soviets pushed them back. Eventually all the way to Berlin. But not after some 20 million Soviets died.
Twice in little over one century an enemy invaded and overran Russia/the Soviet Union. Never again vowed the Soviets. So when they chased the Nazis back into Berlin they kept the territory they were on after the war. Which is why Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Albania became Soviet satellites. Countries behind the Iron Curtain. To provide a buffer to slow down another invasion before it reached Soviet soil.
For the Latter Part of the 20th Century the Soviets tried to extend their Communist Revolution to other Nations
Of course, following World War II it was the Soviets that had an expansionist policy. A little thing called the communist revolution. The assault on capitalism. Replacing it with socialism first. Then communism. And as revolutions go they are fought. With guns. So the communist revolution was a perpetual state of war interrupted with moments of peace. A war the Soviets forced onto their neighbors to get them to join them in their socialist/communist utopia. Something their neighbors didn’t want. And something their other neighbors, the Western Powers, would try to help them avoid.
The German capital, Berlin, fell in East Germany. Berlin, however, was a city divided between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. The Western Allies supplied West Berlin via truck and rail transport. Until the Soviets closed the borders. In an effort to force West Berlin into the social utopia that was East Berlin. Something the West Berliners wanted no part of. So the Western Powers helped them by supplying the city via the Berlin Airlift. Eventually the Soviets relented. And opened the truck and rail transport into West Berlin.
The Soviets tried to spread their socialist utopia to other countries that didn’t want it. Greece. Turkey. Iran. South Korea. The United States and the Western Powers helped these countries resist these Soviet advances. Even fighting a shooting war on the Korean peninsula to push the Soviet and China backed North Korea out of South Korea. So through the remainder of the 20th century the Soviets tried to extend the communist revolution to other nations. While the United States tried to thwart their designs. And stared each other down with their nuclear weapons in the Cold War. Developing the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Meaning that any country that started a nuclear war was going to lose, too, in that nuclear exchange. It was mutually assured but it really was a warning to the Soviets. Who had designs on conquering other nations. Including the United States. Who had no designs on waging war with the Soviet Union.
Geopolitics is about the Balance of Power
To balance the threat of the Soviet Union the Western Powers formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). For Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, etc., had no chance by themselves against an attacking Soviet Union. They did as a member of NATO, though. Where an attack on one was an attack on all. Which meant if the Soviets attacked the Low Countries they were also attacking France, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. The Americans even deployed armor units in West Germany. The Soviets replied with the Warsaw Pact. A NATO-like organization between the Soviet Union and some of those countries in Eastern Europe they never left after the end of World War II.
And there was peace. What we call the Pax Americana. The American peace. For it was the awesome might of the American military that gave NATO its teeth. With troops deployed around the world. Air forces stationed within striking distances of potential hotspots. The mightiest navy ever to ply the oceans. A huge nuclear arsenal. And the greatest economy in the world that could pay for all of this while the American people still lived a happy and carefree life with all of the comforts a capitalist society could give. Something the socialism/communism of the Soviet Union could not. For the people in the Soviet sphere waited for apartments, cars and groceries. Large extended families crowded into small apartments. And people waited in lines at stores with empty shelves. Which explains why the Soviets required a brutal secret police force. The KGB.
People in the Soviet sphere who learned of how much better life was in the West tried to escape to the West. This is why they built the Berlin Wall. Not to keep West Berliners from sneaking into that socialist utopia inside East Berlin. But to keep the East Berliners from escaping that socialist utopia. For the only way you can get people to live in that socialist/communist utopia is by force. And you have to spread the communist revolution not to make life better for people in capitalist societies. But to destroy that better life across the border from communist societies. To extinguish that beacon of liberty that keeps luring their people from their oppressive police state. Something Russia is returning to. As Vladimir Putin slowly but surely reassembles the Soviet Union. Not to reconstitute the buffer to protect Russia from another invasion. But simply because he wants to. And can. So far, at least.
Geopolitics is about the balance of power. Some like to maintain a balance of power to keep the peace. Like the Romans, the British and the Americans did with their Pax Romana, Pax Britannica and Pax Americana. Where the prevailing superpower kept the peace. While others are more interested in acquiring power than peace. Like Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin. Who didn’t have strong economies. And used force to get what they wanted. Raw materials. Food. Or a warm water port in the Crimea. And they are always looking for a weakness in their enemies to alter the balance of power. For they were/are masters of geopolitics. And want to redraw the borders of the world. To restore the former glory of a past empire. Or to realize some glorious destiny they believe God has planned for the nation.
Hillary Clinton compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler over his excuse to enter Crimea. To protect ethnic Russians. Much like the excuse Hitler used to enter the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. To protect ethnic Germans. Because the Czechoslovakians were oppressing them. A trumped up charge. Much like Vladimir Putin’s claims that the Ukrainians were oppressing the Russians in Crimea. Clinton received some blowback for her comparison of Putin to Hitler so she walked it back a little. But was she wrong in her comparison?
Actually, no. For there are Crimea-Sudetenland similarities. But it probably ends there. For Hitler had much bigger goals. He wanted to recover all of the Germanic lands lost in the wake of World War I. For he felt the Germanic people were special. Even thought of them as the master race. And loved Germanic mythology. Especially those featuring Germanic glory. And the destiny of the Germanic master race. Which is why he loved Richard Wagner. And could listen to those 5-hour operas all day long.
He planned on taking Slavic lands (especially the breadbasket of Europe—Ukraine) for living space. Lebensraum. To take their food for the master race. Leaving the Slavs to starve to death. Expanding the borders of Greater Germany. To fulfill the Germanic people’s destiny. That’s what Hitler wanted. But Putin surely doesn’t share any similar goals as these (see Vladimir Putin’s heroes: Russian president motivated by writers’ messianic view of country’s destiny by Joseph Brean posted 3/21/2014 on the National Post).
…a young mystic poet and philosopher named Vladimir Solovyov gave his first public lecture in Saint Petersburg. A “wild looking” intellectual gadfly with long hair and “fiery” eyes, he expressed a vision of Russian destiny that, a century later, has made him a philosophical hero of the man behind Russia’s latest Crimean adventure, the long-serving autocratic President Vladimir Putin.
“The lecture had a markedly conservative agenda, close to the Slavophile belief in Russia’s divinely inspired historical mission,” according to Solovyov’s biographer, Judith Deutsch Kornblatt. “In it, he criticizes the blind, monolithic power of the East as well as the fragmented power of the West; the former destroys the freedom of the individual, while the latter leads to unchecked egoism and anarchy.”
Solovyov’s argument — still so relevant that Mr. Putin reportedly assigns his political underlings to read him — was that “hope for the future resides only with a third people, the Slavs,” whose national character integrates the other two extremes…
Mr. Putin is a product of the Soviet Union and sees its collapse as the greatest disaster of the modern era, a view that is rooted in a deeper narrative about Moscow as the “Third Rome,” said Neil MacFarlane, Lester B. Pearson Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, focused on the politics of the former Soviet Union.
The collapse of Russia under his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, further strengthened Mr. Putin’s resolve to restore its former glory, and writers like Solovyov — obscured during Soviet rule, he rose in prominence following the 1980s Glasnost policy of openness — had a “visceral appeal.”
Russia’s divinely inspired historical mission? Moscow is the Third Rome? The collapse of the Soviet Union is the greatest disaster of the modern era? Return the former glory of Russia? Perhaps Hillary Clinton didn’t need to walk anything back after all.
Thanks to President Obama the United States is now the Rodney Dangerfield of Superpowers
The American public is consumed with the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. They can’t get enough of the news coverage that is anything but news. With cable news delivering 24/7 coverage of nothing but speculation. Even the networks are giving the speculation expansive coverage. They’d never give Obamacare, Benghazi, the IRS targeting conservative groups, etc., this kind of coverage. But they will give Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 this kind of coverage. For apart from the insufferable despair of the families who lost their loved ones it’s a great mystery people want to see unfold. And be the one to solve it. But while that is going on the world is becoming a less safe place. Thanks to Vladimir Putin.
President Obama’s ‘please like us’ foreign policy has failed. The reset with Russia has not improved our relations. In fact, they are about as bad as they were during the Cold War. With Putin doing some Cold War chess playing. Completely unimpressed with President Obama he’s making bold moves. And when he does all he gets from the United States is talk. He annexed Crimea without any real opposition from the Western Powers. Especially the United States. And he is probably looking at the Baltic States now. Seeing no reason yet to stop in his quest to put the Soviet Union back together. This is what the American people are missing. For the networks are barely covering it. And the people are blissfully ignorant of how the United States is now the Rodney Dangerfield of superpowers. We get no respect from our enemies. So our enemies make bold moves. Because that’s who they are. The creators of South Park made a movie called Team America: World Police (2004). This followed 9/11 and the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. When the United States began its fight in the global war on terror. Though a comedy the writers seem to have a better grasp on the real world than the Obama administration or the mainstream media. Who think in the 21st century that war no longer exists because world leaders now discuss their differences like rational and civilized adults according to international law. And honor their agreements. But what they don’t understand is something that’s been true since the dawn of civilization. There are three types of people in the world. As a drunk in Team America: World Police explains crudely but succinctly. (WARNING: The following video is for mature audiences only. For it’s pretty rude and crude and completely inappropriate for the workplace.)
If you’ve watched the video you’ll understand what the three types are. We’ll call them D, P and A (both singular and plural). In the context of this movie America was a D. And Kim Jong Il was an A. As were the Islamist terrorists. While the leftist ‘give peace a chance’ Hollywood liberals in the movie (who belonged to the Film Actors’ Guild) were P. As was the United Nations who sent Hans Blix to inspect Kim Jong Il’s regime to make sure he didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction (WMD). —SPOILER ALERT— Team America, the world police, go tear-assing around the world, blowing up parts of countries as they hunt and kill terrorists. Making the world a safer place. While Kim Jong Il plots to set off WMDs, using the Islamist terrorists to plant his WMDs. The F.A.G. actors publicly denounce Team America for their wanton destruction and call corporations the real enemy. Even going to North Korea to attend a peace conference that Kim Jong Il was hosting. Believing Kim Jong Il was a man of peace. And were willing to kill Team America to help Kim Jong Il go forward with his peace plans. Which was actually blowing up countries all around the world into third-world status.
Hitler promised the Naïve Chamberlain that the Sudetenland would be his last Territorial Acquisition
The movie showed the futility of diplomacy when you’re dealing with A. Because they will lie and say anything you want to hear to shut you up and make you go away. And when you do they’re just going to crap all over you and the world. Because that’s what A do. The P don’t understand that. They think they can negotiate and arrive at an agreement with people who lie. History is full of treaties that A have broken. Because they don’t respect anything but strength. And if all you got are words an A just isn’t going to respect you. And will crap on you the first chance he gets. Especially if you’re a P. The Russian people understand this. During the Sochi Olympics the Daily Show‘s Jason Jones interviewed Russians during the Sochi Games. And a woman told him they have a saying in Russia. Don’t be a P. Which is why they love Vladimir Putin. He’s not a P. He’s an A.
Communists are A. They just want to crap all over everyone. During the Korean War every time they were losing on the battlefield they called for a ceasefire to negotiate a peace treaty. Using the cessation in hostilities to reinforce their weakened positions. Proving you just cannot trust an A. Or negotiate with an A. Yet the leftist ‘give peace a chance’ liberals think you can. And that all George W. Bush did by being an A was make the world hate the United States. Even though Muammar Gaddafi, who was a first class A, respected George W. Bush when he invaded Iraq. Saw that strength. Respected that strength. And did not want to get his ass kicked by that strength. So he gave up his WMDs willingly. And joined the Americans in the fight against al Qaeda (Libya is a far less safe place today than it was under Muammar Gaddafi after the Iraqi invasion). This is what A understand. Strength. It’s the one thing that makes them act. Not words. As this funny scene in Team America: World Police illustrates so poignantly. (WARNING: The following video is for mature audiences only. For it’s pretty rude and crude and completely inappropriate for the workplace.)
We ended the war in Iraq with a ceasefire. Part of the terms that Saddam Hussein agreed to was to destroy his WMDs and document their destruction. He never did. In part because he didn’t have them anymore. Having sent them over the border into Syria (most likely) on trucks and in two converted Iraqi Airways Boeings before the invasion. Adolf Hitler promised the naïve Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland would be his last territorial acquisition. Chamberlain returned to Britain with a treaty signed by Herr Hitler promising “peace in our time.” Shortly thereafter Hitler launched World War II (the bloodiest and costliest war of all time) and removed Poland from the map. Because Hitler was an A. And you just can’t negotiate with an A. Especially if you’re a P who believes we can settle all our differences if we only communicate with each other. No. An A sees anyone who wants to ‘open a dialogue’ as a P. And they will laugh at how gullible they are. Getting a lot of concessions by making promises they have no intention of keeping. A love P. Because they are so easy to crap all over.
The Russians like President Obama in Office because he is the Anti-Ronald Reagan
The Obama administration confuses being liked with being respected. They think if people like America they will respect America. Nothing could be further from the truth. People respect people they hate. At least, if they fear people they hate. A key distinction. For Vladimir Putin has no love for President Obama. Who looks at him as a P. Which Russians just don’t respect. They even have a saying. Don’t be a P. So Putin has no respect whatsoever for President Obama. Because he does not fear President Obama. The recent sanctions President Obama issued by executive order only amused the Russians. They thought they were nothing more than a joke. Even replied with in-kind sanctions of their own. Oh they had a good laugh at President Obama trying to act tough. But they just don’t respect him. But you know who they did respect? Ronald Reagan.
During a radio check President Reagan was testing the sound levels before a radio address. And he made a joke. He said into the microphone, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” This joke leaked out. And made it to the Soviet Union. And what do you think they did? Did they have a good laugh like they did when President Obama tried to act tough? No. They didn’t. They put their Soviet Far East Army on alert. For they did not like Ronald Reagan. But they sure as hell respected that crazy son of a bitch. And feared him. As well as the awesome military power of the United States. Which they knew President Reagan had no problem using. Unlike the current occupant of the White House. Who wants to shrink the size of the military to pre-World War I levels. Something only a P would do in the eyes of an A like Vladimir Putin. No. President Obama is more of an apologetic president for America’s greatness. While President Reagan made no apologies. He believed in American Exceptionalism. And was damn proud of it. The shiny city on the hill. The beacon of liberty. Defender of freedom. And he would broadcast the Team America theme song proudly at our enemies. Unlike the apologist now occupying the White House (WARNING: The following video is for mature audiences only. For it’s pretty rude and crude and completely inappropriate for the workplace.)
America may have its faults but it is still the best country in the world. Proven by the flow of immigrants (legal and illegal) to our shores. We may be arrogant but that’s only because we have a right to be. Because we are the best m-f’ing country in the world. F*** yeah. We’ve made the world a better place. And the world knows this. Which is why our enemies love having our country run by people who are ashamed of America’s greatness. Because they can crap all over the world and get away with it. Like Putin did by annexing Crimea. Because they know there is no crazy son of a bitch in the White House that will use the awesome power of the United States to stop them. Just a bunch of leftist ‘give peace a chance’ liberals who will wag their finger at them. And if they don’t quake with fear they will wag their finger at them again. Or write a letter. The Russians couldn’t be happier. And lament that if there were only people like the current administration running the United States in the Eighties the Soviets never would have lost the Cold War. But now Vladimir Putin, former KGB officer in the Soviet Union, sees his chance. He can put the Soviet Union together again. As they have the anti-Ronald Reagan in office now. And can do whatever the hell they want to. Because they aren’t P. They’re A.
By 1300 the Mongol Golden Horde took all of Kievan Rus
Vladimir Putin took Crimea from Ukraine. Because he said the people there are more Russian than Ukrainian. The people there wanted to be a part of Russia instead of Ukraine. And that the land historically has belonged to Russia. But that’s not true. Yes, if you go back in time the land was Russian. But if you go further back it wasn’t. In fact the borders of Eastern Europe have changed so much that today’s borders bear little resemblance to what they have been over time. You can watch 1,000 years of this change play out in a video on Loiter.co (see Watch as 1000 years of European borders change). We’ll recap some of the changes in century intervals.
In the early 1100s the Western Roman Empire was gone. In its place was the Holy Roman Empire stretching from central Italy to the North Sea. Spain was mostly Muslim. France was taking shape. The Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) was still in modern day Turkey, Greece and the Balkans. Going north there was Hungary. Then Poland. And Lithuania. To the east of these countries was the large expanse of Kievan Rus. Modern day Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia. And the Crimea was held by the Turkic Cumans. But this land would change hands many times in the centuries to come.
By 1200 the Byzantine Empire moved further north into the Balkans. While the Muslims moved into Byzantine territory from the south. Hungary, Poland and Lithuania adjusted their borders slightly. The Holy Roman Empire pushed further west in Europe. The Cumans pushed into southern Kievan Rus. While Kievan Rus moved south between the Black and Caspian seas. By 1300 the Mongol Golden Horde (northwest part of the Mongol Empire) took all of Kievan Rus. Hungary pushed out her borders while Poland shrank hers. With East Prussia taking her northern lands. Lithuania reshaped her borders in part to East Prussia. The Byzantine Empire was reduced to a small area of the southern Balkans. The Mongols were in Crimea.
Russia, Prussia and Hungary reduced Poland to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw by 1800
By 1400 the Ottoman Empire had replaced the Byzantines in the Balkans. Hungary adjusted her borders a little. East Prussia remained the same. Poland and Lithuania had joined in a commonwealth and pushed their border south and east. Into the lands that were once Kievan Rus. Except for Crimea and the area just north of Crimea. Pushing the Mongols east. As the Republic of Novgorod and Muscovy pushed down on the Mongols from the north. By 1500 the Ottoman Empire pushed further into southern Europe. Into Hungary. Crimea. And Poland-Lithuania. Which pushed north into East Prussia. While Russia replaced the Republic of Novgorod and Muscovy and pushed south into Poland-Lithuania.
By 1600 the Ottoman Empire adjusted her northern borders a little. Poland replaced the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth. And pushed her border slightly east into Russia. Russia pushed her southern border to the Caspian Sea. Sweden was across the Baltic Sea into modern day Finland and Estonia. On Russia’s most western border. By 1700 Hungary had pushed the Ottoman Empire back into the Balkans. Prussia formed on the Baltic Sea west of Poland. With East Prussia to the east of Poland on the Baltic Sea. The Russian Empire pushed west to the Baltic Sea. Pushing the Swedes out of Estonia and part of Finland. Russia had also pushed south through Lithuania and pushed deep into Poland. The Ottoman Empire was still on the northern side of the Black Sea at Russia’s southern border.
By 1800 the Russian Empire had pushed their southern border all the way to the Black Sea. Pushing the Ottoman Empire back. The Russians also pushed their southern border further south between the Black and Caspian seas. They pushed west through modern day Finland to the sea. They pushed their western border through half of what was Poland. Hungary pushed north into what was Poland. Prussia and East Prussia joined together, taking land from Poland on the Baltic Sea. Russia, Prussia and Hungary left little of Poland. What was left of her lands became the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.
Vladimir Putin has said one of the Greatest Catastrophes of the 20th Century was the Collapse of the Soviet Union
By 1900 the Ottoman Empire was pushed almost completely out of the Balkans. Greece and Bulgaria were now on the lands the Ottomans once held. Russia pushed their southern border between the Black and Caspian seas further into the Ottoman Empire. Hungary pushed her southern border to Greece and Bulgaria. And west into Austria (which would later form the Austria-Hungary Empire). The Germanic states had formed into a greater Germany that stretched from France to Russia. Absorbing the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. And even pushing into Russia’s western border.
Then came World War I. And afterwards the borders of Europe were greatly changed. The Austria-Hungary Empire was broken into Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The eastern half (approximately) of the greater Germany was given to a reconstituted Poland. With East Prussia bordering Poland on the north and separated from Germany (Hitler’s opening shots in World War II was to recover this lost territory). To the north of Poland and East Prussia were Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Russia was now the Soviet Union with her western border pushed slightly back from where it was before World War I. Bordering Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania in the west. And pushed back out of Finland. The Soviet southern border between the Black and Caspian seas was pushed back a little. And Turkey replaced what was left of the Ottoman Empire.
After World War II the Soviet Union pushed her border through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the Baltic Sea. After the Soviet Union fell Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia restored their borders. And the former lands of the Kievan Rus are now divided between Russia in the north and east. Belarus between Poland and Russia. And Ukraine bordering Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova to the west. The Black Sea to the south. And Russia to the east. With Crimea a part of Ukraine. Well, until recently, that is. As Russia has recently annexed Crimea. And may be looking further west. For this former KGB officer—Vladimir Putin—has said one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Which he began to put back together with his annexation of Crimea.
Bad Guys won’t open their Can of Whoop-Ass if there is a Chance they’ll get their Ass Kicked
Bullies generally pick on smaller and weaker people. Smaller and weaker people don’t pick on tough guys. They don’t walk up to a bully and give him a wedgie. They’d like to. But they don’t. Why? Because if a small and weak person did they’d get their ass kicked. That’s why. And people don’t like getting their ass kicked. But sometimes it’s the tough guys that save the day.
In the opening scene of V for Vendetta Evey was about to get raped by some government thugs. Then tough guy V came along and kicked their asses. Saving Eve from a brutal rape. In Die Hard the evil Hans Gruber was going to kill everyone in that building until tough guy John McClane happened on the scene. And started killing the bad guys. Saving the day. In the movie Patton everyone wanted him thrown out of the Army after he slapped that crying soldier. But when the Allies’ drive stalled in the Normandy hedgerow country who did they turn to? That’s right. Tough guy General Patton. Who started kicking Nazi ass big time. Breaking through their lines and advancing in every compass direction while British General Bernard Montgomery was still struggling o take his D-Day objective. Caen.
People don’t like getting their ass kicked. But if they are in danger of a good ass-kicking they’d want someone on their side who can kick ass as good as the next guy. For even bad guys don’t want to get their ass kicked. And if there is a chance of that happening they’re going to think long and hard before opening their can of whoop-ass. Especially when someone else’s can of whoop-ass is bigger.
Only the Military Might of the United States could contain Soviet Expansion
The Roman Empire had one mighty can of whoop-ass. Something her potential enemies understood. And feared. So they didn’t cause any trouble. Because they didn’t want to get their ass kicked. Which is why from approximately 27 BC to 180 AD there was relative peace in the world. Pax Romana. For the Romans had the mightiest military force in the world. And if you went up against them you were most likely going to lose. So they didn’t. Instead, choosing to live in peace.
The British Empire was even larger than the Roman Empire. And had an even larger can of whoop-ass. Not only did they have armies throughout their empire which was so large that the sun never set on it. The Royal Navy ruled the seas. Which meant if you caused any trouble in the world you could expect an ass-kicking. Either from her mighty military power. Or her aid to a smaller and weaker country under threat from an aggressive neighbor. The bad guys learned. It wasn’t worth it. If you tried to break the peace you were going to get your ass kicked. Which is why from 1815 through 1914 when the British Empire ruled the world there was relative peace. Pax Britannica.
The United States of America had come of age during the 20th century. Growing even bigger and stronger than the empire that sired her. The British Empire. Who went into decline during the 20th century. But just as Pax Britannica drew to a close and the world became a more dangerous place the United States stepped in. Allowing the Allies to defeat Nazi Germany. And Imperial Japan. She grew to have the biggest can of whoop-ass in history. And became the world’s policeman. Pushing back against Soviet expansion. In Europe. The Balkans. The Middle East. And Southeast Asia. The Soviets wanted to conquer the world. And would have if not for America’s mighty military to counter their threat. Leading to a period of relative peace following World War II. Pax Americana. As only the military might of the United States could contain Soviet expansion.
Vladimir Putin feels that he can put the old Soviet Union back together during the Obama Administration
During a sound check before a radio address President Reagan made a joke. He said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Reagan had a sense of humor and those present laughed. The joke leaked. The Soviets heard it. And they put their Soviet Far East Army on alert. You see, they had great respect for the awesome military power of the United States. And they respected Reagan. They did not like him. But they respected him. And if he said he was going to open a can of whoop-ass on them they got nervous. For President Reagan may have spoken softly. But he was not afraid to kick ass.
The Soviets had no such respect for Reagan’s predecessor. Jimmy Carter. In fact, they had so little respect for him that they developed a nuclear first-strike plan. For Carter was gutting the military. And wasn’t a tough guy when it came to foreign policy. He was a president who wanted to focus on domestic policy. A sign of weakness the Soviets could smell. Anyone who gutted the military to pay for more domestic spending would never pull the nuclear trigger. At least that’s what the Soviets thought. Which is why they prepared a nuclear first-strike plan during the Carter administration. Sure they could win a nuclear war against him. The Soviets thought no such thing during the Reagan administration. So instead of a nuclear war (which may have happened in a Carter second term) we had peace. Because of our strength.
Peace through strength. If you’re a bad-ass people will leave you alone. Because no one wants to get their ass kicked. If you’re hell-bent on beating the crap out of your neighbor so you can take her resources and there is a bad-ass in the world that can bring a world of hurt down on you it will make you think. And pause. This is why there was a Pax Romana. A Pax Britannica. And a Pax Americana. Because people respect a bad-ass. And will not incite it. They may hate the bad-ass. But they will respect it. And not piss it off.
President Obama has a strong domestic agenda. Like Jimmy Carter. He doesn’t want to deal with foreign policy. Like Jimmy Carter. And he is not respected or feared by the world’s bad guys. Like Jimmy Carter. Who is far more inclined to make a speech and threaten action. But is far less likely to open a can of whoop-ass. Like Ronald Reagan. Which is why Vladimir Putin feels that he can put the old Soviet Union back together during the Obama administration. Because he doesn’t fear the wrath of President Obama. As no one does. For he is all bark and no bite. At least, so far. Apart from killing a bunch of people that can’t fight back. Drone strikes. Bombing Libya (that was no threat to American interests). And killing Osama bin Laden with a SEAL team. More of an imperial use of force than acting as the world’s policeman to safeguard liberty and democracy. So Vladimir Putin has little to worry about during an Obama presidency. Unlike conservatives in America.
Ukraine is a Nation with Farmland so Fertile it earned the Moniker the ‘Breadbasket of Europe’
All roads may have led to Rome. But all rivers led to Byzantium. The city Constantine the Great of the Roman Empire turned into Constantinople. Modern day Istanbul. The great city on the Bosporus. One-time trade crossroads of the world. Where East met West. And Europe met Asia. Where goods from the Far East traveling on the Silk Road passed through on their way to Europe. And where grain grown in the fertile river valleys of Eastern Europe passed through to feed the great empires.
Rivers created civilizations. For they provided fertile farmland in their valleys. And the rivers provided avenues for trade. Which is why our great cities first appeared on rivers. Like Kiev. The Ukrainian capital. On the Dnieper River. Which flows from Smolensk through Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Emptying into the Black Sea. Along with the Danube. The Don. And via a short portage from the Don, trade flowed to the Black Sea on the Volga, too. (But the waters flowed into the Caspian Sea.) And across the Black Sea lay Constantinople. One-time trade crossroads of the world.
Ukraine is a nation with a lot of fertile farmland. It is so fertile that it earned the moniker the ‘breadbasket of Europe’. Making Ukraine some very valuable real estate. Because of their grain production. And the access the Dnieper River provided. Opening trade between Scandinavia and the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople. Providing Ukraine with a lot of north-south movement via the Dnieper. As well as a lot of east-west movement via land between the Germanic tribes to the west. And the Turkic people to the east.
To improve Relations with the Rus’ the Byzantine Patriarch converted the Rus’ and the Slavs to Christianity
Kiev was a crossroads. Varangians (i.e., Vikings) moved south from Scandinavia. The Greeks from Byzantine moved north. As they did they bumped into the indigenous Slavs. And the Khazars (one of those Turkic people). Kiev was geographically in the Khazar Empire. But the Varangians ruled Kiev. As it was on their trade route with the Greeks in Constantinople. It was the Varangians who ruled Kiev during the Golden Age (11th to early 12th centuries). Which saw the rise of Kievan Rus’. Which in time and much change gave us modern day Russia.
As the Rus’ expanded south they encroached on Khazar territory. The Khazars allied with the Byzantine Empire and fought against the Persians and Arabs. Who wanted that rich crossroads. Constantinople. As did the Rus’. So there were all kinds of war with all kinds of people. Which wasn’t good for trade. So the Byzantines established a division of their empire on the Crimean peninsula on the northern shore of the Black Sea. Near the mouth of the Dnieper. The Theme of Cherson. To ward off those raids by the Rus’. And to protect the grain coming to Constantinople from the breadbasket of Europe. The Theme of Cherson became the center of Black Sea commerce.
But to improve relations with the Rus’ the Byzantine Patriarch Photius sent emissaries to convert the Rus’ and the Slavs to Christianity. In 863 brothers Cyril and Methodius headed north. They could speak the Slavonic language. Which was then only a spoken language. They created an alphabet for them. The Glagolitic alphabet. Which became the Cyrillic alphabet. And gave them a written language. Translated scripture so they could read it. And extended the Greek culture of the Byzantine Empire to these lands. As well as Orthodox Christianity. Which is why today many of the lands radiating out from the rivers flowing to the Black Sea are Orthodox Christian (Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc.).
Russian Migration into Ukraine helped make her less Ukrainian and more Russian
Kiev was one of the largest cities in the world. Then came the invasions. First from the Asian steppes to the east. The Pechenegs in 968. And then the Mongols in 1240. Who completely destroyed Kiev. Then the Lithuanians from the north (1320s). Then the Crimean Tatars sacked and burned Kiev (1482). Then Kiev passed to Poland (1569). Then the Russians took it over. In the 18th and 19th centuries the city was full of Russian soldiers. And ecclesiastical authorities. From the Russian Orthodox Church. Making the Ukrainian people more Russian. Some Ukrainians tried to change that in the 1840s but Russia put a stop to that.
The Russian Empire kept pushing south. For they wanted a warm-water port. Which they could have on the Black Sea. All they had to do was fight through the Ukrainians. Which they did. By this time the Muslim Ottoman Turks had long conquered the Christian Byzantine Empire. Which left the Ottomans open to Russian aggression once the Russians took Ukraine. Of course, if the Russians conquered the Ottoman Empire that would give Russia open access to the Mediterranean Sea. Where they could threaten the British Empire holdings. Also, the Russians could free their fellow Orthodox Christians from Muslim rule.
This aggression exploded into one of the bloodiest wars in history. The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856). Much like the American Civil War the technology was well ahead of the tactics. The Russian Empire took on the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia. Russia lost. And she lost what she most coveted. That warm-water port. But that didn’t last for long. Changes elsewhere allowed Russia to reject portions of the peace treaty that ended that war. And built a navy she operated out of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol (first founded in 1783 by Rear Admiral Thomas Mackenzie then fortified by Catherine the Great in 1784). On the Crimea peninsula. And the Russians have been there ever since.
But the beating the Russians took led Tsar Alexander II to free the serfs. And try to advance the backward Russia to be more like the advanced nations that had beaten her. But it was too late. For this marked the beginning of the end for Tsarist Russia. The war left her in great debt. So much debt that Russia sold Alaska to the United States. While creating social unrest that would eventually lead to the October Revolution. And the Soviet Union. All the while Russian migration into Ukraine continued. Making Ukraine less Ukrainian and more Russian. With the Russian language taking over in Kiev and other large Ukrainian cities. Pushing the Ukrainian language and culture to the country. Leading to a divided Ukraine. Under the boot of the Soviet regime. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Ukraine finally got her independence. Which Russian president and former KGB officer of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin, is now currently taking away.
The American left has long had a love affair with communism. They loved Joseph Stalin. Until he made a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany that allowed Hitler to wage World War II. Which devastated the left. For they felt their true love betrayed them. But they rejoiced when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. So they could love Uncle Joe Stalin once again. Even though some 20 million Soviets died because of Stalin’s nonaggression pact with Adolf Hitler.
All during the Cold War the left urged détente with the Soviet Union. They wore t-shirts with pictures of Che Guevara. They carried pictures of Chairman Mao. They admired Ho Chi Minh. They wanted to normalize relations with Cuba. They liked Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. And just loved Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. When it came to communist/socialist regimes nationalizing industries and oppressing their people the left professed their undying love. Why? Because they hate capitalism. Just like these communist/socialist dictators. Who put their people ahead of profits. Like they do in North Korea (see NASA photo shows North Korea is in the dark by Dylan Stableford posted 2/26/2014 Yahoo! News).
While you were sleeping, North Korea disappeared.
Well, not exactly. But a recent image taken from the International Space Station shows the mysterious, dictator-ruled country almost completely in the dark…
Even the capital of Pyongyang (population: 3.26 million) is a relatively dark, compared with smaller cities in neighboring South Korea and China.
The reason? According to a recent report by the Korea Institute for National Unification, electricity in North Korea is “sporadic and unreliable, with homes that have electricity often receiving just a few hours per day.” About half of North Korea’s 24 million people live in extreme poverty, with most homes and apartments “heated by open fireplaces burning wood or briquettes.” And many “lack flush toilets.”
The North Korean regime hates capitalism. Just like the American left. Because capitalism puts profits before people. Which is why New York City has an incredible night life unlike Pyongyang (or any other North Korean city). Not to mention cellular networks and smartphones. Broadway and night clubs. Times Square and Greenwich Village. Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show. Trains and air planes. Allowing anyone to get where the party is. New York City. Things they don’t have in North Korea. Because North Korea doesn’t have capitalism. Like New York City. The city that never sleeps. Thanks to electric power lighting up the night. Something North Korea doesn’t have. Because North Korea doesn’t have capitalism. Or lights.
The American left loves liberal New York City. It is the center of their world. Even though it was built with capitalism. But the left loves socialism. And communism. Where they put people before profits. And those people sit in the dark doing nothing once the sun sets. And defecate in holes in the ground because they have no flush toilets. Something else you can do all night long in heated buildings throughout New York City. Because New York City has capitalism. Which makes life better. At least according to the American left. For their favorite city is a city that capitalism built. Unlike that communist city they’re not flying to for a good time. Pyongyang.
Capitalism allows Entrepreneurs to bring their Great Ideas to Life
Entrepreneurs start with an idea. Of how to do something better. Or to create something we must have that we don’t yet know about. They think. They create. They have boundless creative energies. And the economic system that best taps that energy is capitalism. The efficient use of capital. Using capital to make profits. And then using those profits to make capital. So these ideas of genius that flicker in someone’s head can take root. And grow. Creating jobs. And taxable economic activity. Creating wealth for investors and workers. Improving the general economy. Pulling us out of recessions. Improving our standard of living. And making the world a better place. Because of an idea. That capitalism brought to life.
Entrepreneurs Risked Capital to bring Great Things to Market and to Create Jobs
Henry Ford established the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899. Which failed. He reorganized it into the Henry Ford Company in 1901. Ford had a fight with his financial backers. And quit. Taking the Ford name with him. And $900. The Henry Ford Company was renamed Cadillac and went on to great success. Ford tried again and partnered with Alexander Malcomson. After running short of funds they reorganized and incorporated Ford Motor Company in 1903 with 12 investors. The company was successful. Some internal friction and an unexpected death of the president put Ford in charge. Ford Motor built the Model A, the Model K and the Model S. Then came the Model T. And the moving assembly line. Mass production greatly increased the number of cars he could build. But it was monotonous work for the assembly line worker. Turnover was high. So to keep good workers he doubled pay in 1914 and reduced the 9-hour shift to 8 hours. This increased productivity and lowered the cost per Model T. Allowing those who built the cars to buy what they built. In 2011 the Ford Motor Company employed approximately 164,000 people worldwide.
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1939. In a garage. They raised $538 in start-up capital. In that garage they created their first successful commercial product. A precision audio oscillator. Used in electronic testing. It was better and cheaper than the competition. Walt Disney Productions bought this oscillator to certify Fantasound surround sound systems in theaters playing the Disney movie Fantasia. From this garage HP grew and gave us calculators, desktop and laptop computers, inkjet and laser printers, all-in-one multifunction printer/scanner/faxes, digital cameras, etc. In 2010 HP employed approximately 324,600 employees worldwide. (Steve Wozniak was working for HP when he designed the Apple I. Which he helped fund by selling his HP calculator. Wozniak offered his design to HP. They passed.)
Steve Jobs had an idea to sell a computer. He convinced his friend since high school, Steve Wozniak, to join him. They sold some of their things to raise some capital. Jobs sold his Volkswagen van. Wozniak sold his HP scientific calculator. They raised about $1,300. And formed Apple. They created the Apple I home computer in 1976 in Steve Jobs’ garage. From these humble beginnings Apple gave us the iPad, iPhone, iPod, iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro and iTunes. In 2011 Apple had approximately 60,400 full time employees.
Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker opened the first Starbucks in 1971 in Seattle, Washington. About 10 years later Howard Schultz drank his first cup of Starbucks coffee. And he liked it. Within a year he joined Starbucks. Within another year while traveling in Italy he experienced the Italian coffeehouse. He loved it. And had an idea. Bring the Italian coffeehouse to America. A place to meet people in the community and converse. Sort of like a bar. Only where the people stayed sober. Soon millions of people were enjoying these tasty and expensive coffee beverages at Starbucks throughout the world. In 2011 Starbucks employed approximately 149,000 people.
Ray Kroc sold Prince Castle Multi-Mixer milk shakes mixers to a couple of brothers who owned a restaurant. Who made hamburgers fast. Richard and Maurice McDonald had implemented the Speedee Service System. It was the dawn of fast food. Kroc was impressed. Facing tough competition in the mixer business he opened a McDonald’s franchise in 1955. Bringing the grand total of McDonald’s restaurants to 9. He would go on to buy out the McDonald brothers (some would say unscrupulously). Today there are over 30,000 stores worldwide. In 2010 McDonald’s employed approximately 400,000 people.
Richard Branson started a magazine at 16. He then sold records out of a church crypt at discount prices. The beginning of Virgin Records. In 1971 he opened a record store. He launched a record label in 1972. And a recording studio. Signing the Sex Pistols. And Culture Club. In 1984 he formed an airline. Virgin Atlantic Airways. In 1999 he went into the cellular phone business. Virgin Mobile. In 2004 he founded Virgin Galactic. To enter the space tourism business. His Virgin Group now totals some 400 companies. And employs about 50,000 people.
The Decline of Capitalism and the Rise of the Welfare State caused the European Sovereign Debt Crisis
And we could go on. For every big corporation out there will have a similar beginning. Corporations that use capital efficiently. Bringing great things to market. Introducing us to new things. Always making our lives better. And more comfortable. One thing you will not find is a great success story like this starting in the Soviet Union. The People’s Republic of China (back in the days of Mao Zedong). East Germany (before the Berlin Wall fell). North Korea. Or Cuba. No. The command economies of communist countries basically froze in time. Where there was no innovation. No ideas brought to life. Because the government kind of frowned on that sort of thing.
There is a reason why the West won the Cold War. And why we won that war without the Warsaw Pack and NATO forces fighting World War III. And why was this? Because we didn’t need to. For the communist world simply could not withstand the forces of living well in the West. Whenever they could their people escaped to the West. To escape their nasty, short and brutish lives. In the command economies of their communist states. Where the state planners failed to provide for their people. Even failing to feed their people. The Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and North Korea all suffered population reducing famines. But not in the West. Where we are not only well fed. But our poor suffer from obesity. Which is not a good thing. But it sure beats dying in a famine.
Sadly, though, the West is moving towards the state planning of their one time communist foes. Social democracies are pushing nations in the European Union to bankruptcy. Japan’s generous welfare state is about to implode as an aging population begins to retire. Even in the United States there has been a growth of government into the private sector economy like never before. Which is causing the Great Recession to linger on. As it caused Japan’s lost decade to become two decades. And counting. As it is prolonging the European sovereign debt crisis. With no end in sight. The cause of all their problems? The decline of capitalism. And the rise of the welfare state. Which just kills the entrepreneurial spirit. And the creation of jobs. Which is one cure for all that ails these countries. And the only one. For only robust economic activity can pull a country out of recession. And for that you need new jobs. And the entrepreneurial spirit. In short, you need capitalism.
Marx called for a Dictatorship of the Proletariat where the Workers controlled the Means of Production
Karl Marx did not like capitalism. Or middle class people that used money to make money. The bourgeoisie. Who exploit the working man. The proletariat. The bourgeoisie used their capital to exploit the labor of the working man (i.e., taking a risk and investing in land, factories, machinery, labor, etc.) to make money. While the working man slaved away at slave wages creating all the great things we have in the world. Of course, the proletariat could not do any of this unless others took risks and invested in land, factories, machinery, labor, etc.
This was just not fair to Karl Marx. Because the industrial bourgeoisie had all the power. And their exploitation of the proletariat was nothing more than a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. So Marx created a socio-economic philosophy to address this dictatorship. Marxism. And called for a social transformation. For working men everywhere to unite. And break the chains that bound them in the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Calling for a dictatorship of the proletariat. For the workers to control the means of production. In a new system that replaced capitalism. Socialism. Until they could usher in the true ideal. Communism.
In capitalism the bourgeoisie get rich creating neat things people discover and want to buy. In communism there would be no bourgeoisie using the means of production to make a buck. Instead, wise and selfless people would determine what was best for the people. Instead of free markets allocating scarce resources economic planners would. And they’d do it better. Because they are selfless. Creating large surpluses that would go not into some rich capitalist’s bank account. But they would fairly distribute this surplus among the working class. So society as a whole would be better off. Sounds great. But if the market didn’t make the decisions of what to produce who did? As it turned out for Marxism that was a very difficult question to answer.
Leon Trotsky was a Like-Minded Marxist and the number two Communist behind Lenin
The Russian people were growing tired of World War I. And Tsar Nicholas. In fact they had it with the Russian Empire. Even before World War I. Although serfdom was abolished in 1861 the lives of peasants didn’t improve much. There was still famine. And the serfs had to pay a lot to their former landlords for their freedom. So there was revolutionary fervor in the air. And a few peasant uprisings. As well as a few revolutionaries. Such as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Who was a Marxist. His anti-Tsarist political activity got him arrested and exiled a few times. In fact, during World War I he was living in exile in Switzerland. Hoping that the Germans would weaken Tsarist Russia enough to kick off a socialist revolution in Russia.
When revolution did break out Lenin was anxious to return to Russia. But being in Switzerland posed a problem. It was surrounded by warring countries. Lucky for him, though, the Germans were anxious to close the eastern front of the war. And a little revolution in Russia could do just that. So they transported Lenin through Germany and helped him return to Russia. They travelled north. Took a ferry to Sweden. Then by train to Petrograd. Formally Saint Petersburg (Peter the Great’s new capital on the Baltic Sea). Which was later renamed Leningrad. And then later renamed Saint Petersburg. Where he would lead the Bolshevik Party. And the world-wide socialist revolution against capitalism.
Leon Trotsky was a like-minded Marxist. And an anti-militarist. He had a falling out with Lenin but eventually reunited. With Trotsky becoming the number two communist behind Lenin. Trotsky addressed a problem with Marxism for Russia. Socialism was to be the final step AFTER capitalism. Once there was a strong industrial proletariat. Russia didn’t have that. For it was one of the least advanced countries in the world. An agrarian nation barely out of the Middle Ages. So Russia had to industrialize WHILE the proletariat took over the means of production. Which brought up a big problem. How could a backward nation industrialize while having a revolution? How could they do this without other advanced capitalistic countries coming to the aid of the bourgeoisie? Which Trotsky answered with his Permanent Revolution. For the Russian socialist revolution to be successful there had to be socialist revolutions in other countries, too. Thinking more in terms of a worldwide revolution of industrialized states. And not just in Russia. Something another Marxist disagreed with. Joseph Stalin
Communist States have Guards on their Borders to prevent People from Escaping their Socialist Utopia
During these revolutionary times workers’ councils were appearing throughout the country. Soviets. Which helped stir up the revolutionary fervor. In 1917 the imperial government fell. The Bolsheviks killed the Tsar and his family. And Russia fell into civil war. Which the Bolsheviks won in 1922. And formed the Soviet Union. Or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). That stretched from Eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean. Under the rule of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Until he died in 1924. Then Joseph Stalin took over after a brutal power struggle. Even exiled Leon Trotsky. And established totalitarian rule. Stalin created a planned economy. Rapid industrialization. And collectivization. As well as famines, forced labor, deportation and great purges of his political enemies. To strengthen his one-party rule. To protect the socialist revolution from a return of capitalism.
The Russian Revolution was the only successful socialist revolution in Europe. The dictatorship of the proletariat did not happen as Lenin and Trotsky had envisioned. So Stalin abandoned the idea of Permanent Revolution. And adopted Socialism in One Country instead. To strengthen the Soviet Union. And not support a world-wide socialist revolution against capitalism. In direct opposition of Trotsky. To aid in the USSR’s industrialization Stalin made a pact with the devil. Adolf Hitler. And entered an economic agreement that would allow Hitler to build and test his war machine on Soviet soil that he would use in World War II. Then came the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. And the secret protocol. Where Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to conquer and divvy up the countries located between them.
Trotsky did not like what the Soviet Union became under Stalin. An oppressive dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. Not the dictatorship of the proletariat envisioned by Karl Marx. And he didn’t like that pact with a militarist Nazi Germany. He predicted that Stalin’s USSR would not last. Either suffering a political revolution like Tsar Nicholas suffered. Or it would collapse into a capitalist state. Stalin disagreed. And killed him and his family. Getting rid of the last of the old Bolsheviks. Leaving him to rule uncontested until his death in 1953. Exporting communism wherever he could. Where it killed more people than any other ideology. Until the great and brutal socialism experiment collapsed in 1991. For Trotsky was right. It could not survive when a better life was just across a border. Which is why all of the communist states have guards on their borders. To keep their people from escaping their socialist utopia.
The Europeans built Larger Ships and used Advanced Navigational Skills to sail from Europe to the Far East
The Anatolian peninsula (roughly the area of modern day Turkey) has long been a trade crossroads. It’s where the Black Sea (and the rivers into Europe and Russia) met the Mediterranean Sea. It’s where Europe met Asia. Where East met West. All important long-distant trade traveled through the Anatolian peninsula. Right through the Bosporus. The straits between East and West.
The Greeks, the Persians, the Romans and the Ottoman Turks all coveted this region. When the Western Roman Empire fell the great Italian city-states rose. They dominated the Mediterranean. And the trade through the Bosporus. Where the Silk Road for centuries brought riches from the Far East into Europe. The Italian merchant banks controlled that trade. Until the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) fell to the Ottoman Turks. Which, lucky for the Europeans, happened at the time of the Renaissance. Bringing an end to the Middle Ages. And ushering in the modern era.
It started in Italy. And then spread into Europe. A rebirth (hence Renaissance) of all that Greek learning. Which shifted the trading center from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. Where the Europeans built larger ships and used advanced navigational skills to sail from Europe to the Far East. Bypassing the Silk Road. And the Ottoman Turks in the Anatolian peninsula. Making the Europeans the new rich traders. Knowledge and wealth created more ships for trade. And advanced armies and navies. Making the Europeans the masters of the world.
Peter the Great pulled Russia out of the Middle Ages by making it more European
While the Mediterranean and European nations were ushering in the modern world not all of Asia followed them. Russia in particular remained in the Middle Ages. A vast land full of disparate peoples. Not a unique and singular Russian people. Until Ivan the Terrible came along. The Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547. Then Tsar of All the Russians. Ivan the Terrible united Russia by conquering it. But at a cost. Continuous wars killed a lot of Russian people. Which left a lot of farmland fallow. Giving Russia a chronic problem they would have for centuries. The struggle to feed themselves.
Tsar Peter the Great (1682 – 1725) modernized Russia. To be a more modern country like those in Europe. He even went to Europe incognito to learn as much as he could about advanced European ways. And had Europeans help him pull Russia out of the Middle Ages. He made his army to be like European armies. Learned about shipbuilding. And built a Russian navy. Which was a problem as the only access to the sea Russia had was the Arctic Ocean via the White Sea. Which meant, of course, war and conquest. He fought the Swedes for access to the Baltic Sea. And he fought the Ottoman Turks for access to the Black Sea.
The disparate people of Russia were not all that happy with his ideas or the money he spent. So he brutally suppressed any discontent. Peter built his navy. And a new capital on the Baltic Sea. Saint Petersburg. A European cultural center. And the Imperial capital of Russia. He also attacked the Ottoman Empire. And lost. Losing his Black Sea ports. But Russia would return to fight the Ottoman Turks. Under Catherine the Great.
The Bolsheviks killed Tsar Nicholas and his Family and ushered in the Oppressive Soviet Union
Catherine the Great ruled during Russia’s Golden Age. Continuing the work started by Peter the Great to modernize Russia. Making Russia a great European power. Through military conquest. And diplomacy. She was even an international mediator. And established the League of Armed Neutrality to protect neutral shipping from British attacks during the American Revolutionary War.
Catherine pushed Russia’s borders out largely at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. And the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. These conquests cost, though. And she turned to the nobility to pay for them. In return she supported the nobility. But the wealth she got form the nobility came from the serfs (basically slave laborers) working their land. Which took a lot of work to pay for her conquests. Leading to a peasant uprising or two. But serfdom would continue in Russia. Tsar Alexander I advanced the status of Russia with his defeat of Napoleon. They even called him the Savior of Europe. But serfdom remained as the Industrial Revolution took off in Europe. Halting the modernization of Russia.
Tsar Alexander II emancipated the serfs in 1861. Ending the landed aristocracy’s monopoly of power. Serfs left their lands. And moved into the cities. Selling their labor. Industrializing Russia. Still, their freedom favored the landed aristocracy. Who were compensated for their serfs’ freedom with a tax paid by the freed serfs. Which little improved the life of the freed serfs. And did little to ease the revolutionary fervor long simmering in the Russian people. Especially those outside the nobility.
When Tsar Nicholas II entered Russia into World War I things did not go well for Russia. Military losses, food shortages, fuel shortages, inflation and striking factory workers made the nation ripe for revolution. Tsar Nicholas went off to command the Russian Army personally. Leaving his wife Alexandra to run the country in his absence. Who turned to Grigori Rasputin for help. Which didn’t help quell the revolutionary fervor simmering in the Russian people. They didn’t like Rasputin. Or the Tsar. And made Tsar Nicholas the last emperor of the Russian Empire. Which the Bolsheviks made permanent. By killing Nicholas and his entire family. Which ultimately ushered in the Soviet Union. One of the most oppressive regimes of all time.