The 17th Century European View Of Russia Being A Backward, Weak, Isolated And Barbarous State

2346 words - 9 pages

The 17th Century European View of Russia Being a Backward, Weak, Isolated and Barbarous State

It must be said that in a broad sense the view (held by most Europeans
in the 17th century) that Russia was broadly accurate. Russia was
definitely a less developed state that those in Western Europe in
several ways. The most widely published works on the subject
(Herbertstein's Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii, and Olearioys's Neue
Bechreibung der Moscowitschen), both draw a picture of a
socio-political order which stood in sharp contrast to west European
societies on critical counts. In these works the essential features of
the Russian state were: the tsar's undisputed rule of the country and
its inhabitants, the status of the people (whether of high or low
degree) as his slaves and serfs; the recognition of his will as the
will of God, and his possessions of all his subjects' property. Thus
the question is now to see exactly to what extent the Russian state
was "backward, weak, isolated and barbarous", and to find the causes
for it.
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Backwardness is essentially the measurement of the social and
technological development of a country. Due to the total subordination
to nature that existed in the 17th century, the two most decisive
factors in these two areas were the soil and climate of a nation.

In terms of soil, Russian can be divided into two zones. The north
zone occupies the northern half, from the Arctic Circle to between 45
and 50 degrees. The predominant type of earth here is pozdol, a soil
that requires deep ploughing to be of use. In the southern zone the
prevailing soil is fertile black earth. The climate of Russian is of
the Continental type (high temperatures in the summer and low in the
winter). The coldest regions in Russia are found in the most northern
but also most eastern parts. This is due to the diminished effect of
the warming Gulf Stream. As a result Siberia, a potentially
inexhaustible reservoir of agricultural land is for the most part
unsuitable for farming. Rainfall is heaviest in the northwest, where
the soil is poorest. The rain also tends to fall heavier in the second
half of the summer. This can cause drought in spring and early summer,
followed by disastrous downpours during the harvest. The Russian
farming season is as a result exceedingly short, ranging from four
month in the north to five and a half near Moscow. In contrast West
European seasons last as long as nine months. Simple climatic facts
such as these have numerous social and economic consequences. For
example, the short growing season means that livestock must be kept
indoors for longer and must miss out on early spring grazing. As a
result, once released it is in an emaciated condition. Indeed the poor
quality of...

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