The impact of wars on Russia's development and its role in the world.

Author:Kirillov, V.V.
Position::Report
 
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In their essence, all wars, regardless of their historical conditions or causes, goals, methods and means of conduct or their results, have been and will continue to be merely an extension of policies pursued by the states' ruling classes and political elites. "The war of a community--of whole nations and particularly of civilized nations--always starts from a political condition, and is called forth by a political motive. It is therefore a political act. (1) War is a socio--political phenomenon, an extension of politics by violent means. From the viewpoint of general theory, this definition has a certain meaning, but during the 5,000 years of its existence mankind has developed a more complex concept of "war." Without a doubt, underlying any military, armed confrontation is some idea, goal or ideology. The evolution of this idea in general form proceeded as follows: the interests of tribal survival--tribal development--acquisition of territory in the interest of tribal survival--the emergence of first state formations and politics. Is survival still a relevant issue? Yes, it is, and the 20th century proved that. The Great Patriotic War [1941--1945] is a classic example of big politics--class related, international, national, ethnic, racial, etc., but to millions of Slavic peoples, it was a war of survival. "The greater and more powerful the motives of a war, the more it affects the whole existence of a people, the more violent the excitement which precedes the war, by so much the nearer will the war approach to its abstract form, so much the more will it be directed to the destruction of the enemy, so much the nearer will the military and political ends coincide, so much the more purely military and less political the war appears to be."(2) This classic definition shows that politics and war can both influence each other and at the same time be mutually exclusive. This is precisely how Russia's wars and military conflicts with external enemies can be described in the historical perspective.

With the start of the 21st century, the Russian Federation witnessed a gradual revival of its economic and social spheres. The liberation from financial dependence and the growth of political independence enable it to take firmer positions on international problems, as well as the requirements and goals of its own development. Will these trends prevail over a certain period, during which it will be able to take, if not leading, at the very least, stable positions in domestic and foreign polices? That is the main question of the country's modern development.

However, history shows that in the 18th--20th centuries, Russia was on the whole unable to attend to its domestic problems in a quiet environment. On the contrary, it had to deal with domestic and external problems amid ongoing wars, which were often started by an adversary with the aim of hindering Russia's stable development. Here is a noteworthy fact: From the 17th century, every new century for the country started with some catastrophic military events: the Time of Troubles and the disintegration of the country in the early 17th century; the Northern War in the early 18th century; a series of the so called Napoleonic wars in the 19th century; the Russo--Japanese War, World War I, the [October 1917] Revolution and the Civil War at the start of the 20th century. Furthermore, even during the apparently peaceful period of the second half of the 20th century, we had to go through a series of upheavals. Despite Russia's relatively peaceful existence after 1945, it still had to wage a number of heavy and protracted wars (Afghanistan, Chechnya). What is in store for us at the start of the 21st century?

Throughout its centuries old history, Russia had made a strenuous effort to create a great country and defend it, and starting with the 19th century, it desperately needed peace. In the 20th century, it seemed that it had, at tremendous cost, finally taken a path to peace. But it was prevented from calmly moving along that path. It is the view of the present authors that today, it is once again faced with the threat of large and small wars and conflicts, which will affect the country's internal and external development.

Now a few historical facts. From 862 (the legendary date of the establishment of the ancient Russian state) until now, the country has fought or been involved in over 700 wars and armed conflicts. On average, our predecessors and contemporaries have fought once every two years. From Rurik to Peter the Great, war was a "normal" condition for Russia.

Four main stages can be conveniently singled out in the military history of many modern states, including Russia:

* First, the formation of the state and the expansion of state borders, involving open aggression against neighboring tribes and peoples.

* Second, feudal division and the fight for sovereignty, marked by brutal internecine wars and the fight against external invasions.

* Third, the restoration of independence and strengthen of state borders.

* Fourth, further expansion of borders and a country's assertion on the international arena.

At three of the four stages, the central core of policies is aggression with a variety of goals, means and motives ("to repulse a long standing enemy," "to recover historical lands," "economic necessity," "assistance to fraternal Slavic nations," and finally, "protection of the interests of Russian citizens"). Therefore, the aggressiveness of states at the early stages of their existence is a norm (in the 20th century, Israel, Somalia, Iraq, etc.), and Russia is not an exception here, but quite the contrary, a typical example. Lake Chudskoye or the Battle of Kulikovo--these are truly brilliant episodes in Russia's history, but in addition to that, there were incursions into Constantinople, the plundering of Bulgarians in the Balkans and the Bulgars on the Volga, the seizure and destruction of Kha--zaria, the pogroms in Tavria, the Livonian War, and the list is endless. From the 9th until the 17th century, Russia attacked and repulsed attacks, gained and lost [tracts of land], won victories and suffered defeats in more than 350 wars and incursions, not counting the perennial internecine wars.

Russia has occupied a special place in international politics since Peter the Great's era to date. From 1700 until 1917, Russia fought in over 70 wars and military campaigns, with only four of them on its own soil: the Northern War (1700--1721), the Civil War (1812), the Crimean War (1853--1856), and World War I (1914--1918). The number of wars is distributed by the centuries as follows (taking into account only major wars): the 10th century, 18; the 11th century, 11; the 12th century, 13; the 13th century, 19; the 14th century, 17; the 15th century, 18; the 16th century, 26; the 17th century, 21; the 18th century, 20; the 19th century, 32; and the 20th century, 21. (3)

Thus, there has been a marked trend toward an increase in the number of wars from century to century. Although the 20th century is in third or fourth place, after the 16th and the 19th century, it was by far the most "bellicose." It includes two world wars and a civil war with armed intervention by a number of countries. That century includes such wars fought by Russia as the armed conflicts on the Chinese Eastern Railroad (July 1929), on the Damansky Peninsula (March 1969), and in the Dnestr Region, in the 1990s.

It is essential to note that major wars without a doubt impact on countries' development, but the contemporaries of such events often suffer more as a result of "minor" wars, and it is such conflicts that have largely formed the state's image and its policies. For example, the Great Patriotic War (1941--1945) changed little if anything in the structure and organization of the state or its politics, but the Soviet Union's involvement in a local armed conflict in Afghanistan (1979--1988), to a certain extent, initiated the disintegration of the state's economic and political system. From the viewpoint of the time that Russia spent fighting, it is definitely not the first among other states. In their fundamental study of the dynamics of wars, P. A. Sorokin, N.N. Golovin, and A.M. Zaytsev systematized the data about the wars of some European states over nine to ten centuries with a breakdown by the centuries and quarter centuries. They studied a total of 967 major wars fought by Ancient Greece, Rome, Austria (the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation until 1806 and from then on, the Austrian Empire), Germany (Prussia before 1870 and then the German Empire), Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Poland, and Lithuania (from the 16th century, Rzeczpospolita), in specific periods of their history. (4) These data, as well as other studies, offer a correlation of periods of war and peace in the history of a number of states, which shows that Russia did not fight more than other countries (see Table l). (5)

Table 1 A Correlation of Periods of War and Peace in the History of States Countries Periods of Total Proportion Wartime Peaceful History duration of wartime quarter quarter of wars centuries centuries England From 1051 630 72% 34 1 until years 1925--875 years France From 976 674 80% 33...

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