HS-102 Readings

United States and Russian National Development

1. HOW DID NATIONALISM AFFECT THE COURSE OF EVENTS IN RUSSIA DURING THE LAST HALF OF THE 19TH CENTURY?

2. HOW DID NATIONALISM AFFECT THE UNITED STATES ?

    The Crimean war revealed the weakness of the Russians, a weakness resulting from lack of industrialization.

    The Russian peasants were no better than slaves, a work force, un-motivated, sullen and oppressed, and on the verge of rebellion.

    A new Czar, Alexander II, succeeded to the throne during the Crimean War.

    In 1861, the czar abolished serfdom. Peasants were permitted, as part of village communes, to purchase the land which they worked. The effect of the reform was mitigated by its communal nature. Peasants were still not free to leave the land.  However, they could no longer be bought and sold by the aristocracy.

    Government was decentralized to some extent by the establishment of zemstvos or local councils. These, however, were controlled by the aristocracy.

    Changes introduced by the Czar were slow in reaching people. A middle class intelligentsia, familiar with western Europe, was too impatient. Some took violent paths. The reforming Czar was assassinated in 1881. He was succeeded by Alexander III who brought an end to the reforms. A clandestine war was waged between revolutionary groups and the Czar's secret police.

    Meanwhile, the government encouraged railroad construction and other industrialization. Russia began to develop a working class. Under the minister of Finance, Sergei Witte, foreign credit was obtained for railroads, including the Trans-Siberian railway.

    Russian nationalism was expressed by government leaders in their drive to industrialize, and in the imperialistic expansion across Asia to the Pacific.

    The United States, although a sovereign state ever since the American Revolution, was politically decentralized. The Constitution did not specifically define state and federal power and there was no consensus on the issue.

    The North, because of its extensive contact and trade with England developed industrially at a rapid pace. The South continued to base its economy upon agriculture. Slavery, like Russian serfdom, was aninefficent way to organize labor and stood in the way of modernization.

    As the northern and southern economies continued to diverge, so also did their interests. As the nation expanded westward, it followed the northern pattern, leaving the South increasingly marginalized and feeling threatened. Finally the South tried to go its own way.

    The American Civil war was a struggle to determine whether the nation would remain united in following the path of industrialization set by the north, or whether it would split in two. Northern victory demonstrated that national feeling was sufficiently strong to compel the South to remain in the union.The image held in the minds of Americans of what the nation consisted was that expressed by Abraham Lincoln of an indissoluble union of north and south.

    Slavery had to be abolished because it, like Russian serfdom, was a barrier to economic growth. The main achievement of the war was to affirm the power of the Federal
government in an undivided nation in which the pattern of growth established in the north was to be pattern for the entire nation.. Nationalism was the central motivating force.