Geography's Impact on Russian Politics

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For centuries, Russia was cut off from most of Western civilization. This is due in part to Russia's geography. Russia has, what is called a natural barrier. Russia's natural barrier is simply its huge expanse. It is hundreds of miles from Moscow or St. Petersburg to any Western city. This isolation was a hindrance, and an advantage throughout history, politically, socially, and economically. Russia's language is an example of this. It is extremely clear that it resembles no Western European language, and has no native words that are understandable to the typical western European. This is a result of Russia's isolation, and subsequently its geography. Previous to the Napoleonic Wars and Peter the Great's travels to the rest of Europe, Russia was a solitary county. They had no major allies, nor any major enemies (other than the occupying Mongols). The location provided safety, but it meant that any advancement by the peoples around them would go unnoticed, and ultimately they lagged behind. Before Peter the Great, Russia's only major port was Arkhangelsk (Archangel), located on the North Sea, it was covered in ice for five months out of the year. This greatly inhibited Russia's economy. The Russian people had and abundance of furs, such as beaver and bear, that Western Europeans wanted, but with a port such as Archangel they were severely restricted. When the port of St. Petersburg was built, the Russian people advanced socially. The nobles were required to dress, act, and speak French. Peter the Great built a palace for himself, trying to copy the Palace at Versailles. The people of Russia also learned many things from Westerners coming to Russia. Their social advances were innumerable. Militarily, Russia's geography has become an advantage. Because of Russia's distance from France, Czar Alexander felt safe to allow the trade with Britain the Russian people so deeply needed. The Continental System was crushing the Russian economy, and the...
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