The Economic and Social Development of Russia in the Eighteenth Century.

Serfdom lasted much longer in Russia than in other Western countries because of the economic disadvantages Russia faced. As a result of Peter the Great and the developments he made to the social and economic structures. However, there still seemed to be a huge separation between the nobility and wealthy upper class and the peasants. It seemed that during this time, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer, even clergy lost the status they once had. Clergy became poorer as they lost more revenue and were taxed more and lost land to accommodate for the immense changes being made to the general structure of the empire. Catherine the Great’s empire grew in numbers and in strength and power, however the tsars of Imperial Russia began spending outside of their means to promote the Russian Enlightenment.

In this class, most of the material we’ve read focused mainly on the nobility and upper classes so it was interesting to read a bit more on the lower classes and the struggles they went through while the nobility and upper classes experienced the Russian Enlightenment. Which makes me question how many people were actually affected by the Russian Enlightenment and how was the response to it? How many peasants and lower class citizens aware of the tsar and was there any real contact between the two classes? And how aware were the tsars of the great difference between the lower and upper classes and was there anything really done to rectify it?

John Maynard Keynes: The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920.

In this article, Keynes talks about the Treaty of Versailles, and it’s failure to address the economic issues of a post-Great War Europe. He states that victorious Allied powers fail to realize that the stability of Europe, and thereby the stability of both France and Britain as well, is reliant on a complicated system of continental and global trade, which the Treaty attempts to disintegrate.

He focusses on Germany and uses them as a representative of post-war Europe. He believes that the booming population levels, in relation to the rapidly increasing pre-war industrial levels, would not be able to survive with the territorial and financial sanctions the Treaty proposes. His prediction is proven by Mazower in his text “Dark Continent”. Mazower states that because the smaller Central and European nations did not have sufficient resources, they suffered in the post-Great War period. It was only with American loans were they able to initially recover, and thus through American liquidation during the Great Depression they were thrown back into economic turmoil. Alternatively, Russia was self-sufficient during the interwar period, and thus was an economic success, admittedly with a large human cost (Mazower, p.124-5). Finally, Mazower states that while autarky was a good short term plan, in the long run it was detrimental to the Russian economy (Mazower, p.119), especially in comparison to the trading-centric post-World War Two continental economies.

While Keynes’ criticisms are economically valid, he fails to address the volatile political situation of 1919. A perfect example of this revenge-based politics is the War guilt clause written into the Treaty of Versailles. This was unnecessary addition economically, but was an important political addition, especially to the democratic governments in Britain and France. In my opinion, Keynes, while economically correct, fails to acknowledge the context of the Treaty signing, and thus fails to provide viable alternative solutions.