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A Brief History of International Relations

The World Made Easy

Kathleen Brush

The world does not need to be complex and confusing. It can be made simpler so that the business, political, social, and economic implications of global news briefs beaming across televisions and electronic devices can be easily grasped. Key to this is knowing that a five-hundred-year competition for global supremacy between the Chinese, European, Islamic, and Russian empires only ended in 1945. When it did, the world had 57 independent nations. After all empires were dissolved in 1991, there were 193, and each nation carried histories of empires in the form of conquest, religions followed, languages practiced, diversified populations, repressive rule, and histories of discrimination. A Brief History of International Relations: The World Made Easy explores this history of global conflict to contextualize and simplify the often perplexing relations between nations and empires.

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Chapter 3. The Russian Empire


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Before the Russian Empire, there was Tsardom Russia (1547–1721).1 Since the translation of tsar is emperor (and also Caesar), this might seem like odd labeling, but in Russian history, the words tsar and emperor are as distinct as Tsardom Russia and the Russian Empire. The permanent boundaries of the Russian nation were created during the Tsardom Russia period.2 Annexed into Russia proper were lands from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Swedish and Ottoman empires. The Russian Empire, on the other hand, was different. Conquered lands became colonies. Where the two were similar was the presence of a very ambitious ruler, Peter the Great. Tsar Peter was the last ruler of Tsardom Russia (1682–1721). Emperor Peter was the first ruler of the Russian Empire (1721–1725).

Russia entered the competition for empire nearly three hundred years after it began. They were behind, and Peter was anxious to catch up. To expedite expansion, he removed the impediment of a powerful church. Some tsars believed that Russia was destined to become the Third Rome3—the successor to the Byzantine Empire. Not Peter. He didn’t care about becoming the Third Rome or having a holy mission, and he wasn’t amenable to religious leaders compromising his power or vision to create a vast empire run by all-powerful secular emperors. To make his position clear, Peter eliminated the position of ← 27 | 28 → patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and subordinated...

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