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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 25. Eastern Europe


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Eastern Europe was ground zero for the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union after that. It is the influence of these two empires that dominate the region. This is the only region where all nations have an Eastern-Orthodox majority. All nations also have a significant Russian minority or an outright majority, in the case of Russia. All nations experienced long histories of autocratic rule under the Russian and Soviet empires that created extra challenges for post-Cold War transitions from state-directed communism to democracy and market-driven capitalism.

Islamic and European empires were also present in the region. In 1812, the Russian Empire annexed Moldova from the Ottoman Empire. Ukraine was a political hot potato. Between the 16th and 20th centuries, excluding war-time occupations, all or parts of it were ruled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Ottoman, Austrian and Austria-Hungary empires. The Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth ruled Belarus into the 18th century. Aftermaths from these empires are, however, less obvious.

Nations in this region had to wait for independence until after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. When it came, there was a backdrop of years of declining growth from a failed experiment in communism.

Communism performed well economically until the 1970s. This was when unmotivating aspects like repression, equal rewards for unequal performance, ← 243 | 244 → and shortages of essential items worked their way into the system. The only people with monetary incentives were Communist Party...

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