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09 December 2019

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Ian

Great episode as always. My comments:

1) I think one other major difference between Louis and Nicholas was that Louis, as you mentioned in the first episode on the French Revolution, was not opposed to the idea of fixing at least some of the problems of his realm. He seemed to be aware that something needed to be done, he just lacked the backbone to do it: and in the end, to crush uprisings brutually. Nicholas, by contrast, had a genuinely ideological stake against reform, and that made him far more susceptible to guys like Durnovo who'd put down the 1905 revolution.

2) One thing I'd put more emphasis on is that Russia had been an ally of first Prussia, then Germany. Despite the growing tensions under Alexander III rooted alternately in personal and geopolitial factors, the de facto alignment between the two lasted until Wilhelm II came to power. The ruling dynasties of Hohenzollern and Romanov had traditionally been pretty close through intermarriage. They certainly shared a much closer world-view than either did with those godless republicans in Paris, and had a common vested interest in keeping restive ethnic groups-mostly the Poles-down.

(As I mentioned earlier: Bismarck was happy to let Alexander II use Prussian railways to help crush the January Uprising, with the price being Russian non-interference in German unification: something Alexander II was willing to give.)

There wasn't much in the way of a competition between Germany and France for a connection with Russia throughout the 1880s, as Germany already had that, so much as Bismarck's juggling act came crashing down when Willy fired him and the French knew this was their big chance. I think that growing German distance and a Newtonian French closeness with Russia was inevitable, to an extent. The race between Austria and Russia wasn't going away in the Balkans. And had Friedrich III lived, he, like Wilhelm, would have been primarily interested in aligning himself with Russia's image opposite and big rival until after 1905, Britain. What wasn't inevitable was a moment where Germany lacked any sort of written agreement with Russia, no matter how vague or contradictory. And that's what the French needed in order to get a whiplash diplomatic shift.

3) Best part of this was your description of how Nicholas II governed. This should show where the phrase "autocracy without an autocrat" is going to come from, and how much entropy is going to envelop the Tsarist state in its final years. Ministers can't communicate with each other because that would infringe on the autocrat's powers. Nicholas is telling one guy something and another something else. Men like Witte and Stolypin trying desperately to bring some political coherence to the table and failing. All this while the Russian economy overtakes the German as the fastest growing on earth, pre-WWI: but the political system is such that when a Parliament finally comes into existence after 1905, it can't even refer to itself as such officially because that would interfere with OAN...

I don't think it takes much imagination to see how this is all going to work out in where nobody knows even which bombings are the radicals, and which are the Ohkrana: and if the latter, what that agent's group is doing.

Ron Sparks

So Nicholas was an insecure, passive-aggressive, micro-manager from hell? I’ve known the type. No wonder things went to hell in a hand basket.

Andrew

For listeners have trouble with the last episode. I changed the file extension from mp4a to mp3 in the url (web adress) and it worked fine for me.

Sam

Hi Mike,

A few episodes late for this question, but I was really fascinated by the attitudes of Marx and Engels towards the Russian Marxists (and their attitudes and analysis towards Russia and its political system more generally).

Would you be able to point us to a couple of good sources where we can learn more about this (whether primary or secondary)?

Thanks.

P.S. Really enjoying the pacing of this season. I hope you resist any urge to speed things along further!

Brian

I found this one of the better episodes in this series. Perhaps because we know the immediate importance of these people and are approaching more critical moments for them. But also due to good mix of detail, context, insight, and narrative scope. The engines are finally revving a bit more, ready to dig into all that groundwork.

Jamie

I am finally caught up!!! What an epic adventure, travelling through the history of Rome, followed by 10 seasons of revolutions to finally find a comment thread that has not been closed. Bravo, Mike! Bravo!!

Jonathan M

Congrats Jamie! I just caught up on all the podcast when found and started listening to them early this year. Now we are on the IV drip! :)

Adam

I have to give the french a pass on the blossom glueing. Only recently did american military bases stop painting grass green for IG inspections.

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