Big Challenges in the History of Imperial Russia: Civilisational and Geopolitical Dimensions

Veniamin Alekseyev, Konstantin Zubkov, Igor Poberezhnikov


This article is devoted to one of the most complicated issues of Russian history, i. e. the challenges of modernity, which are viewed through the prism of the concept of modernisation (used to describe the transition from a traditional agrarian society to an industrial and urban one). A historical challenge is a complex category, not a simple action “to spite the arrogant neighbour”. One of the main reasons for its emergence is technological revolutions that fundamentally change the conditions of human communities. Typologies of challenges vary from natural and climatic to social and political. Russia has come across many of them. Civilisational, geopolitical, technological, socio-political, cultural, and ideological challenges are the most typical of the imperial period. Their research discusses the characteristics of the essence of a challenge, the need to understand it, respond to it, the struggle of opinions about the reaction to them, and the evaluation of the results achieved. As an example of this approach, the authors consider two of the aforementioned challenges. In Russian historiography, the concept of “challenges” is not uncommon, but quite often the reaction to them did not take into account the dynamics of modernisation. The method put forward by the authors, based on the “challenges and responses” scheme, makes it possible to bridge this gap and provides practically meaningful results without them being ready-made recipes. Preliminary conclusions about two of the indicated challenges demonstrate that they were only slowly understood by the Russian ruling elite, which resulted in the cataclysms of the First World War and the Revolution of 1917 that put Russia on the brink of a civilizational catastrophe, although one should not forget that in the course of the period under study the country turned into a power of world significance.


history of Russia; civilisational identity; civilisational status; geopolitics; modernization; poly-ethnicity; expansionism


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