Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/9

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.







THE history of Russia affords a striking example, not only of the influence of geography on history, but of the fact that man’s place in the scale of civilization is in large measure determined by his environment. In speaking of the contrasts in the development of Russia as compared with England, a recent writer says:

The fundamental difference between Russian and English history is the difference between the great plain and the island. English history tells of the upbuilding by an island people of the greatest maritime empire in the world. Russian history tells how a people ... gradually, with toil, pain and effort secured possession of the greatest plain in the world and so created the broadest of land empires.

The empire of the plain! The very phrase suggests what Professor Kluchevsky calls the most characteristic feature of Russian history, namely, a spreading out or expansion over contiguous territory, a colonization.

It is not, however, only when comparison is made with England that geography appears so conspicuously as a factor in shaping the fundamental character of Russian development. Thus eastern Europe is organized into one single political unit, while western Europe, that is the smaller half of the continent, is divided into nineteen separate and independent states. The causes are manifest if we glance at the map. The surface of western Europe is broken and diversified, there are plains surrounded by mountains and uplands, there are transverse ranges making climatic divisions, and the sea penetrating deeply into the heart of the continent serves further to create physical or geographic units which invite the growth of separate states in response to boundaries set by mountain and sea. In eastern Europe, on the other hand, a great level plain spreads itself over an immense area. There are no divisions