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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2008

2 - Russia’s fin de siècle, 1900–1914

from Part I - Russia and the Soviet Union: The Story through Time


The critical years from the turn of the century to the eve of the First World War were a time of uncertainty and crisis for Russia's old political, social and cultural order. The year 1904 saw the start of the Russo-Japanese war, a disastrous conflict sparked by Russia's expansion into China and Korea in the face of Japan's own regional desires, further fuelled by Russian over confidence and racist contempt for the Japanese. Marxists believed they possessed a more scientific and rationalistic understanding of society and history. Marxists tended to take an essentialist view of the proletariat: this was the class destined by the logic of history to emancipate humanity from injustice and oppression. The sense of crisis and opportunity that marked so much of the Russian fin de siècle was evident in the experience of being a non-Russian subject of Russian empire, as well as in state policy towards the nationalities problem.
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