January 01, 2013

An Evening to Remember



An Evening to Remember

In February of 1903 Russia appeared to be in the ascendant. The fruits of the "golden decade" of Russian industry – the 1890s – were on full display. Cities were growing and becoming more prosperous, new businesses and factories were constantly springing up, and investment was pouring in from France, Belgium, and England.

Even in the countryside there were signs of progress, although rural Russia was faring less well than the cities. Only two years had passed since many provinces had suffered a devastating crop failure of the sort that usually hits Russia every ten years. Furthermore, in the 52 years that had passed since the emancipation of the serfs, many landowners still had not figured out how to make their land profitable, and once grand estates were in a state of decay. On the other hand, some members of the peasantry had managed to thrive, despite the constraints placed on them by the obshchina, the peasant community that, under Russia's unique system of communal peasant ownership, held title to the land.

Overall, Russia appeared to be moving in the right direction. It did not hurt that 25 years had passed since the country had been involved in a war. Furthermore, Russia enjoyed a strong alliance with France, and the tensions that had plagued Anglo-Russian relations just two decades ago had all but disappeared, and a pact between the two powers was in the offing.


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