Russia facing Europe : From Ivan the Terrible to Vladimir Putin
Rey M. P. (first edition: 2002, current edition: 2016): La Russie face à l’Europe. D’Ivan le Terrible à Vladimir Poutine. Publisher Champs Histoire
Translation : Russia facing Europe : From Ivan the Terrible to Vladimir Putin
Apart from practicing your French, this book is full of insights from an historic perspective to understand a country, Russia, that could be perceived as full of contradictions but is not.
The book is extremely rich in content so comments will be made around 3 areas:
- Russia & foreigners. Under the reign of Peter the Great, there was a dual issue. On the first hand, Western European countries have had a contemptuous attitude towards Russians be they from the Court or from the most humble people. As Montesquieu used to say: “At the midst of Louis XIV reign (in the XVIII C.), Moscow was not more known than Crimea in Europe”. On the other hand, the tsars were reluctant to give facilities to foreigners to trade within Russia and Russians could not travel freely abroad under Ivan the Terrible. Historically, foreigners could be welcome or not. On top of that, European perspective concerning Russia has always been positively influenced when Russians spheres has shown muscles be it in the XVIII, XX or XXI C. Cordiality and trust should be empowered without these recurrent showdowns over time.
- Some of the areas where Russians have been traditionally open to cooperation have been technology and science, independently of the regime. Therefore, companies in these fields are far better positioned than the rest. Nevertheless, some technology transfer should be realized. Otherwise, the change of alliances among countries – be they Great Britain, Holland, Germany or France – over the last ten centuries in Russia happens.
Entrepreneurship in Russia. As Marie-Pierre Rey explains, Russia was originally empowered around the Orthodox Church and Moscow. When Peter the Great moved to Petersburgh to create its new capital to turn it towards Europe, he did not have the support of the elites. Nevertheless, he forced them to follow him. With Katherine the Great, the policy was as well extremely pro-active and under the Communist regime (above all under Stalin), decisions were top down. In that sense, the ability to generate a bottom up move in terms of entrepreneurship was much harder to find out in Russia.
This contextualization made by Rey can explain many similarities with the robber barons in the US (see Matheson). There was no alternative at this stage. But, now, despite the embargo related to the conflict in Ukraine, and more than 25 years after the collapse of the CIS, new opportunities have arisen. And they are not only linked with the Organization of the World Cup in the summer 2018.