3 minutes 9 seconds
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Russia, as you'll be aware, is huge, growing from a medium-sized state in the mid-16th century to this in the mid-1700s. Most of these lands are in what's called Siberia, which were difficult to govern due to their sheer size and placed Russia in contact with more potential rivals. As such, this raises the question, why did Russia conquer Siberia? What did it have to gain from doing so? Well, it won't surprise you to know that the primary reason was money.
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As of the reign of Ivan the Terrible, Moscow's lifeblood was trade, often in furs. These were sourced from the neighbouring lands and states which often came into conflict with Moscow.
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In 1552 Ivan conquered the Khanate of Kazan and soon afterwards the Astrakhan Khanate. These conquests were both primarily to give Moscow control of
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the Volga River and thus the region's trade routes. So with the economic lifeblood of Moscow secured along with
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some new fancy farmland and peasants there to tax, why did Ivan and his successors push for more? Well, Ivan sent a
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man called Yermak Timoveevich to lead
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an army of Cossacks to pacify the neighbouring states. And he did this for 2 reasons.
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The first was to prevent raiding into Moscow's territories and the second was to extract tribute in the form of furs which would then be sold onto Europe. After the Russians conquered Siberia, from which Siberia gets its name, there was little in the way of organised resistance left, which as a result meant that it only took 60 years for Moscow to conquer all of this.
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And it made its way there because frankly, nobody could stop them.
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And for the Tsars of Russia, expansion only had upsides. Siberia was cheap to govern because it basically wasn't governed. Russia planted trading posts and small fortresses along the frontier, which existed to protect roads and river crossings from raiders. As for most of the people who lived in Siberia, many had little idea that they now lived in a place called Russia. In fact, in much of Siberia's north, Russian influence was basically non-existent and some parts of it wouldn't be fully mapped until the Soviet Union carried out its censuses.
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It's just that the Russians claimed it and the people who made the maps weren't exactly going to argue with them. Eventually, the Russians would run into a major power which wanted to expand into the region. The Qing Dynasty.
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When they first came into contact, the Qing were quick to shoot at
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the Russians until they left. Local leaders continued fighting until leadership in Moscow formally sued for peace. It was agreed that in return for some limited trade access, Russia would renounce any claim to these lands and acknowledge Qing ownership. After both sides had agreed, it wasn't long before the Russians took everything to the north. Again, this was because nothing was stopping them and it's not like it cost the government much to do so.
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Also, Russia was now about 20 times as large as it had been a century prior, and its sheer size and by extension prestige was 1 of the reasons that European leaders acknowledged Russian Tsars becoming Russian Emperors. When China would later find itself on the receiving end of European imperial policy, Russia was quick to capitalise, and it took the lands it had previously been denied, meaning that the country would stretch all the way from the Baltic Sea in the west to
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the Sea of Japan in the east. I hope you enjoyed this episode and a special thanks to my Patrons James Bizonette, Kelly Moneymaker, Sky Chappell, Korsha Wolf, Jerry Lambdin, Jordan Longley, Adam Stalter, Marcus Arsner, YN Hockey, Spencer Lightfoot, Rod D. Martin, Words About Books Podcast, Captain Psydog, Gustav Swan, Marvin Casal, Camoon Yoon, Winston K. Wood, Boogily Woogily, Daniel Tobian, Miss Isette, Aaron the White, Corey Turner, The McWhopper, Alex Schwin, Anthony Beckett, Copper Tone, Maggie Patskowski, Shuenin, Spinning 3 Plates and Charles I.
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