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Bruce Menning

MA and PhD, Duke University 
Russian and Soviet military history
Adjunct Professor of History, CREEES KU
Department of Military History
Command and General Staff School
Ft Leavenworth

Some of Dr. Menning's Russian History Publications: A Decade Half-full Bayonets Before Bullets

Thanks to Cheyne Worley for taking notes

1. Context 
2. Cossacks 
3. Course of Conquest 
4. Consequences 

The Ural Mountains are a little more than a low set of hill, not like the Appalachians. They are not very wide are not very high. The do not form a barrier so to speak like the Rockies. They are a surmountable barrier. 

To the West of the Urals, is Muscovy the Grand Duchy of Russia; from 1462 on, under the control of Russia beginning with Ivan III “the Great”. To the east of the Urals you have the Khanates. Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire hold most of the European continent. Kazan and Astrakhan and Nogai horde have been troublesome to the Russians. The Tartars, as named by the Russians, are leftovers from the reign of the Mongols. 

Western and Central Siberia are under “control” of the Russians beginning 1581-1689, occurring in stages, beginning with the Yermute to the Altai highlands. 

What prompts the Russians and the tsar to press into Russia, Under Ivan the IV “terrible”, the animal wealth of Siberia was the draw, the sable. A black soft fur not found anywhere else. The Russians exploit 100,000 sable pelts a year for sale or trade in Europe, Ottoman Empire, the Middle East and China. Other furs, minerals are also valuable. The fur trade accounts for about ten percent of Ivan IV’s government. Furs are obtained partly through private enterprise. It is very similar to French Canada and the Northern tip of the US. 

In addition to private enterprise, you have people who are working on tsarist commission. Two brothers named Stroganoff become very big in the fur trading business; building their headquarters on the banks of the Korma River. The penetration of these areas raises the tension between the indigenous peoples of the region. These people live like all native peoples; raiding Russian trader sites. 

This attracts the attention of Ivan the terrible and orders a stop to the raids. The Cossacks are mobilized to end the raids. (Kazak). Kazak is a Turkic word meaning mounted warrior. The origin lies in the spaces between the spaces of the bubbles. A mixture of outlaws, nomads who make a living of raiding, trading, fishing and hunting. They are dangerous because they are free agents, not acknowledging any specific leadership. 

As time goes on, the mixture of various peoples; as Muscovy expands, subject to serfdom, many join the free bands on the steppe. You must have the ability to fight, ride and organize themselves. In the steppe, they are clearly known as excellent riders and expert boatmen, because they set up their villages along the river valleys. 

Yermak Trmofeyerich was sent to defeat the Sibir Tartars, near Tobulsk. The expedition was similar to the “Northwest passage” Colonel Rogers?? The Cossacks are really strong because of their expert discipline and skills from the steppe. Additionally, they had firearms. DISCIPLINE. In 1582, Yermak is fortunate enough to meet the forces of Kuchum, the local Khan and defeats him at the river valley at Irtysk. In 1585 Yermak is lured out to an island in the river and is killed. 

Yermak is a great national hero in Russia. His campaign was an opening salvo over the next hundred years. Streltsy are disciplined and very effective government troops, maintaining the use of Cossacks and auxiliaries, under conscription. They are after plunder, booty and whatever they can get. 

The Russians run into trouble near Mongolia and with the Chinese and local populations, mostly east of Lake Baikal. They are well organized; more of them and are well supplied. 

The colonizers come from a variety of places. Criminals, runaway serfs, exiles and other like the Cossacks. Right away, it leads to alienation of the land. These colonizers initially had poor implements to plow and sow the ground, removing the trees, and ruining the land; similar to slash and burn technology. 

This tendency to colonize diminishes in less suitable and more hostile lands. The way the native people were subjected to slaughter and pillage. Once the Cossacks and or the Russians took over an area, they would kill all the men and sell the women and children into slavery; very similar to the American West. 

Most of the Imperial Russian rule is indirect. The Cossacks rule an area, demanding pelts from every man and boy of age; 1-12 per man, under the subjugation of Moscow; (yasak). A tribute, slave devastation period ensues, utilizing the voevoda system to govern the area. The voevoda, similar to a tax collector, use the kormlenie system to feed themselves. It devastates the local population. Not sustainable. They also bring religion.