Maximum realistic territorial gains for the Russian Empire?

Ancientgeezer

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
8,895
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
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Russia had reached it's natural limits

they abandoned their interest in Alaska , northern California , had cursory looks at the central pacific and blankly refused to have anything to do with Papua new guinea


in Central Asia , they had their hands full with what they held and their only interest with Afghanistan was to counter the British


on the Caucasian front they were butting against the Persians and Ottomans , there also their main concern was stability in a rather unstable region


the Balkans were an issue mostly for religious and nationalist reason reasons, their policy was to set up friendly kingdoms under their protection


they actually disengaged from Finland and gave them their first real national structure
tried to do the same with Poland but the Polish are un-redeemable Russian haters

on the whole the Empire had reached its limits , the canard about access to warm water

is sooo much a British obsession , Russians just don't think that way .

there was a strong emotional push to free Constantinople from the Turks but it was mostly kept in the daydream section of their brain


As for an Hypothetical 1950 war ,there is some serious questions ,

what would be the shape of the Russian government ?
what would be china doing
would Austro Hungary still held together
Britain by itself would only provide a navy in a land war

So it would be the WW1 as it was planed in July 1914

The Russians gave up their American territories because they became convinced that Britain would sooner or later take them in a future war, perhaps even use their acquisition as an excuse for a future conflict. Tsar Alexander did make an approach to sell them to Britain but was turned down flat by Palmerston. The Tsar's brother Grand Duke Konstantin, thought that selling to America would be a rather good idea to "cut off" British Columbia and encourage America to press claims against British North America and hopefully inspire strained relations.

Russian was also quite broke after the Crimean war and they needed the cash.
 
May 2015
1,061
The Netherlands
What do you think the maximum realistic territorial gains for the Russian Empire during the 20th and 21st centuries are if World War I is delayed for at least a couple of decades (thus shifting the alliance system a bit--with Britain joining the German orbit) and if the Russian Empire survives until the 21st century?
As some have already pointed out Russia was reaching its point of saturation and couldn't grow much more. It would have invested more in puppet states or indirect control (Manchuria, Northern Persia, Balkans) than further large-scale territorial expansion. In the case of a victorious Russia during a WW1-like war, there would be some likely exceptions:
  • Galicia, Bukovina, Carpatho-Ukraine
  • Posen, parts of Silesia, East and West Prussia
  • Constantinople, Turkish Straits, Eastern Thrace
  • Ottoman Armenia, perhaps Trabzon
  • South Sakhalin
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,922
SoCal
As some have already pointed out Russia was reaching its point of saturation and couldn't grow much more. It would have invested more in puppet states or indirect control (Manchuria, Northern Persia, Balkans) than further large-scale territorial expansion.
The most prudent strategy for Russia would be to annex only territories with a low population density and/or with large numbers of an ethnic group which already exists in large amounts within Russia's borders, no?

In terms of areas with a low population density, I mean southern Sakhalin, Mongolia, Xinjiang, and perhaps Tibet as well. Meanwhile, in regards to ethnic groups, northern Iran has some Azeri-majority and Turkmen-majority areas and northern Afghanistan has some Turkmen-majority, Uzbek-majority, and Tajik-majority areas:





Overall, I'm a big fan of the U.S. expansionism model--specifically expanding into territories which have a low population density and then flooding them with American settlers.

In the case of a victorious Russia during a WW1-like war, there would be some likely exceptions:
  • Galicia, Bukovina, Carpatho-Ukraine


  • Romania would get southern Bukovina, no?

    [*]Posen, parts of Silesia, East and West Prussia
    Yep, though one might wonder whether it would be a more prudent move for Russia to create a Polish puppet state--including in these areas. The Poles were a pain in the ass for Russia to rule and thus one wonders whether they are more fitted for indirect control by Russia.

    [*]Constantinople, Turkish Straits, Eastern Thrace
    If Bulgaria enters the war on Russia's side, it's going to want eastern Thrace, no?

    [*]Ottoman Armenia, perhaps Trabzon
    Yep.

    Also, out of curiosity--do you imagine this region becoming a Russian version of the U.S.'s Sun Belt (perhaps along with southern Central Asia) in the late 20th and 21st centuries? :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Belt

    [*]South Sakhalin
Yep.
 

Ancientgeezer

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
8,895
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
Why did Palmerston turn him down?
Western lands (what would become W. Canada) were already too "wild" and would require substantial effort to civilise, Pam considered the place not worth the effort.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,922
SoCal
Western lands (what would become W. Canada) were already too "wild" and would require substantial effort to civilise, Pam considered the place not worth the effort.
Oh.

Well, the U.S. should certainly be grateful to Britain for its generosity in regards to this. :)
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,011
Sydney
.
On the Russian side , there was a strong feeling that the non christian lands were not worth the troubles
the only valid reason to even go there was that they had to be controlled only as a protection against their natural propensity to be even more trouble if left to their own device.


as a Russian diplomat once said ,
"the czar has an over abundance of miserable lands and need no more "


At all times Russia considered than conquest was only to react to a threat or potential threat
their mindset is not of that of conqueror but of fearful paranoia
which they believe their history give them plenty of causes to be
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,922
SoCal
.
On the Russian side , there was a strong feeling that the non christian lands were not worth the troubles
the only valid reason to even go there was that they had to be controlled only as a protection against their natural propensity to be even more trouble if left to their own device.


as a Russian diplomat once said ,
"the czar has an over abundance of miserable lands and need no more "


At all times Russia considered than conquest was only to react to a threat or potential threat
their mindset is not of that of conqueror but of fearful paranoia
which they believe their history give them plenty of causes to be
Exactly what threat did Central Asia pose to Russia?
 
Jun 2017
2,971
Connecticut
What do you think the maximum realistic territorial gains for the Russian Empire during the 20th and 21st centuries are if World War I is delayed for at least a couple of decades (thus shifting the alliance system a bit--with Britain joining the German orbit) and if the Russian Empire survives until the 21st century?

On a related note, I wonder if a surviving Tsarist Russia would be able to win an alt-World War I which breaks out around 1950 and where it has to fight Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and possibly Japan as well with only France, Serbia, and Montenegro at its side.
In 1914 Russia had mostly reached it's limit. It's room for growth was mostly in terms of population and industrialization something that has been largely reversed and contained by the World War's and the demographic and political consequences. Russia was seen as a future superpower at the start of the century and it's potential probably was more fearsome than it's actual power.

In terms of territory I guess Finland and Constantinople is really all that's left. Armenia maybe? East Prussia was the home of the Prussian elite, it's not like you can just gobble that away without general warfare(though that's ironically the only extra territorial area they ultimately permanently did). Everything else is Catholic or Muslim.

In terms of goals Russia's opponents were the Ottomans, Austrians and Brits. The Germans don't count because the Russians and Germans didn't have direct opposing interests, Germany was an enemy of Russia because Russia teamed up with France and Germany Austria. Anyway Russia had two theaters of possible conflict with these three opponents(the Japanese aren't being counted because think that war was decisive).

1)At the time of the war Russia was creating a Orthodox satellite controlled Balkans. Despite the embarrassment of the 1908 incident Russia had mostly succeeded at this with Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Romania all being independent. The Ottomans only had Constantinople and the surrounding area and the Austrians had Bosnia with Albania having blocked Serbia's access to the sea. Bosnia and Albania are both Muslim majority areas who are themselves only in Russian interests to the extent they are Serbian imperial interests. Russia went to war to maintain this situation as Austria was about to invade their largest satellite. If war does not break out, I doubt Russia will try to disturb the status quo, same with Albania. I do see them itching to attack the Ottomans and to take Constantinople and to become the "Third Roman Empire". The Crimean War was fought to stop this ambition. This had been a goal of Russia for a long time. They might also seize Armenia in a war with the Ottomans. I think Russia succeeds here remember the Germans alliance with the Ottomans was because the Germans were already fighting the Russians and the Ottomans were their enemy who could stand to gain from Russian defeat. Why would Germany risk their neck to save the Ottoman Empire if they weren't at war?

This could put the Russians at odds with their satellites, the Bulgarian Tsar wants Constantinople too. Bulgaria is at odds with all the other Russian puppets so perhaps Bulgaria could be conquered and divided by the winners including Russia? If Russia took part of Bulgaria, her relations with her satellites would be undamaged, an unstable force would be removed and how hard would it be to assimilate the Bulgarians? Still why would Bulgaria provoke anymore attacks after how terribly the Second Balkan War went? Just throwing a hypothetical there. Greece is historically Byzantium and if Russia tries reclaiming that heritage maybe they'd try gobbling them up? I don't see that going over as well, especially with the British.

2)Russia opposes the British because they are the biggest threat to India, the UK's most valued asset. This made the Russian's the Brits priority opponent before the Kaiser started stupidly making the British paranoid about their naval superiority. That being said that was more a 19th century thing, do the Russians want India at this point? I am not an expert on this quite ignorant on the matter but I do know while the Ottomans and even Austrians are the weaker borderline great powers who could be on paper defeated without alliances in play(which is what I'm sure the Russians hoped would happen if they protected Serbia against Austria), the British like with the Germans are an opponent where the outcome of a general war is very unclear especially if Russia gains power though. India is the British number one priority and I'm not so sure it's worth it. Afghanistan has proven not to be worth conquering over and over again.

3) Per your 1950 world war scenario. I would say almost certainly no. While Russia developing unhindered until 1950 changes things, Germany, Austria-Hungary(low bar they'd still exist) and Japan(complex because they'd have the British alliance but wouldn't have the German colonies) would all be immensely stronger without the World Wars. it must be remembered the Tsar or a constitutional government(and with no WWI, I'm pretty confident in saying there would be no regime change or very limited regime change) would industrialize slower than the USSR did with the five year plans and despite Russia's potential, she would be fighting three of the world's five most powerful countries and the Austrians and Ottomans. The French are not close to powerful enough to make a difference here and at this stage even Italy would have surpassed their population.

Here is my specific prediction.

1)Germany defeated the Russians in WWI while fighting the French. They did not have the UK on their side. Not only would Germany be able to take out the French without UK help(no Versailles, Germany would be considerably stronger) if the French are able to hold on there is no reason the UK would not be able to invade France with their overwhelming naval superiority(and probably combined with the Germans air superiority) not only from the Atlantic but the Mediterranean. The UK's larger navy would be able to seize control of the French colonies as well.

France falls quick to Germany and the UK.

2)Even if the Russian military is considerably more effective than they were in WWI, the Austrians do not have to worry about the Italians(you didn't mention them) and as part 1 says the Germans likely won't have to worry about the French. The Austrians will have to fight the Serbs and Montengreans who in WWI fought incredibly well and at the loss of a massive percentage of their population repulsed several invasions. Even if this goes similarly terrible for the Austrians and who knows if things would be the same given air power they likely can not survive long especially if one or more of their neighbours is compelled to attack to steal territory. Even in the far less clear WWI we had, Bulgaria did join in with the Central Powers. Greece is friendly with the UK as well as Russia and the Bulgarians would likely be similarly ambitious(look at the Balkan Wars). Regardless Serbia and Montenegro don't change the outcome even if what I mention in part 3 allows them to survive.

Serbia and Montenegro likely fall within a year or two at most to the Austrians and maybe their allies.

3)Russia's main objective would be Constantinople and the Caucuses. While the Russians should have no trouble doing this they will be distracted by massive opposition on other fronts. Still it's reasonable to say the Russian navy at the Black Sea immediately goes for Constantinople and lays siege and/or launches an expeditionary force. This has been the hardest region on earth to conquer but given air superiority let's say the Russians take the city. Well what happens next? How much can the Russians spare to even defend their gains never mind finish off the Ottomans? The Russians in the Caucuses would have allies in the Armenians and might inspire uprisings. Let's say they are successful here. So many factors that come into play are the UK in Africa and what happens elsewhere. While the French might keep them distracted, how long will this last? Will the Ottomans get support from Egypt? Also would the Russians be able to send help to Serbia and keep them in the war or would their proximity to the Bulgarians convince the Bulgars to join the Russians or at least not attack? Would Bulgaria depending on the war's outlook join the Ottomans and try to take Constantinople? If Russia seizes the straits though their air force and naval superiority will be hard to counter because it's a dependable position.

Russia seizes Constantinople and Armenia. Gains naval and air superiority in the Staits.

4)Would the Russians attack India if they have the troops? Would the British try and move beyond Afghanistan and invade Russia itself? Depending on the colonial situation would the Indians rise up? This would be the Brits biggest priority and if the Russians took India they'd need Indian support. Pakistan is closer to the frontier and they are more likely to be friendly to the UK. Persia is also crucial here as Persia going either way could tip the scales. Let's give Persia to the Russians and say they oppose the Ottomans, the issue is they'd have war with the Ottomans on one front and the Brits on the other(maybe both). Unclear how'd that would end but it would be risky for Persia as the Brits could use this to seize Persia's resources. Not going to predict Persia or the Ottomans being totally defeated.

India possibly has a Russia supported uprising, UK has difficulty putting it down.

5)Germany and the UK would have trouble in the Straits but in the Baltic they'd be able to no doubt able to get naval superiority and shell St Petersburg.

6)Japan's army is ill equipped to deal with the Russians, they are a naval power. Still they can invade Siberia seize Russian islands similar to what they did to Germany and draw away troops. Japan can also do their part to blockade Russia. Where is China in this? While the French have colonies in the area so do the Germans and British and along with the Japanese would have no trouble gaining naval superiority. Do the Vietnamese support the French or the colonizers or neither? Whether Indochina holds out is irrelevant though it would be lower priority for the Brits than the Japanese so I'm going to predict the Japanese tries to take it for it's resources. I'd be inclined to think the British would be able to convince the Chinese not to join, if they did Japan would take the chance to invade, though their success depends on China's development. China was working on developing in 1937 and given another 13 years they could be fearsome.

France loses all it's colonies. Japan attacks Russia. Success questionable.

7)Germany and Austria attack Russia. Given naval superiority and British aircraft carriers the Baltic's will likely fall as the Germans can pound Riga and St Petersburg. Making an amphibious assault here isn't out of the question. The Russian frontier is huge and the weather will play to the Russians advantage. However in our timeline without homicidal Nazi's it is hard to imagine Russian's being quite as motivated to fight as in WWII even if their regime is more liked assuming it isn't the Tsar. Germany and Austria will have taken Poland. Like in India with the Brits, the Polish locals might rise up to support the advancing enemy.


Russia survives 1950 or the first winter of the war.


8)In our timeline Crimea was seized in mid 1942 against the Germans. Against this much opposition let's suggest the same. Once Crimea falls, the Allies will have a base from which to attack Constantinople and will have taken away many of the fields which the Russians would have been using to cover the area. At this point the French will be long gone and the British and Ottomans will be able to try and retake Constantinople. Also what is preventing the Germans and Austrians from attacking Rumelia from the West? Will Romania or Hungary really refuse military accesses? From the Mediterranean, Turkey, Crimea and the Balkans, the Allies will eventually seize Constantinople. Once they control the straits they can send in more troops this way. As mentioned before they can also invade from the Baltic. The Russians are likely to put up a successful defense in the coastal region west of Moscow and this allows them to flank the Russian line. Russia is a massive country with a ton of people, invading it will take time. Russia also gains an advantage during the winter.

9)While Russia likely survives it's second winter the following spring Moscow falls to overwhelming force. The Japanese facing little resistance continue to gobble up Siberia and the Russians while moving their industrial base out of the reach of both in the past two years see the writing on the wall and sue for peace in the summer of 1952.

Damm, really got into that one!
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
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what threat did Central Asia pose to Russia?

three hundred years under the Tatar yoke , raids by the muslin principalities whining about Jihad

and threatening the supply lines to the Siberian far east .
the conquest of Central Asia turned to be like putting a hand in a gearbox , they got caught into a situation

things tended to make a further move necessary to protect the preceding one

the local commanders would exaggerate a threat to justifies a further advance



that's a typical Imperial stuff up , all Empires are subject to it , just ask the British