Maximum realistic territorial gains for the Russian Empire?

Jan 2009
1,270
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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

Finland was an autonomous part of Russia as the Grand Duchy of Finland from 1809 to 1917. And yes, the national institutions such as Finnish as an official language (1853, prior to that one had to use Swedish in government), currency (1860) and the parliament (Diet of Finland 1809, but regularly convened only after 1863) have their origins in the Age of Autonomy. Czar Alexander I was rather smart in gifting the recently conquered Finns such an autonomy, since it was a better deal than the Finns had had under Sweden, hence making it less likely that the Finns would back up any attempt of reconquest by the Swedes. This goes a long way into explaining why Finland was happy to be part of Russia until the Russification at the end of 19th and early 20th centuries.



By contrast, the Poles had had their own Kingdom and Golden Years, only to be partitioned in the 18th century. Then revived as an (semi-)independent Duchy of Warsaw by Napoleon in 1807, only to be partitioned again in 1815. Hence, the Poles had a history of independence, a quite recent one at that. Furthermore, unlike in Finland where the autonomy was respected (or at least the Finns were left mostly alone), the terms of the Polish autonomy were disrespected almost from the get-go. This explains why the Poles were more eager to gain full independence again.



Nicholas I said: "Leave the Finns alone. It is my large empire's only province that has not caused me a minute of worry or dismay during my reign."
(Source: https://books.google.es/books?id=fVjC9CdKmXsC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=Nicholas+I+leave+finns+alone&source=bl&ots=PyzPfdziIu&sig=N9qXfgerGHjRnq3FBjFK64BHqKc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjS276O2qPdAhVJWxoKHV_9CGEQ6AEwFHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=Nicholas I leave finns alone&f=false )
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
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Finland was an autonomous part of Russia as the Grand Duchy of Finland from 1809 to 1917. And yes, the national institutions such as Finnish as an official language (1853, prior to that one had to use Swedish in government), currency (1860) and the parliament (Diet of Finland 1809, but regularly convened only after 1863) have their origins in the Age of Autonomy. Czar Alexander I was rather smart in gifting the recently conquered Finns such an autonomy, since it was a better deal than the Finns had had under Sweden, hence making it less likely that the Finns would back up any attempt of reconquest by the Swedes. This goes a long way into explaining why Finland was happy to be part of Russia until the Russification at the end of 19th and early 20th centuries.



By contrast, the Poles had had their own Kingdom and Golden Years, only to be partitioned in the 18th century. Then revived as an (semi-)independent Duchy of Warsaw by Napoleon in 1807, only to be partitioned again in 1815. Hence, the Poles had a history of independence, a quite recent one at that. Furthermore, unlike in Finland where the autonomy was respected (or at least the Finns were left mostly alone), the terms of the Polish autonomy were disrespected almost from the get-go. This explains why the Poles were more eager to gain full independence again.



Nicholas I said: "Leave the Finns alone. It is my large empire's only province that has not caused me a minute of worry or dismay during my reign."
(Source: https://books.google.es/books?id=fVjC9CdKmXsC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=Nicholas+I+leave+finns+alone&source=bl&ots=PyzPfdziIu&sig=N9qXfgerGHjRnq3FBjFK64BHqKc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjS276O2qPdAhVJWxoKHV_9CGEQ6AEwFHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=Nicholas I leave finns alone&f=false )
Why was Russia less willing to respect Polish autonomy?
 
Jan 2009
1,270
Why was Russia less willing to respect Polish autonomy?

Initially or after three failed uprising? :) I assume the former. I'll be honest with you, I don't know, not my area of expertise by a long-shot. If I were to speculate, I suspect that it comes down to three things:


1) There was already a pro-independence movement hostile to Russian control in Poland; hence a shorter rein was necessary. Whereas in Finland, it was more about winning over the local elites, showing them that they were better off under Russia than Sweden, and there would be no need to plot for Swedish reconquest. For example, Swedish continued to be the language of higher education, law and government in Finland. Given that Finland had been the battleground between Russia and Sweden throughout the centuries, especially the 18th century, being part of the victorious Russia was probably a relief. So the facts on the ground are different: the Finns are more happy to be under Russian 'protection' than the Poles are. Treat the Poles lightly and they might be able to organize a revolt for independence; treat the Finns lightly and they will become loyal subjects, seeing that they are better off than under Sweden.



2) Russia was autocratic by default. Finland didn't have a tradition of local autonomy as it had been ruled from Stockholm, so it wasn't as burdensome; for example, the Diet wasn't called again for about half a century, but no biggie, we are accustomed to receiving orders from the capital. By contrast, the Polish did have their own traditions of local governance, so any autocracy by Russia was felt more keenly, even if it would not have differed a lot from Russian actions in Finland.


However, when the Russification policies started at the end of the 19th century, things changed a lot. Finnish Nationalism had risen (as with everywhere in Europe, including in Russia) and the attempt to turn the Finns into Russians was bitterly opposed. This lay the groundwork for Finnish independence in 1917. If that had not happened, who knows? Given that the Baltic states became independent despite having been part of Russia for two hundred years, perhaps Finland would have broken off, too, regardless.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,249
Sydney
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basically it was sour grapes , Poles love to play the poor innocent drama queen and have a very selective historical memory

the old Polish state had fought and lost the Supremacy of the East to Russia
and committed political suicide .


It was common to hate the Russians while hating the Germans was not , even if they behaved the same or worst
this is true even today ,
Russian proverb , "poles would throw away their watch rather than give the time of day to a Russian "
 
Jun 2017
2,976
Connecticut
Why was Russia less willing to respect Polish autonomy?
Poland was Catholic. While Poland ultimately preferred to become independent once this became a realistic option, Poland was more likely to side with the Catholic Austrians(and part of Poland was in Austria of course and they shared a border) in the system that existed and like most Catholics in the empire were pretty content as Hapsburg subjects when independence wasn't an option. We all know how brutal the Russians can get when they suspect their subjects of being sympathetic to the enemy based on religious identity. Even if the Polish were the most loyal subjects, Poland was the frontline between them and Germany and Austria and was militarily vital especially seeing the predicament the shape of Russian Poland's border put them in. In the event of war moving through Poland quickly was of the upmost importance. Finland on the other hand in the centuries since Sweden's decline wasn't really relevant to the military picture and was out in the far north of the country.
 
Jan 2009
1,270
Finland on the other hand in the centuries since Sweden's decline wasn't really relevant to the military picture and was out in the far north of the country.

Well, not quite so fast. St. Petersburg is just a hop and a skip from the Finnish border, especially as Viaborg (Karelia, including part of the Isthmus) was returned to Finland (it had been conquered during the 18th century). It is true that Sweden was a bit of a spent power, although at the time, it still had Norway, too.Despite both Sweden and Finland being Lutherian, religion didn't seem to be an issue. (Nowadays, there is a minority Orthodox Church in Finland as well, due to the Russian influence.)

Austria, Prussia and Russia all were working in unison to recarve Poland up again in the Congress of Vienna. It took some time for the relations to worsen with Austria, while the repression of Congress Poland started almost immediately. However, you are correct that the Polish independence movements did use Austrian Polish territories as a base against Russia, so by mid-1800s, this was definitely more of a threat.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
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Emperor raise a good point , Poland is on an invasion highway while Finland is not
 

Futurist

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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.
Yeah, it's always a question of whether potential could be actualized into reality. In a similar context, it's like saying that Brazil is the country of the future--and always will be! :D

In terms of territory I guess Finland and Constantinople is really all that's left.
Russia already had Finland in 1914, no? Agreed about Constantinople.

Armenia maybe?
Yep.

Also, what about Galicia, Subcarpathian Ruthenia, and the Memelland?

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.
Is acquiring additional Catholic or Muslim territory necessarily a problem for Russia, though?

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).
The thing is, though, that if Russia threatens the Austrians and/or Ottomans, then Germany is probably going to feel compelled to militarily intervene against Russia.

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.
Agreed.

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.
Please keep in mind, though, that Russia didn't fight against the Ottomans during the Hamidian massacres (mid-1890s) in real life even though it could have. Indeed, that was a moment when Russia could have attacked the Ottoman Empire and probably gotten away with it if it would have limited its conquests to Ottoman Armenia due to the fact that the Ottomans' extremely brutal treatment of the Christian Armenians strongly repulsed Christian Europe.

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?
Germany did have the Berlin-to-Baghdad Railroad to worry about, no?

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.
There's no way in Hell that Russia is going to gobble up either Bulgaria or Greece. The people there are probably going to launch a massive insurgency against Russian rule and the Russian people might very well not be willing to shed their blood to eliminate the independence of fellow Slavic and/or Eastern Orthodox countries.

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?
No; too many Indians for Russia to swallow.

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.
Agreed with all of this.

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.
Completely agreed with all of this.

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.
Personally, I don't think that Germany is capable of quickly knocking out France by itself in an alt-WWI that breaks out in 1950. Rather, what Germany is probably going to do is play defense on both fronts (or, alternatively, play defense in the west while engaging in an offensive in the east to liberate Poland and then going on the defense in the east as well). It would only be after large numbers of British troops (including British Empire troops) are actually capable of assisting the Germans that Germany and Britain are going to jointly go on the offensive against France while still playing defense in the east.

What Britain is going to be capable of doing immediately would be to seize France's colonies and to blockade France, though. This would induce economic hardship in France, completely isolate it from Russia, and prevent France from replenishing its army with Algerian and colonial troops.

In fact, given the extremely poor situation that France is going to be in in this alt-WWI, it's possible that France might never even enter this alt-WWI and try to restrain Russia--telling Russia that if it's going to fight, it's going to have to do it by itself without any French help. Still, if France does indeed decide to fight, what I wrote above is very likely what's going to end up happening to France.

(Cont.)
 

Futurist

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(Cont. from prev.: )

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)
Yeah, the Italians are dependent on Britain for 90% of their coal imports and thus are certainly not going to fight against an alliance of Britain and Germany unless it already becomes crystal-clear that Austria-Hungary is on the verge of collapse--and even then, Italy might try to use diplomacy to get some territorial gains at A-H's expense while avoiding war with Britain and Germany (since even with A-H collapsing, Britain and Germany could try to liberate it and reestablish it).

and as part 1 says the Germans likely won't have to worry about the French.
Yeah, I certainly agree that the French are going to go down before the Russians--though it's probably not going to occur as quickly as you think it will.

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.
Completely agreed. In fact, I might even venture as far as to say that Serbia and Montengro might actually remain neutral in this alt-WWI unless it is crystal-clear that Russia is winning this war. After all, while Serbs would absolutely love to fulfill their Yugoslav dream, if entering the war means that they are likely to not only fail to achieve this, but also lose a lot of their young men and lose Macedonia and possibly Kosovo as well, then the Serbs might simply not be interested in entering this alt-WWI.

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.
This is why I think that it would be best for Russia to go on the offensive on only one front at once and to place defense elsewhere. That way, Russia would have a chance of eliminating one front using overwhelming force. If it divides its military too evenly between different fronts, then it might fail to achieve success on any of them.

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.
Is Russia going to advance on Constantinople only through Anatolia or through both Anatolia and the Balkans, though? Going through the Balkans would require violating Romanians and Bulgarian neutrality and is likely to heavily piss off those countries.

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.
Agreed with all of this.

Russia seizes Constantinople and Armenia. Gains naval and air superiority in the Staits.
It would also seize the rest of Anatolia in the process, no?

4)Would the Russians attack India if they have the troops?
Possibly, but it's going to have to be a diversionary attack since logistics through the Hindu Kush Mountains is probably going to be a bitch.

Would the British try and move beyond Afghanistan and invade Russia itself?
Probably not through Central Asia due to the difficult logistics. I mean, they could try doing a diversionary attack through Central Asia, but the main action of the war is going to have to be elsewhere.

Depending on the colonial situation would the Indians rise up?
Probably not.

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.
There might not be a partition of India in this scenario, though.

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.
I don't think that the Persians are going to enter the war unless it's clear that one side is decisively winning. Persia could go on either side; it could gain the Shiite-majority parts of southern Iraq from the Ottoman Empire or it could get Azerbaijan and possibly Turkmenistan as well from the Russians. Of course, the Ottomans are also probably going to want Azerbaijan for themselves due to its huge amount of oil reserves.

India possibly has a Russia supported uprising, UK has difficulty putting it down.
I personally think that an Indian uprising is unlikely, but it can't be completely excluded.

(Cont.)
 

Futurist

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(Cont. from prev.: )

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.
Agreed. However, would this be followed by a D-Day-style invasion of somewhere on the Russian Baltic coast?

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.
Agreed with all of this.

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.
I don't know what China's government is actually going to do in this scenario; it would depend on what developments in China would be like between 1914 and 1950 in this scenario.

I certainly do think that France's Chinese possessions and Asian colonies are going to be ripe for the picking, though.

Do the Vietnamese support the French or the colonizers or neither?
It depends on what the Anglo-German-Japanese side is willing to offer them. Are they offering them a better life than under French rule? Complete independence? Something else?

Japan might want French Indochina for itself, but it's possible that it could be willing to compromise in regards to this and agree to nominal Indochinese independence in exchange for acquiring Indochinese support against the French.

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.
Agreed with all of this.

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

Also, does France lose Algeria as well? If so, who gets it?

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.
Agreed.

Russia survives 1950 or the first winter of the war.
Agreed.

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.
I disagree with the last part here since any ships that are going to have to go from the Mediterranean Sea to Crimea would have to pass through Constantinople. Thus, an amphibious invasion of Constantinople and the Straits might be more likely. Let's just hope that it doesn't become another Gallipoli for the Brits and Germans.

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.
Completely agreed with all of this.

Also, a land assault on Constantinople might very well be an extremely massive bloodbath for everyone involved. :(

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.
Completely agreed with all of this.

Also, what do the post-WWI peace terms look like in this scenario?

Damm, really got into that one!
Yep, Yep you did. :) ;)