|Russian Tsar Nicholas II at an aircraft-making factory|
There is truth to the unprecedented economic rise of Russia in the 20th century. After all it was in the Soviet Union where the first sputnik was launched into space in October of 1957, where school education was hailed as the best in the world, where national republics went from medieval state to complex and diverse economies.
However, it should be always remembered that Soviet science and economics stood on the firm foundation that had been laid out during the Russian Tsar Nicholas II time. We can safely say that the USSR economically stood on the “shoulders of the giant” that was the Tsar Russia. To put it shortly, the Soviet economic growth happened on railways and in factories built during the Tsar time. The traditional Russian perseverance and ingenuity helped of course – but Stalin can hardly be “thanked” for that. The bolsheviks also liked to hire the best engineering talent from the US and Great Britain to do the prototype design and to head the construction, as was the case with the huge Dnepro Hydroelectric dam. Thus they dealt with the “brain drain” caused by the revolution. Besides, we should never forget the overwhelming number of Russian people who had been purged to the GULAG and were used as slaves building such Stalin highlights as the White Sea-Baltic Canal (Belomorkanal) which connected Moscow with the White Sea. According to some accounts about a quarter of a million people died there. This is a project built literally on human bones. Nothing of the kind was taking place in the Tsar Russia.
The Russian engineering tradition had lasted for 200 years before 1900s. Many Romanovs were navy and military engineers and had deep appreciation of the trade. Best engineers of the world were trained during the Nicholas II rule. We do not often realize that some of most popular inventions of the 20th century were done by Russians such as Sikorsky (trans-ocean hydroplane, helicopter), Zvorykin (television), Kotelnikov (parachute) who had been trained in the Tsar Russia. They started out in Russia, sometimes showing their inventions to the Tsar as he was keenly interested in the engineering advances. Igor Sikorsky, the inventor of hydroplanes and helicopters, wrote in his memoirs about his meetings with Nicholas II: “The Emperor was among the few people who would not ask questions if they were not correct or thought through. As an engineer he was my equal”. Bolsheviks made this talent leave their home country losing their technical potential to other nations.
While the economic growth was steady in Russia under the Romanovs, it was under Nicholas II when a colossal economic leap took place in Russia. The famous Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest railway network in the world connecting Central Russia with Siberia and the Russian Far East was built 1891-1916 and is still in use now! Textile, electro-technical, chemical, mining, mechanical engineering, ship-making factories were built. There were over 400 huge factories in Russia in 1910s. Russian economy was the fourth biggest in the world after American, British, and German. The typical thing about it (and quite different from Russia today) was that it was not mainly based on extraction of raw materials, like grain, oil, coal, iron, or wood, although trading in these commodities was an important source of revenue. Russian economy was mostly of a more developed, manufacturing type as it was producing a finished, usable product and was heavily involved in construction.
Nicholas II reforms included creation of completely new branches of economy: electrical engineering, radio-frequency engineering, chemical engineering, aircraft engineering. They were based on scientific advances of the last quarter of the 19th century. Most of them had some “Russian” trace in them (for example, think Dmitry Mendeleev’s Periodic Law and his Periodic Table of Elements). Many of those factories were actively working during the Stalin times to produce the Soviet industrialization miracle, while in fact they were the results of Nicholas II strategic plans.
It should be very well understood that Russian Tsar Nicholas II was not only a well-educated politician with successful long-term strategies. He was a deeply religious, Orthodox Christian person. Doing what’s right for the country that he had been mystically anointed to rule was paramount to him. He was very serious about “Loving Thy Enemy” (Mt. 5:44), but this was not “softie” as he has been mocked all those years. It was Christian. He had a vision of a country that was economically advanced and Christian at the same time. The Russian Tsar Nicholas II had it in good balance; he was kind, smart, extremely well educated, strategic thinker, and, most important of all, he was guided by the Spirit.
Looking back at Russia under Nicholas II and then under the bolsheviks we can safely say that the Soviet economic and technological advances came to a grinding halt once the huge potential left by the Nicholas’ II social and economic reforms was exhausted. The country thrived under Nicholas II rule, and even during the First World War it developed quickly, especially its heavy machinery engineering. Unfortunately, this growing process stopped almost immediately after 1917, the year of the revolution. It started to pick up slowly only well after 10 years into the Soviet rule, a significant setback and at a terrible and short-sighted price of abandoning its intended Christian way. This artificial state could not live long, and we all know what has happened to Russia without the pious Tsar and Christianity.
(translation based on Russian-language sources)