CFP: Russia as a Field of Experiment? Scientific, Technological and Financial Investments and the Interaction of European Countries in the Russian Empire in the Decades before World War I

June 9-10, 2016, Paris, Fondation Singer-Poligniac

Call for papers

Parallel to the military alliances formed before the First World War (Triple Alliance, Franco-Russian Alliance, and Triple Entente) the decades before 1914 were marked by vivid and rich scientific and economic contacts between the Russian Empire, the other European powers, and the United States of America. In the course of time the latter invested in the Russian Empire and transferred their know-how and capital. At the same time they increased their knowledge about this more or less unexplored country and expanded their influence in many aspects. Also Russia benefited from these ideological, scientific and economic interventions, such as in the fields of infrastructure or the professionalization of the sciences. In any case there was a mutual transfer.

The engagement of non-Russian states had an unintended side effect, because they had the possibility to ‘test` new strategies and practices in the Russian Empire, which could be applied, if necessary, later in their own countries. Russia functioned as a “testing ground”. Given Russia´s rich natural sources and its comparably late start of (proto-) industrialization, investors from abroad had great expectations investing in Russia. Moreover, this empire was much easier to reach than the United States, another ´Eldorado´ for investors. Russia´s spatial proximity significantly reduced various costs (for the trip itself, the transportation of men and material etc.). Although the diverse exchange processes are basically known and partially investigated, there is no complete analysis of the scientific, technological and financial investments and interactions of European countries in the Tsarist Empire to date.

For historians, the scientific, technological and financial investments and the interactions of European countries in the Russian Empire are an ideal field for the investigation of historical processes of transfer. Proceeding from the premise that the Tsarist Empire could develop into a desirable investment country and that people, ideas and capital could circulate, despite Russia´s strict immigration and investment policy, between East and West, the following questions and aspects should be discussed at the conference:

  • To what extent was the Russian Empire a kind of laboratory for foreign actors (politicians, industrialists, financiers, scientists, artists, etc.)?
  • Which methods, strategies or policies were used in Russia, which were transferred back? What were the consequences of this re-implementation in the West?
  • Which type of transfers existed in the fields of science, industry, the military, espionage or trade? Which actors were important? What kind of networks emerged? What were the reactions of public authorities inside and outside Russia?
  • Which exchange processes and internationalizations took place in areas such as the fight against crime/crime prevention (e.g. Interpol), health (Red Cross/Red Crescent etc.), the transnational cooperation of artists (e.g. “Der Blaue Reiter”) or political parties (for example, the Second International)?
  • Which effects of modernization, alienation or adaptation resulted from foreign investment and its investors in Russia?
  • What type of acculturation processes did foreign actors in Russia have to undergo?
  • Did they acquire local knowledge? What were the effects of this knowledge in the homelands?
  • What insights did the foreign agents gain in the peripheries of the Russian Empire into the latter’s character as a colonial power?
  • To what extent and in which areas was the Russian province involved in these processes of transfer?

These are just some possible starting points; others, including micro-historical projects, are also welcome.

Please send an abstract (max. 2000 characters incl. spaces) and a short CV in English or French to both organizers.

Kerstin Susanne Jobst :

F.-D. Liechtenhan :

The conference will take place after the necessary funding has been received.

Deadline: December 20, 2015

Posted: October 28, 2015