Born on the Golden Horn and raised in the Sultan’s palace in Istanbul, Çelebi traveled throughout Ottoman domains between 1640 and 1680. He published an account of his travels and experiences as the Seyahatname, or Book of Travels. In the first of his ten books in the document, Çelebi provides a lengthy description of Istanbul around the year 1638, including a panoramic view of 1,100 artisan and craft guilds. The numbers and diversity of trades represented underscore the extent of Ottoman commerce—as well as the pride of place each of the city’s working people claimed as their due.
Robert Dankoff, An Ottoman Mentality: The World of Evliya Çelebi, 2nd ed. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2006), 86–89.
The defeat of Russia in the Crimean War (1853–1856) convinced the newly enthroned Alexander II (r. 1855–1881) of the need for fundamental reforms in his country. The first institution he tackled was serfdom, and his Emancipation Edict (1861) ostensibly freed peasants from their bondage to the landowning aristocracy. Although the edict affected some 50 million serfs, it was not fully implemented. Peasants were not given land titles per se; the land was turned over to the control of local communities (mirs), which then allocated parcels to individual serfs. Moreover, they were forced to make annual payments to the government in the form of loans that would compensate the former landowners; the loan amounts were often higher than the dues aristocrats had demanded before emancipation.
Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer who has dominated Russian political life since 2000, delivered this remarkable oration after annexing the Crimea region from the nation of Ukraine in March 2014. This move came after a protest movement had driven the pro-Russian president of Ukraine out of office, and as tensions between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians in the country had erupted into violence in several Ukrainian cities. Once a referendum was held in the Crimean Peninsula about whether to remain within Ukraine or to be united to Russia, Putin, believing that “the numbers speak for themselves,” authorized the annexation of the region as Russian territory. In this speech, justifying his country’s move against a fellow former Soviet Socialist Republic, Putin appealed to both recent and distant history—and, perhaps, signaled his further intentions for the future.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
The beginnings of German national identity were not political but rather cultural. Already in the eighteenth century, Germans had begun to react against the intellectual domination of the French Enlightenment and against the idea of a purely rational and universal definition of human nature. Instead, German thinkers began to develop the idea that humanity consists of different peoples (in German, Volk, people or folk) who share a common language, culture, and history. This idea was picked up on and carried forward by the Romantic movement, which emphasized emotion and particularity as opposed to the reason and universality of the Enlightenment.
Against this backdrop of growing German cultural self-identity, the military and political humiliation of the crushing Prussian defeat at Jena by Napoleon in 1806 flashed like a bolt of lightning. Prussia was forced to surrender all of its territory west of the Elbe River, and Napoleon even occupied Berlin. This defeat led to reforms of the feudal system in Prussia in 1807, not wholly unlike the changes in Japan after the Meiji Restoration. It also inspired one of the most important statements of German nationalism, a series of lectures delivered in Berlin in 1807–1808 by the most important German philosopher of the time, Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814).
Despite his success as an academic philosopher, Fichte’s best-known work derived from a series of lectures inspired by the nationalist awakening he experienced as a result of Napoleon’s defeat and occupation of Prussia, the leading German state. He gave the lectures, entitled Addresses to the German Nation (1807), to raise morale and inspire patriotism among Germans.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation (1807–1808), trans. R. F. Jones and G. H. Turnbull. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press (1979): 3–4, 12–13, 15, 131, 132, 135–36, 138, 143–44, 145, 146–47, 151, 153, 223–24, 264, 266, 268.
Richard Rorty (1931–2007) was an American philosopher who taught at Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Virginia. Rorty became associated with a form of American philosophy known as pragmatism, which followed the writing of the philosopher John Dewey. He came to believe, following Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, that meaning was a sociolinguistic product and did not exist in and of itself. In Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes, Rorty, an avowed atheist, argues that we should not ignore the inspirational qualities of great works such as the gospels, or the Communist Manifesto, simply because their predictions fell short of reality. Christianity and Communism, he wrote, need not be judged for their predictive qualities but for their appeals to what Abraham Lincoln referred to as the “Better Angels of our Nature.” They stirred men and women to good deeds, which arguably benefitted society in general.
From Richard Rorty, Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes, 1998.
World Economic Forum
The Global Gender Gap Report was introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 to analyze disparities between genders in a worldwide context. It assesses national gender gaps in political, economic, health, and education-related areas and ranks countries according to data, allowing comparisons across regions, time, and income groups. According to the report’s introduction, these rankings “are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.” This excerpt looks at women’s impact on economic growth through increased education, participation in the labor force, and women’s role as consumers, or the “power of the purse.”
From “The Global Gender Gap,” World Economic Forum, 2010. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2010.pdf (downloaded November 20, 2012).
Gregory Bishop of Tours
Over the course of the fifth century, the Franks became one of the most powerful of the Germanic successor kingdoms. While some other Germanic rulers converted to Arianism, a Christian heresy, perhaps to distinguish themselves from their subject Roman populations, the Frankish kings remained pagan until 496, when their king Clovis converted to Catholic Christianity. This event was therefore a crucial turning point in the political and religious history of the medieval West, building an alliance between the Church and the Frankish state that benefited both sides. There are several accounts of Clovis’s conversion, including this one by Gregory of Tours in his History of the Franks. Gregory (539–594) was a prominent churchman—as bishop of Tours he was the leading prelate in what had been Roman Gaul—and a representative of the old Roman aristocracy of the area. He was personally acquainted with several of the Frankish kings of his own day, and he wrote his history partly to flatter them. Despite this bias, he is generally a reliable, if somewhat naïve, chronicler.
From Gregory Bishop of Tours, History of the Franks, trans. Ernest Brehaut. New York: Columbia University Press (1965): 38–41.
Throughout the 1930s, Churchill had opposed the policy of “appeasement” advocated by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his allies in the British Parliament. His rise to the highest political office was facilitated by Chamberlain’s failure to deliver on the “peace in our time” he had promised after the Munich Agreement in September 1938. However, it was not until May 1940 that Churchill got his chance. Having calmed, encouraged, and directed the British people—and others—throughout the war years, Churchill was himself removed from power in 1945. Nevertheless, at this famous address delivered at Westminster College in Missouri in 1946, Churchill warned of a new regime that also could not, and should not, be appeased. It is considered one of the first salvos in the developing Cold War between the West and the Soviet bloc.
The Janissaries constitute the most famous and centralized of the Ottomans’ military institutions. A feared and respected military force, the Janissaries were Christian-born males who had been seized from their homes as boys, converted to Islam, and then trained as future soldiers and administrators for the Turks. Under the direct orders of the sultan and his viziers, the Janissaries were equipped with the latest military innovations. In the early fifteenth century, these units received cannons and matchlock muskets. The muskets continued their evolution in the Janissaries’ hands, becoming the standard equipment for Ottoman and other armies.
© INTERFOTO / Alamy
As a result of the failure of his Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in November 1923, Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was sent to a minimum security prison at Landsberg. However, he was paroled, four years before the completion of his sentence, in December 1924. Having met with the respect of his judges during his trial in February 1924 and with the approval of the Bavarian Supreme Court, although against the advice of state prosecutors, he had his sentence—after his conviction for a treasonable attempt to take over the state—commuted. Nevertheless, there were some restrictions, both in Bavaria and elsewhere in Germany, on Hitler’s speaking and freedom of movement. In spite of these restrictions, he emerged from prison with the manuscript of a new political statement of his life and philosophy, a document he entitled Mein Kampf (“My struggle”). As recently discovered documents reveal, Hitler hoped to use the proceeds from the sale of this book for a new car as well as to fund his political movement. The party growing out of this movement would be labeled the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and he would be installed as its unquestioned Führer (leader) by 1925. The following excerpt from Mein Kampf reveals what he had learned about rhetoric and political action in his nascent career.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Mannheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), 469–471.
Otto von Bismarck
After the fall of Napoleon in 1815, Germany was still divided into thirty-eight German states, the most important of which were Austria and Prussia. Until midcentury, memories of the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars would make the rulers of German states more concerned with preventing revolution than with achieving unity. In 1848, though, revolution again swept Europe, representatives from German states met in the Frankfurt Parliament, and hope was once more kindled that Germany could be united. The powers of the old states had only been temporarily eclipsed, however, and eventually they reasserted themselves and the dreams of German unity via the Frankfurt Parliament evaporated.
With this new setback, nationalists increasingly came to embrace what was called the Kleindeutsch (or small German) solution, deciding that, if they waited to unify all Germans, German national unification would never occur. Hence, they were willing to accept a less-than-total unification led by Prussia, the largest essentially German state.
Prussia, under the leadership of the brilliant but domineering Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898), succeeded in unifying Germany. Bismarck was the prime minister of Prussia from 1862 to 1871 and then of the united Germany until 1890. He engineered the unification of non-Austrian Germans in the German Reich (or empire) by 1871, but he did so at the expense of many of the liberal hopes of German nationalists.
By extremely adroit maneuvering and a willingness to use force, he involved Prussia in three wars (with Denmark, Austria, and France) that resulted in German unification under the Prussian king, who was crowned the German Kaiser, or emperor, in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris in 1871. In the passage excerpted here from his 1899 Memoirs, Bismarck presents a dynastic understanding of German identity that required unification from above. Bismarck defined the issue as an encounter between German subnational identities and the task of German state building.
Otto von Bismarck, Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman, 2 vols., trans. A. J. Butler (New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1899), 1:318–25.
Paul H. Nitze
This Report from the National Security Council to President Harry S. Truman laid out the framework for the policy of “containment” that guided US actions throughout the Cold War. Its main author was Paul H. Nitze, then the director of policy planning for the Department of State. The passage below discusses the conflict of ideas and values between the US and the Soviet Union.
From the National Archives “A Report to the National Security Council – NC 68,” April 12, 1950. President’s Secretary’s File, Truman Papers.
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev
The 1980s was the final decade of the Cold War. Whereas the period between 1942 and 1962 marked the most hostile stage and 1962 to 1979 was the era of détente, the final stage saw the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev (b. 1931). The invasion cost the Soviets dearly and taxed their military heavily. Gorbachev exerted efforts (successfully, it turned out) to democratize his country’s political system and decentralize the Soviet economy. His support of reformist Communist leaders in soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe led to their eventual secession from the USSR, and his reforms over several years between 1985 and 1991 led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Gorbachev’s counterpart in the United States, Ronald Reagan (1911–2004), was a former actor who became president in 1981 and presided over American foreign policy during this period, becoming one of the most popular modern presidents. In these excerpts, tension over weapons of mass destruction is still front and center in relations between the two countries, notwithstanding the imminent collapse of the Soviet system.
From Jussi Hanhimäki and Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 307–10.
Josef V. Stalin
As leader of the Soviet Union for over two decades, Josef Vissarionovich Stalin (1879–1953) was one of the most important figures of the twentieth century. A professional revolutionary from 1900 on, Stalin joined V. I. Lenin (1870–1924) and the Bolshevik (Communist) Party and became one of Lenin’s closest collaborators, especially during the desperate and bloody days of the Civil War (1918–1920). Having cautiously consolidated his political position by 1929, Stalin oversaw a series of radical economic, social, and political initiatives that laid the industrial foundation of the USSR, broke the political resistance of the peasantry, and created a terror apparatus that made Stalin the uncontested dictator of the country. In August 1939, Stalin entered into a nonaggression pact with Hitler that kept the USSR out of World War II until the German invasion of Russia in June 1941. Ultimately, at the cost of 25 million deaths and untold destruction, the Soviets drove the Nazi forces out of their country, contributing the lion’s share to the Allied victory over Hitler. The experiences of World War II did nothing to soften Stalin’s ways, and he was a tough negotiator during the wartime conferences. After the war, Stalin established a zone of Soviet occupation and domination in Eastern Europe that lasted until 1989.
In 1931, Stalin gave a speech titled “On the Tasks of Workers in the Economy” to a nationwide workers’ conference in the Soviet Union. In this speech, Stalin explained and justified the quick pace of Russian industrialization and the extraordinary demands that it imposed on the Russian people. The address is noteworthy, for it provides a concise yet compelling view into Stalin’s political philosophy, particularly regarding Russia’s relations with its neighbors.
Josef V. Stalin, “On the Tasks of Workers in the Economy,” in Works, Vol. XIII (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1955), 40–41.
Two years after becoming first secretary of the Soviet Politburo in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev (b. 1931) launched his two trademark economic and political programs, perestroika (“restructuring”) and glasnost (“openness”). Hoping to revitalize communism, he restructured and partially dismantled the command economy that had dominated the Soviet Union since the Bolshevik Revolution. While perestroika did not work out as intended, glasnost, which permitted frank commentary and the exposure of incompetence and cover-ups by the Soviet leadership, had more wide-ranging consequences for the Soviet Union, which finally collapsed in 1991. Gorbachev summarized his attitude toward domestic politics for Western readers in a book published in English in 1987. However, a significant portion of the book also deals with Cold War tensions, as he was negotiating with President Reagan (1981–1989) of the United States, especially over the destruction of nuclear weapons.
Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), 218–221.
Because Byzantium faced Islamic populations on its eastern borders, the main opportunities for conversion of pagan populations initially were in the west, among the Slavic peoples of the Balkan peninsula. The brothers Cyril and Methodius led this effort, inventing an alphabet for the writing of Slavic (the Cyrillic alphabet) so that the Gospels could be translated. The spread of Christianity to the Slavs achieved its greatest success in the 980s when the leading Russian prince, Vladimir, converted. The region is usually referred to as Kievan Rus’, and it was under the control of different members of a single princely family. Vladimir occupied the most prestigious and powerful position as Grand Prince of Kiev. Agriculture was the basis of the economy. The political unity of the area, however, was based on an extensive trading system that linked the Baltic and Black Seas via rivers and short overland portages between them. The trade system was known as the road “between the Variangians [Vikings] and the Greeks [Constantinople].” Thus Byzantium was the most important political, military, and economic power in the region.
The story of Vladimir’s conversion comes from The Russian Primary Chronicle, a compilation of earlier chronicles from the principalities of Kiev and Novgorod that covers the years 850 to 1110 and probably first appeared shortly after 1110, though the earliest manuscript copy dates to several hundred years later. The Primary Chronicle undoubtedly overstates the military power of Vladimir, although he did enjoy some military success against the Byzantines. In essence, though, this source presents an accurate picture of the political, military, diplomatic, and cultural factors at work in the conversion encounter between Kievan Rus’ and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Samuel H. Cross, “The Russian Primary Chronicle,” Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, 12 (1930): 170–177.
The prime architect of Russia’s railroad and industrial expansion in the late nineteenth century was Sergei Witte (1849–1915). Witte traced his ancestry on his father’s side to Dutch immigrants, but the family had worked its way up in Russian society. Sergei’s father held the rank of a midlevel bureaucrat in Russia and had married into a noble and well-connected Russian family. Sergei earned a degree from Novorossiiskii University and wanted to pursue a career in mathematics, but he lacked the resources to do so. Oddly, for someone with his family connections, he took a job as a cashier at a ticket window, but by dint of work and a genius for detail, he worked his way up to head the Department of Railways in 1889. His adept handling of the railroad, along with his proven managerial skills, ultimately led to his appointment as minister of communications (1892) and minister of finance (1892–1903).
In 1899, Minister of Finance Witte wrote a “secret memorandum” on economic strategy to Tsar Nikolas II, outlining his program of industrialization. The reading that follows comprises excerpts from this official memo to the tsar. This memo is particularly revealing and interesting because the goals and methods proposed for industrialization are connected with national power rather than with individual prosperity and freedom. In order to achieve industrialization, Witte also advocated governmental planning, protective tariffs, and reliance on foreign creditors and loans. Some scholars have suggested that his policy was merely a new expression of state power and centralization in Imperial Russia; others have contended that Witte’s proposals foreshadowed the development of the massive “five-year plans” devised in later years by the Soviets.
Sergei Witte, Report of The Minister of Finance to His Majesty on The Necessity of Formulating And Thereafter Steadfastly Adhering to a Definite Program of a Commercial And Industrial Policy of The Empire (Extremely Secret). In T. H. Von Laue, “A Secret Memorandum of Sergei Witte on the Industrialization of Imperial Russia,” Journal of Modern History, 26, no. 1 (March 1954): 60–74. Copyright © The University of Chicago Press.
Lajos Kossuth was a Hungarian political leader and lawyer. Born in 1802, he was a key participant in the Magyar nationalist movement. As the editor of a newspaper in Pest, he gained renown for advocating for an end to Hungary’s political and economic subordination to Austria, as well as widespread liberal reforms. His nationalism promoted the interests of Magyars over Slavonic Hungarians, a position which ultimately cost him his job, and contributed to the collapse of Hungary, after its 1848 revolution. During this revolution he was appointed to the Hungarian government and became Regent-President of the Kingdom of Hungary. With the collapse of the Hungarian government, in 1849, Kossuth fled the country and continued his struggle for full Hungarian independence from abroad. In this speech he warns of the mounting danger of Slavic separatism to the Hungarian nationalist movement.
From W. H. Stiles, Austria in 1848–49. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1852, II, p. 384–94.
The Soviet view of the Cold War world is reflected in Ambassador Nikolai Novikov’s extended 1946 analysis of the postwar global situation and of U.S. policies and goals. Novikov’s assessment is significant, both because he was based in Washington, D.C., and because his assessment was produced almost exactly one year after the surrender of Japan had ended World War II. In a lengthy telegram to Moscow, Novikov surveyed American involvement in the main global arenas, assessed U.S. goals, and analyzed the roots of anti-Soviet sentiments in America. He concluded that America was an aggressive power that was actively preparing for a future war with Russia in order to achieve complete “world domination.”
Nikolai Novikov, “Telegram to Moscow” (27 September 1946), in Origins of the Cold War, ed. Kenneth M. Jensen (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1991), 3–10, 12–16.
Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq
Ghiselin (1522–1592) was a Flemish ambassador who represented the Austrian Habsburgs at the court of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566) in Istanbul. In 1581, he published an account of his time among the Ottomans as Itinera Constantinopolitanum et Amasianum (Travels in Constantinople and Asia Minor). In this segment of his travel narrative, he draws attention to the personal habits and behaviors of a contemporary emperor—one who saw himself as the heir to the Romans as well as to the other monarchs who had held Constantinople/Istanbul.
Wayne S. Vucinich, The Ottoman Empire: Its Record and Legacy (Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1965), 127–129.