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Russia

forest, settlements, movement, plain, western and ocean

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RUSSIA the last two chapters we have seen how the dis covery of the ocean stimulated the minds of those who dwelt on the outer rim of Europe, and how those peoples were enabled to utilize the advantages afforded by the discovery, so that the natural units bordering the ocean became of importance. The stimulus either started the crystallization of those units, or greatly hastened the process and strengthened the result. This discovery of the ocean by the Western nations, and all that it entails, followed quite naturally from contact, on the one hand, with the tribes of the plain, and, on the other, with the Arabs and those whom the Arabs had converted to Islam.

Before continuing the story further, however, we must look back and consider how other states of Europe came to take their places among the Powers. To understand this we must notice yet another important geographical control, " The Forest," and its character istics. There are many kinds of forest, but they are all alike in several respects. (1) They cannot be easily traversed; but they can be more easily traversed by small bands or by single men than by large bands, by men on foot than by men on horseback; thus they differ essentially from grasslands, where we have seen movement is easy in all directions, and where there is a certain ad vantage in living and moving in considerable numbers. (2) The forest may be cleared in parts, and settlements made, protected by the surrounding forest, but it is diffi cult under primitive conditions to make large settlements quickly ; if the forest supplies natural fruits, there is little reason for making settlements or inducement to accumulate possessions. (3) Agriculture rather than pastoral pursuits will be practised in those settlements; the existence of forest implies that there are no great periods of drought throughout the year, and thus that crops may be cultivated, and more made of the soil than is possible in a dry grassland. (4) As a result, population will be rather small and scattered, and such agricultural communities as exist will tend to be clannish and distrustful of strangers.

Thus the conditions of life are different from any of those which we have heretofore noticed. In none of the lands where early civilization flourished, is there a great amount of rain, nor do trees grow in such numbers as to affect movement to any extent, or to afford protection to settlements in clearings.

Now the great plain of the world, though it appears to be one on a map showing relief, is really divided into two parts, according to the presence or absence of forest. The northern and north-western part of the plain, coming under the influence of the westerly winds, is somewhat damper than the more southern and eastern part. Being cooler in summer, also, there is less evaporation. Thus, although the southern and eastern portion can produce only grass, the northern and western part is a forest land. Pine forests cover those areas which have a dry winter cold, but decidu ous trees predominate in the more temperate western section south and south-west of the Baltic. Here, then, is a vast area difficult to traverse, difficult to govern, difficult to unite in one coherent whole, so that it is comparatively late in history ere it becomes of importance.

It has been noted that among the tribes whose move ments became evident at the time of the break-up of the Western Empire were the Slays. The movement of these people, like that of the German tribes, was due to pressures from farther east, rather than to any desire of movement on their own part, or stimulus from their immediate surroundings, and it is not likely that they moved far. However that may be, they even tually settled in the area lying between the Baltic on the north and the Balkan lands on the south, partly on the plain, partly on hilly land. They have thus been cut in two by the later inroads of the nomads from the east, who kept to the central grasslands. The Southern Slays, left on the hills, we have already spoken of ; it is with the Northern Slays in the forest that we are here concerned.

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