HUSCAP logo Hokkaido Univ. logo

Hokkaido University Collection of Scholarly and Academic Papers >
Slavic-Eurasian Research Center >
スラヴ研究 = Slavic Studies >
52 >

第一次世界大戦期における日露接近の背景 : 文明論を中心として

Files in This Item:
52-008.pdf745.21 kBPDFView/Open
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:

Title: 第一次世界大戦期における日露接近の背景 : 文明論を中心として
Other Titles: Theory of Civilizations as a Background of Russo-Japanese Rapprochement during the First World War
Authors: バールィシェフ, エドワード1 Browse this author
Authors(alt): Baryshev, Eduard1
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: 北海道大学スラブ研究センター
Journal Title: スラヴ研究
Journal Title(alt): Slavic Studies
Volume: 52
Start Page: 205
End Page: 240
Abstract: The term "theory of civilizations" is usually associated with the German philosopher Oswald Spengler and the English historian Arnold Toynbee, who -- it is believed -- worked out an original conceptualization of world history. Oswald Spengler's Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918) is considered to be the starting point of this theory. Civilizationists maintain the position that there is no such entity as humankind. World history is essentially a product of different interactions between great cultural formations, described as "civilizations," "cultural super-systems" or merely "cultures," which might be understood as independent actors in world politics and world history. These formations are characterized by internal integrity and self-sufficiency. Like any biological subject, "civilizations" go through phases of birth, growth, blossoming, decline and death. It should be noted that the "theory of civilizations" was not a mere scientific conception, born in the minds of some outstanding individuals. It seems to have been an integral part of the social consciousness of some great nations. The contours of the theory of civilizations can be observed in the works of the Russian thinker Nikolai Danilevsky, whose Rossiia i Evropa (1869) anticipated Spengler's theory, or Japanese scientist Endo Kichisaburo, whose Oushuu-bunmei no botsuraku (The Decline of European Civilization, 1914) immediately evokes Spengler's The Decline of the West. The theory of civilizations was deeply rooted in the socio-economic conditions of the development of European countries during the 19th century. The ideas comprising the core of the theory were the product of a German philosophical heritage. The conceptual roots of the theory might be found in the philosophy of Hegel, who asserted that every nation had its own mission and its greatest task is in the realization of this mission. Metaphorically speaking, the theory was born between biologism and antimodernism, which were highly influential streams of thought in the 19th century. The former was an inalienable part of modernism itself, and the latter was a reaction to it. The theory of civilizations appeared as a result of a combination of these elements with messianism. It was in this particular form that it spread to Germany, Russia and Japan. The enthusiastic reception of the theory of civilizations in the above-mentioned countries was a result of the similarity of their positions with regard to the international "division of labour." All these nations could be perceived as "second echelon nations" when compared with Britain, France and the USA, which had begun their movement on the path of modernization and industrialization earlier. As relative late-comers, these nations found themselves in a bitter struggle for survival, and had an urgent need to mobilize their power if they were to maintain their position as independent actors in the arena of international politics. It is generally supposed that "the theory of civilizations," as a part of the social consciousness at that time, played an important role in this process of mobilization. Whereas Britain, France and the USA were already highly industrialized, and therefore their interests lay in maintaining the "status-quo," Japan and Russia, being "second echelon nations," were waiting for a chance to replace them and the civilizations theory legitimized their ambitions. The First World War was met and greeted in Japan and Russia as the beginning of the "Decline of the West." To the Japanese and the Russians the Great War was perceived as revealing the problems and defects of Western civilization. It signified not merely a crisis in relations between the Great Powers, but was perceived as being a by-product of the international system itself and its fundamental principles of liberalism, which elevated "social Darwinism" and imperialism to prominence as concepts in the practice of international relations. Against the background of German military success, the renunciation of laissezfaire and the introduction of the conscription system by England were considered as symptoms of the decline of the British Empire. The First World War was heralded in Japan and Russia as a transitional period, which would eventually result in the collapse of the entire world system. The crisis of the international order had a huge influence on the position of Japan in the world system. The First World War afforded Japan an opportunity to execute its special "civilizational mission," starting with an attempt to establish its foreign policy on a more independent basis. This resulted in discussions about revision of the Anglo-Japanese alliance, which for a long time had been an axis of Japanese diplomacy. The World War revealed a serious contradiction between the position of Japan as an independent actor and her strong orientation to Great Britain in the international arena. The crisis of the West, with the British Empire as its core element, pushed Japan into the arms of Russia. Rapprochement with Russia as a "second echelon nation" meant for Japan an opportunity to weaken her dependence on Great Britain, the classic example of a "first echelon nation." In other words, rapprochement with Russia could be an instrument for securing Japan an independent position in world politics. The civilizations theory, which mediated "the decline of the West" in the "second echelon nations," strengthened consciousness of the crisis and invigorated Japanese nationalism and messianism. The latter, in its turn, lead to the grasp for national independence and pushed Japan to closer relations with Russia. On the other hand, the theory of civilizations, including clear predictive features, presented a guide to action for Japanese politicians, who needed some vision of the postwar future with which to play the big diplomatic game during the World War. First of all, the theory of civilizations demonstrated that Britain and France were moving into an abyss. Secondly, according this theory, America, Japan's main rival in East Asia and the Pacific, was considered as an extension of the West, embodying all the "diseases" of European civilization, which was facing decline. On the contrary, Germany and Russia were described by the theory as the "young nations" that would have a splendid future. Germany was considered to be an attractive ally, because of her rapid growth and vigorous conduct on the world stage: that is why, from the strategic point of view, rapprochement with Germany seemed to be a more effective and reasonable tactic, but in the conditions of war it was extremely difficult. In this situation Russo-Japanese rapprochement seemed the only possible variant. In the conditions of "the decline of the West," the dynamic economic and demographic development of Russia together with elements of traditional structure, not yet corrupted by modernism, such as monarchy, deep religiousness etc., testified that Russia was a "young nation" which had a long and glorious future ahead of it. Moreover, Russo-Japanese rapprochement was considered to be a reasonable combination, because it could open a way to a Triple Japanese-Russo-German Eurasian alliance in the case of conclusion of a separate peace treaty between Russia and Germany, securing Japan from isolation in the postwar world. Without doubt, such considerations played a fundamental theoretical role, advocating the necessity of Russo-Japanese rapprochement, and had a major influence on the course of Russo-Japanese negotiations, which led to the Russo-Japanese Alliance of July 3, 1916. Such civilizational arguments for Russo-Japanese rapprochement appeared vividly in the position of Baron Goto Shimpei (1857-1929), an influential political leader of the beginning of the 20th century. Focusing on the theory of civilizations as the background of Russo-Japanese rapprochement not only helps us to reconstruct a three-dimensional view of Russo-Japanese relations during the First World War, but also deepens our understanding of a crucial period of world history and the mechanisms of world politics.
Type: bulletin (article)
Appears in Collections:スラヴ研究 = Slavic Studies > 52

Export metadata:

OAI-PMH ( junii2 , jpcoar_1.0 )

MathJax is now OFF:


 - Hokkaido University