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History Reversal

Discussion in 'World History' started by formerdc81, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. formerdc81

    formerdc81 Chieftain

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    How different would the world be if the Moors had captured Rome and Paris while the Vikings conquered the rest of Europe? Besides the obvious (what's left of Christianity is now relocated to Constantinople), what else?
     
  2. tetley

    tetley Head tea leaf

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    Then the Chicago Bears would be playing the Minnesota Europeans??
     
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  3. Patine

    Patine Warlord

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    You seriously think that area of Christianity would just die and cease to exist because non-Christian foreigners conquered it? You haven't been paying attention to Christian history - at least outside of periods of Christian regional dominance, ascendency, or waxing - have you?
     
  4. PhroX

    PhroX Chieftain

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    This is such a vague question as to be pretty much unanswerable. How did these events come about? What led to the Moors being able to reach Paris and Rome? How did the Vikings conquer the rest of Europe? What were other nations - such as the Byzantine Empire - doing during the conquest? How are the Vikings and Moors governing their conquered lands? Are they somewhat assimilating with the local culture as the Vikings did in places like Normandy, or are they trying to impose their culture and religions on the populace? Are the Viking and Moorish lands unified or do they consist of multiple polities? And so on....

    Unless you can actually provide some level of detail regarding the alternative history you envision, trying to predict what would happen in impossible. A one liner question might work for a small specific change, but for changes as sweeping as those you suggest, you've got to flesh your proposal out more.
     
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  5. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

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    Well the Vikings did convert to Christianity but it was a slow process.
    If the vikings controlled more Christian lands they would have had more exposure to Christianity.
    If the Moors were more successful in south west Europe I would imagine that some of the population could move north again increasing the exposure to Christianity.
    So would assume we would end up with Dukedoms and kingdoms like the Normans spread across North west and Eastern Europe down to the border with Constantinople.
     
  6. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Wait, why are we assuming that the installation of Islamic rulers indicates the thorough Islamisation of the local populace? There were large Christian populations in Muslim Iberia through to Reconquista, and to this day there are Christian populations in historically Muslim-ruled territories like Egypt and Palestine. Even in Western North Africa, home to say many puritanical revival movements, Christianity persisting among the Berbers into the 15th century or later, while the Balkans were so lightly-Islamised that, upon independence, the local Christians picked up old sectarian grudges without missing a beat.

    Also, depending on the time-frame for this conquest, you're still looking at powerful Christian kingdoms in Germany, Hungary and England. It's not obvious that Western Christians would look more readily to Constantinople than to Aachen, Buda or Winchester. The outcome of a less Roman Christianity isn't self-evidently a more Greek one.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
  7. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    Shame it's too late for a more Irish kind of Christianity. At least they had the correct date for Easter. :p
     
  8. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

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    I was about to mention the Iberian Peninsula to add another detail: the local caliphate did broke up into a number of small taifas, kind of like feudal dukedoms.
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    That's exactly what happened in Britain during the Anglo-Saxon period.

    And of course there are plenty of examples of Christianity declining greatly (if not disappearing) after non-Christian conquest; think of Christianity in Central Asia and the Middle East after Tamerlane, for example. There are also cases of Christianity being successfully suppressed by non-Christian authorities (as opposed to invaders), e.g. tenth-century China or seventeenth-century Japan.
     
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  10. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    in b4 this dude accuses Plotinus of not knowing anything about Christian history.
     
  11. formerdc81

    formerdc81 Chieftain

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    That's why I ask you all, I know more about the history of China than the history of Europe, especially the period of 500-900 AD. Essentially, there's a debate in my head between two views:

    1) The barbarian tribes chose to adopt Christianity because their subjects were Christian, had access to better forms of social organization, and it would be easier to rule their conquered lands if they converted.
    2) After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the only force that still represented any degree of social order was the Church and as thus, it could use all the means of state power and long-term planning (i.e. diplomacy, the organized spreading of missionaries, the standardization of doctrine) to essentially turn a scattered bunch of tribes into a semi-united force capable of projecting power by the time of the Crusades and Inquisition.

    I personally have heard arguments for both, so I posted this (poorly-conceived) thought experiment to see what you all think.
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    There's some truth to both of those. There's also the fact that Christianity was an assertively missionary religion and the pagan religions of Europe were not, as well as the fact that some Christian rulers devoted a lot of energy to killing anyone who didn't convert (though that's offset by the equally energetic attempts by some pagan rulers to killing anyone who did). It puzzles me though that people always propose political motives such as these to explain conversions to Christianity, and never the simplest motive, which is that perhaps the various barbarian peoples and their rulers just thought that Christianity was true. Why might they have thought that? Perhaps, among other reasons, because it was associated with powerful forces such as the Roman Empire, and in their world, that was evidence for the power of the deity being worshipped. Or perhaps, even more simply, because Christian missionaries tended to be well educated and were good at arguing their case. Or more simply than that, because Christian missionaries tended to be decent, patient, and caring people who spent a lot of time with ordinary people and won them over by being nice, like Aidan of Lindisfarne. There's also the possibility that Christianity - at least in its late ancient/early medieval forms - is simply an inherently attractive religion (at least compared to contemporary paganism) that a lot of people like when they first hear about it. Now I don't know how one would go about finding evidence to support theories of this kind, which will probably have to remain speculative, but they're perfectly possible.

    Since in fact the Vikings converted to Christianity pretty much everywhere they ended up, I imagine that that would have still happened if they'd made conquests on a larger scale. And since in fact most Christian churches under Muslim rule survived for a long time but gradually shrank over the centuries, I imagine that would probably happen in a Muslim-ruled Europe, but it would really depend very much on what policies the Moorish rulers actually enacted.
     
  13. formerdc81

    formerdc81 Chieftain

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    The Umayyads only started invading into Continental Europe (rather than just attack the Byzantines) after a series of naval defeats in seigeing Constantinople. Hard-liners in the ruling class concluded that their failures was from being insufficiently Muslim and changed the policy away from the relative tolerance of other religions that allowed them much success in consolidating power after the death of Mohamed. After Moorish failure in the Pyrenees, they entire Caliphate broke up not long after that, though Moorish Spain continued the policy of relative religious tolerance. In some sense, their loss to Charles Martel was the straw that broke the camel's back on a deeply unpopular policy throughout the Empire.

    It seems your argument is one of culture. The representatives of Christianity (the missionaries) had a higher degree of culture (and with it the implied promise of peaceful development) which naturally would appeal to anyone weary of war and hard nomadic travels. Why not settle down, tax the locals with the consent of the Church, intermingle, and live a relatively easier life?
    It would also explain why Christianity was less successful in becoming the dominant religion in China or the Islamic states. There, the standard of living and culture was already high enough that the ruling elites of those areas did not feel their way of life would be improved by adopting Christianity.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Perhaps - but then late sixteenth-century Japan would buck that trend, as that was a highly civilised culture where Christianity was very successful. Twentieth-century South Korea would be another example. I think that it would be a mistake to assume that the factors that lead to the adoption (or rejection) of Christianity by different cultures at different times are always, or even often, the same. For example, Christianity's success can often be attributed to the willingness of missionaries (and indigenous theologians) to adapt its message to the host culture. When that has happened - e.g. the aforementioned Japan, and China during the same period - the church has thrived. But at other times, its success seems linked to direct criticism of the host culture, as in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Africa, when both foreign missionaries and indigenous ones stressed Christianity's opposition to traditional religion and made a point of burning the "fetishes". Basically, you just can't generalise. This is why it is so hard to imagine what would happen in a fictional scenario that's very different from reality, such as a Moorish conquest of Europe, as there are many different ways it could turn out.
     
  15. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

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    I think it is quite likely this is a good reason. During roman times paganism had for it the prestige of tradition, but even against that members of the upper classes gradually converted to christianity. Imho there is much in christian theology that built on hellenistic/roman philosophy. Just as the enlightenment did not kill the idea of God, perhaps even strengthened it by leading people to seek a more "rational" concept of the universe. The doctrine of a monotheist religion was more appealing to those people than the traditional and contradictory pagan pantheons, more appealing to the cynics and stoics and so on... Christianity, or islam, were "more natural" religions for urban people. And in the former territory of the Roman Empire power continued to have its seat in urban areas, even if these went through some centuries of relative decadence.

    I found it rather interesting to read opinions which suggested that both the witch-hunting of the protestants and the missionary zeal of the counter-reformation had as one of its aims (the main aim?) converting remaining "superstitious" peasants of Europe's countryside. This as late as the 17th and 18th centuries! The job had not yet been finished by then in those places further away from the influence of urban centers.

    Culture must be adequate to the technology, the "material conditions", the needs of the time. Central and northern Europe was not urbanized until the mid-middle ages. It got covered with cities and towns between the 8th and 11th centuries, roughly, each influencing the areas nearby, serving as new power seats. When urbanization started there, christianity also took root. I don't think this was an accident: the material and spiritual needs of the people living in this changed environment also changed, the new ideas of political organization that urbanization brought along required perhaps a more organized religion, and change was going to happen anyway, why not change religion to better fit the changing environment? The ideas of this new religion happened to have been tuned to a more urban environment, it had tuned for it as it developed in the Roman Empire. Thus as the culture of these pagan areas changed, so did their religion.
    And these "new areas of civilized Europe" changed their religion very fast, some four centuries, compared to the time it took the Mediterranean to evolve from "urban paganism" (perhaps 6th century BC to 2nd century BC?) to what I will call "philosophical rationalism", to the later monotheism (after the 3rd century?). This was perhaps because urbanization of those areas of Europe was also quite fast? My guess is that christianity would have taken far longer to triumph in the Roman Empire, if at all, had it not been for the fact that the Empire had been kind of prepared for it already. And due to some accidents of history (Constantine's promotion of the new religion).

    China and the Middle east however were already urbanized. Where did a new religion got more traction? War-torn Japan, until the new central government suppressed it. And Korea after the trauma of its colonial occupation by japan and its civil war. Both places where change was happening fast. In China christianity really never did advance much and I don't think it was due to the emperors hindering it, it was that the chinese were not changing and not needing a new religion, they already had systems that worked for their lives. Even though they were and remain "pagan". As as with India.
    Plotinus can surely say something about this, I really wonder where during the Roman Empire time the pagan resistance against Christianity was greater. I'm guessing it was probably in the older cities that the fight was most bitter between the old and the new. Because the old also worked. Here the new religion was not taking over as one more appropriate to urban life or centralized rule, or piggybacking on material changes.

    The rise of Islam is probably another of those accidents of history. A a new sect clearly inspired in previous religions (same as christianity) becomes a new big religion due to its success in spreading, but there was nothing inevitable in this particular sect succeeding and not other. It just happened to organize a push for expansion when its neighbours had exhausted themselves due to warfare and plague. It had to coexist for centuries with competing monotheist religions that had already spread cross the lands its leaders conquered and annexed. Though there were social vantages to changing to the religion of the victor that was not enough to achieve quick conversions. And more repressive policies would probably have caused a massive uprising and ultimate complete collapse of the conquerors. Even if they could kill everybody mongol-style, they'd find themselves emperors of a desert, to be defeated as soon as neighboring powers got their act together and used numbers to advantage. Conquers either reach an accommodation with the conquered or fail, unless they can quickly replace the whole population (as in a small conquest).
     
  16. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, it's a myth that the Enlightenment was all about the rational rejection of religion. Most of it was about the rational defence of religion. People like Voltaire and Hume were the exception in that regard.

    What do you mean by "philosophical rationalism" and "later monotheism"? To me at least that suggests movements such as Stoicism and Middle (or Neo-) Platonism. But those weren't mass popular movements. Most people, as far as I can tell, worshipped the old gods in just as polytheistic a way as they ever had.

    Yes, you're quite right. Antioch was a major centre of pagan revival in the early fourth century, sponsored by Constantine's eastern rival, Maximinus Daia. Theotecnus, the treasurer of Antioch, set up a new altar to Zeus and created new liturgies and priests which seem to have been pretty popular until Licinius invaded and executed them all. Later, pagan resistance to Christianity was strongest in Rome itself. Many of the leading families with links to the traditional cults supported the rebellion of Magnentius in 350. Magnentius was a pagan who set about re-opening the temples throughout the west until he was defeated by Constantius II, who closed them all again. Despite the ferocity of Constantius' anti-pagan measures, there were still holdouts in Rome, where in 359 the prefect performed sacrifices to ensure the safe passage of grain shipments. Throughout the 360s, 70s, and even 80s, when the various emperors were more lenient towards paganism, new altars were erected in Rome and there was something of a revival of Mithraism (which had been declining throughout the century) under Vettius Agorius Praetextatus. The pagan families of Rome supported another usurper, Eugenius, in 392, who was a Christian but was persuaded to endorse paganism and re-open temples. His defeat by Theodosius the Great in 394 at the River Frigidus basically saw the final collapse of Roman pagan resistance to Christianisation, and there seem to have been no more revivals. But paganism was still going fairly strong in some cities: we hear of pagan mobs in fifth-century Alexandria, and Edessa was still celebrating its traditional spring festival at the end of that century; Justinian spent a lot of time trying to close temples and execute pagans in the sixth century.

    It's important to recognise that the empire did not become Christian in the fourth century as a result of some benign osmosis or natural change, with everyone converting happily in view of Christianity's philosophical sophistication or moral appeal. It may have been like that in some cases, but it was also a bitter, protracted struggle in which Christianity got the upper hand because Christian emperors - particularly in the 350s and 90s - forced the closure of temples, the banning of sacrifices, and the suppression of priests, which eventually turned into the execution of religious dissenters under Justinian. Now one might well ask why these measures succeeded where the similar measures that pagan emperors had taken against Christianity in previous centuries - on a larger and more brutal scale, over a longer period - did not. But I'm sure that Christianity's victory over paganism within the Roman world would never have been as complete without them.
     
  17. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

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    @Plotinus: thank you, I had not known about all that resistance, just thought it would be logical. It is worth noting that "paganism", as in local cults of different gods, and cults of ancestors, and non-exclusive religiosity has survived in China up to now. And it survived the disruption of the Cultural Revolution. Thus I'm not at all surprised that it would have taken a few centuries for a perhaps similar form of religious life to disappear in the West. I have been wondering about possible parallels even since I real about China's religions.

    And yes, I was thinking about stoicism and platonism (sorry I don't know the details on differences between neo-platonism and platonism). I can believe that these were movements that spread mostly among the learned classes, but political leaders in that urban environment tended to come from that group and probably influenced many more people. Over time they could make real changes in society. By "later monotheism" I just meant the different christian sects.

    I feel that philosophy in the hellenistic period and then into the roman era was kind of an "enlightenment" in antiquity, in this sense of a search for reason and order for society and religion compared to the previous, more disorganized period of independent small states. More people sought specific religions to follow (the mysteries of some gods, or the new religions with one great god), religion started being rationalized to eliminate contradictions. I don't think this happened in a large scale, but it may have been enough to gradually create a favorable environment for the now-not-so-strange religion that denied the existence of but one god and (unlike judaism) very much sought new converts.

    The intellectuals more knowledgeable of philosophy and history, more interested in tradition, would tend to fight the exclusive claims of this new religion. But for people who were just a little learned, who got on with the times seeking a rational order, meaning for how they lived, I can see how those would be drawn to it. This was a religion that would appeal more to the "aspiring classes" (I didn't want to say "middle classes" lest I be accused of abusing language, but that is the idea :lol:) that the aristocracy. It would remain in check so long as the Empire was stable and the old aristocracy was on top, but got its chance to take over when the Empire was torn apart in civil wars and new men rose replacing the old aristocracy. This is just my guess, of course! From what little I've real about the time and some parallels with other eras I've been wondering about.
     
  18. formerdc81

    formerdc81 Chieftain

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    The problem is not merely that Japan was war-torn, China was too at the end of every large dynasty. The difference is that China's philosophical tradition establishes the Emperor's right to rule is not "eternal" but dependent on the "Mandate of Heaven". If enough natural disasters and military defeats and suffering happens, the aristocracy (generals, educated landowners, and bureaucrats) have the right to start a new dynasty. In other words, China's philosophical system survives even if the dynasties do not. This is probably why Confucianism became the official code of ethics, because Confucianism most explicitly explains this system to everyone, commoner and noble alike, as well as their roles, responsibilities, and expected privileges.
    As for the "rationalizing" of culture and religion, China took the other approach, which is to embrace seeming contradiction as simply part of a larger whole that changes dialectically. This is the core of Daoism, and it's why most of us find Marxist dialectics an acceptable way to strengthen the mind, even if you disagree with its results. (This is the basis to the traditional Chinese objection to Western beliefs: "The barbarian is too simple-minded.") Man and woman, summer and winter, night and day, sun and moon together make up life. Once this was asserted as a basic statement of truth, it naturally excluded religions that insisted on "exclusion". On a more political basis, it became untenable to exclude and antagonize large sections of the empire. No governor wants to lose tax revenue (and exclusive faiths have a tendency to insist on dogma over local conditions which makes disaster more likely than the Chinese status quo) and worse, if you provoke a rebellion, both you and the rebels would be executed. On the off chance you are too successful, the rivalries from the rest of the imperial court would quickly lead to your demise.

    The biggest difference between China and the West/Japan is the concept of private property. In China, private property is a privilege, granted to those who obey the Emperor, but every person had the right to belong to a clan. In the West, private property is a right that few kings could easily take away from the nobles, but a cohesive clan was the right only of the nobles and later, the guilds. In China, the nobility exist because it benefits the Emperor to use them. In the West, the king exists because it is convenient for the nobility to have a king/government to settle their disputes more peacefully.

    The material reasons? One can only speculate, but I suspect China's large and well-distributed amount of arable land + good climate (compared to northern Europe) + continental empire + rice-economy (which actually requires more work per capita per hectare compared to wheat simply to raise a crop but if raised in synergy with fowl/fish/snails potentially can have double the yields per hectare over wheat before the advent of modern fertilizers) + widespread access to war-making minerals (but few high-quality Horses and Elephants) created a unique set of conditions where political power = military power = population = controlled amount of land.
    This might seem natural to anyone who plays Civ, but think closely what this actually means.
    1) If each plot of land is relatively the same, and most of the land is fertile for most of the year, then no one province/clan/nation can easily extort the whole nation by monopolizing an ancient-era strategic resource (in Civ terms) unless they control more than half of China. This meant from the perspective of the Emperor ruling a united Empire, it makes no economic sense to privilege any given local noble or family or province beyond personal patronage. A continental empire adds to this effect because the geographical emphasis that most civilizations normally would place on coastal cities (causing such cities to then distort the entire country's politics) is then greatly reduced. The means that the right to private property is protected not by God or natural rights, but by imperial favor and thus would always be contingent on political necessity. In any conflict between the State and the individual, the Emperor has far more leverage than any individual noble, not just in the macro affairs of state, but even to the micro affairs of the noble's continued rank and privilege and ownership of property.
    2) Not having effective horses or elephants means China could not militarily expand past the Altai or Himalayas Mountains or the thick jungles of Burma and Thailand. Once Vietnam reached comparable levels of civilization and military, China could not even subjugate them! This effectively restrained China's maximum landmass to the areas where rice can be grown and where the Chinese military could reasonably defend. This meant that once Qin conquered continental China, there was no other civilization who had a high enough level of culture and military to challenge our philosophical assumptions until 1840.
    However, because China had every other mineral needed to wage ancient era warfare, simply having a nation past a reasonable size usually meant also having access to copper or iron. This meant that warfare was an affair where population and functional policies/leaders (i.e. control over the most arable land and the best manipulation of that land) was more important than resources or technology. The resulting arms race meant that by the Warring States period, every nation embraced conscription. The size of the armies involved and the flat geography virtually guarantees an eventual, decisive victory for one of the combatants rather than a balance of power like Europe.
    3) A rice economy meant that comparatively to Europe, China's peasant class, despite not owning land, had far more leverage over the nobility than Europe because their labor was more in demand, but China could support much larger population densities. This led to the prevalence of clans over individual family units as the basic unit of labor (meaning the village belonging to a clan, rather than a family or individual was the basic social unit of taxation). This made the chaining of peasants to the land (the hallmark of European feudalism) economically and socially impossible since the leadership strata of many villages were often the best-educated and/or eldest member of that clan. This also furthered the trend towards conscription, as it would naturally arise in the disputes between clans, villages, and later nations. In this situation, a private military caste was not a military advantage, nor was it useful in protecting private property. This also meant that China, unlike Europe and Japan, had to create a philosophy that would rationalize the peasant rebellions that occasionally succeeded because unlike Europe, a peasant rebellion in China was a rebellion by veterans, many of whom were either armed or at least well-trained in using arms.

    This is why both Korea and Japan developed differently, despite sharing China's rice-economy and much of our culture. Japan seriously lacked arable land but had very mountainous terrain. This meant the opposite effect occurred. Small armies could defend almost indefinitely against larger armies, thereby encouraging various noble to respect each others' claims to land. This meant their society needed a leader who could settle the disputes of all the nobles and be beyond reproach. Hence, they needed to worship an Emperor as a God, and not merely the child of the Dragon as in China. From there, it's easy to see why a honor/respect culture became so deeply ingrained (because it was the best way to prevent needless and likely futile conflict on the battlefield) and why a higher degree of class rigidity existed in Japan (because the nobles with the best land naturally would have the power to extort the rest of society). In other words, Japan developed a feudalist caste society much more similar to Europe (which in China did not occur until the late Ming) because their elite shared the same attitude towards private property. Naturally, with that kind of caste structure, Christianity would appeal greatly to the peasantry since they lived comparable (or even worse) lives to European peasants.
    Korea...have a geography problem. Until the Japanese invasion, Korea's greatest threat came from the North by Chinese forces. Furthermore, the mountains of North Korea yield valuable strategic resources and are the gateway for Korean control over what is now the fertile plains of Manchuria. In other words, North Korea was historically richer than South Korea and Pyongyang was the historical capital because the South offered no advantages and accordingly, leveraged that geographic advantage into an advantage in prestige and culture. All of a sudden in 1953, (South) Korea was forced to stand alone as a nation and expected to prosper without their historically better half, all while a half century of colonization, rape, and warfare had shattered the Korean identity beyond the individual/family/clan level, creating a uniquely impressionable country (far more so than Taiwan or Germany in the same period, despite all 3 being US client states).
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018
  19. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Russia confirmed Asiatic.
     
  20. Patine

    Patine Warlord

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    I remember, in Junior High School, back in the late '80's, reading in a World Book Encyclopedia at my local public library (back when to had to physically travel to a library and read a physical book to read an encyclopedia, because things like Wikipedia, or even an Internet of any meaningful robustness and approachable to most, just didn't exist) in it's 1988 edition, the article on the Soviet Union (yes, it was THAT long ago...), in the national history sub-article spoke of how, because of how back-and-forth historical influences had affected the region, it was "neither considered a purely a Eastern or Western nation." Although I am not sure if this still reflects the historical consensus on Russia, I've heard no academic update on that status by historians either way since.
     

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