On 17 November, under this title, there was published a special issue of National Geographic on Russia. Wait, not in this November. Exactly a hundred years ago, in 1914.
But the title was just as timely as it is now, even more so. In recent decades, research has increasingly confirmed that, in contrast to the commonplaces of post-1917 propaganda, pre-war Russia had ahead of it very promising signs of economic and social development, which was set back and led astray first by the war, and then by the revolution.
Edited by Gilbert H. Grosvenor, this special issue for the first time provided a detailed overview for the American public on Russia’s geography, history, economy, customs, traditions and its future in a prospect which he considered extremely bright. He thought that by the late 20th century Russia would be able to provide half the world’s population with food, while increasing its own population to 600 million. He quotes Tocqueville: “There are at the present time two great nations in the world … the Russians and the Americans … Their starting-point is different, and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.” This one prophecy would not have disappointed him.
“Where race suicide has never been heard of … The Russians are noted for their fecundity …” This is enough proof that the issue does not come from today. According to the UN forecast, if trends do not improve, the population of Russia could fall by a third by 2050.
The magazine was illustrated with a hundred great black-and-white photographs and extensive text that is so informative, that today’s National Geographic really could take it as an example. It even included sixteen color images, which sounds surprisingly premature at this time – but if you look closely, the sixteen pictures were hand-colored.
The black-and-white images and text of the special issue can be browsed in its entirety here.