Interesting social sciences/Geographical direction in sociology

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Discussion about influence of the geographical environment on society

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Vasily Klyuchevsky
Map showing the major Varangian trade routes: the Volga trade route (in red) and the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks (in purple). Other trade routes of the 8th to the 11th centuries shown in orange.

Representatives of the geographical direction in sociology considered that climate, the territory size, food, the soil, existence or lack of mineral deposits, existence of an outlet to the sea, existence of the rivers, and other factors of the geographical environment influence on successful development of society. Arnold J. Toynbee, on the contrary, considered that successful development of society happens often contrary to difficult geographical conditions, and too favorable climate promotes return to the nature, to primitive or agrarian society.

Charles Montesquieu's theory about influence of climate on temperament of inhabitants, about influence of the territory size on the form of government

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Charles Montesquieu considered that the sensitivity of the person to pleasures has to be small in a cold climate, this sensitivity has to be more considerable in the countries of a temperate climate and this sensitivity is extremely strong in tropical countries. Just as climates differ on degrees of latitude, climates could be distinguished on degree of sensitivity of people. People listen to one and that opera in England cold, and in Italy — with delight. Slavery results from climate too. There are countries in which hot climate so exhausts body and weakens spirit that people execute any hard work only for fear of corporal punishments there.

Montesquieu specifies that except climate other factors — religion, laws, the forms of government, examples from the past, customs, morals - influence on life of society also. Than one factor works stronger, that action of others factors is weakened. The nature and climate dominates over savages only, customs govern by the Chinese, the tyrannical power belongs to laws in Japan, morals dominated over Sparta in former time, the principles of government and morals of old times dominated in Rome.

The characteristic of the territory influences on spirit of the people which lives here. Islanders are more inclined to freedom, than inhabitants of the continent. Islanders aren't threatened danger to be subdued and Islanders is easier for them to keep own laws. Montesquieu has allocated three forms of government: republic, monarchy and despotism. A certain size of the territory corresponds to each certain form of government. The republic has to be the small territory, otherwise republic will not hold. The monarchic state has to be average size. If monarchic state was too extensive, then the barons, who were far from the capital, could cease to submit to the monarch. The extensive sizes of the empire is a prerequisite for a despotism. [1] [2]

For this reason so many tyrants were in the history of Russia whose territory was big always.

In my opinion, representative democracy is the most advanced form of government today and representative democracy has to be established in all countries irrespective of the territory sizes. The countries with the big territory, such as the USA and Russia, have to choose such kind of representative democracy as the presidential republic because the presidential republic provides more rigid regime. The countries with the small or average territory, such as majority of the Western European countries, have to choose parliamentary democracy.

Lev Ilyich Mechnikov (Léon Metchnikoff) about the periodization of history in depending of ways for movement

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The basic idea of Lev Mechnikov consists in the fact that river’s, sea’s or ocean’s ways for movement give birth to ancient, medieval and new civilization accordingly.

The theory of Vasily Klyuchevsky about the influence of the geographical environment on the Russian history

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Rivers played the large role in the history of Russia. Russians is the nation of the pioneers, which moved on the rivers at settlement of new lands. The system of rivers gave the direction to trade, for example, river’s trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks existed in Kievan Rus'. If Germans moved along the Roman roads after the victory above Rome, if Germans settled among the ruins and fell under the influence of powerful Roman culture, then eastern Slavs settled on the infinite plain among the backward neighbors. It is reason of a comparatively slow development of eastern Slavs and comparative simplicity of social system. Russians had no time to build convenient and durable dwellings and roads. Peasant settlements in Russia produced the impression of the temporary sites of nomads.

Vasily Kluchevsky had distinguished the four periods of colonization in the Russian history, four halts or sites, by which the movement of the Russian people was interrupted:

• First period was from 8 century to 13 century. Russians had arrived on the Dnepr from the Carpathians, and Kievan Rus' was formed.

• Second period was from 13 century to 15 century. The part of the Russians had gone away to the upper Volga. This period is named as Moscow’s Russia (Muscovy).

• Third period was from 15 century to 17 century. The majority of Russians had gone away to the Don and Middle Volga after seizure Kazan and Astrakhan.

• Fourth period was from the beginning 17 century before first half 19 century. Russian people had extended throughout entire plain widely, to the Black Sea area, to the Baltic area, to Siberia and so on.

Europe is differed from Asia by the variety of shapes of surface and by the extremely tortuous outline of coasts, therefore superiority in the force belongs to Europe. Black Sea steppes is the way, along which the conquerors and all these nomad hordes came from the depth of Asia to Europe. Russia is the transitional country, the mediator between two civilizations. Culture connected Russia with Europe inseparably. But nature has imposed on Russia the special features and influence, which attracted Russia to Asia always. The absorption of oncoming aborigines (Finnish tribes: Komi, Estonians, Karelians, Mari people) occurred in the process of migration of Russians, therefore it is necessary to allow a certain participation of Finnish tribe in the formation of the anthropological type of Great Russian. Great Russian has typical Great Russian’s nose, which lies on the wide base. This Great Russian’s nose is result of Finnish influence. [3]

Citations and references.

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  1. Raymond Aron Main Currents in Sociological Thought (2 volumes) Volume 1. Montesquieu. 1968
  2. Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu. The spirit of laws.
  3. Klyuchevsky, Vasily Osipovich. Course of russian history. Part 1.