May 2021

Every summary I’ve read of the Russo-Persian wars notes that the latter held the numerical advantage (particularly since the former were busy fighting the Ottomans & Napoleon), but the former won because of their better technology. These summaries never say what that better technology was. This is well after the Safavid “gunpowder empire” so it’s not like they didn’t both have firearms. I know the Russians would later have a disadvantage against the faster rate of fire of rifles used by the Ottomans (including repeating Winchester lever-actions) during the siege of Plevna (although they still ultimately won that war). I haven’t heard something comparable specific for the wars with Persia.

I have previously discussed Tsarist expansion in my reviews of For Prophet and Tsar as well as East of the Sun, the latter of which had some erroneous claims about the advantages Europeans derived from their firearms. I had already asked for a good history of Russian expansion back during the GWB administration. I had commenters back then who could actually recommend such books, whereas now I blog less and so much has moved to social media. Out of spite for that trend I will continue not cross-posting blog entries to twitter.

While arguing with some other people at Astral Codex 10 about the merits of communist regimes that have actually existed, marxbro1917 started questioning whether famines are actually more common under them. I interjected by bringing up Amartya Sen, citing & quoting a paragraph of his on the subject. I begin quoting after that point, as the comments started becoming too nested to be readable.

I can’t expect people to regularly check posts from 2008 for updates, so the news is worth a post on its own.