Courtesy Reuters

The Soviet Union and the Industrialization of Asia

THE revolution which precipitated Russia's industrialization coincided with the opening of an equally new phase in the history of the neighboring Asiatic countries: Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Sinkiang (Chinese Turkistan) and Outer Mongolia. The transformation that took place in these countries during the decade following the Soviet Revolution greatly facilitated contacts between them and the new Russia. Strongly nationalistic governments with a taste for westernization stepped into the shoes of the Sultan, the Shah and the Amir.

Turkey, for example, under Mustafa Kamâl Atatürk has initiated a Five Year Plan of Industrialization which is no less a reality than the more widely advertised and portentous Five Year Plan of Soviet Russia. Iran has sent a hundred students abroad annually for the last seven years to absorb western science and technology and like Turkey has undertaken schemes of industrialization. Changes in Afghanistan also show which way the wind is blowing in that part of the world. The fanatical opposition which wrecked Amanullah's progressive plans in 1928-1929 has now abated and the present rulers of the country are carrying through more discreetly a number of interesting reforms. Important public works, including a wireless station expected to cost £29,000, are being constructed near Kabul;[i] while the commercial activities of the recently founded Afghan National Bank will undoubtedly revolutionize the country's mediæval trading methods.

And so Soviet Russia, though scarcely passed beyond the apprentice stage herself, now finds conditions extremely propitious for participating in the economic development of her southern and eastern neighbors. Her trump card in these contacts is geography, save where political considerations happen to be adverse.[ii] A glance at the map shows how comparatively easy communications are between Asiatic Russia and many points in non-Soviet Asia otherwise difficult of access, such as northern Afghanistan, northern Iran (pending the completion of the Trans-Iranian railway) and Sinkiang via the Ili Pass.

A study of Soviet policy in this region will reveal its great adaptability to the particular conditions encountered across each sector of

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