As of the year, 1914 Africa was thoroughly scrambled, this was done by most of Europe’s major powers, and one notable absence was the Russian empire that despite having much more experience in imperialist expansion than most of its fellow European nations ended up with not a single colony in Africa. But why didn’t Russia take part in the scramble for Africa?
So first of all Russia had already tried to establish a foothold in Africa specifically in Madagascar, now this was done under the rule of peter the great who sent privateers there to lay claim to the island and establish some trading ports for Russia, turns out though that privateers aren’t great at settling and so this attempt petered out pretty quickly.
Russia did take part in the berlin conference with the other European powers to discuss the division of Africa their attendance wasn’t to secure themselves territory though it was mostly to secure access to Africa for traders and missionaries because the Russian government wasn’t interested in obtaining traditional colonies for several reasons.
The first reason is Russia’s imperial ambitions were better aimed at conquering and subjugating its neighbors anything that sat on its borders which were much easier to reach police and defend and they played into Russia’s strength in its army, whereas defending a colony in Africa from say Britain or Germany would be much more difficult than protecting Poland or Armenia.
Part of that was down to the reason number two access to Africa, Unlike Britain France, or Italy Russia had no quick means to access the continent, the northern route was long and the port of Arkhangelsk was frozen for half the year, anyway, the Baltic sea route meant that Russia had to pass Germany, Denmark, the united kingdom, the other united kingdom, and France all of whom could make leaving the Baltic sea incredibly difficult. if they wanted to the third route was via the Dardanelles which could be blocked quite easily by the ottomans and even if they did get out exiting the Mediterranean could be blocked by the British and the fourth route meant traveling around the entire continent of Asia which was long and expensive. So no as such Russia’s grip and potentially even trade with any colonies in Africa would be tenuous at best.
Reason three was expense many African colonies weren’t profitable on their own and had to be part of a larger imperial network to make money for the colonizers and Russia wasn’t exactly flush with cash in the 19th century as demonstrated by its need to sell Alaska to the United States and its struggles in modernizing its military.
Now the Russian state not wanting to colonize Africa is not the same thing as Russians not wanting to colonize Africa, one particular enthusiast was Nikolas Achinoff who in 1888 launched a colonization effort to settle and subjugate this area there was one problem with this plan though.
the French had already laid claim to the area Achinoff arrived here in 1889 with a bunch of Cossacks who immediately took control of an abandoned fort here and it was promptly called new Moscow, the plan was to secure this area and from here expand to control the entire horn of Africa that never happened because as soon as the French heard that the land they claimed was being occupied they demanded answers from Russia.
The Russian government denied any responsibility and so the French were free to get rid of him, Achinoff was arrested and then sent back to Russia where he was soon afterward exiled to Siberia and despite Achinoff later offers of help to the tsar Russia’s very brief part in the scramble for Africa was over.