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Expansion and Contraction Patterns of Large Polities: Context for Russia

Abstract

Over 5,000 years of history, the effective number of separate political entities has decreased from close to a million to 24, if going by geographical area, and from about a thousand to 15, if going by population. These changes have followed interconnected exponential patterns which extrapolate to a single world polity around year 4000. Within this long-term trend, three sudden increases in polity sizes occur: around 3000 BC, 600 BC, and AD 1600. This study tests the exponential model against area and population data for five millennia. It also gives tables and graphs of area versus time for all major polities since AD 600. The median duration of large polities at more than half the peak size has been 130 years, and it has not changed over 5,000 years. Polities that expand slower tend to last slightly longer. The prospects of the Moscow-centered state are discussed in the light of these findings.

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