The Crimean War, which it lost, and resistance to its great-power pretensions at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, drove the Tsarist Empire to look farther eastward. Siberia acquired a new luster in official propaganda and the national imagination, and a major scientific effort was made to “appropriate” it. Great tasks seemed to lie ahead for this redeployment of national forces. The conviction that Russia was expanding into Asia as a representative of Western civilization — an idea that had originated in the first half of the century — was now turned in an anti-Western direction by currents inside the country. Theorists of Pan-Slavism or Eurasianism sought to create a new national of imperial identity and to convert Russia’s geographical position as a bridge between Europe and Asia into a spiritual advantage. The Pan-Slavists, unlike the milder, Romantically introverted Slavophiles of the previous generation, did not shrink from a more aggressive foreign policy and the associated risks of tension with Western European powers. That was one tendency. But after the 1860s, after the Crimean War, also witnessed the strengthening of the “Westernizers,” who made some gains in their efforts to make Russia a “normal” and, by the standards of the day, successful European country. Reforms introduced by Alexander II seemed to restore this link with “the civilized world.” But the ambiguity between the “search for Europe” and the “flight from Europe” was never dissolved.
That is from the just-published The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century. Here is my previous post on the book.