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Of course, if you are dividing up the octave in minor thirds, you are likely to find yourself using the octatonic scale, which just takes it one step further:
Each pair of intervals in the scale spans a minor third. So we can find isolated examples of the octatonic scale in a lot of 19th century music. There are examples in Schumann, Chopin, Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov. But it was only the latter who cultivated it for its own sake and passed the practice on to his students, Stravinsky especially.
There are also some examples of use of the whole-tone scale, before Debussy. It is used as the leitmotif of the sorcerer Chernomor in the opera Ruslan and Lyudmila by Glinka. In general, Russian composers tended to make symmetrical third relations more explicit than in Western composers. Rimsky-Korsakov in particular approached the whole area with his characteristic clarity and orderliness. For him it was a bulwark against the "sea of decadence" that he saw in the wayward chromaticism of, for example, French music--he called this "d'Indism."
What Rimsky-Korsakov passed on to his students was a "set of operations, of routines and techniques, stemming from an outlook on the total chromatic that was heavily prejudiced in favor of symmetrical partitions of the octave." [Taruskin, Stravinsky, p 272] Though all axes of symmetry were possible, the chromatic scale itself, whole-tone, minor thirds, major thirds and the tritone, in practice the one that was most widely exploited was the minor third which contains the tritone and outlines the octatonic scale. The octatonic scale also provided many ways of interacting with traditional diatonicism. What is very cool about this is that you can create harmonic structures of seemingly traditional major and minor triads that seem "without tonal motivation." [Taruskin, op. cit. p. 273, quoting a review by Elliott Antokoletz of The Music of Igor Stravinsky by Pieter C. van den Toon.] Rimsky-Korsakov was well aware of this as can be seen in his sketchbooks. Taruskin offers this summary showing how the octatonic scale can be used to generate triads:
And here is an excerpt from one of his sketchbooks showing the harmonisation of ascending minor thirds:
If I am losing you here, the thing to remember is that Rimsky-Korsakov developed and passed on to Stravinsky a harmonic method that was both based on an underlying theory, and offered a fresh kind of sonority.
Finally, let's tie this theory to actual music. In the introduction to Act 1, scene ii of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Sadko, virtually every note is traceable to the harmonic complexes in the Example 4.17 above. The only exceptions (shown in circles below) are chromatic passing notes. The passage ends with an authentic cadence in C major, preparing the entrance of Sadko--and this demonstrates the compatibility of octatonic harmonies with traditional ones!
Let's end with a clip of that passage from the opera.