The history of Russia
begins with that of the East
The first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus'
, adopted Christianity
from the Byzantine Empire
in 988, beginning the
synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic
that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Kievan Rus'
ultimately disintegrated as a state, finally succumbing to Mongol
invaders in the 1230s. During this time a
number of regional magnates, in particular Novgorod and Pskov,
fought to inherit the cultural and political legacy of Kievan
13th century, Moscow gradually
came to dominate the former cultural center. By the 18th century,
the Grand Duchy of Moscow had
become the huge Russian
Empire, stretching from Poland eastward to
Expansion in the western direction
sharpened Russia's awareness of its separation from much of the
rest of Europe and shattered the isolation in which the initial
stages of expansion had occurred. Successive regimes of the 19th
century responded to such pressures with a combination of
halfhearted reform and repression. Russian serfdom
was abolished in 1861
its abolition was achieved on terms unfavorable to the peasants
and served to increase revolutionary
pressures. Between the abolition of serfdom and the beginning of
World War I
in 1914, the Stolypin reforms
, the constitution of 1906
introduced notable changes to the
economy and politics of Russia, but the tsars
were still not willing to relinquish autocratic
rule, or share their power.
The Russian Revolution
1917 was triggered by a combination of economic breakdown, war
weariness, and discontent with the autocratic system of government,
and it first brought a coalition of liberals and moderate
socialists to power, but their failed policies led to seizure of
power by the Communist Bolsheviks
on October 25. Between 1922 and 1991,
the history of Russia is essentially the history of the Soviet Union
effectively an ideologically based state which was roughly
conterminous with the Russian Empire before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
approach to the building of socialism, however, varied over
different periods in Soviet history, from the mixed economy and
diverse society and culture of the 1920s to the command economy and
repressions of the Stalin
era to the "era of
stagnation" in the 1980s. From its first years, government in the
Soviet Union was based on the one-party rule of the Communists, as
the Bolsheviks called themselves, beginning in March 1918. However,
by the late 1980s, with the weaknesses of its economic and
political structures becoming acute, the Communist leaders embarked
on major reforms, which led to the collapse of the Soviet
The history of the Russian
is brief, dating back only to the collapse of the
Soviet Union in late 1991. Since gaining its independence, Russia
was recognized as the legal successor to the Soviet Union on the
international stage. However, Russia has lost its superpower
status as it faced serious challenges
in its efforts to forge a new post-Soviet political and economic
system. Scrapping the socialist central
and state ownership of property of the Soviet era,
Russia attempted to build an economy with elements of market
, with often painful results.
Even today Russia shares many continuities of political culture and
social structure with its tsarist and Soviet past.
During the prehistoric eras the vast steppes
of Southern Russia were home to tribes
classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe
was known as Scythia
.Remnants of these
long-gone steppe civilizations were discovered in the course of the
20th century in such places as Ipatovo, Sintashta,
Arkaim, and Pazyryk.
latter part of the eighth century BC, Greek merchants brought
classical civilization to the
trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria. Gelonus
described by Herodotos
as a huge (Europe's
biggest) earth and wood fortified grad
inhabited around 500 BC by
Heloni and Budini
. Between the third and
sixth centuries AD
, the Bosporan Kingdom
, a Hellenistic polity
which succeeded the Greek colonies, was overwhelmed by successive
waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes which would often
move on to Europe
, as was the case with the
. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes
between the Caspian and Black Seas through to the 8th century. Noted for their laws,
tolerance, and cosmopolitanism, the Khazars were the main
commercial link between the Baltic and the Muslim Abbasid empire centered
were important allies of the Byzantine
, and waged a series of successful wars against the
the 8th century, the Khazars embraced Judaism
A general map of the cultures in
European Russia at the arrival of the Varangians
Early East Slavs
ancestors of the Russians were the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought
by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pripet Marshes. The Early East
Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving
from Kiev toward
present-day Suzdal and Murom and another
from Polotsk toward
Novgorod and Rostov.
the 7th century onwards, the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the
population in Western Russia and slowly but peacefully assimilated
the native Finno-Ugric
tribes, such as
, the Muromians
, and the Meshchera
Kievan Rus' in the 11th century
Norsemen, called "Vikings
" in Western Europe and "Varangians
" in the East, combined piracy
and trade in their roamings over much of
Northern Europe. In the mid-9th century, they began to
venture along the waterways from the eastern Baltic to the
Black and Caspian Seas.
According to the earliest Russian chronicle
Varangian named Rurik
was elected ruler
) of Novgorod in about
860, before his successors moved south and extended their authority
to Kiev, which had been previously dominated by the Khazars.
Thus, the first East Slavic state, Kievan
', emerged in the 9th century along the Dnieper River
valley. A coordinated group of
princely states with a common interest in maintaining trade along
the river routes, Kievan Rus' controlled the trade route
for furs, wax, and slaves
between Scandinavia and the Byzantine
Empire along the Volkhov
The name "Russia", together with the Finnish Ruotsi
"Sweden") and Estonian
(which means "Sweden"), are found by some scholars
to be related to Roslagen
. The etymology of Rus and
are debated, and other schools of thought
connect the name with Slavic or Iranic
end of the 10th century, the Norse minority had merged with the Slavic
population, which also absorbed Greek Christian
influences in the course of the multiple campaigns to loot Tsargrad, or Constantinople.
One such campaign claimed the life of the
foremost Slavic druzhina
leader, Svyatoslav I
, who was renowned for having
crushed the power of the Khazars on the Volga. At the time, the
was experiencing a
major military and cultural revival; despite its later decline, its
culture would have a continuous influence on the development of
Russia in its formative centuries.
Kievan Rus' is important for its introduction of a Slavic variant
of the Eastern Orthodox
dramatically deepening a synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures
that defined Russian culture for the next thousand years. The
region adopted Christianity
in 988 by
the official act of public baptism
of Kiev inhabitants by
Prince Vladimir I
. Some years
later the first code of laws, Russkaya
, was introduced. From the onset the Kievan princes
followed the Byzantine example and kept the Church dependent on
them, even for its revenues, so that the Russian Church and state
were always closely linked.
By the 11th century, particularly during the reign of Yaroslav the Wise
, Kievan Rus' could boast
an economy and achievements in architecture and literature superior
to those that then existed in the western part of the continent.
Compared with the languages of European Christendom, the Russian language
was little influenced by
of early Christian writings. This was due to the
fact that Church Slavonic
directly in liturgy
A nomadic Turkic people, the Kipchaks
known as the Cumans), replaced the earlier Pechenegs
as the dominant force in the south
steppe regions neighbouring to Rus' at the end of 11th century and
founded a nomadic state in the steppes along the Black Sea
(Desht-e-Kipchak). Repelling their regular attacks, especially on
Kiev, which was just one day's ride from the steppe, was a heavy
burden for the southern areas of Rus'. The nomadic incursions
caused a massive influx of Slavs to the safer, heavily forested
regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye
Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated as a state because of
in-fighting between members of the princely family that ruled it
collectively. Kiev's dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal
in the north-east, Novgorod
in the north, and Halych-Volhynia
in the south-west. Conquest
by the Mongol Golden
in the 13th century was the final blow. Kiev was
destroyed. Halych-Volhynia would eventually be absorbed into the
, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and
independent Novgorod Republic
regions on the periphery of Kiev, would establish the basis for the
modern Russian nation.
The invading Mongols accelerated the fragmentation of the Rus'.
the disunited southern princes faced a Mongol raiding party at the
River and were soundly defeated. In 1237–1238 the
Mongols burnt down the city of Vladimir (February 4, 1238) and other major cities of
northeast Russia, routed the Russians at the Sit' River, and then moved
west into Poland and Hungary.
By then they had conquered most of the
Russian principalities. Only the Novgorod Republic escaped
occupation and continued to flourish in the orbit of the Hanseatic League
The impact of the Mongol invasion on the territories of Kievan Rus'
was uneven. The advanced city culture was almost completely
destroyed. As older centers such as Kiev and Vladimir
never recovered from the devastation of the initial attack, the new
cities of Moscow, Tver and Nizhny
Novgorod began to
compete for hegemony in the Mongol-dominated Russia.
a Russian army defeated the Golden
Horde at Kulikovo in 1380, Mongol domination of
the Russian-inhabited territories, along with demands of tribute
from Russian princes, continued until about 1480.
fall of the Khazars in the 10th century, the
middle Volga came to be dominated by the mercantile state of
Volga Bulgaria, the last vestige of
Greater Bulgaria centered at Phanagoria.
In the 10th century the Turkic population
of Volga Bulgaria converted to Islam
facilitated its trade with the Middle East and Central Asia. In the
wake of the Mongol
of the 1230s, Volga Bulgaria was absorbed by the
and its population evolved
into the modern Chuvashes
and Kazan Tatars
The Mongols held Russia and Volga Bulgaria in sway from their
western capital at Sarai
, one of the
largest cities of the medieval world. The princes of southern and
eastern Russia had to pay tribute to the Mongols of the Golden
Horde, commonly called Tatars
; but in return
they received charters authorizing them to act as deputies to the
khans. In general, the princes were allowed considerable freedom to
rule as they wished, while the Russian Orthodox Church
experienced a spiritual revival under the guidance of Metropolitan Alexis
and Sergius of Radonezh
To the Orthodox Church and most princes, the fanatical Northern Crusaders
seemed a greater threat
to the Russian way of life than the Mongols. In the mid-13th
century, Alexander Nevsky
prince of Novgorod, acquired heroic status as the result of major
victories over the Teutonic Knights
and the Swedes
. Alexander obtained
Mongol protection and assistance in fighting invaders from the west
who, hoping to profit from the Russian collapse since the Mongol
invasions, tried to grab territory and convert the Russians to
The Mongols left their impact on the Russians in such areas as
military tactics and transportation. Under Mongol occupation,
Russia also developed its postal road network, census, fiscal
system, and military organization. Eastern influence remained
strong well until the 17th century, when Russian rulers made a
conscious effort to modernize their country.In popular memory, this
period left a very unpleasant impression, and is referred to as the
Grand Duchy of Moscow
The rise of Moscow
youngest son of Alexander Nevsky, founded the principality of
Moscow (known as Muscovy), which eventually expelled the Tatars
from Russia. Well-situated in the central river system of Russia
and surrounded by protective forests and marshes, Moscow was at
first only a vassal
of Vladimir, but soon it
absorbed its parent state. A major factor in the ascendancy of
Moscow was the cooperation of its rulers with the Mongol overlords,
who granted them the title of Grand Prince of Moscow and made them
agents for collecting the Tatar tribute from the Russian
principalities. The principality's prestige was further enhanced
when it became the center of the Russian Orthodox Church
. Its head,
, fled from Kiev
in 1299 and a few years
later established the permanent headquarters of the Church in
Moscow under the original title of Kiev Metropolitan.
By the middle of the 14th century, the power of the Mongols was
declining, and the Grand Princes felt able to openly oppose the
. In 1380, at Kulikovo on the Don River,
the Mongols were defeated, and although this hard-fought victory
did not end Tatar rule of Russia, it did bring great fame to the
Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoy.
Moscow's leadership in Russia was now firmly based and by the
middle of the fourteenth century its territory had greatly expanded
through purchase, war, and marriage.
Ivan III, the Great
Ivan III tears off the Khan's missive
letter demanding the tribute in front of Khan's mission
In the 15th century, the grand princes of Moscow went on gathering
Russian lands to increase the population and wealth under their
rule. The most successful practitioner of this process was Ivan III
who laid the foundations for a
Russian national state. Ivan competed with his powerful
northwestern rival, the Grand
Duchy of Lithuania
, for control over some of the
in the upper Dnieper
and Oka River
basins. Through the defections of some princes, border skirmishes,
and a long war with the Novgorod Republic, Ivan III was able to
annex Novgorod and Tver. As a result, the Grand Duchy of Moscow
tripled in size
under his rule. During his conflict with Pskov, a monk named
(Philotheus of Pskov) composed a
letter to Ivan III, with the prophecy that the latter's kingdom
will be the Third Rome
. The Fall of Constantinople
and the death
of the last Greek Orthodox Christian emperor contributed to this
new idea of Moscow as 'New Rome' and the seat of Orthodox
A contemporary of the Tudors
"new monarchs" in Western Europe, Ivan proclaimed his absolute
sovereignty over all Russian princes and nobles. Refusing further
tribute to the Tatars, Ivan initiated a series of attacks that
opened the way for the complete defeat of the declining Golden Horde
, now divided into several Khanates
and hordes. Ivan and his successors sought
to protect the southern boundaries of their domain against attacks
of the Crimean Tatars
hordes. To achieve this aim, they sponsored the construction of the
Great Abatis Belt
manors to nobles, who were obliged to serve in the military. The
manor system provided a basis for an emerging horse army.
In this way, internal consolidation accompanied outward expansion
of the state. By the 16th century
rulers of Moscow considered the entire Russian territory their
collective property. Various semi-independent princes still claimed
specific territories, but Ivan III forced the lesser princes to
acknowledge the grand prince of Moscow and his descendants as
unquestioned rulers with control over military, judicial, and
foreign affairs. Gradually, the Russian ruler emerged as a
powerful, autocratic ruler, a tsar. The first Russian ruler to
officially crown himself "Tsar
" was Ivan IV
Tsardom of Russia
Ivan IV, the Terrible
The development of the Tsar's autocratic powers reached a peak
during the reign (1547–1584) of Ivan
("Ivan the Terrible"). He strengthened the position of the
monarch to an unprecedented degree, as he ruthlessly subordinated
the nobles to his will, exiling or executing many on the slightest
provocation. Nevertheless, Ivan is often seen a farsighted
statesman who reformed Russia as he promulgated a new code of laws
(Sudebnik of 1550
), established the
first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor
), curbed the influence of clergy,
and introduced the local self-management in rural regions,
Although his long Livonian War
control of the Baltic coast and the access to sea trade ultimately
proved a costly failure, Ivan managed to annex the Khanates of Kazan
, and Siberia
. These conquests complicated the
migration of the aggressive nomadic hordes from Asia to Europe
through Volga and Ural.Through these conquests, Russia acquired a
significant Muslim Tatar population and emerged as a multiethnic
state. Also around this
period, the mercantile Stroganov family
established a firm foothold at the Urals and
recruited Russian Cossacks to colonize
In the later part of his reign, Ivan divided his realm in two. In
the zone known as the oprichnina
, Ivan's followers carried out a
series of bloody purges of the feudal aristocracy (which he
suspected of treachery after the betrayal of prince Kurbsky),
culminating in the Massacre of
(1570). This combined with the military losses,
epidemics, poor harvests so weakened Russia that the Crimean Tatars
were able to sack central
Russian regions and burn down Moscow
. In 1572
Ivan abandoned the oprichnina
At the end of Ivan IV's reign the Polish-Lithuanian and Swedish
armies carried out a powerful intervention in Russia, devastating
its northern and northwest regions.
Time of Troubles
The death of Ivan's childless son Feodor
was followed by a period of civil
wars and foreign intervention known as the "Time of Troubles
" (1606–13). Extremely cold
summers (1601–1603) wrecked crops, which led to the Russian famine of 1601 - 1603
and increased the social disorganization. Boris Godunov
's reign ended in chaos, civil
war combined with foreign intrusion, devastation of many cities and
depopulation of the rural regions. The country rocked by internal
chaos also attracted several waves of interventions by the Polish-Lithuanian
. The invaders reached Moscow and installed, first,
the impostor False Dmitriy I
later, a Polish prince Władysław IV Vasa
on the Russian
throne. Moscow revolted but riots there were brutally suppressed
and the city was set on fire.
The crisis provoked a patriotic national uprising against the
, and in autumn 1612 a volunteer
army, led by the merchant Kuzma Minin
and prince Dmitry Pozharsky
expelled the foreign forces from the capital.
The Russian statehood survived the "Time of Troubles" and the rule
of weak or corrupt Tsars because of the strength of the
government's central bureaucracy. Government functionaries
continued to serve, regardless of the ruler's legitimacy or the
faction controlling the throne. However, the "Time of Troubles
" provoked by the dynastic
crisis resulted in the loss of much territory to the Polish-Lithuanian
, as well as to the Swedish Empire
in the Ingrian War
The accession of Romanovs and early rule
In February, 1613, with the chaos ended and the Poles expelled from
Moscow, a national assembly
of representatives from fifty cities and even some peasants,
elected Michael Romanov
young son of Patriarch Filaret
the throne. The Romanov
dynasty ruled Russia
The immediate task of the new dynasty was to restore peace.
Fortunately for Moscow, its major enemies,
Commonwealth and Sweden, were
engaged in a bitter conflict with each other, which provided Russia
the opportunity to make peace with Sweden in 1617 and to sign a
truce with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1619.
Recovery of lost territories started in the mid-17th century, when
the Khmelnitsky Uprising
Ukraine against Polish rule brought about the Treaty of Pereyaslav
Russia and the Ukrainian
to the treaty, Russia granted protection to the Cossacks
state in the Left-bank
Ukraine, formerly under Polish control. This triggered a
War which ended with the Treaty
of Andrusovo (1667), where Poland accepted the loss of
Left-bank Ukraine, Kiev and Smolensk.
Rather than risk their estates in more civil war, the great nobles
cooperated with the first
Romanovs, enabling them to finish the work of bureaucratic
centralization. Thus, the state required service from both the old
and the new nobility, primarily in the military. In return the
tsars allowed the boyars
to complete the process of
enserfing the peasants.
In the preceding century, the state had gradually curtailed
peasants' rights to move from one landlord to another. With the
state now fully sanctioning serfdom
runaway peasants became state fugitives, and the power of the
landlords over the peasants "attached" to their land have become
almost complete. Together the state and the nobles placed the
overwhelming burden of taxation on the peasants, whose rate was 100
times greater in the mid-17th century than it had been a century
earlier. In addition, middle-class urban tradesmen and craftsmen
were assessed taxes, and, like the serfs, they were forbidden to
change residence. All segments of the population were subject to
military levy and to special taxes.
Under such circumstances, peasant disorders were endemic; even the
citizens of Moscow revolted against the Romanovs during the
(1648), Copper Riot
(1662), and the Moscow Uprising
(1682). By far the
greatest peasant uprising in 17th century Europe erupted in 1667.
As the free settlers of South Russia, the Cossacks
, reacted against the growing
centralization of the state, serfs escaped from their landlords and
joined the rebels. The Cossack leader Stenka Razin
led his followers up the Volga
River, inciting peasant uprisings and replacing local governments
with Cossack rule. The tsar's army finally crushed his forces in
1670; a year later Stenka was captured and beheaded. Yet, less than
half a century later, the strains of military expeditions produced
another revolt in Astrakhan
Peter the Great
Peter the Great
into Russia and played a major
role in bringing his country into the European state system. From
its modest beginnings in the 14th century principality of Moscow,
Russia had become the largest state in the world by Peter's reign.
times the size of continental Europe, it spanned the Eurasian
landmass from the Baltic
Sea to the Pacific Ocean.
Much of its expansion
had taken place in the 17th century, culminating in the first
Russian settlement of the Pacific in the mid-17th century, the
reconquest of Kiev, and the pacification of the Siberian tribes.
However, this vast land had a population of only 14 million. Grain
yields trailed behind those of agriculture in the West (that can be
partly explained by the more challenging climatic conditions, in
particular long cold winters and short vegetative period 
) compelling almost the entire population
to farm. Only a small fraction of the population lived in the
towns. Russia remained isolated from the sea trade, its internal
trade communications and many manufactures were dependent on the
Peter's first military efforts were directed against the Ottoman Turks
. His attention then turned to
the north. Peter still lacked a secure northern seaport
except at Archangel on the White
Sea, whose harbor was frozen nine months a year.
the Baltic was blocked by Sweden, whose
territory enclosed it on three sides. Peter's ambitions for
a "window to the sea" led him in 1699 to make a secret alliance
with the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth and Denmark against Sweden resulting in the Great Northern War.
The war ended
in 1721 when an exhausted Sweden sued for peace with Russia. Peter
acquired four provinces situated south and east of the Gulf of
Finland, thus securing his coveted access to the sea. There, in 1703, he
had already founded the city that was to become Russia's new
Petersburg, as a "window opened upon Europe" to replace
Moscow, long Russia's cultural center.
in the Commonwealth marked, with the Silent
, the beginning of a 200-year domination of that region by
the Russian Empire.In celebration of his conquests, Peter
assumed the title of emperor as well as tsar, and Russian Tzardom
officially became the Russian Empire in 1721.
Peter reorganized his government on the latest Western models,
molding Russia into an absolutist
state. He replaced the old
(council of nobles) with a
nine-member senate, in effect a supreme council of state. The
countryside was also divided into new provinces and districts.
Peter told the senate that its mission was to collect tax revenues.
In turn tax revenues tripled over the course of his reign. As part
of the government reform, the Orthodox Church was partially
incorporated into the country's administrative structure, in effect
making it a tool of the state. Peter abolished the patriarchate
and replaced it with a collective
body, the Holy Synod
, led by a lay
government official. Meanwhile, all vestiges of local
self-government were removed, and Peter continued and intensified
his predecessors' requirement of state service for all
Peter the Great died in 1725, leaving an unsettled succession and
an exhausted realm. His reign raised questions about Russia's
backwardness, its relationship to the West, the appropriateness of
reform from above, and other fundamental problems that have
confronted many of Russia's subsequent rulers. Nevertheless, he had
laid the foundations of a modern state in Russia.
Ruling the Empire (1725–1825)
Nearly forty years were to pass before a comparably ambitious and
ruthless ruler appeared on the Russian throne. Catherine II
, the Great, was a German
princess who married the German heir to the Russian crown. Finding
him incompetent, Catherine tacitly consented to his murder. It was
announced that he had died of "apoplexy
and in 1762 she became ruler.
Catherine contributed to the resurgence of the Russian nobility
that began after the death of Peter the Great. Mandatory state
service had been abolished, and Catherine delighted the nobles
further by turning over most government functions in the provinces
Catherine the Great extended Russian political control over the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with actions including the support
of the Targowica
, although the cost of her campaigns, on top of
the oppressive social system that required lords' serfs to spend
almost all of their time laboring on the lords' land, provoked a
major peasant uprising in 1773, after Catherine legalized the
selling of serfs separate from land. Inspired by another Cossack
, with the emphatic
cry of "Hang all the landlords!" the rebels threatened to take
Moscow before they were ruthlessly suppressed. Catherine had
Pugachev drawn and quartered in Red Square, but the specter of revolution continued to haunt
her and her successors.
Napoleon's retreat from Moscow
Catherine successfully waged war against the decaying Ottoman
Empire and advanced Russia's southern boundary to the Black Sea.
allying with the rulers of Austria and Prussia, she
incorporated the territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth,
where after a century of Russian rule non-Catholic mainly Orthodox
population prevailed) during the Partitions of Poland, pushing the
Russian frontier westward into Central Europe.
By the time
of her death in 1796, Catherine's expansionist policy had made
Russia into a major European power. This continued with Alexander I's wresting of Finland from the weakened kingdom of Sweden in 1809 and
of Bessarabia from the Ottomans in 1812.
made a major
misstep when he declared war on Russia after a dispute with Tsar
Alexander I and launched an invasion of Russia
The campaign was a catastrophe. Unable to decisively engage and
defeat the standing Russian armies, Napoleon attempted to force the
Tsar to terms by capturing Moscow at the onset of winter. The
expectation proved futile. Unprepared for winter warfare in the
cold Russian weather, thousands of French troops were ambushed and
killed by peasant guerrilla fighters. As Napoleon's forces
retreated, Russian troops pursued them into Central and Western
Europe and to the gates of Paris. After Russia and its allies defeated
Napoleon, Alexander became known as the 'savior of Europe,' and he
presided over the redrawing of the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna (1815), which made
Alexander the monarch of Congress Poland.
Although the Russian Empire would play a leading political role in
the next century, secured by its defeat of Napoleonic France, its
retention of serfdom precluded economic progress of any significant
degree. As West European economic growth accelerated during the
trade and colonialism
which had begun in
the second half of the 18th century, Russia began to lag ever
farther behind, creating new problems for the empire as a great
Imperial Russia following the Decembrist Revolt
Nicholas I and the Decembrist Revolt
Russia's great power status obscured the inefficiency of its
government, the isolation of its people, and its economic
backwardness. Following the defeat of Napoleon, Alexander I was
willing to discuss constitutional reforms, and though a few were
introduced, no thoroughgoing changes were attempted.
The tsar was succeeded by his younger brother, Nicholas I
(1825–1855), who at the
onset of his reign was confronted with an uprising. The background
of this revolt lay in the Napoleonic Wars, when a number of
well-educated Russian officers traveled in Europe in the course of
the military campaigns, where their exposure to the liberalism of
Western Europe encouraged them to seek change on their return to
autocratic Russia. The result was the Decembrist Revolt
(December 1825), the
work of a small circle of liberal nobles and army officers who
wanted to install Nicholas' brother as a constitutional monarch.
But the revolt was easily crushed, leading Nicholas to turn away
from the Westernization program begun by Peter the Great and
champion the doctrine
"Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and
In the early decades of the 19th century, Russia expanded into
and the highlands of
the North Caucasus
. In 1831 Nicholas
crushed a major uprising in
Poland; it would be followed by another large-scale Polish and Lithuanian
revolt in 1863.
Ideological schisms and reaction
In this setting Michael Bakunin
would emerge as the father of anarchism
He left Russia in 1842 to Western Europe, where he became active in
the socialist movement. After participating in the May Uprising in Dresden
of 1849, he
was imprisoned and shipped to Siberia, but eventually escaped and
made his way back to Europe. There he practically joined forces
with Karl Marx
, despite significant
ideological and tactical differences. Alternative social doctrines
were elaborated by such Russian radicals as Alexander Herzen
and Peter Kropotkin
The question of Russia's direction had been gaining steam ever
since Peter the Great's program of Westernization. Some favored
imitating Europe while others renounced the West and called for a
return of the traditions of the past. The latter path was
championed by Slavophiles
, who heaped
scorn on the "decadent" West. The Slavophiles were opponents of
bureaucracy, preferred the collectivism
of the medieval
, or village
, to the individualism
Alexander II and the abolition of serfdom
Tsar Nicholas died with his philosophy in dispute. One year earlier,
Russia had become involved in the Crimean
War, a conflict fought primarily in the Crimean peninsula.
Since playing a major role in the defeat of
Napoleon, Russia had been regarded as militarily invincible, but,
once pitted against a coalition of the great powers of Europe, the
reverses it suffered on land and sea exposed the decay and weakness
of Tsar Nicholas' regime.
When Alexander II
came to the
throne in 1855, desire for reform was widespread. A growing
humanitarian movement, which in later years has been likened to
that of the abolitionists in the
States before the American
Civil War, attacked serfdom.
In 1859, there were 23
(total population of Russia 67.1
Million) living under conditions frequently worse than those of the
peasants of Western Europe
. Alexander II made up his
own mind to abolish serfdom
above rather than wait for it to be abolished from below through
of the serfs
in 1861 was the single most important event in
19th century Russian history. It was the beginning of the end for
the landed aristocracy's monopoly of power. Emancipation brought a
supply of free labor to the cities, industry was stimulated, and
the middle class grew in number and influence; however, instead of
receiving their lands as a gift, the freed peasants had to pay a
special tax, called redemption payments, for what amounted to their
lifetime to the government, which in turn paid the landlords a
generous price for the land that they had lost. In numerous
instances the peasants wound up with the poorest land. All the land
turned over to the peasants was owned collectively by the
, the village community, which divided the land among
the peasants and supervised the various holdings. Although serfdom
was abolished, since its abolition was achieved on terms
unfavorable to the peasants, revolutionary tensions were not
abated, despite Alexander II's intentions.
In the late 1870s Russia and the Ottoman Empire again clashed in
the Balkans. The
was popular among Russians, who supported the
independence of their fellow Orthodox Slavs, the Serbs and the
Bulgarians. However, the war increased tension with
Austria-Hungary, which also had ambitions in the region.
this period Russia expanded its empire into Central Asia, which was rich in raw materials,
conquering the khanates of Kokand, Bokhara and Khiva. as well as
In the 1860s a movement known as Nihilism
developed in Russia. A term
originally coined by Ivan Turgenev
his 1862 novel Fathers and
, Nihilists favoured the destruction of human
institutions and laws, based on the idea that such institutions and
laws are artificial and corrupt. At its core, Russian nihilism was
characterized by the belief that the world lacks comprehensible
meaning, objective truth, or value. For some time many Russian
liberals had been dissatisfied by what they regarded as the empty
discussions of the intelligentsia
The Nihilists questioned all old values and shocked the Russian
establishment. They moved beyond being purely philosophical to
becoming major political forces after becoming involved in the
cause of reform. Their path was facilitated by the previous actions
of the Decembrists, who revolted in 1825, and the financial and
political hardship caused by the Crimean War, which caused large
numbers of Russian people to lose faith in political
The Nihilists first attempted to convert the aristocracy to the
cause of reform. Failing there, they turned to the peasants. Their
campaign, which targeted the people instead of the aristocracy or
the landed gentry, became known as the Narodnik
movement. It was based upon the belief
that the common people, known as the Narod
possessed the wisdom and peaceful ability to lead the
While the Narodnik movement was gaining momentum, the government
quickly moved to extirpate it. In response to the growing reaction
of the government, a radical branch of the Narodniks advocated and
. One after another,
prominent officials were shot or killed by bombs. This represented
the ascendancy of anarchism in
as a powerful revolutionary force. Finally, after
several attempts, Alexander II was assassinated by anarchists in
1881, on the very day he had approved a proposal to call a
representative assembly to consider new reforms in addition to the
abolition of serfdom designed to ameliorate revolutionary
Autocracy and reaction under Alexander III
Unlike his father, the new tsar Alexander III
throughout his reign a staunch reactionary who revived the maxim of
Autocracy, and National Character
". A committed Slavophile,
Alexander III believed that Russia could be saved from chaos only
by shutting itself off from the subversive influences of Western
Europe. In his reign Russia concluded the union with republican France to
contain the growing power of Germany, completed the conquest of Central Asia, and exacted important territorial
and commercial concessions from China.
The tsar's most influential adviser was Konstantin Pobedonostsev
, tutor to
Alexander III and his son Nicholas, and procurator of the Holy
Synod from 1880 to 1895. He taught his royal pupils to fear freedom
of speech and press and to hate democracy, constitutions, and the
parliamentary system. Under Pobedonostsev, revolutionaries were
hunted down and a policy of Russification
was carried out throughout the
Nicholas II and a new revolutionary movement
Alexander was succeeded by his son Nicholas II
Industrial Revolution, which began to exert a significant influence
in Russia, was meanwhile creating forces that would finally
overthrow the tsar. Politically, these opposition forces organized
into three competing parties: The liberal elements among the
industrial capitalists and nobility, who believed in peaceful
social reform and a constitutional monarchy, founded the Constitutional Democratic
in 1905. Followers of the Narodnik
tradition established the Socialist-Revolutionary Party
in 1901, advocating the distribution of land
among those who actually worked it—the peasants. A third and more
radical group founded the Russian Social Democratic
in 1898; this party was the
primary exponent of Marxism
Gathering their support from the radical intellectuals and the
urban working class, they advocated complete social, economic and
In 1903 the RDSLP split into two wings: the radical Bolsheviks
, led by Lenin, and the relatively
, led by Lenin's former
friend Yuli Martov. The Mensheviks believed that Russian socialism
would grow gradually and peacefully and that the tsar’s regime
should be succeeded by a democratic republic in which the
socialists would cooperate with the liberal bourgeois parties. The
Bolsheviks, under Vladimir Lenin
advocated the formation of a small elite of professional
revolutionists, subject to strong party discipline, to act as the
vanguard of the proletariat in order to seize power by force.
The disastrous performance of the Russian armed forces in the
was a major
blow to the Russian State and increased the potential for unrest.
January 1905, an incident known as "Bloody Sunday" occurred when Father Gapon led an enormous crowd to the
Palace in Saint Petersburg to present a petition to the tsar.
procession reached the palace, Cossacks opened fire on the crowd,
killing hundreds. The Russian masses were so aroused over the
massacre that a general strike was declared demanding a democratic
republic. This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1905
Soviets (councils of workers) appeared in most cities to
direct revolutionary activity.
In October 1905, Nicholas reluctantly issued the famous October Manifesto
, which conceded the
creation of a national Duma (legislature) to be called without
delay. The right to vote was extended, and no law was to go into
force without confirmation by the Duma. The moderate groups were
satisfied; but the socialists rejected the concessions as
insufficient and tried to organize new strikes. By the end of 1905,
there was disunity among the reformers, and the tsar's position was
strengthened for the time being.
treaty, Tsar Nicholas II and his subjects entered World War I at the defense of Serbia.
opening of hostilities in August 1914, the Russians took the
offensive against both Germany and Austria-Hungary
in support of her French ally.
Later, military failures and bureaucratic ineptitude soon turned
large segments of the population against the government. Control of
the Baltic Sea by the German fleet, and of the Black Sea by
combined German and Ottoman forces prevented Russia from importing
supplies and exporting goods.
By the middle of 1915 the impact of the war was demoralizing. Food
and fuel were in short supply, casualties kept occurring, and
inflation was mounting. Strikes increased among low-paid factory
workers, and the peasants, who wanted land reforms, were restless.
Meanwhile, public distrust of the regime was deepened by reports
that a semiliterate mystic, Grigory
, had great political influence within the government.
His assassination in late 1916 ended the scandal but did not
restore the autocracy's lost prestige.
3, 1917, a strike occurred in a factory in the capital Petrograd (formerly Saint Petersburg).
On February 23
(March 8) 1917, International Women's Day, thousands of women
textile workers in Petrograd walked out of their factories
protesting the lack of food and calling on other workers to join
them. Within days, nearly all the workers in the city were idle,
and street fighting broke out. When the tsar ordered the Duma to
disband, ordered strikers to return to work, and ordered troops to
shoot at demonstrators in the streets, his orders triggered the
when soldiers openly sided with the strikers. On March 2 (15),
Nicholas II abdicated. To fill the vacuum of authority, the Duma
declared a Provisional
, headed by Prince Lvov
Meanwhile, the socialists in Petrograd organized elections among
workers and soldiers to form a soviet (council) of workers' and
soldiers' deputies, as an organ of popular power that could
pressure the "bourgeois" Provisional Government.
In July, following a series of crises that undermined their
authority with the public, the head of the Provisional Government
resigned and was succeeded by Alexander Kerensky
, who was more
progressive than his predecessor but not radical enough for the
Bolsheviks or many Russians discontented with the deepening
economic crisis and the continuation of the war. While Kerensky's
government marked time, the socialist-led soviet in Petrograd
joined with soviets that formed throughout the country to create a
returned to Russia from exile in Switzerland with the help of Germany, which hoped that
widespread strife would cause Russia to withdraw from the
After many behind-the-scenes maneuvers, the soviets
seized control of the government in November 1917, and drove
Kerensky and his moderate provisional government into exile, in the
events that would become known as the October Revolution
When the national Constituent Assembly, elected in December 1917
and meeting in January 1918, refused to become a rubber-stamp of
the Bolsheviks, it was dissolved by Lenin's troops. With the
dissolution of the constituent assembly, all vestiges of bourgeois
democracy were removed. With the handicap of the moderate
opposition removed, Lenin was able to free his regime from the war
problem by the harsh Treaty of
(1918) with Germany, in which Russia lost the
territories of Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, the parts of
the territories of Latvia and Belarus (line
and the territories captured from the Ottoman Empire during World
War I. On November 13, 1918 the Soviet government cancelled the
Treaty of Brest 
Russian Civil War
The Bolshevik grip on power was by no means secure and a lengthy
struggle broke out between the new regime and its opponents, who
included the Socialist Revolutionaries, right-wing "Whites" and
large numbers of peasants. At the same time the Allied powers sent several
to support the anti-Communist forces in an
attempt to force Russia to rejoin the world war. The Bolsheviks
fought against these forces and against national independence
movements in the former Russian Empire. By 1921, they had defeated
their internal enemies and brought most of the newly independent
states under their control, with the exception of Finland, the
Baltic States, the Moldavian Democratic
Republic(which joined Romania), and Poland (with whom they had fought the
also annexed the region Pechenga of
the Russian Kola
Russia and allied Soviet republics conceded the parts of its
territory to Estonia (Pechory and the right bank of Narva), Latvia (Pytalovo) and Turkey (Kars).
Poland incorporated the contested territories of Western Belarus
and Western Ukraine
, the former parts of the
Russian Empire (except Galicia
) east to Curzon Line
Lenin and Stalin
Creation of the Soviet Union
history of Russia between 1922 and 1991 is essentially the history
of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Soviet Union.
This ideologically-based union, established
in December 1922 by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party, was
roughly coterminous with Russia before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
. At that
time, the new nation included four constituent republics: the
, the Ukrainian SSR
, Belarusian SSR
, and the Transcaucasian SFSR
The constitution, adopted in 1924, established a federal system of
government based on a succession of soviets set up in villages,
factories, and cities in larger regions. This pyramid of soviets in
each constituent republic culminated in the All-Union Congress of
Soviets. But while it appeared that the congress exercised
sovereign power, this body was actually governed by the Communist
Party, which in turn was controlled by the Politburo
Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union, just as it had been under
the tsars before Peter the Great.
War Communism and the New Economic Policy
The period from the consolidation of the Bolshevik Revolution in
1917 until 1921 is known as the period of war communism
.Land, all industry and small
businesses were nationalized
money economy was restricted. Strong opposition soon developed. The
peasants wanted cash payments for their products and resented
having to surrender their surplus grain to the government as a part
of its civil war policies. Confronted with peasant opposition,
Lenin began a strategic retreat from war communism known as the
New Economic Policy
peasants were freed from wholesale levies of grain and allowed to
sell their surplus produce in the open market. Commerce was
stimulated by permitting private retail trading. The state
continued to be responsible for banking, transportation, heavy
industry, and public utilities.
Although the left opposition among the Communists criticized the
rich peasants or kulaks
who benefited from the
NEP, the program proved highly beneficial and the economy revived.
The NEP would later come under increasing opposition from within
the party following Lenin's death in early 1924.
Changes in Russian society
While the Russian economy was being transformed, the social life of
the people underwent equally drastic changes. From the beginning of
the revolution, the government attempted to weaken patriarchal
domination of the family. Divorce
required court procedure;and to make women completely free of the
responsibilities of childbearing, abortion
was made legal as early as 1920. As a side effect, the emancipation
of the women increased the labor market. Girls were encouraged to
secure an education and pursue a career in the factory or the
office. Communal nurseries were set up for the care of small
children and efforts were made to shift the center of people's
social life from the home to educational and recreational groups,
the soviet clubs.
The regime abandoned the tsarist policy of discriminating
against national minorities
in favor of a policy
of incorporating the more than two hundred minority groups into
Soviet life. Another feature of the regime was the extension of
medical services. Campaigns were carried out against typhus
, and malaria
; the number of doctors was increased as
rapidly as facilities and training would permit; and infant mortality
rates rapidly decreased
while life expectancy
The government also promoted atheism
, which formed the basis of
Marxist theory. It opposed organized religion, especially in order
to break the power of the Russian Orthodox Church, a former pillar
of the old tsarist regime and a major barrier to social change.
Many religious leaders were sent to internal exile camps. Members
of the party were forbidden to attend religious services and the
education system was separated from the Church. Religious teaching
was prohibited except in the home and atheist instruction was
stressed in the schools.
Industrialization and collectivization
The years from 1929 to 1939 comprised a tumultuous decade in
Russian history—a period of massive industrialization and internal
struggles as Joseph Stalin
near total control over Russian society, wielding virtually
unrestrained power. Following Lenin's death Stalin wrestled to gain
control of the Soviet Union with rival factions in the Politburo,
especially Leon Trotsky
's. By 1928,
with the Trotskyists
either exiled or
rendered powerless, Stalin was ready to put a radical program of
industrialization into action.
In 1928 Stalin proposed the First
. Abolishing the NEP, it was the first of a
number of plans aimed at swift accumulation of capital resources
through the buildup of heavy industry, the collectivization of
, and the restricted manufacture of consumer goods
. For the
first time in history a government controlled all economic
As a part of the plan, the government took control of agriculture
through the state and collective farms (kolkhozes
). By a decree of February 1930, about
one million individual peasants (kulaks
) were forced off their land. Many
peasants strongly opposed regimentation by the state, often
slaughtering their herds when faced with the loss of their land. In
some sections they revolted, and countless peasants deemed "kulaks"
by the authorities were executed. The combination of bad weather,
deficiencies of the hastily-established collective farms, and
massive confiscation of grain precipitated a serious famine, and
several million peasants died
, mostly in Ukraine
parts of southwestern Russia. The deteriorating conditions in the
countryside drove millions of desperate peasants to the rapidly
growing cities, fueling industrialization, and vastly increasing
Russia's urban population in the space of just a few years.
The plans received remarkable results in areas aside from
agriculture. Russia, in many measures the poorest nation in Europe
at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, now industrialized at a
phenomenal rate, far surpassing Germany's pace of industrialization
in the nineteenth century and Japan's earlier in the twentieth
While the Five-Year Plans were forging ahead, Stalin was
establishing his personal power. The NKVD
gathered in tens of thousands of Soviet citizens to face arrest,
or execution. Of the six original members of the 1920 Politburo who
survived Lenin, all were purged by Stalin. Old Bolsheviks who had
been loyal comrades of Lenin, high officers in the Red Army, and
directors of industry were liquidated in the Great Purges
. Purges in other Soviet republics
also helped centralize control in the USSR.
Stalin's repressions led to the creation of a vast system of
, of considerably greater dimensions than those set up in
the past by the tsars. Draconian penalties were introduced and many
citizens were prosecuted for fictitious crimes of sabotage and
espionage. The labor provided by convicts working in
the labor camps of the Gulag system became an important component of the
industrialization effort, especially in Siberia.
An estimated 18 million people passed
through the Gulag system, and perhaps another 15 million had
experience of some other form of forced labor.
The Soviet Union on the international stage
The Soviet Union viewed the 1933 accession of fervently anti-Communist Hitler
's government to power in Germany
with the great alarm from the onset,
especially since Hitler proclaimed the Drang nach Osten
as one of the major
objectives in his vision of the German strategy of Lebensraum
. The Soviets supported the republicans of
Spain who struggled against the fascist German and Italian troops
in the Spanish Civil War In
1938–1939, immediately prior to the WWII, the Soviet Union
successfully fought against Imperial Japan in the Soviet-Japanese Border Wars in
the Russian Far East, which led to
neutrality and the tense border peace that lasted until August
In 1938 Germany annexed Austria
together with major Western European powers, signed the Munich Agreement
following which Germany,
Hungary and Poland divided the Czech territory between themselves.
German plans for further eastward expansion as well as the lack of
resolve from the Western powers to oppose it became more apparent.
Despite Soviet Union strongly opposed the Munich deal and
repeatedly reaffirmed its readiness to militarily back the Soviet
commitments given earlier to Czechoslovakia, the Western Betrayal
of Czechoslovakia reached
over the Soviet opposition further increased fears in the Soviet
Union of a coming German attack, which led the Soviet Union to rush
the modernization of Soviet military industry and carry its own
diplomatic maneuvers. In 1939 the Soviet Union signed the Non-aggression pact with Nazi
dividing spheres of influence between themselves in
. Following the
agreement, the USSR normalized the relations with Nazi
and resumed the Soviet-German trade.
World War II
On September 17, 1939, seventeen days after the start of World War II
and victorious German advance deep
into the Polish territory, the Red Army
portions of Poland
stating the protection of Ukrainians and
Belarusians as their operation's primary goal and Poland's "seizure
to exist" as the justification of the action. As a result, the
Belarusian and Ukrainian Soviet republics' western borders were
moved westward and the new Soviet western border was drawn close to
the original Curzon line
. In the meantime the
negotiations with Finland about the Soviet-proposed land swap that would
redraw the Soviet-Finnish border further away from Leningrad failed; and in December, 1939 the USSR started a
campaign against Finland, known as the Winter
War (1939–40). The war took a heavy death toll on the
Red Army but forced Finland to sign a
Moscow Peace Treaty and cede the
Isthmus and Ladoga Karelia. In summer 1940 the USSR issued an ultimatum to Romania forcing it
to cede the territories of Bessarabia and Northern
Bukovina. At the same time, the Soviet Union also
occupied the three formerly
independent Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and
The peace with Germany was tense, as both sides were preparing for
the military conflict, and abruptly ended when the Axis forces
led by Germany swept across the Soviet border
22, 1941. By the autumn the German army had seized Ukraine, laid a siege of Leningrad, and threatened
to capture the capital, Moscow, itself. Despite the fact that
in December 1941 the Red Army threw off the German forces from
Moscow in a successful counterattack, the Germans retained
the strategic initiative for approximately another year and held a
deep offensive in the south-eastern direction, reaching the
Volga and the Caucasus. However, two major German defeats in
Stalingrad and Kursk proved
decisive and reversed the course of the entire World War as Germans never regained the
strength to sustain their offensive operations and the Soviet Union
recaptured the initiative for the rest of the conflict.
end of 1943, the Red Army had broken through the German siege of
Leningrad and liberated much of
Ukraine, much of Western Russia and moved into
By the end of 1944, the front had moved
beyond the 1939 Soviet frontiers into eastern Europe. Soviet forces
drove into eastern Germany, capturing
in May 1945. The war with Germany thus ended
triumphantly for the Soviet Union.
at the Yalta
Conference, three months after the Victory Day in Europe the USSR
launched the Soviet
invasion of Manchuria, defeating the Japanese troops in neighboring
Manchuria, the last Soviet battle of World
Although the Soviet Union was victorious in World War II
, the war resulted in around 26–27
million Soviet deaths (estimates vary) and had devastated the
Soviet economy in the struggle. Some 1,710 towns and 70 thousand
settlements were destroyed. The occupied territories suffered from
the ravages of German occupation and deportations of slave labor
in Germany. Thirteen million Soviet
citizens became victims of a repressive policy of Germans and their
allies on an occupied territory, where died because of mass
, absence of elementary
medical aid and slave labor. 
. The Nazi Genocide of
the Jews carried by German Einsatzgruppen, along the local collaborators resulted in
almost complete annihilation of the Jewish population over the
entire territory temporary occupied by Germany and its allies., ,, . During occupation, Russia's Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, region lost around a quarter of its population
Soviet Belarus lost from a
quarter to a third of its population. 3.6 million Soviet prisoners of war
(of 5.5 million) died in
Collaboration among the major Allies had won the war and was
supposed to serve as the basis for postwar reconstruction and
security. However, the conflict between Soviet and U.S. national
interests, known as the Cold War
, came to
dominate the international stage in the postwar period.
The Cold War emerged out of a conflict between Stalin and U.S.
President Harry Truman
over the future
of Eastern Europe during the Potsdam
in the summer of 1945. Russia had suffered three
devastating Western onslaughts in the previous 150 years during the
Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, and the Second World War, and
Stalin's goal was to establish a buffer zone of states between
Germany and the Soviet Union. Truman charged that Stalin had betrayed the
With Eastern Europe under Red
Army occupation, Stalin was also biding his time, as his own
atomic bomb project
steadily and secretly progressing.
1949 the United States sponsored the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact in which most Western
nations pledged to treat an armed attack against one nation as an
assault on all.
The Soviet Union established an Eastern
counterpart to NATO in 1955, dubbed the Warsaw Pact
. The division of Europe into Western and
Soviet blocks later took on a more global character, especially
after 1949, when the U.S. nuclear monopoly ended with the testing
of a Soviet
bomb and the Communist takeover in China.
The foremost objectives of Soviet foreign policy were the
maintenance and enhancement of national security and the
maintenance of hegemony over Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union
maintained its dominance over the Warsaw Pact through crushing the
1956 Hungarian Revolution
suppressing the Prague Spring
Czechoslovakia in 1968, and supporting the suppression of the
movement in Poland in the
early 1980s. The Soviet Union opposed the United States in a number
of proxy conflicts
all over the
world, including Korean War
and Vietnam War
As the Soviet Union continued to maintain tight control over its
sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, the Cold War gave way to
and a more complicated
pattern of international relations in the 1970s in which the world
was no longer clearly split into two clearly opposed blocs. Less
powerful countries had more room to assert their independence, and
the two superpowers were partially able to recognize their common
interest in trying to check the further spread and proliferation of
nuclear weapons in treaties such as SALT I
, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile
U.S.-Soviet relations deteriorated following the beginning of the
nine-year Soviet War in
in 1979 and the 1980 election of Ronald
, a staunch anti-communist, but improved as the Soviet
bloc started to unravel in the late 1980s. With the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991, Russia lost the superpower
status that it had won in the Second
The Khrushchev and Brezhnev years
In the power struggle that erupted after Stalin's death in 1953,
his closest followers lost out. Nikita
solidified his position in a speech before the
Twentieth Congress of the Communist
in 1956 detailing Stalin's atrocities.
In 1964 Khrushchev was impeached
Communist Party's Central Committee, charging him with a host of
errors that included Soviet setbacks such as the Cuban Missile Crisis
. After a brief
period of collective leadership, a veteran bureaucrat, Leonid Brezhnev
, took Khrushchev's place.
followed Stalin's emphasis on heavy
industry, and also attempted to ease relationships with the
In the 1960s the USSR became a leading
producer and exporter of petroleum
Khruschev and Brezhnev years were time when Soviet science and
industry peaked. The world's first nuclear power plant was established in
Obninsk. Baikal Amur
The Soviet space program
founded by Sergey Korolev
especially successful. On October 4, 1957 Soviet Union launched the
first space satellite Sputnik
. On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin
became the first human to travel
into space in the Soviet spaceship Vostok
. Other achievements of Russian space program include: the
first photo of the far side of the
; exploration of Venus
; the first
by Alexey Leonov
; first female spaceflight by
recently, the Soviet Union produced the world's first space
which in 1986 was replaced by
, the first consistently inhabited long-term
space station, that served from 1986 to 2001.
Breakup of the Union
Two developments dominated the decade that followed: the
increasingly apparent crumbling of the Soviet Union's economic and
political structures, and the patchwork attempts at reforms to
reverse that process. After the rapid succession of former KGB
Chief Yuri Andropov
and Konstantin Chernenko
figures with deep roots in Brezhnevite tradition, Mikhail Gorbachev
in an attempt to modernize Soviet
communism, and made significant changes in the party leadership.
However, Gorbachev's social reforms
to unintended consequences
Because of his policy of glasnost
which facilitated public access to information after decades of
government repression, social problems received wider public
attention, undermining the Communist Party's authority. In the
revolutions of 1989
lost its satellites in Eastern Europe. Glasnost
ethnic and nationalist disaffection to reach the surface. Many
constituent republics, especially the Baltic republics
, Georgian SSR
and Moldavian SSR
, sought greater autonomy, which
Moscow was unwilling to provide. Gorbachev's attempts at economic
reform were not sufficient, and the Soviet government left intact
most of the fundamental elements of communist economy. Suffering
from low pricing of petroleum and natural gas, ongoing war in Afghanistan
industry and pervasive corruption, the Soviet planned economy
proved to be ineffective,
and by 1990 the Soviet government had lost control over economic
conditions. Due to price control
there were shortages of almost all products, reaching their peak in
the end of 1991, when people had to stand in long lines and to be
lucky enough to buy even the essentials. Control over the
constituent republics was also relaxed, and they began to assert
their national sovereignty over Moscow.
The tension between Soviet Union and Russian SFSR authorities came
to be personified in the bitter power struggle between Gorbachev
and Boris Yeltsin
. Squeezed out of
Union politics by Gorbachev in 1987, Yeltsin, an old-style party
boss with no dissident background or contacts, needed an
alternative platform to challenge Gorbachev. He established it by
representing himself as a committed democrat. In a remarkable
reversal of fortunes, he gained election as chairman of the Russian
republic's new Supreme Soviet in May 1990. The following month, he
giving Russian laws priority over Soviet laws
two-thirds of the budget. In the first Russian presidential
in 1991 Yeltsin became president of the Russian
SFSR.At last Gorbachev attempted to
the Soviet Union into a less centralized state.
However, on August 19, 1991, a coup against Gorbachev
conspired by senior Soviet officials, was attempted. The coup faced
wide popular opposition and collapsed in three days, but
disintegration of the Union became imminent. The Russian government
took over most of the Soviet Union government institutions on its
territory. Because of the dominant position of Russians
in the Soviet Union, most gave little thought to any distinction
between Russia and the Soviet Union before the late 1980s.
In the Soviet Union,
only Russian SFSR lacked even the paltry instruments of statehood
that the other republics possessed, such as its own republic-level
Communist Party branch, trade union
councils, Academy of Sciences
and the like. The Communist Party of the
was banned in Russia in 1991–1992, although no
has ever taken place, and many
of its members became top Russian officials. However, as the Soviet
government was still opposed to market reforms, the economic
situation continued to deteriorate. By December 1991, the shortages
had resulted in the introduction of food rationing
in Moscow and Saint Petersburg for the
first time since World War II. Russia received humanitarian food
aid from abroad. After the Belavezha Accords, the Supreme
Soviet of Russia withdrew Russia from the Soviet Union on
December 12. The Soviet Union officially ended on
December 25, 1991, and the Russian
Federation (formerly the Russian Soviet
Federative Socialist Republic) took power on December
The Russian government lifted price control on January
1992. Prices rose dramatically, but shortages disappeared.
Although Yeltsin came to power on a wave of optimism, he never
recovered his popularity after endorsing Yegor Gaidar
's "shock therapy
" of ending
Soviet-era price controls, drastic cuts in state spending, and an
open foreign trade regime in early 1992 (see Russian economic
reform in the 1990s
). The reforms immediately devastated the
living standards of much of the population. In the 1990s Russia
suffered an economic downturn that was, in some ways, more severe
than the United States or Germany had undergone six decades earlier
in the Great Depression. Hyperinflation hit the ruble, due to
from the days of
the planned economy.
Meanwhile, the profusion of small parties and their aversion to
coherent alliances left the legislature chaotic. During 1993,
Yeltsin's rift with the parliamentary leadership led to the
1993 constitutional crisis
. The crisis climaxed on October 3, when
Yeltsin chose a radical solution to settle his dispute with
parliament: he called up tanks to shell the Russian
White House, blasting out his opponents.
As Yeltsin was
taking the unconstitutional step of dissolving the legislature,
Russia came close to a serious civil conflict. Yeltsin was then
free to impose the current Russian
with strong presidential powers, which was
approved by referendum in December 1993. The cohesion of the
Russian Federation was also threatened when the republic of
Chechnya attempted to break away, leading to two bloody conflicts.
Economic reforms also consolidated a semi-criminal oligarchy with
roots in the old Soviet system. Advised by Western governments, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, Russia embarked on the largest and fastest
privatization that the world had ever
seen in order to reform the fully nationalized Soviet economy.
mid-decade, retail, trade, services, and small industry was in
private hands. Most big enterprises were acquired by their old
managers, engendering a new rich (Russian tycoons
) in league with criminal mafias
or Western investors.
By the mid-1990s Russia had a system of multiparty electoral
politics. But it was harder to establish a representative
government because of two structural problems—the struggle between
president and parliament and the anarchic party system.
Meanwhile, the central government had lost control of the
localities, bureaucracy, and economic fiefdoms; tax revenues had
collapsed. Still in deep depression by the mid-1990s, Russia's
economy was hit further by the financial crash of 1998
the 1998 financial crisis, Yeltsin was at the end of his political
career. Just hours before the first day of 2000, Yeltsin made a
surprise announcement of his resignation, leaving the government in
the hands of the little-known Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
, a former KGB official and
head of the KGB's post-Soviet successor agency FSB
. In 2000, the new acting president defeated
his opponents in the presidential election on March 26, and won a
landslide 4 years later. International observers were alarmed by
late 2004 moves to further tighten the presidency's control over
parliament, civil society, and regional officeholders. In 2008
, a former Gazprom
chairman and Putin's head of staff, was
elected new President of Russia.
Nevertheless, reversion to a socialist command economy seemed
almost impossible, meeting widespread relief in the West. Russia
ended 2006 with its eighth straight year of growth, averaging 6.7%
annually since the financial crisis of 1998
Although high oil prices and a relatively cheap ruble initially
drove this growth, since 2003 consumer demand and, more recently,
investment have played a significant role. Russia is well ahead of
most other resource-rich countries in its economic development,
with a long tradition of education, science, and industry.
- Sergey Solovyov. History of
Russia from the Earliest Times, ISBN 5-17-002142-9
- Nikolay Karamzin. History
of the Russian State, ISBN 5-02-009550-8
- Full Collection of Russian Annals, Moscow,2001, ISBN
- Kievan Rus' and Mongol Periods, excerpted from Glenn
E. Curtis (ed.), Russia: A Country Study, Department of
the Army, 1998. ISBN 0160612128.
- See Jacob Walkin, The Rise of Democracy in
Pre-Revolutionary Russia: Political and Social Institutions under
the Last Three Czars, Praeger, 1962.
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Curtis (ed.), Russia: A Country Study, Department of the
Army, 1998. ISBN 0160612128.
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Perestroika: The Soviet Labour Process and Gorbachev's Reforms,
1985–1991, Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN
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the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Retrieved 21 July
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the Eurasian Nomads (CSEN). Retrieved 20 July 2007.
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Interpenetration of Cultures at the Edge of the Hellenic
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Black Sea Area: Historical Interpretation of Archaeology, F.
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Fall, Princeton University Press, 2003, pp. 185–186. ISBN
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Mongolia, Blackwell Publishing, 1998, pp. 286–288. ISBN
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World, Brill, 2004, p. 35. ISBN 9004092498.
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Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History, Central
European University Press, 1999, p. 257. ISBN 9639116483.
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The Early Slavs, Cornell University Press, 2001, pp.
15–16. ISBN 0801439779.
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Darton, Longman & Todd, 1963, p. 262.
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History, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 497. ISBN
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U.S.S.R., Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959, p.
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Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1994, p. 42. ISBN 088141008X.
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Introduction to Medieval Europe, 300–1500, W. W. Norton &
Co., 1937, p. 268.
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the Origin of the Russian State, Ayer Publishing, 1964. ISBN
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History. Retrieved 22 July 2007.
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Byzantium & the Slavs, St Vladimir's Seminary Press,
1994, pp. 75–108. ISBN 088141008X.
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Identities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, Cambridge
University Press, 2006, p. 13. ISBN 0521864038.
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Vladimir's baptism, followed by the baptism of the entire
population of Kiev, as described in The Russian Primary
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Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 2–3. ISBN 052145669X.
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Historical Encounters, M.E. Sharpe, 2003, p. 13. ISBN
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1800–1917, Princeton University Press, 1993. ISBN
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Nicolle, Kalka River 1223: Genghiz Khan's Mongols Invade
Russia, Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1841762334.
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University Press, 1995, p. 139. ISBN 052136832.
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Time-line of the Mongols, 1999. Retrieved 21 July 2007.
- The Destruction of Kiev
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May 1998. Retrieved 21 July 2007.
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Russia: A Country Study, Department of the Army, 1998.
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Cultural Development, Taylor & Francis, 2005, p. 196. ISBN
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22 July 2007.
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Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
- The Tatar Khanate of Crimea
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University Press, 1995, p. 395. ISBN 052136832.
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Сибирская Летопись. изд. Спаским, СПб, 1821
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I. Frost The Northern Wars: 1558–1721 (Longman, 2000)
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Troubles and the Founding of the Romanov Dynasty", Penn State Press
(2001), ISBN 0271020741, pp. 433–434.
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extreme meteorological phenomena", ISBN 5-244-00212-0, p.190
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Vernadsky, "A History of Russia", Volume 5, Yale University
Press, (1969). Russian translation
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in the capital", Russian translation
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Tsarist Russia see Skocpol, Theda. States and Social Revolutions:
A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China. Cambridge
U Press, 1988.
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Russia of Sergey Solovyov
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Russian historical process», the research of Russian economic
history of XV-XVIIIth centuries.
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Black Sea by taking
the town of Azov. See Lord
Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the
Turkish Empire, Perennial, 1979, p. 353. ISBN 0688030939.
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Encyclopedia of World Biography.
- According to Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary: 1891
Grodno province – catholics 384,696, total population 1,509,728
; Curland province – catholics 68,722, total
population 555,003; Volyhnia Province – catholics 193,142,
total population 2,059,870 
- Riasonovsky A History of Russia (fifth ed.) pp.302–3;
Charques A Short History of Russia (Phoenix, second ed.
- Riasonovsky p.302-307
- Riasonovsky p.324
- Riasonovsky p.308
- See Norman Davies: God's Playground: A History of
Poland (OUP, 1981) vol. 2, pp.315–333; and 352-63
- Excerpt from "Enserfed population in Russia
published at Демоскоп Weekly, No 293 – 294, June 18 July
- Riasonovsky pp.386–7
- Riasonovsky p.349
- Riasonovsky pp.381–2, 447–8
- Transformation of Russia in the Nineteenth Century,
excerpted from Glenn E. Curtis (ed.), Russia: A Country
Study, Department of the Army, 1998. ISBN 0160612128.
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revolutionaries see Manning, Roberta. The Crisis of the Old
Order in Russia: Gentry and Government. Princeton University
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E. Curtis (ed.), Russia: A Country Study, Department of
the Army, 1998. ISBN 0160612128.
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