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  Countries: Russia Historical Overview

By Marechal

Russian Town Center

Russia began as nothing more than a small patchwork of lands surrounding Moscow and its immediate domains. Russia saw its fair share of good and bad ruler, the best being Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Russia had advanced into Eastern Europe and became one of the European power brokers by the end of 1800; she had expanded to the east, encompassing Siberia and all the lands between Moscow and the Sea of Okhotsk (north of Japan).

Ivan III, first of the sixteenth century rulers of Russia, began creating modern Russia, as we know it. After his campaigns against Novgorod, Tver, and his seizure of bordering Lithuanian towns, Ivan III had made Moscow into a great state, with lands from Finland, east to Obdorsk, and south to Novgorod.

His son, Vasily III made several moderate gains, but nothing comparable to what Ivan the Great (Ivan III) had accomplished. However, he did manage to add Smolensk to the domains of the ever-growing Russia. He left behind him a weak family, and after his death in 1533 a council of regency, led by his wife, controlled the nation until Ivan IV, his second son, came of age in 1546 and was crowned Tsar of Russia. During his early reign, the aristocrats and business leaders exerted considerable influence over the government. The leaders of Moscow began campaigns into the Kazan and the Crimea in the 1550s. For the most part these proved costly, but land was gained as a result of minor victories over the various tribes and peoples. In 1558, the Livonian war began, having been started by Ivan's invasion of Livonia. This drew together Sweden, Lithuania, and even Poland in an alliance against Ivan IV. The war ended in 1583 with Russia losing all its claims to Livonia, Lithuania, and it's Estonian towns. History dubbed him Ivan the Terrible, as he was a ruthless and unstable man. He was more famous for his cruel actions than any civil or administrative work he accomplished.

Ivan IV's remaining son, Fyodor I was incompetent, and a powerful council of sorts was established again until 1598 when Boris Godunov was crowned Tsar. He made great efforts to reverse Ivan IV's terrible internal policies and helped reform the government. In 1601, a monk named Grigory appeared as the missing son of Ivan IV and gathered support for himself, eventually leading an abortive invasion of Russia to become tsar, but he was defeated by Boris's troops. However, Boris had proved unpopular and Grigory was made Tsar in 1605.

Russian Temple

Tsar Grigory did not survive long, and in 1606, Vasily Shuysky murdered Grigory and proclaimed himself Tsar. Next followed a long period of turmoil and pathetic administration. Again, the aristocrats and landowners ruled the nation. In 1613, the son of Fyodor I, Michael became Tsar after Grigory's armies deserted him. Michael left a majority of the administration to his relations, and they managed to bring reform and peace. In 1617 and 1618, peace was made with Sweden and Poland respectively.

Young Alexis became Tsar upon Michael's passing away in 1645. After initial difficulties, the Tsar won a victory for Russia with the Treaty of Andrusovo, which saw several territorial gains for Russia at the expense of the Poles who they had been at war with. Unfortunately, serfdom became a legal reality during his reign [serfdom: the institution enslaving the peasants to the land they worked, making them the legal property of their masters.]. Alexis did encourage trade and links with the West (Europe) and thus expanded Russian influence and interest into that sphere. In 1676, Fyodor III succeeded his father Alexis to the throne of Russia. He continued the emphasis on the West and its relevance to Russia.

After a brief period of co-ruling with his brother and the regency of his half-sister, Peter I (Peter the Great) had gained the full title and power of Tsar by 1696. He took a tour of Europe and returned full of new ideas. In 1700, the Great Northern War began with Charles XII's invasion Russian and Poland. After scoring several victories, he again turned to Russia in 1708, but was defeated at Poltava in 1709. Russia made several further territorial gains by the end of the war. Peter also worked on internal reforms and modernized the Russian army along European standards. He also began the construction of St. Petersburg, one of the greatest cities in Russia.

Upon his death in 1725, a series of successions followed-Peter the Great had left no clear idea as to who was to succeed him after his death. It was in 1762, that stability and strong leadership was again brought to Russia as Catherine II deposed of Peter III.

Catherine II (Catherine the Great) began an aggressive expansionist policy that brought large gains for Imperial Russia. After several campaigns against the Turks, Frederick II (Frederick the Great, Prussia) brought up the Polish question to divert further Russian expansion in the Balkans against the Turks. Russia actively participated in the first and second partitions (dismantling) of Poland, gaining large chunks of land as a result. Catherine began further internal reformations.

In 1796, her rather unstable son Paul I was crowned Emperor of All Russias (title created by Peter the Great). He greatly disliked the French Revolution and played a role in the Novi Campaign by sending Survuvov into Italy to fight the French. His reign was ended in 1801 with his murder, his son Alexander I succeeded him.

Related Links:
» Russian Building Gallery


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