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Starting government: Sovereignty
Ivan; Pyotr; Mihail; Yekaterin; Nikolai; Aleksandr; Yelisavet; Ermak Timofe'vich; Anikey Stroganoff; Grigory Potemkin
From Kynaz to TsarEdit
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, earning himself the epithet "Veliky" or "the Great".
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 regency council 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 her Estonian towns. Despite Ivan IV's intelligence and his patronage of the arts, historians have since then dubbed him Ivan Groznyj, or Ivan the Terrible. He was more famous for his cruel actions than any civil or administrative work he accomplished, and even killed his own son, who should have become Ivan V, with drastic consequences.
The Time of TroublesEdit
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.
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, a descendent of Ivan the Terrible's first wife, Michael became Tsar after Grigory's armies deserted him, ushering in the Romanov dynasty. Michael left the majority of administrative work to his relations, and they managed to bring reform and peace. In 1617 and 1618, peace was made with Sweden and Poland respectively.
Upon Michael's passing away in 1645, the tsar was succeeded by his young son Alexis. 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 in order to prevent the lical peasants from running away and bankrupting the agrarian Russian economy. 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. Despite increasing protestations from the clergy, Fyodor continued to emphasis building up relations with Russia's neighbours in Europe, but it was not until the arrival of Peter I (Peter the Great) by 1696 that Russia began opening up to Europe. He took a tour of Europe and returned full of new ideas. The turning of the tide came atPoltava in 1709, when Peter's new army managed to turn back the invading Swedes. Russia made several further territorial gains by the end of the war. Peter also worked on internal reforms and modernised the Russian army along European standards amd 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 with Catherine II (Catherine the Great). She began an aggressive expansionist policy that brought large territorial gains for Imperial Russia. After several Russian campaigns against the Turks, Frederick the Great of 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 continued the modernising and social reforms of Peter the Great, and was herself a skilled diplomat. During the end of her reign however, the populous ideals of the French revolution caused her to become increasingly defensive and conservative in her policies, and many of the liberal reforms she instituted early in her career were reversed and again the peasantry grew further towards distress. In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with a force of over half a million men. Marshal Kutukov of the Russian forces knew he could not defeat Napoleon's massive army head on. So he conducted a defensive campaign, raiding the French Forces whenever the opportunity presented itself. By the time Napoleon made it to Moscow, he has lost two thirds of his forces, and found the city deserted and devoid of supplies and even shelter. The Russians were still not ready to surrender, and waited for Napoleon to grow tired of waiting in Moscow for peace terms, which never came. Napoleon was forced to withdraw empty handed, unfortunately by then winter began to set in. His already withered forces were forced to endure a long match through a vast land battered by the Russian winter, and pursued by the Russian forces. By the time they returned to France, only 10,000 troops remained. Ironically, Russia emerged as more powerful and respected as a result of this invasion then she had been previously been, but there were storm clouds hovering on the horizon.
Decline of the TsardomEdit
"What is going to happen to me and all of Russia?"
— Tsar Nicholas II Romanovich
The Russian crown since the time of Ivan the Terrible enjoyed near autocratic rule over the nobility, largely at the expense of the ordinary peasantry. By the mid-19th century, this form of control over the people was no longer tolerable. Despite repeated military successes agains the Turks and the Persians, as well as the successful deterrence of further British progression into central Asia, conditions in Russia for the common peasant was so poor that political unrest began to build up. In 1825, a palace coup by some 3,000 soldiers was brutually put down. Next was a popular uprising in Poland, which again was thoroughly routed. Meanwhile, the tsarist government vaccilated between liberal reform and repression, all to no effect, although serfdom was finally abolished by the Emancipation Act of 1861 but this in turn merely crippled the country's growth further by destroying the sole source of effective labour in all Russia. Terrorism as well as anti-Semitic pogroms and persecution increased in intensity and sanguinity - the tsar Alexander II was killed by a bomb planted by anarchists in 1881.
Fall of the EmpireEdit
Prior to his death, Alexander II had been planning to convert Russia to a constutional monarchy, but his assassination ended any chances of reform - the last tsars to follow him all strengthened autocratic rule and repression further in an attempt to protect themselves, but to no avail. By 1868, a new nation, Japan was looming on the horizon in the north Pacific. Territorial ambitions bred tensions which led to overt military conflict, which resulted in the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1906, forcing Russia to cede Manchuria and part of the strategically located island to Sakhalin. A decade later, the Russians were drawn into the First World War, and again found itself unprepared in many aspects for modern warfare. Despite the Russian tsar personally joining the fight with his men against Austria and Germany in Poland, Russia continued to suffer defeat after defeat and the reactionary government eventually led the long-suffering people of Russia to finally revolt in 1917, resulting in the fall of the tsardom and the death of the tsar and his family, along with civil war throughout Russia between a variety of pro-tsarist, republican, communist, and anarchist factions as well as intervening expeditions sent by the foreign powers.