His aim was to establish a Russian foothold on the Black Sea by taking the town of Azov. Peter still lacked a secure northern seaport except at Archangel on the White Sea , whose harbor was frozen nine months a year. Access to 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 to make a secret alliance with the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth and Denmark against Sweden resulting in the Great Northern War.
The war ended in 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 , he had already founded the city that was to become Russia's new capital, Saint Petersburg , as a "window opened upon Europe" to replace Moscow, long Russia's cultural center.
Russian intervention in the Commonwealth marked, with the Silent Sejm , the beginning of a year domination of that region by the Russian Empire. In celebration of his conquests, Peter assumed the title of emperor, and the Russian Tsardom officially became the Russian Empire in Peter reorganized his government based on the latest Western models, molding Russia into an absolutist state.
He replaced the old boyar Duma 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. Administrative Collegia ministries were established in St. Petersburg, to replace the old governmental departments. In Peter promulgated his famous Table of ranks. 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. Peter continued and intensified his predecessors' requirement of state service for all nobles. By this same time, the once powerful Persian Safavid Empire to the south was heavily declining. Taking advantage of the profitable situation, Peter launched the Russo-Persian War , known as "The Persian Expedition of Peter the Great" by Russian histographers, in order to be the first Russian emperor to establish Russian influence in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea region.
After considerable success and the capture of many provinces and cities in the Caucasus and northern mainland Persia, the Safavids were forced to hand over the territories to Russia. However, by twelve years later, all the territories were ceded back to Persia, which was now led by the charismatic military genius Nader Shah , as part of the Treaty of Resht and Treaty of Ganja and the Russo-Persian alliance against the Ottoman Empire,  the common neighbouring rivalling enemy.
Peter the Great died in , leaving an unsettled succession, but Russia had become a great power by the end of his reign. Peter I was succeeded by his second wife, Catherine I — , who was merely a figurehead for a powerful group of high officials, then by his minor grandson, Peter II — , then by his niece, Anna — , daughter of Tsar Ivan V. The heir to Anna was soon deposed in a coup and Elizabeth , daughter of Peter I, ruled from to During her reign, Russia took part in the Seven Years' War.
Nearly forty years were to pass before a comparably ambitious ruler appeared on the Russian throne. Catherine II , "the Great" r. Finding him incompetent, Catherine tacitly consented to his murder and in she became ruler. She contributed to the resurgence of the Russian nobility that began after the death of Peter the Great.
Catherine promulgated the Charter to the Gentry reaffirming rights and freedoms of the Russian nobility and abolishing mandatory state service. She seized control of all the church lands, drastically reduced the size of the monasteries, and put the surviving clergy on a tight budget. Catherine spent heavily to promote an expansive foreign policy. She extended Russian political control over the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth with actions, including the support of the Targowica Confederation.
The cost of her campaigns, on top of the oppressive social system that required serfs to spend almost all of their time laboring on the land of their lords, provoked a major peasant uprising in Inspired by a Cossack named Pugachev , with the emphatic cry of "Hang all the landlords! Like the other enlightened despots of Europe, Catherine made certain of her own power and formed an alliance with the nobility. Catherine successfully waged war against the decaying Ottoman Empire  and advanced Russia's southern boundary to the Black Sea.
Then, by 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.
In accordance to the treaty Russia had signed with the Georgians to protect them against any new invasion of their Persian suzerains and further political aspirations, Catherine waged a new war against Persia in after they had again invaded Georgia and established rule over it about a year prior , and had expelled the newly established Russian garrisons in the Caucasus.
Innovative tsars such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great brought in Western experts, scientists, philosophers, and engineers. Powerful Russians resented their privileged positions and alien ideas. The backlash was especially severe after the Napoleonic wars. It produced a powerful anti-western campaign that "led to a wholesale purge of Western specialists and their Russian followers in universities, schools, and government service.
Russia was in a continuous state of financial crisis. While revenue rose from 9 million rubles in to 40 million in , expenses grew more rapidly, reaching 49 million in The budget was allocated 46 percent to the military, 20 percent to government economic activities, 12 percent to administration, and nine percent for the Imperial Court in St. The deficit required borrowing, primarily from Amsterdam; five percent of the budget was allocated to debt payments. Paper money was issued to pay for expensive wars, thus causing inflation.
For its spending, Russia obtained a large and glorious army, a very large and complex bureaucracy, and a splendid court that rivaled Paris and London. However, the government was living far beyond its means, and 18th-century Russia remained "a poor, backward, overwhelmingly agricultural, and illiterate country. By the time of her death in , Catherine's expansionist policy had made Russia into a major European power. Alexander I continued this policy, wresting Finland from the weakened kingdom of Sweden in and Bessarabia from the Ottomans in After Russian armies liberated allied Georgia from Persian occupation in , they clashed with Persia over control and consolidation over Georgia, as well as the Iranian territories that comprise modern-day Azerbaijan and Dagestan.
They also became involved in the Caucasian War against the Caucasian Imamate. In , the war with Persia concluded with a Russian victory, forcing Qajar Iran to cede swaths of its territories in the Caucasus to Russia,  which drastically increased its territory in the region.
RUSSIA IN THE MIDDLE AGES
To the south-west, Russia attempted to expand at the expense of the Ottoman Empire , using Georgia at its base for the Caucasus and Anatolian front. In European policy, Alexander I switched Russia back and forth four times in — from neutral peacemaker to anti-Napoleon to an ally of Napoleon, winding up in as Napoleon's enemy.
In , he joined Britain in the War of the Third Coalition against Napoleon, but after the massive defeat at the Battle of Austerlitz he switched and formed an alliance with Napoleon by the Treaty of Tilsit and joined Napoleon's Continental System.
He fought a small-scale naval war against Britain, — He and Napoleon could never agree, especially about Poland, and the alliance collapsed by Furthermore, Russia's economy had been hurt by Napoleon's Continental System, which cut off trade with Britain. The invasion of Russia was a catastrophe for Napoleon and his , invasion troops. One major battle was fought at Borodino ; casualties were very high but it was indecisive and Napoleon was unable to engage and defeat the Russian armies.
He attempted to force the Tsar to terms by capturing Moscow at the onset of winter, even though the French Army had already lost most of its men. The expectation proved futile. The Russians retreated, burning crops and food supplies in a scorched earth policy that multiplied Napoleon's logistic problems. As Napoleon's forces retreated, Russian troops pursued them into Central and Western Europe and finally captured Paris. After the final defeat of Napoleon in , Alexander became known as the 'savior of Europe. He formed the Holy Alliance with Austria and Prussia, to suppress revolutionary movements in Europe that he saw as immoral threats to legitimate Christian monarchs.
He helped Austria's Klemens von Metternich in suppressing all national and liberal movements. Although the Russian Empire would play a leading political role as late as , its retention of serfdom precluded economic progress of any significant degree. As West European economic growth accelerated during the Industrial Revolution, sea trade and colonialism which had begun in the second half of the 18th century, Russia began to lag ever farther behind, undermining its ability to field strong armies.
Russia's great power status obscured the inefficiency of its government, the isolation of its people, and its economic backwardness. The tsar was succeeded by his younger brother, Nicholas I — , 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 , 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 liberal reforms and champion the reactionary doctrine " Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality ".
In — Russia fought another war against Persia. Russia lost almost all of its recently consolidated territories during the first year but gained them back and won the war on highly favourable terms. Following a brief occupation, the Russian imperial army withdrew back into Georgia. By the s, Russia had conquered all Persian territories and major Ottoman territories in the Caucasus.
In Nicholas crushed the November Uprising in Poland. The Russian autocracy gave Polish artisans and gentry reason to rebel in by assailing the national core values of language, religion, and culture. France, Britain and Austria tried to intervene in the crisis but were unable to do so. The Russian patriotic press used the Polish uprising to unify the Russian nation, claiming it was Russia's God-given mission to save Poland and the world. Tsar Nicholas I reigned — lavished attention on his very large army; with a population of 60—70 million people, the army included a million men. They had outdated equipment and tactics, but the tsar, who dressed like a soldier and surrounded himself with officers, gloried in the victory over Napoleon in and took enormous pride in its smartness on parade.
The cavalry horses, for example, were only trained in parade formations, and did poorly in battle. The glitter and braid masked profound weaknesses that he did not see. He put generals in charge of most of his civilian agencies regardless of their qualifications. An agnostic who won fame in cavalry charges was made supervisor of Church affairs. The Army became the vehicle of upward social mobility for noble youths from non-Russian areas, such as Poland, the Baltic, Finland and Georgia.
On the other hand, many miscreants, petty criminals and undesirables were punished by local officials by enlisting them for life in the Army. The conscription system was highly unpopular with people, as was the practice of forcing peasants to house the soldiers for six months of the year. Curtiss finds that "The pedantry of Nicholas' military system, which stressed unthinking obedience and parade ground evolutions rather than combat training, produced ineffective commanders in time of war.
Finally the Crimean War at the end of his reign demonstrated to the world what no one had previously realized: Russia was militarily weak, technologically backward, and administratively incompetent. Despite his grand ambitions toward the south and Ottoman Empire, Russia had not built its railroad network in that direction, and communications were bad. The bureaucracy was riddled with graft, corruption and inefficiency and was unprepared for war. The Navy was weak and technologically backward; the Army, although very large, was good only for parades, suffered from colonels who pocketed their men's pay, poor morale, and was even more out of touch with the latest technology as developed by Britain and France.
As Fuller notes, "Russia had been beaten on the Crimean peninsula, and the military feared that it would inevitably be beaten again unless steps were taken to surmount its military weakness. As Western Europe modernized, after the issue for Russia became one of direction. Westernizers favored imitating Western 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 and preferred the collectivism of the medieval Russian mir , or village community , to the individualism of the West.
Westernizers formed an intellectual movement that deplored the backwardness of Russian culture, and looked to western Europe for intellectual leadership. They were opposed by Slavophiles who denounced the West as too materialistic and instead promoted the spiritual depth of Russian traditionalism. He exposed the cultural isolation of Russia, from the perspective of Western Europe, in his Philosophical Letters of He cast doubt on the greatness of the Russian past, and ridiculed Orthodoxy for failing to provide a sound spiritual basis for the Russian mind.
He called on Russia to emulate Western Europe, especially in rational and logical thought, its progressive spirit, its leadership in science, and indeed its leadership on the path to freedom. Since the war against Napoleon, Russia had become deeply involved in the affairs of Europe, as part of the "Holy Alliance. Prussia, Austria, Britain and France the other members of the alliance lacked large armies and needed Russia to supply the required numbers, which fit the philosophy of Nicholas I.
When the Revolutions of swept Europe, however, Russia was quiet. The Tsar sent his army into Hungary in at the request of the Austrian Empire and broke the revolt there, while preventing its spread to Russian Poland. The Tsar cracked down on any signs of internal unrest. Russia expected that in exchange for supplying the troops to be the policeman of Europe, it should have a free hand in dealing with the decaying Ottoman Empire—the "sick man of Europe.
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.
A Brief History of Russia – The Russia Times
When Alexander II came to the throne in , desire for reform was widespread. The most pressing problem confronting the Government was serfdom. In , there were 23 million serfs out of a total population of Emancipation brought a supply of free labor to the cities, stimulated industry, and the middle class grew in number and influence.
The freed peasants had to buy land, allotted to them, from the landowners with the state assistance. All the land turned over to the peasants was owned collectively by the mir , the village community, which divided the land among the peasants and supervised the various holdings. Alexander was the most successful Russian reformer since Peter the Great , and was responsible for numerous reforms besides abolishing serfdom. He reorganized the judicial system , setting up elected local judges, abolishing capital punishment, promoting local self-government through the zemstvo system, imposing universal military service, ending some of the privileges of the nobility, and promoting the universities.
In foreign policy, he sold Alaska to the United States in , fearing the remote colony would fall into British hands if there was another war. He modernized the military command system. Faced with an uprising in Poland in , he stripped that land of its separate Constitution and incorporated it directly into Russia.
To counter the rise of a revolutionary and anarchistic movements, he sent thousands of dissidents into exile in Siberia and was proposing additional parliamentary reforms when he was assassinated in In the late s Russia and the Ottoman Empire again clashed in the Balkans. The Russo-Turkish War was popular among the Russian people, 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. The tsar was disappointed by the results of the Congress of Berlin in , but abided by the agreement.
In the s a movement known as Nihilism developed in Russia. A term originally coined by Ivan Turgenev in his novel Fathers and Sons , Nihilists favoured the destruction of human institutions and laws, based on the assumption 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. Their path was facilitated by the previous actions of the Decembrists, who revolted in , and the financial and political hardship caused by the Crimean War, which caused many Russians to lose faith in political institutions.
The Nihilists first attempted to convert the aristocracy to the cause of reform. Failing there, they turned to the peasants. It was based upon the belief that the common people possessed the wisdom and peaceful ability to lead the nation. 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 practiced terrorism.
This represented the ascendancy of anarchism in Russia as a powerful revolutionary force. Finally, after several attempts, Alexander II was assassinated by anarchists in , 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 demands. Unlike his father, the new tsar Alexander III — was throughout his reign a staunch reactionary who revived the maxim of " Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and National Character ". 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.
He taught his royal pupils to fear freedom of speech and press and to hate democracy, constitutions, and the parliamentary system. Alexander was succeeded by his son Nicholas II — The 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 party or Kadets in Followers of the Narodnik tradition established the Socialist-Revolutionary Party or Esers in , advocating the distribution of land among those who actually worked it—the peasants.
Gathering their support from the radical intellectuals and the urban working class, they advocated complete social, economic and political revolution. 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 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 Russo-Japanese War was a major blow to the Russian State and increased the potential for unrest.
In January , an incident known as " Bloody Sunday " occurred when Father Gapon led an enormous crowd to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg to present a petition to the tsar. When the procession reached the palace, Cossacks opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution of Soviets councils of workers appeared in most cities to direct revolutionary activity.
In October , Nicholas reluctantly issued the October Manifesto , which conceded the creation of a national Duma legislature to be called without delay. The moderate groups were satisfied;  but the socialists rejected the concessions as insufficient and tried to organize new strikes. By the end of , there was disunity among the reformers, and the tsar's position was strengthened for the time being. The Russian avant-garde was a large, influential wave of modern art that flourished in Russian Empire and Soviet Union , approximately from to —although some have placed its beginning as early as and its end as late as The term covers many separate art movements of the era in painting, literature, music and architecture.
An ultimatum followed to Serbia, which was considered a Russian client-state, by Austro-Hungary on 23 July. Russia had no treaty obligation to Serbia, and in long-term perspective, Russia was militarily gaining on Germany and Austro-Hungary, and thus had an incentive to wait. Most Russian leaders wanted to avoid a war. However, in the present crisis they had the support of France, and they feared that the failure to support Serbia would lead to a loss of Russian credibility and a major political defeat to Russia's goals for a leadership role in the Balkans.
Christopher Clark states: "The Russian general mobilisation [of 30 July] was one of the most momentous decisions of the July crisis. This was the first of the general mobilisations. It came at the moment when the German government had not yet even declared the State of Impending War". At the opening of hostilities, the Russians took the offensive against both Germany and Austria-Hungary. The very large but poorly equipped Russian army fought tenaciously and desperately at times despite its lack of organization and very weak logistics.
Casualties were enormous. By , many soldiers were sent to the front unarmed, and told to pick up whatever weapons they could from the battlefield. Nevertheless, the Russian army fought on, and tied down large numbers of Germans and Austrians. When civilians showed a surge of patriotism, the tsar and his entourage failed to exploit it for military benefit.
Instead, they relied on slow-moving bureaucracies. In areas where they did advance against the Austrians, they failed to rally the ethnic and religious minorities that were hostile to Austria, such as Poles. The tsar refused to cooperate with the national legislature, the Duma, and listened less to experts than to his wife, who was in thrall to her chief advisor, the so-called holy man Grigori Rasputin.
Repeated military failures and bureaucratic ineptitude soon turned large segments of the population against the government. By the middle of 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.
The February revolution In late February 3 March , a strike occurred in a factory in the capital Petrograd the new name for Saint Petersburg. On 23 February 8 March , thousands of female textile workers 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. 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 February Revolution , especially when soldiers openly sided with the strikers. The tsar and the aristocracy fell on 2 March, as Nicholas II abdicated.
To fill the vacuum of authority, the Duma declared a Provisional Government , headed by Prince Lvov , which was collectively known as the Russian Republic. 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 national movement. The German government provided over 40 million gold marks to subsidize Bolshevik publications and activities subversive of the tsarist government, especially focusing on disgruntled soldiers and workers.
After many behind-the-scenes maneuvers, the soviets seized control of the government in November 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 refused to become a rubber stamp of the Bolsheviks, it was dissolved by Lenin's troops and all vestiges of 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 Brest-Litovsk with Germany.
Russia lost much of her western borderlands. However, when Germany was defeated the Soviet government repudiated the Treaty. The Bolshevik grip on power was by no means secure, and a lengthy struggle broke out between the new regime and its opponents, which included the Socialist Revolutionaries, right-wing "Whites", and large numbers of peasants. At the same time the Allied powers sent several expeditionary armies to support the anti-Communist forces in an attempt to force Russia to rejoin the world war.
The Bolsheviks fought against both these forces and national independence movements in the former Russian Empire. By , 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 Polish—Soviet War.
Both sides regularly committed brutal atrocities against civilians. During the civil war era White Terror Russia for example, Petlyura and Denikin's forces massacred , to , Jews in Ukraine and southern Russia. Estimates for the total number of people killed during the Red Terror carried out by the Bolsheviks vary widely. One source asserts that the total number of victims of repression and pacification campaigns could be 1. The Russian economy was devastated by the war, with factories and bridges destroyed, cattle and raw materials pillaged, mines flooded and machines damaged.
The droughts of and , as well as the famine , worsened the disaster still further. Disease had reached pandemic proportions, with 3,, dying of typhus alone in Millions more also died of widespread starvation. By there were at least 7,, street children in Russia as a result of nearly ten years of devastation from the Great War and the civil war. Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel —some through the Far East, others west into the newly independent Baltic countries. This ideologically based union, established in December by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party,  was roughly coterminous with Russia before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
The constitution, adopted in , 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. However, 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 from Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union, just as it had been under the tsars before Peter the Great. The period from the consolidation of the Bolshevik Revolution in until is known as the period of war communism.
Strong opposition soon developed. 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.
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. 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.
Campaigns were carried out against typhus , cholera , 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 rapidly increased. In accordance with Marxist theory, the government also promoted atheism and materialism.
It opposed organized religion, especially to break the power of the Russian Orthodox Church, a former pillar of the old tsarist regime and a major barrier to social change. The years from to comprised a tumultuous decade in Soviet history—a period of massive industrialization and internal struggles as Joseph Stalin established near total control over Soviet 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 , with the Trotskyists either exiled or rendered powerless, Stalin was ready to put a radical programme of industrialisation into action. In Stalin proposed the first five-year plan. As a part of the plan, the government took control of agriculture through the state and collective farms kolkhozes. 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 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 19th century and Japan's earlier in the 20th century.
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, deportation , or execution. Of the six original members of the 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.
Stalin's repressions led to the creation of a vast system of internal exile , of considerably greater dimensions than those set up in the past by the tsars. 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. The Soviet Union viewed the accession of fervently anti-Communist Hitler 's government to power in Germany with 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.
In Germany annexed Austria and, together with major Western European powers, signed the Munich Agreement following which Germany, Hungary and Poland divided parts of Czechoslovakia between themselves. German plans for further eastward expansion, as well as the lack of resolve from Western powers to oppose it, became more apparent. Despite the Soviet Union strongly opposing the Munich deal and repeatedly reaffirming its readiness to militarily back commitments given earlier to Czechoslovakia, the Western Betrayal led to the end of Czechoslovakia and further increased fears in the Soviet Union of a coming German attack.
This led the Soviet Union to rush the modernization of its military industry and to carry out its own diplomatic maneuvers. On 17 September , sixteen days after the start of World War II and with the victorious Germans having advanced deep into Polish territory, the Red Army invaded eastern Poland , stating as justification the "need to protect Ukrainians and Belarusians" there, after the "cessation of existence" of the Polish state. In the meantime negotiations with Finland over a Soviet-proposed land swap that would redraw the Soviet-Finnish border further away from Leningrad failed, and in December the USSR invaded Finland, beginning a campaign known as the Winter War — At the same time, the Soviet Union also occupied the three formerly independent Baltic states Estonia , Latvia and Lithuania.
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 on 22 June By the autumn the German army had seized Ukraine , laid a siege of Leningrad , and threatened to capture the capital , Moscow, itself.
However, two major German defeats in Stalingrad and Kursk proved decisive and reversed the course of the entire World War as the Germans never regained the strength to sustain their offensive operations and the Soviet Union recaptured the initiative for the rest of the conflict. Soviet forces drove into eastern Germany, capturing Berlin in May Some 1, towns and 70, settlements were destroyed. 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. The Cold War emerged from a conflict between Stalin and U. 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 Hungarian Revolution of ,  suppressing the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia in , and supporting the suppression of the Solidarity movement in Poland in the early s. 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 , SALT II , and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in , Russia lost the superpower status that it had won in the Second World War. In the power struggle that erupted after Stalin's death in , his closest followers lost out. Nikita Khrushchev solidified his position in a speech before the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party in detailing Stalin's atrocities. In Khrushchev was impeached by the Communist Party's Central Committee, charging him with a host of errors that included Soviet setbacks such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The world's first nuclear power plant was established in in Obninsk , and the Baikal Amur Mainline was built.
The Soviet space program , founded by Sergey Korolev , was especially successful. On 4 October Soviet Union launched the first space satellite Sputnik. More recently, the Soviet Union produced the world's first space station, Salyut which in was replaced by Mir , the first consistently inhabited long-term space station, that served from to While all modernized economies were rapidly moving to computerization after , the USSR fell further and further behind.
Moscow's decision to copy the IBM of proved a decisive mistake for it locked scientists into an antiquated system they were unable to improve. They had enormous difficulties in manufacturing the necessary chips reliably and in quantity, in programming workable and efficient programs, in coordinating entirely separate operations, and in providing support to computer users. One of the greatest strengths of Soviet economy was its vast supplies of oil and gas; world oil prices quadrupled in the —74, and rose again in —, making the energy sector the chief driver of the Soviet economy, and was used to cover multiple weaknesses.
At one point, Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin told the head of oil and gas production, "things are bad with bread. Give me 3 million tons [of oil] over the plan. 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 , transitional figures with deep roots in Brezhnevite tradition, Mikhail Gorbachev implemented perestroika in an attempt to modernize Soviet communism, and made significant changes in the party leadership.
His policy of glasnost facilitated public access to information after decades of government repression, and social problems received wider public attention, undermining the Communist Party's authority. Glasnost allowed ethnic and nationalist disaffection to reach the surface, [ citation needed ] and 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, the ongoing war in Afghanistan , and outdated industry and pervasive corruption, the Soviet planned economy proved to be ineffective, and by 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 , when people had to stand in long lines and were lucky to buy even the essentials. Control over the constituent republics was also relaxed, and they began to assert their national sovereignty over Moscow. At last Gorbachev attempted to restructure the Soviet Union into a less centralized state. However, on 19 August , 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 s.
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. However, as the Soviet government was still opposed to market reforms, the economic situation continued to deteriorate. By December , 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. 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 see Russian economic reform in the s. The reforms immediately devastated the living standards of much of the population. In the s 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.
Meanwhile, the profusion of small parties and their aversion to coherent alliances left the legislature chaotic. During , Yeltsin's rift with the parliamentary leadership led to the September—October constitutional crisis. The crisis climaxed on 3 October, 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 constitution with strong presidential powers, which was approved by referendum in December The cohesion of the Russian Federation was also threatened when the republic of Chechnya attempted to break away, leading to the First and Second Chechen Wars. 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.
By 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 mids Russia had a system of multiparty electoral politics. Meanwhile, the central government had lost control of the localities, bureaucracy, and economic fiefdoms, and tax revenues had collapsed. Still in a deep depression, Russia's economy was hit further by the financial crash of After the crisis, Yeltsin was at the end of his political career.
Just hours before the first day of , 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 FSB , the KGB's post-Soviet successor agency. International observers were alarmed by moves in late to further tighten the presidency's control over parliament, civil society, and regional officeholders. In , Putin was once again elected as President. Russia had difficulty attracting foreign direct investment [ citation needed ] and experienced large capital outflows.
Russia ended with its eighth straight year of growth, averaging 6. Although high oil prices and a relatively cheap ruble initially drove this growth, since consumer demand and, more recently, investment have played a significant role. In , following a referendum , in which separation was favored by a large majority of voters, the Russian leadership announced the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Russia throughout history.
Part of a series on the. Main article: Kievan Rus. After his return, Peter embarked on an ambitious programme to transform Russia into a European state. During his reign, Russia finally gained its long-coveted access to the Baltic Sea, defeating the Swedes. Over the next nine years, at tremendous human and financial cost, St. Petersburg sprang up. Peter assumed the title of Emperor and Russia officially became the Russian Empire in Peter the Great remains one of the most controversial figures in Russian history. While some say he made Russia a powerful European player, others believe the changes were too brutal and costly.
After the Crimean military campaign, led by Potemkin, Catherine had come to inspect the newly-conquered lands, accompanied by courtiers and foreign ambassadors. To impress her and her party, Potemkin had elaborate fake settlements constructed along the desolated banks of the Dnieper River, with flocks of sheep driven every night to the next stop along the route.
Modern historians still argue about the truth behind the story, but the tale is generally considered largely exaggerated. The visitors, often already sympathetic to communism, were shown select thriving villages, factories, schools and stores, presented to them as if they were typical, rather than exceptional. Given strict limitations on the movement of foreigners in the USSR, seeing less perfect examples was out of the question.
His marvel of a strategic retreat through the Alps earned him the top rank of generalissimo. He became the fourth and last holder of the title in pre-revolutionary Russia, until Josef Stalin was proclaimed Generalissimo of the Soviet Union. His fatal Russian campaign began in June They retreated, devastating the land behind them.
On September 7, with the French army only km from the city, the two armies met at Borodino Field. Neither side gained a decisive victory. Kutuzov withdrew his exhausted forces, while the Muscovites started a massive and panicked retreat. To make things worse, a huge fire, rumoured to have been started by the Russians themselves, devastated much of the city. The French army soon faced an unusually cold and early winter.
Worn out by harsh frosts, Russian attacks and a lack of food and shelter, the French were dealt a disastrous defeat. Russia emerged from the war more powerful than ever. Their failed revolt was punished with Siberian exile. Ambitious liberal reforms were later attempted by Tsar Alexander II. The Tsar became a target of numerous murder plots. After several narrow escapes, Alexander II was fatally wounded in by a bomb in St. Russian workers began to organise into local political councils or soviets. The opposition formed several competing parties.
The names referred to the narrow outvoting of the Mensheviks in the decision to limit party membership to revolutionary professionals, rather than including sympathisers. In Russia suffered a string of embarrassing defeats in a military conflict with Japan in the Far East. Support for the already unpopular government dwindled.
In St. Petersburg, troops fired on a peaceful demonstration by workers, killing and wounding hundreds and sparking the Russian Revolution of The uprising was suppressed, but Nicholas II had to concede major reforms, among them a constitution and the creation of the first Parliament, the Duma. In , the First World War brought another crisis. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd. The original name was seen as too German; Petrograd was chosen as a more Russian-sounding and patriotic one. By February many workers had had enough. Riots broke out in Petrograd. Nicholas II abdicated on March 2, marking the end of imperial rule in Russia.
A shaky coalition of political parties was formed, declaring itself the Provisional Government. Nicholas and his family were imprisoned and later executed on the night of July , Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks were winning more support from the increasingly frustrated soviets. Ironically, throughout the Soviet era the anniversary of the October Revolution was never actually marked in October. In , Soviet Russia adopted the Gregorian calendar, already well established in most of the Western world. The Julian calendar, formerly used in Russia, was 13 days behind.
So October 25 became November 7. The Bolsheviks enjoyed support in Petrograd and Moscow, but were far from controlling the whole country. A bitter civil war broke out. This war seemed to have a whole palette of colours: independent groups like the Green and the Black armies declared themselves against both the Reds and Whites. The country was in chaos until , when the Bolsheviks had largely won.
Yet, his fame had a reverse side. To counter official Soviet propaganda, he was transformed into a popular comic character through word-of-mouth. A recent Russian video game even featured Chapaev saving the Galaxy from aliens. The jokes of course appeared long after the war ended. While it was still raging, it was unprecedented in its savagery, with atrocities committed by both sides.
One of the most brutal acts was the killing of the royal family. The Bolsheviks had originally planned to put the former Tsar on trial. Instead, Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their five children were shot in the early hours of July 17, in the basement of Ipatyev House in the city of Yekaterinburg. The official version had it that the local council proposed a fast execution, fearing they would be freed by the approaching White forces.
In August the royal family was canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church. The founder of Cheka, Feliks Dzerzhinsky, was nicknamed Iron Feliks for his ruthlessness and devotion to the cause. Although a symbol of terror back then, Cheka became a popular staple in Soviet and Russian culture.
Chekist chic was revived by some young Russian designers. Civil war finally took its toll on the country. The Bolsheviks controlled the economy but Russia was devastated by battles, mass executions and famine. Lenin decided that a partial return to a market economy would help the country rebound. Exhausted by the war, people embraced jazz, nightclubs and foreign movies. Despite enormous challenges, there was a widespread feeling of optimism and opportunity.
The first few years of Soviet rule saw an extraordinary outbreak of social and cultural change. The Bolsheviks introduced free universal health care, education and social security benefits. Wanting to break the power of the Russian Orthodox Church, the government promoted atheism and party members were forbidden to attend religious services. Initially, the new nation only had four members: the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Transcaucasian Soviet republics.
Their number shifted over the years, finally settling at From day one the Soviet government was based on the one-party rule of the Communist Party that the Bolsheviks eventually transformed into. He decided a different strategy was needed to get rid of the monarchy.
Nowadays, pronounced with a good deal of irony, the aphorism means you want to do things differently from your colleagues and predecessors to get better results. Expelled from university for his radical ideas, Lenin completed his law degree as an external student. He then moved to St Petersburg, becoming a professional revolutionary and spent several years in exile in Siberia. Using different aliases in his writings, he finally settled on Lenin in His relatives later suggested the name was inspired by the river Lena in Siberia.
Some historians believe Lenin was a real person whose passport Vladimir Ulyanov used. By it was unsafe for Lenin to stay in Russia and he spent most of the next decade in Western Europe, emerging as a prominent figure in the international revolutionary movement. Campaigning against the Provisional Government, he soon led the Bolshevik take-over of power. In Lenin survived two assassination attempts, but his long-term health was affected. Four years later he suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered.
He died on January 21, , aged Joseph Stalin emerged victorious and went on to rule the Soviet Union for a quarter of a century, becoming one of the most powerful and murderous dictators in history. Iosif Dzhugashvili was born on 18 December in Georgia, then part of the Russian empire.
He studied at a theological seminary and had some success as a poet, publishing some of his verse in local newspapers.
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He failed to graduate, becoming a revolutionary activist instead, with several arrests and spells in Siberia. Although not one of the key players in the October Revolution, he quickly rose through the ranks, outmanoeuvring his rivals step by step. An estimated 18 million people passed through the Gulag system, famously described by novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This sparked the Stakhanovite movement, encouraging the rise of worker productivity. Urged to emulate his heroic example, plants and factories competed fiercely to outdo each other, while the man himself even appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
Their progress eventually served to push up work quotas. By the end of the first five-year plan, Stalin believed his exhausted nation needed a break. In the doctrine of socialist realism emerged, which would dominate Soviet culture for decades. It championed optimism, exuberance, comradely devotion and education over entertainment. Parades and public demonstrations became widely used to promote a single Soviet identity of order, patriotism and harmony.
Political purges had stripped the army of many of its experienced leaders while industrial production was slow in adapting to military needs. It lasted for days, from September to January By the first winter of the siege there was no heating, no water supply, almost no electricity and very little food. Exhausted people collapsed and died. The streets were littered with dead bodies. The blockade took the lives of at least , people, although some estimates suggest that as many as 1.
The city became the symbol of Soviet resilience and invincibility. The siege was commemorated by the Green Belt of Glory, a unique complex of memorials along the historic frontline. You can still see warnings in St. Petersburg advising which side of the street is safe from the German shelling. Meanwhile the Germans advanced as far as Moscow, reaching the outskirts by early December Hundreds of young recruits were preparing to defend the capital.
But none could imagine that before going to battle they would march on Red Square in front of Joseph Stalin and top Communist Party officials. Against the advice of his generals, with the Germans pushing on, Stalin held a military parade in Red Square on November 7 to mark the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The parade was kept secret until the last moment.
The troops left Red Square to head straight to the frontline. The parade had a tremendous impact on morale in Moscow and throughout the Soviet Union, becoming the turning point of the war. The capital never surrendered and for the first time the Germans were thrown back. The tide turned in February , when the Germans suffered a devastating defeat in the battle of Stalingrad. One of the most brutal standoffs in human history, it had begun the previous year, in the summer of A major industrial centre on the Volga River in southern Russia, Stalingrad now Volgograd , was a coveted prize in itself.
Control over it opened the way to the vital Caucasus oil fields. The horror of Stalingrad lasted for days, costing an estimated 1. The besieged city quickly turned into a meat grinder. The Soviet losses were so great that, at times, the life expectancy of a newly arrived soldier was less than a day. Battles raged for every street, house, basement and staircase. Areas captured by the Wehrmacht troops by day, were re-taken by the Soviet army at night.
In September , a Soviet platoon led by Yakov Pavlov turned an apartment block in the city centre into an impenetrable fortress. Penned in and surrounded by Nazis, a little more than a dozen men rebuffed assault after assault. They held out for two months, until they were relieved by counter-attacking Soviet forces. Another Stalingrad legend was sniper Vasily Zaitsev. During the battles in and around the city, he picked off more than German soldiers.
The Soviet press lost no time in spreading the news of his exceptional shooting skills. The story goes that the Germans decided to send a super-sniper of their own to kill him. After a dramatic cat-and-mouse game, lasting several days, Zaitsev finally outwitted his adversary. The Soviet troops held out against the enormous German army, decimating and wearing it out, until a relieving force encircled the city compelling the invaders to surrender. The crushing defeat at Stalingrad was unmatched in scale, spurring the Soviet drive towards victory… In May Berlin finally fell.
The famous photo of two Soviet soldiers unfurling a red flag over the Reichstag became an iconic image of World War II. The flag is claimed to originally have been a tablecloth brought by the photographer himself. The memory of the war, referred to as the Great Patriotic War, is particularly venerated in Russia. Despite the unprecedented devastation, the Soviet Union emerged from WW2 as an acknowledged superpower. The same year, the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb, ending the U.
Moscow hit back, establishing an Eastern counterpart, dubbed the Warsaw Pact. Meanwhile, at home, life was tough. The Cold War put a huge strain on the economy, political freedoms were further restricted and another wave of purges was carried out. But things were about to change. Officially, the cause of death was a cerebral haemorrhage, but it was later suggested that Stalin was assassinated. Across the country, people mourned the passing of the man they knew as the Great Leader who steered them to victory in the Great Patriotic War. Up to four million people poured into Red Square and the surrounding streets trying to get a glimpse as his body lay in state.
The crowds were so dense and chaotic that hundreds either suffocated or were trampled to death. Estimates vary from a low of three million to a high of 60 million. Several recent studies suggest a total of around 20 million people. He ruthlessly suppressed a uprising in Hungary against Soviet-imposed policies.
A Brief History of Attempted Russian Assassinations by Poison
Khrushchev also gave the world the KGB. Meanwhile, the USSR was setting scientific and technological records. In the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 , was launched. But Khrushchev also renewed persecutions against the Russian Orthodox Church, publicly promising to show the last remaining priest on Soviet television. Khrushchev was notorious for his eccentric outbursts. Regarded as intelligent and cunning, but lacking education, he regularly humiliated Soviet political elites with his gaffes. October 12, saw perhaps the stormiest United Nations session ever. After the Philippine delegate accused the USSR of imperialism in Eastern Europe, the Soviet leader caused uproar when he pulled off his right shoe and banged it on his desk.
He also threatened to show the U. A major headache for translators, the mysterious mother of the bizarre Kuzka is actually a famous Russian idiom. By , Khrushchev had alienated much of the Soviet elite and was ousted by opponents led by Leonid Brezhnev. He died in The country entered a decade-long standstill, its rigid economy slowly weakening and its political climate growing increasingly pessimistic.