History of Russia

The earliest traces of human habitation on the territory of Russia are found in Siberia, the North Caucasus and the Kuban and relate to a period of about 3-2 million years BC. In VI-V centuries BC Greek colonies appeared on the Black Sea coast, which later turned into the kingdoms of Scythia and Bosporus.

The Slavs and their neighbors

By the V century BC Slavic tribes occupied the land on the shores of the Baltic Sea, along the Dnieper River and the Danube, and in the upper Volga and Oka. Besides hunting, the Slavs engaged in farming, and trade was developing gradually. The main trade routes were the rivers.  By IX century several Slavic principalities had formed, the principal ones were Kiev and Novgorod.

The Russian State

In 882, Prince Oleg of Novgorod captured Kiev, and united the Slavic north and south, creating the Old Russian State. Kievan Rus was respected in Byzantium and in neighboring western states. During the reign of Oleg's successor - Igor, son of Rurik - was signed an agreement with Byzantium on the protection of its borders from the nomads. In 988, under Prince Vladimir,pagan Russia was baptized. Adoption of Orthodoxy strengthens the relations with Byzantium, and along with the new faith Greek culture, science and art spread among the Slavs. The new Slavonic alphabet started to be used in Russia, records are written. Under the reign of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, the first code of the Kievan state was drawn up, called "The Russian Truth". From the 1330s the united state started dividing into a number of independent principalities.

Mongol-Tatar Yoke

In the beginning of the XIII century the huge army of Genghis Khan Temujin started ravaging Asia and Transcaucasia.Having conquered and imposed tribute on the peoples of the Caucasus, the Mongolian army first appeared in the Russian history, defeating in 1223 the allied forces of the Slavic princes and the Cumans on the Kalka River.  13 years later, Batu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, comes to Russia from the east and defeats Russian troops. In 1240 he subdues Kiev, goes to Western Europe and returns, founding his state the Golden Horde along the Lower Volga and imposing a tax on the Russian land. Henceforth the princes gain power over their lands only with the authorization of the khans of the Golden Horde. This period is known in Russian history as the Mongol-Tatar Yoke.

Grand Duchy of Moscow

Since the beginning of the XIV century, largely through the efforts of Ivan Kalita and his successors, Moscow gradually formed as a new center of Russian principalities.By the end of the XIV century Moscow matured enough to come out openly against the Horde. In 1380, Prince Dimitri routed Khan Mamaia's army on the Kulikovo Field. Under Ivan III, Moscow stops paying tribute to the Horde: Ahmad Khan during the Great Standing on the Ugra River in 1480, decides against fighting and retreats. This puts an end to the Mongol-Tatar Yoke.

Ivan the Terrible

Under Ivan IV the Terrible, (the first official Russian Tsar since 1547), the process of uniting lands lost to the Mongol yoke and the Polish-Lithuanian expansion is very active. Further expansion of frontiers is another trend of his policy. The Russian state included the Kazan, Astrakhan and Siberian Khanates. In the late 16th - middle 17th centruies, with a strong delay in comparison with the countries of Central Europe, serfdom is documented.
In 1571, Moscow was burned by the army of the Crimean Khan Devlet Giray.The following year, a 120-thousand allied Crimean and Turkish army that came to Russia, was destroyed, which effectively put an end to Russia's centuries-long struggle against the steppe.

The Time of Troubles and the first Romanovs

The death of Fedor (Ivan the Terrible's son) in 1598 interrupted the Rurik dynasty. It marked the beginning of the Time of Troubles, struggles for the throne, and the Polish-Swedish intervention. Convening a national militia put an end to the Troubled Times, followed by the expulsion of the Poles and the election of Mikhail Fedorovich to be the tsar, who became the first representative of the Romanov dynasty (21 February 1613). In his reign, Russian expeditions begin exploring East Siberia, so Russia goes to the Pacific Ocean coast. In 1654, Ukraine joined the Russian state as an autonomous part. Under Tsar Alexis, the influence of the West reinforced.

Russian Empire

Tsar Peter I radically reformed the Russian state, setting the absolute monarchy headed by the emperor, who governs even the church. The army and the education system got modernized, many things were arranged according to the Western model. As a result of the Northern War, Russia got back its lands that had been seized by Sweden at the end of the XVI century. At the mouth of the Neva the port city of St. Petersburg was founded, where in 1712 the capital of Russia was transferred. During Peter's reign, the Russian newspaper "Vedomosti" was published. Besides, on January 1, 1700 a new calendar was introduced, where the new year began in January (before the new year began on the first of September).

After the period of Peter I begins the period of palace coups, nobles' plots and frequent reversals of objectionable emperors. Anna Ivanovna and Elizabeth were the ones who managed to hold the throne for the longest periods of time. Under Elizabeth, Moscow University was founded.  Under Empress Catherine the Great began the exploration of America, and Russia conquered the Turkish Black Sea coast.

Napoleonic Wars

In 1805, Alexander I goes to war with Napoleon I, who has declared himself Emperor of France. Napoleon wins, and the conditions of the peace agreement include the cessation of trade with England, and Alexander is forced to agree. In 1809 Russia captures Finland ruled by Sweden, making it part of the Russian Empire. A few years later Russia resumes trade with England, and in the summer 1812 Napoleon invades Russia with an army of more than 500,000 people. The Russian army, having almost two times less soldiers, retreats to Moscow. The people rises to fight the invaders, forming numerous guerrilla groups, so the War of 1812 was named Patriotic War of 1812.

In late August near the village of Borodino in the Moscow region the most important battle of the war took place. Casualties on both sides were enormous, but the French still outnumbered the Russians. The Head of Russian Army, Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov decided to surrender Moscow to Napoleon without a battle and retreat to save the army. Moscow, occupied by the French, got almost completely destroyed by fire. During the retreat to the borders of Russia Napoleon's army gradually melted, the Russian pursued the retreating French, and in 1814 the Russian army entered Paris.

Development of civil society

In the XIX century, under the influence of Western liberal ideas, a stable group of educated intellectuals was established. This group created liberal and democratic values, so later it was called "the intellectuals". Its most prominent representatives were Belinsky, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov.  

After the war, revolutionary ideas crept into the Russian society, which resulted in the failed Decembrist uprising of 1825.Concerned about new uprisings, the authorities tightened their control over the political, economic and cultural life of the country.

During the long wars with the mountaineers in the first half of the XIX century Russia attaches Caucasus and - partly peacefully, partly by force - the territory of Central Asia (Bukhara and Khiva Khanate, Kazakh zhuzes).

2nd half of the XIX century

In 1861, during the reign of Alexander II, serfdom was abolished in Russia. There was also a number of liberal reforms to accelerate the modernization of the country.

End of XIX - beginning of XX century

In the late 19th - early 20th century, Russia was actively exploring the Far East, which was a concern for Japan, while the government of the Russian Empire believed that "a small victorious war" would improve the internal situation, given the growth of revolutionary ideas. However, Japan's pre-emptive strike smashed part of Russian ships, while the lack of modern technical equipment in the Russian army and the incompetence of senior officers completed their defeat. Russia's position in the international arena was extremely complex.

In 1914 Russia entered the First World War. The February Revolution of 1917 put an end to the monarchy: Tsar Nicholas II abdicates power in favor of the Provisional Government. In September 1917, the Russian empire was converted to the Russian Republic.

The Soviet state

However, the revolution failed to bring order to the country. Using the political chaos, the government is seized by the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, in alliance with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries and anarchists. After the Revolution of October 25 (November 7) 1917, the country was proclaimed to be the Russian Soviet Republic. The Soviet republic begins to eliminate private property and starts its nationalization. In an effort to control the society, the Bolsheviks did not shun extreme measures, like repressing religion, Cossacks and other forms of social organization.  

The peace treaty signed with Germany made the Soviet state lose Ukraine, the Baltic states, Poland, some parts of Belarus and 90 tons gold. It was one of the causes of the Civil War. In March 1918, the Soviet government moved from Petrograd to Moscow, fearing the city's capture by the Germans.  On the night of July 16 to 17,1918, the royal family was shot in Yekaterinburg, their bodies dumped in a collapsed mine shaft.

Civil War

During the 1918-1922 years, the Bolshevik supporters fought against their opponents. During the war Russia lost Poland, the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) and Finland.

USSR, 1920s-1930s

On December 30, 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is formed, comprising Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Transcaucasian Federation. In the years 1921-1929 the New Economic Policy (NEP) was being implemented. The domestic battles that erupted after Lenin's death in 1924 were won by Joseph Stalin (Dzhugashvili). In the 1930s, Stalin conducted a "cleansing" of the party apparatus. A system of forced labor camps was established (Gulag). In 1939-1940, Western Belarus, Western Ukraine, Moldova, West Karelia, the Baltic States joined the Soviet Union.

The Great Patriotic War

June 22, 1941 was marked by a surprise attack by the Nazi Germany. World War II began. In a relatively short time, German troops were able to advance deep into the Soviet state, but failed to seize Moscow and Leningrad, which made the war Hitler had planned as a blitzkrieg turn into the protracted warfare. The battles of Stalingrad and Kursk turn the tide of the war, and the Soviet troops launched a strategic offensive. The war ended with the capture of Berlin and the surrender of Germany in May 1945.  Historians assess the number of casualties during the war and the occupation of the Soviet Union to reach 26 million people.

Soviet-Japanese War

As a result of the war with Japan in 1945, South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands became part of Russia.

The Cold War and the Stagnation

As a result of the war, Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany) got in the Soviet zone of influence. Relations with the West sharply deteriorated. It was the beginning of the so-called Cold War - the confrontation between the West and the Soviet bloc countries, that reached its peak in 1962, when USSR and the United States were on verge of starting a nuclear war (the Caribbean Crisis). Then the intensity of the conflict gradually declined, there was some progress in the relations with the West, in particular, a treaty on economic cooperation with France was signed.  

In the 1970s, the confrontation between the USSR and the USA weakened. They concluded agreements on limiting strategic nuclear weapons (SALT-1 and SALT-2). The second half of the 1970s was named the "era of stagnation", when, despite the relative stability, the USSR gradually lagged behind the advanced countries of the West in terms of technology.

Perestroika and the collapse of the USSR

When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, the policy of perestroika was proclaimed in the USSR. It was intended to solve the problems of the society and industrial production, as well as to avoid the looming economic crisis caused by the arms race. However, this policy led to the aggravation of the crisis, disintegration of the Soviet Union and Russia's transition to capitalism.  In 1991 the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was created, which initially included the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus.