Various tribes lived on the territory of present-day Russia in the early Middle Ages. In the European part it was the Eastern Slavs, in Siberia especially the Scythians. These Scythians and other equestrian peoples also lived in the Eurasian steppe in the southwest.
The Old Russian Empire – Kievan Rus
According to estatelearning, the Old Russian Empire was established in the European part of Russia in 862. It is also called Kievan Rus because (from 882) it had its capital in Kiev (in today’s Ukraine). It was founded by Vikings who came from the north and traveled south along the rivers. They are also called rus. The Rus soon adopted the language and culture of the Slavs. Their leader Rjurik became the founder of the Rurikid dynasty. She ruled Russia until 1598.
There was trade with the Byzantine Empire south of the Black Sea. In 988, Prince Vladimir married the daughter of the Byzantine emperor and thus adopted the Orthodox faith. All of Russia was Christianized. The old Russian people developed their own culture. Later Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians emerged from it.
The heyday of the Old Russian Empire was in the 11th century. Time and again, horsemen broke into the empire from the steppe in the south and southeast. Many people fled north and founded new cities there. The empire also fell apart because it was split up into various small principalities. The succession to the throne was regulated in such a way that it was not the eldest son who became ruler, but rather the brothers (seniority principle). This led to competition and also contributed to the decline of the empire. This split up into several small principalities.
The Mongol storm
When the Mongols invaded the country in 1223 and 1240, they conquered the Kievan Rus and destroyed many cities. On the map you can see the expansion of the Mongol Empire in 1295. You will surely notice: The south of today’s Russia was under Mongol rule.
Grand Duchy of Moscow
The collapse of the Kievan Rus left behind several small principalities. The Principality of Moscow finally achieved the dignity of Grand Duke and in the 14th century an important position. It subjugated the other principalities, pushed back the Mongols and recaptured the lost Russian lands.
Under Ivan III. the Great, who was Grand Duke for 43 years (1462-1505), the area of the Grand Duchy was quadrupled. In 1480 his army finally expelled the Mongols. In 1503 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was defeated and taken. Ivan III was the first Russian ruler to call himself Tsar.
History of Russia: the Tsarist Empire (1547-1918)
The Russian Tsarist Empire emerged from the Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1547. Ivan IV, known as the Terrible, was Grand Duke of Moscow and was crowned tsar. He continued the expansion of the Russian territory. In the east Kazan was conquered, which in turn opened the way to Siberia. Astrakhan was taken on the Volga, giving Russia access to the Caspian Sea. With the death of the sons of Ivan the Terrible, the Rurikid dynasty died out.
Several tsars followed, each for shorter periods of time. In 1613, Michael I, a tsar from the Romanov family, came to power for the first time. By 1700 Russia conquered Siberia and expanded its territory to the Pacific. Little by little, Siberia was settled. A struggle for supremacy in the Baltic Sea region began with Sweden.
Peter the Great (1689-1725)
In 1689 Peter I, known as the Great, came to the throne of the Tsar. He opened the country to the west, modernized it and laid the foundation for Russia’s position as a great power in the 18th century. Russia won the Great Northern War against Sweden (1700-1721) and now assumed supremacy on the Baltic Sea. Peter also moved the capital from Moscow to the newly founded St. Petersburg and in 1721 made his empire an empire, that is, he also adopted the title of emperor in addition to the title of tsar. After Peter’s death in 1725, Russia saw several rulers on the throne, all of whom only ruled briefly: Peter’s wife Catherine I, Peter’s grandson (Peter II), Anna, Ivan VI. and Elisabeth, the daughter of Peter I.
Catherine the Great (reign 1762-1796)
In 1762 Peter’s daughter Elisabeth was followed by her nephew Peter III. on the Tsar’s throne. Many were dissatisfied with his policy, for example he gave back to Prussia all previously conquered territories. After a conspiracy against him, his wife became Tsarina: Catherine II, also known as the Great. By the way, she was the only female ruler who ever received this nickname. Peter was murdered a few days later. Catherine ruled for 34 years until 1796. Under her rule, other areas were conquered.
Siberia as a place of exile
From the 18th century onwards, exile to a labor camp in Siberia was one of the heaviest punishments in the Tsarist Empire. After the end of the sentence, the exiles had to stay in Siberia. They contributed to the settlement and thus ultimately to the so-called Russification of this region.
Paul I (1796-1801), Alexander I (1801-1825), Nikolaus I (1825-1855)
In 1796, Katharina’s son Paul I became the new emperor. Paul made himself unpopular with the nobility in his own country because he wanted to tax him. This led to his being murdered by the palace guards.
Paul’s son Alexander I ruled for 25 years. Russia took part in the coalition wars against Napoleon, which France initially won. In the Russian campaign in 1812, however, Napoleon had to give up.
On the European mainland, Russia held a dominant position until the middle of the 19th century. But Russia was still a backward country. Alexander’s brother Nikolaus, who succeeded him to the throne and ruled until 1855, did nothing to change that. He started the Crimean War against the Ottoman Empire in 1853, hoping to expand his territories further.