Russia- Brief History

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Russia- Brief History, the History of Russia begins with that of the East Slavs.  The traditional beginning of Russian history is 862 A.D. Kievan Rus’, the first united East Slavic state, was founded in 882.

The state adopted Christianity from the Byzantine Empire in 988, beginning with the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Slavic culture for the next millennium. Kievan Rus’ ultimately disintegrated as a state because of the Mongol invasion of Rus’ in 1237–1240 and the death of about half the population of Rus’.

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After the 13th century, Moscow became a cultural center of Moscovia. By the 18th century, the Tsardom of Russia had become the huge Russian Empire, stretching from the Polish border eastward to the Pacific Ocean. Expansion in the western direction sharpened Russia’s awareness of its separation from much of the rest of Europe and shattered the isolation in which the initial stages of expansion had occurred.

Successive regimes of the 19th century responded to such pressures with a combination of halfhearted reform and repression. Peasant revolts were common, and all were fiercely suppressed. Russian serfdom was abolished in 1861, but the peasant fared poorly and often turned to revolutionary pressures.

In following decades reforms efforts such as the Stolypin reforms, the constitution of 1906, and State Duma attempted to open and liberalize the economy and political system, but the tsars refused to relinquish autocratic rule or share their power.

Within a few decades of Yaroslav’s death (in 1054), Kievan Rus’ had broken up into regional power centers. Internal divisions were made worse by the depredations of the invading Cumans (better known as the Kipchaks). It was during this time (in 1147 to be exact) that Yuri Dolgorukiy, one of the regional princes, held a feast at his hunting lodge atop a hill overlooking the confluence of the Moskva and Neglina Rivers.

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A chronicler recorded the party, thus providing us with the earliest mention of Moscow, the small settlement that would soon become the pre-eminent city in Russia. Russia, the country that stretches over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia. Once the preeminent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.; commonly known as the Soviet Union), Russia became an independent country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

The rulers of Kiev in the 10th century are still Vikings. But as they settle and become more prosperous they begin to see something new and different – Russians. This is particularly true of Vladimir, who is proclaimed Prince of all Russia in 980 after capturing Kiev from a rival.

Vladimir’s early life is spent in full-blooded pagan style, fighting and wenching (the chronicles credit him with 800 concubines), but in about 988 he takes a step which gives Russia its characteristic identity and brings him personally the halo of a saint. He sends envoys out to discover which is the best religion. Their report persuades him to choose for Russia the Greek Orthodox brand of Christianity.

In the latter part of the 8th century BCE, Greek merchants brought classical civilization to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria.  Gelonus was described by Herodotus as a huge (Europe’s biggest) earth- and wood-fortified grad inhabited around 500 BCE by Heloni and Budini. The Bosporan Kingdom was incorporated as part of the Roman province of Moesia Inferior from 63 to 68 ad, under Emperor Nero.

At about the 2nd century, CE Goths migrated to the Black Sea, and in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, a semi-legendary Gothic kingdom of Oium existed in Southern Russia until it was overrun by Huns. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries CE, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was also overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes which would often move on to Europe, as was the case with the Huns and Turkish Avars.

A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas through to the 8th century. Noted for their laws, tolerance, and cosmopolitanism the Khazars were the main commercial link between the Baltic and the Muslim Abbasid empire centered in Baghdad. They were important allies of the Byzantine Empire and waged a series of successful wars against the Arab Caliphates. In the 8th century, the Khazars embraced Judaism.

In June of 1812, Napoleon began his fatal Russian campaign, a landmark in the history of the destructive potential of warfare. Virtually all of continental Europe was under his control, and the invasion of Russia was an attempt to force Tsar Alexander I to submit once again to the terms of a treaty that Napoleon had imposed upon him four years earlier. Having gathered nearly half a million soldiers, from France as well as all of the vassal states of Europe, Napoleon entered Russia at the head of the largest army ever seen. The Russians, under Marshal Kutuzov, could not realistically hope to defeat him in a direct confrontation.

Instead, they began a defensive campaign of strategic retreat, devastating the land as they fell back and harassing the flanks of the French. As the summer wore on, Napoleon’s massive supply lines were stretched ever thinner, and his force began to decline.

By September, without having engaged in a single pitched battle, the French Army had been reduced by more than two thirds from fatigue, hunger, desertion, and raids by Russian forces. The new religion is rapidly imposed upon the towns under the control of Vladimir and his family.

The inhabitants of Novgorod, the most prosperous of these towns apart from Kiev itself, are forcibly baptized in 989. Vladimir won Kiev in 980 after a fight to the death between himself and various brothers, and the process is repeated after his own death in 1015. His successor, Yaroslav the Wise, is the survivor of five sons of Vladimir. Yaroslav kills the last of them in 1019 and is accepted as grand prince of Kiev.

Early East Slavs and Rus’ Khaganate
A general map of the cultures in European Russia at the arrival of the Varangians and before the beginning of the Slavic colonization.
Some of the ancestors of the modern Russians were the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pripet Marshes.[20] The Early East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov.

Kievan Rus
Scandinavian Norsemen, known as Vikings in Western Europe and Varangians in the East, combined piracy and trade throughout Northern Europe. In the mid-9th century, they began to venture along the waterways from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the earliest Russian chronicle, a Varangian named Rurik was elected ruler (knyaz) of Novgorod in about 860, before his successors moved south and extended their authority to Kiev, which had been previously dominated by the Khazars. Oleg, Rurik’s son Igor and Igor’s son Sviatoslav subsequently subdued all local East Slavic tribes to Kievan rule, destroyed the Khazar khaganate and launched several military expeditions to Byzantium and Persia.

Mongol invasion of Rus’ and Tatar invasions
The Sacking of Suzdal by Batu Khan in February 1238: a miniature from the 16th-century chronicle
The invading Mongols accelerated the fragmentation of the Rus’. In 1223, the disunited southern princes faced a Mongol raiding party at the Kalka River and were soundly defeated. In 1237–1238 the Mongols burnt down the city of Vladimir (4 February 1238) and other major cities of northeast Russia, routed the Russians at the Sit’ River, and then moved west into Poland and Hungary. By then they had conquered most of the Russian principalities.  Only the Novgorod Republic escaped occupation and continued to flourish in the orbit of the Hanseatic League.


Volga Bulgaria and Golden Horde
Alexander Nevsky in the Golden Horde.
After the fall of the Khazars in the 10th century, the middle Volga came to be dominated by the mercantile state of Volga Bulgaria, the last vestige of Greater Bulgaria centered at Phanagoria. In the 10th century, the Turkic population of Volga Bulgaria converted to Islam, which facilitated its trade with the Middle East and Central Asia.[citation needed] In the wake of the Mongol invasions of the 1230s, Volga Bulgaria was absorbed by the Golden Horde and its population evolved into the modern Chuvashes and Kazan Tatars.

Rise of Moscow
During the reign of Daniel, Moscow was little more than a small timber fort lost in the forests of Central Rus’
Daniil Aleksandrovich, the youngest son of Alexander Nevsky, founded the principality of Moscow (known as Muscovy in English),[44] which first cooperated with and ultimately expelled the Tatars from Russia. Well-situated in the central river system of Russia and surrounded by protective forests and marshes, Moscow was at first only a vassal of Vladimir, but soon it absorbed its parent state.

Tsardom of Russia (1547–1721)
Ivan IV was the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547, then “Tsar of All the Russias” until his death in 1584. The development of the Tsar’s autocratic powers reached a peak during the reign of Ivan IV (1547–1584), known as “Ivan the Terrible”. He strengthened the position of the monarch to an unprecedented degree, as he ruthlessly subordinated the nobles to his will, exiling or executing many on the slightest provocation. Nevertheless, Ivan is often seen as a farsighted statesman who reformed Russia as he promulgated a new code of laws (Sudebnik of 1550), established the first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor), curbed the influence of the clergy, and introduced local self-management in rural regions.

Time of Troubles
The Poles surrender the Moscow Kremlin to Prince Pozharsky in 1612
The death of Ivan’s childless son Feodor was followed by a period of civil wars and foreign intervention known as the “Time of Troubles” (1606–13). Extremely cold summers (1601–1603) wrecked crops, which led to the Russian famine of 1601–1603 and increased the social disorganization. Boris Godunov’s reign ended in chaos, civil war combined with foreign intrusion, the devastation of many cities and depopulation of the rural regions. The country rocked by internal chaos also attracted several waves of interventions by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

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