History of Russia

Russia and the main periods of its history

For the first time the term “Rosia” was mentioned as the Greek name of Rus in the 10th century. Subsequently, the term “Russia” was used to name the East Slavic territories that were not part of the medieval Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and united by Grand Duchy of Moscow into a single state.

The Russian Federation is the historical successor to the previous forms of continuous statehood since 862:

  • Old Russian State (862-1240),
  • Grand Duchy of Vladimir (1157-1389),
  • Moscow Principality (1263-1547),
  • Russian Kingdom (1547-1721),
  • Russian Empire (1721) -1917),
  • Russian Republic (1917),
  • Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (1917-1922, since 1922 - part of the USSR)
  • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1922-1991).
Russian History

The Old Russian State

Traditionally, the foundation of the Old Russian State is associated with the calling of Prince Rurik to reign in Novgorod in 862. This state included the territories of the southern Ladoga region (Staraya Ladoga, Veliky Novgorod) and the upper Volga (Beloozero, Rostov). The successor of Rurik - Prophetic Oleg - made Kiev the capital of the state.

In the middle of the 12th century, a period of fragmentation began. The largest Russian principalities were Vladimir-Suzdal, Galicia-Volyn, Polotsk, Ryazan, Smolensk, Chernigov, and Novgorod. Kiev continued to be considered the main town of Rus, but was quickly losing its influence.

Mongol invasion of Khan Baty (1237-1240) put an end to the history of the Old Russian State (Kievan Rus). All Russian lands were under the supreme authority of the Mongol Empire. The fragmentation of the Russian lands intensified.

In 1328, Moscow gained the upper hand in the struggle against Tver for the Grand Duchy of Vladimir. Dmitry Donskoy caused several defeats to the Mongols (the Battle of Kulikovo, etc.), after which the new Khan Tokhtamysh recognized the Grand Duchy of Vladimir as the hereditary possession of the Moscow princes. By the turn of the 14th-15th centuries, almost all Russian lands were divided between the Moscow and Lithuanian Grand Duchies.

The Russian State

Great-grandson of Dmitry Donskoy, Ivan III, significantly strengthened the Moscow principality by adding the vast Tver (1485) and Novgorod (1478) lands. After the accession of the Novgorod Republic, the power of Moscow spread to the coast of the Arctic Ocean and the Urals. According to the results of the Russian-Lithuanian war, Bryansk and Chernigov passed under the authority of Moscow in 1503. Grand Duke Ivan the Great also managed to restore Russia’s independence by severing vassal relations with the Golden Horde in 1480. His son Vasily III continued to unite Russian lands - Pskov (1510), Smolensk (1514) and Ryazan (1521).

In 1547, the Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan IV the Terrible became the first Russian tsar and conquered vast territories in the Volga region (in 1552 - the Kazan Khanate, in 1556 - the Astrakhan Khanate). Arkhangelsk, a strategic seaport, was founded on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The development of the Urals and Western Siberia began (Yermak’s campaign of 1581-1585). The Russian influence also spread to the North Caucasus (Cossacks, agreements with Kabarda). However, the Livonian War was lost and Russia could not get access to the Baltic Sea.

After the death of Ivan the Terrible, there was a period known as the Time of Troubles (the late 16th - the early 17th centuries), which was marked by natural disasters, civil war, Russian-Polish and Russian-Swedish wars, a severe state-political and socio-economic crisis.

To deal with the consequences of the Time of Troubles, the Zemsky Sobor of 1613 was convened, in which Mikhail Romanov, the first of the Romanov dynasty, was called to reign. The development of Siberia continued: Krasnoyarsk (1628), Yakutsk (1632), Chita (1653). The development of Siberia was carried out by Cossacks, explorers and industrialists. Russian colonization almost did not meet resistance. The only obstacle in the colonization of the Far East was China, with which, in 1689, the Nerchinsk Treaty was concluded.

In 1654, Cossacks leaded by Bogdan Khmelnitsky, who raised the uprising against Poland, swore allegiance to the Moscow Tsar Alexei. This act led to the Russian-Polish war, as a result of which Kiev, Smolensk and a significant part of the Dnieper region fell under Moscow’s rule.

Streletskie riots of 1682 and 1696, boyar strife, as well as setbacks in the war against the Swedes (the Battle of Narva) lead Tsar Peter the First to the idea of the need for radical reforms with the aim of accelerated modernization of the country. Peter the Great created a modern fleet, reformed the army, opened educational institutions (St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences), encouraged the development of industry.

As a result of the Northern War, Russia gained access to the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. In 1703, St. Petersburg was founded on the new lands, where the capital of the state was transferred. In 1721, Russia was declared an empire.

The Russian Empire

After the death of Peter the Great, an unstable period began in Russia. In 1762, as a result of a palace coup, Catherine II came to power. During her reign, Russia acquired the Northern Black Sea coast (Novorossia, Kuban), the Crimea (1783), Byelorussia (1792), and Lithuania (1795). The Russians began to explore the American continent (Alaska).

The grandson of Catherine II, Alexander I, became the last emperor who came to power as a result of a palace coup. During the Patriotic War of 1812, the French Emperor Napoleon, after the bloody battle of Borodino, managed to capture Moscow. Nevertheless, during the counteroffensive, the Russian army, with the support of its allies, reached Paris (1814).

Russia initiated the creation of the Holy Alliance (1815) and gained the central Polish lands together with Warsaw. Also, the power of the Russian emperor spread to Finland (1809), Bessarabia (1812) and Azerbaijan (1813). The long war with the Caucasian highlanders began.

The ascension to the throne of Nicholas I (the brother of Alexander I) was marked by an uprising in December 1825. The failure of the uprising led Nicholas to a more conservative conviction. The uprising of the Decembrists was followed by the Polish Uprising of 1830, which consolidated Nikolai’s reputation as a strangler of freedoms.

The wars with Turkey were conducted with varying success. Admiral Nakhimov in the Battle of Sinop (1853) inflicted a crushing defeat on the Turkish fleet, but, after the entry of the English-French coalition into the Crimean War (1854), Russia began to conduct only defensive actions (the Bombardment of Odessa, the Defense of Sevastopol) and eventually recognized the defeat in the war.

The son of Nicholas, Alexander II (the Liberator), became a moderately liberal reformer. First of all, he abolished serfdom (1861), restored the autonomy of universities, expanded local self-government, reformed the army. In 1864, Chechnya and Dagestan became parts of the Russian Empire after the defeat of Imam Shamil. Russia waged successful wars against Turkey in the Balkans, which led to the liberation of the South Slavic peoples, in particular, in 1878, Serbia gained full independence and de facto - Bulgaria. During the reign of Alexander II, Russia annexed Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, but sold Alaska to the United States.

The son of Alexander II, Alexander III, became known as the Peacemaker. During his reign, for the first time in a long time, Russia did not lead large wars. The reign of Nicholas II was accompanied by a tragic incident at the Khodynka Field (1896), which killed more than 1,000 people. Another event that adversely affected his reputation was the unsuccessful Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905, during which Russia lost the naval base of Port Arthur and half of Sakhalin.

The First World War again showed the ineffectiveness of the state. The successful offensive of the Russian army in East Prussia ended in defeat at Tannenberg (1914). Further war with Germany was conducted in the Russian territory. In 1917, in the third year of the war, dissatisfaction arose in society with both the war itself and the tsarist regime as a whole, which led to revolutionary events, the abdication of the emperor from the throne, the collapse of the country, and the civil war.


The victory in the Civil War was on the side of the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin. After the end of the Civil War, the Bolsheviks were forced to abandon plans for the immediate implementation of the communist utopia and to declare a new economic policy - a market economy with a one-party dictatorship. This policy coincided with the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which initially included Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcaucasia (December 30, 1922).

In the late 1920ies, Iosif Stalin won the inner-party struggle for influence. Since 1928, accelerated industrialization and collectivization (the association of peasants in the collective farms for the conduct of mechanized agriculture) began in the USSR. The transition to a policy of state regulation of the economy coincided with the period of the Great Depression in the West. During the First Five-Year Plan, DneproGES, Turksib, metallurgical and machine-building plants in the Urals and in the Volga region (Uralmash, GAZ and others) were built. In 1935, the Moscow metro was opened.

On the eve of the war against Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union had a number of border conflicts with Japan (the Battles on Khalkhin-Gol) and Finland (the Finnish campaign), and divided Eastern Europe with Germany under the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact (1939). As a result of these campaigns, the Karelian Isthmus was joined to the USSR with the towns of Vyborg and Keksgolm (1940), as well as the Baltic states, eastern Poland, Northern Bukovina, and Bessarabia.

June 22, 1941, the armies of the Third Reich invaded the territory of the USSR. The war continued until the final victory over Germany in May, 1945. It was won at the cost of huge losses (more than 20 million people). As a result of the war, part of East Prussia was annexed to Russia with the city of Koenigsberg (the Kaliningrad region). Also, in 1945, the Soviet Army defeated the Japanese army in Manchuria and Russia returned southern Sakhalin and captured the Kuril Islands.

After the war, a Soviet bloc was formed, which included Moscow-controlled states of Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, GDR), as well as some Asian and African countries. The clash of the expansionist plans of the US and the USSR led to a conflict - the Cold War. The arms race began. In 1949, an atomic bomb was created and tested in the USSR.

Under Nikita Khrushchev, the first artificial Earth satellite (1957) was launched and the first human flight into space (1961) was carried out. The military consequence of the Soviet space program was intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear charge anywhere in the world.

The era of Leonid Brezhnev had conflicting characteristics. On the one hand, social welfare was provided for the broad masses of the population in the USSR (a relatively stable standard of living, accessible education, medicine), which made it possible to talk about achieving the level of so-called developed socialism. The Moscow Olympics was held in 1980. On the other hand, there was a stagnation in economic development. Inside the country, the dissident movement intensified. The Soviet Union was drawn into an unsuccessful war in Afghanistan (1979-1989).

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the country. He initiated deep and ambiguous changes in all spheres of life of Soviet society (perestroika) with the aim of reforming the USSR. On December 8, 1991, the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Belarus signed the Agreement on the Establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (Belovezhskaya Agreement), in which the three republics stated that “the Union of SSR as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality ceases to exist”.

The Russian Federation became an independent state and was recognized by the international community as the successor state of the USSR.

The Russian Federation

The first popularly elected Russian President Boris Yeltsin held radical liberal reforms (“shock therapy”) aimed at establishing a market economy. The state stopped regulating the prices of goods. Simultaneously, freedom of trade was proclaimed. Enterprises and citizens were granted freedom of economic activity.

The country experienced a severe crisis. The property stratification of the rich and poor increased manyfold, the mortality rate began to exceed the birth rate. Against the backdrop of public confrontation, numerous post-Soviet conflicts flared up, one of which was the First Chechen War (1994-1996). The North Caucasus turned into a region of increased terrorist threat.

In 2000, Vladimir Putin became the second president of Russia. In the 2000s, a number of socio-economic reforms were carried out. At this time, there was growth in the economy and an increase in real incomes of the population, which was largely due to the rapid increase in oil prices. There was a strengthening of the vertical of power in the country and the formation of the ruling party - United Russia, which supported the key decisions of the president and the government.

The Russian political system that developed in the first decade of the 21st century, in the opinion of many political scientists, is a kind of imitative democracy with elements of bureaucratic authoritarianism.

March 18, 2014, the Crimea joined the Russian Federation (Ukraine and the UN General Assembly regard these events as an occupation). This event was preceded by a large-scale socio-political crisis in the region, caused by the change of power in Ukraine. In December 2014, a new socio-economic crisis has begun in Russia as a result of the so-called “sanctions war” that followed the accession of the Crimea, the economic slowdown, the fall in oil prices, the currency crisis.

The questions of our visitors

Francisco asks: What is the present value of a silver ruble in 1846? I have this question because I want to understand what Dostoevsky was thinking when he wrote one of his articles. If you know the value of the ruble in USD in 1846 that would be enough, thanks a lot!
Expert's answer:

Here are several examples of prices in 1848-1850s in order to assess the purchasing power of a silver ruble. It is also worth noting that the value of a silver ruble was higher than a paper ruble (banknote), 1 silver ruble - about 3-4 rubles in banknotes.

  • The price a fur coat made of black-brown fox - 1000 rubles,
  • A sable fur coat - 2000 rubles,
  • A village hut - 100 rubles,
  • One peasant in the Yaroslavl Governorate - 24 rubles,
  • Straw - 1 silver ruble for one cart,
  • Sugar - 0.24 silver rubles per 1 pound (0.41 kg),
  • Vodka - 1.13 silver rubles per 3 liters,
  • Beef - 5.30 rubles in banknotes for 16.4 kg,
  • Eggs - 1 silver ruble for 100 eggs.

You can compare this with today's prices to give a rough estimate of the value of the silver ruble of that time.

Fred asks: In April 1968, 4230 rubles were worth how many US dollars?
Expert's answer:
The official exchange rate at that time was 0.9 Soviet ruble to 1 US dollar. However, this had no practical significance for the citizens of the USSR, since it was forbidden to buy foreign currency under the threat of criminal punishment. On the black market, the exchange rate of the US dollar against the Soviet ruble was 5-10 times higher than the official one. So for the amount of 4,230 rubles you could buy about 500-900 US dollars.
Bepa asks: I found a deposit slip from 1909 for the sum of 5000 rubles. What would be the equivalent of that amount in 2021 rubles and USD? I would like to have an idea if that was a lot of money or just average. Thank you.
Expert's answer:
Here are some examples of prices for various goods in the Russian Empire in 1909: coffee (1 kg) - 2 rubles, cheese - 1-2 rubles, meat - 0.8 rubles, boots - 5 rubles, a cow - 50-60 rubles, a riding horse - 70-150 rubles, a piano - 100-200 rubles, a Ford car - 2,000 rubles. The average salary was about 33-45 rubles per month. So the sum of 5,000 rubles was quite large.

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