Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Russian Empire

The Russian Empire was founded in 1721 by Czar Peter I, also known as Peter the Great.  It lasted until 1917, almost two hundred years, and stretched from Central/Eastern Europe to Siberia, Central Asia and even Alaska.  It was the third largest empire in history, only behind the the Mongol Empire and British Empire.

Peter the Great, a member of the Romanov dynasty, wanted to transform Russia into a modern European state.  Here's a ten minute video I found on YouTube on Peter the Great and the Russian Empire with a bit of background on Russia prior to the Russian Empire.

©History Matters

Following Peter the Great's death, there came a number of Romanov czars and czarinas but the next great ruler wasn't until 1762, with Catherine II, known as Catherine the Great became empress.  

Following defeats of the the Ottoman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in a number of wars, the Russian Empire's borders expanded into Crimea, Belarus, Central Ukraine, and Lithuania.  Catherine the Great ensured the empire's status as one of the great European powers.

Catherine the Great ruled from 1762 to 1796.  Here's a short video about her.


Alexander II was czar from 1855 to 1881.  Almost half of the people living in the empire were serfs, peasant labourers tied to particular parcels of land they worked or to the Russian nobleman who owned it.  In 1861 he emancipated all 23 million serfs.  The newly freed serfs received 2/3rds of the land they had worked but in return had to pay annual compensation to the state.  
In 1867, he sold Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the United States for $7.2 million.

Nicholas II took the throne in 1894 and was the last Romanov czar.  In 1917 the Russian Revolution took place which overthrew the czarist government and the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin took control in the October Revolution. 
During the 19th century, the empire was multilingual and multireligious with only about half of the population native Russian speakers and Russian Orthodox.  Russia had fought on the side of the allies in WWI.  In 1918 they exited WWI and gave up Finland, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine.  Later that same year, Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks and the Russian civil war broke out.  

Here's a short video about why Nicholas II wasn't able to flee Russia after his abdication and his eventual execution.

©History Matters

The civil war ended in 1922 and the Soviet Union was established which was one of the world's superpowers almost until the end of the twentieth century.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin has lamented that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century".  Putin has compared the invasion of Ukraine to the conquests of Peter the Great.  I think that it is safe to say that things have not gone to plan.

Putin expected to take over Ukraine in a few days.  He got that one way wrong.  But this also has an impact on his goal of either creating a new Russian Empire or just returning to the days of the Soviet Union as more former Soviet republics distance themselves from Russia.
  • Russia has lost tens of thousands of troops in Ukraine.  The blow to the prestige of the Russian military can not be underestimated.
  • Russia has been a peacekeeper between Armenia and Azerbaijan by maintaining a large military presence in Armenia.  Due to the war in Ukraine, Russia isn't able to maintain the peace and Armenia is reconsidering its relations with Russia.
  • Since the invasion, Kazakhstan is strengthening its ties with China, Turkey, the EU and the USA.  The country is also questioning its membership in the CSTO.
Я за Україну. Я за Україною. Слава Україні  Stojím za Ukrajinou!  I stand with Ukraine. 🇺🇦

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