** Russian history

Russian History

Figure 1.--No one theme so dominates Russian history as invasions from the east, south, and west. A Russian reader sent us this mural from the Moscow State History Museum. The mural depicts one of the many invading armies. Maurauding invaders are attacking the Kremlin which at the time was a fortress. In the battle a woman and her two children have been captured. The soldiers are separating her from her children. One soldier has her baby. The other child is still holding on to her. We are not yet sure who the artist was and who the invaders depicted here were. Perhaps our Russian readers will know.

The pagent of Russian history is a fascinating story. Few countries have had a more exciting a sweeping historial epic. On first glance the history of Russia and America could not be more different. The history of Russia is dominated by dictatorial, often ruthless leaders (Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great. Lennin, and Stalin). America's great historical figures are those who promoted democracy and human rights (Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Linclon, and Roosevelt). Russia has been dominated by the Orthodox Church and Communist Pary. Americans have been able to chose from a multiplicity of religions and participate in a free political system. Yet in another regard the American and Russian historical experience was similar. Both Russia and America were located on the perifery of Europe. Unlike countries like Germany and France who were surrounded with competing states. Russia in the 17th-18th century was relatively free to expand east, acquiring Siberia with its vast resources. America after its Revolutionary War (18th century) was relatively free to expand west. As a result, both countries by the 19th century were vast continental powers with large populations and an abundance of resources. The historian has to ask the question as to why the two countries have developed so differently in the 20th century. The primary difference is that American democracy unleashed the inherent capabilities and talants of its people. Tsarist/Communist controls and constraints limited the ability of the Russian people to develop the full talents of the human mind.


Geography has played a major role in Russian history. One is the importance of geography on history. The Russian hearland is located on the great European plain. It is thus exposed to invasion from both the west and east and the history of Russia is the story of one invasion adter another. The Mongols who ravaged Europe in the 13th century first conquered the Slavic east and had the most lasting influence there. The horific NAZI invasion of World War II is only the latest of these invasions. It is tus understandable that the search for security would be a strong element of modern Russia.

Ancient Russia

The wide steppes of southern Russia including the Ukraine were populated by a number of different peoples. Most of these steppe civilizations were composed of disunited tribes with cultural similarities. The theorized Proto-Indo-Europeans inhabited the Steppe. More is known about the Scythians. Little was known about these peoples, but important archeological finnds in the 20th century have resulted in important discoveries. Particularly important finds were made at: Ipatovo, Sintashta, Arkaim, and Pazyryk. Still very little is known about these peoples. More begins to be known about the steppe peoples when Greek merchants began to introduce classical civilization through trade. The Greeks helped set up markets in Tanais and Phanagoria which evolved into colonies (8th century BC). The Greek colonies evolved into the Bosporan Kingdom. That kingdom was evenually overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions from the East. Here a major factor was China. During eras when China was militarily powerful, the barbarian nomadic tribes were deflected west, putting pressure on the steppe peoples. This was the case of the war like tribes like the Huns and Turkic peoples like the Avars.


The Khazars, another Turkic people, controlled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas . The Khazars were noted for their legal system, tolerance, and cosmopolitanism. They controlled the riverine trade routes between the Baltic and Islamic Abbasid Caliphate empire centered in Baghdad. The Khazars allied with the Byzantine Empire. They waged a series of successful wars against the Caliphates. The Turkic peoples were primitive animists and as they came in contact with the more civililized peoples their religion was in a state of flux. The Khazars adopted Judaism (8th century AD).

Eastern Slavs

The ancestors of modern Russians, Ukranians, and Poles were the Slavic tribes. Little is known about the origins of the Slavs. Some scholars first identify the Slavs as a people living in the forrests of the Pripet Marshes. The Eastern Slavs moved west, settling land that was vacated by the Germanic tribes as they moved west. Both the Slavs and Germans were at times pushed west by the war like peoples of the eastern steppe. These peoples during periods of Chinese weakness focused more on China. This allowed the Slavs to move east. This appeared to have occurred in two great waves. One wave of migrating Slavs moved from Kiev toward modern-Suzdal and Murom. Another wave of Slaviv migration moved from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov. The Eastern Slavs thus over time settled much of European Russia. The Slavs were the dominant ethnic group in western Russia (7th century). The Slavs gradually through a largely peaceful process assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes (the Merya, the Muromians, and the Meshchera) which had populted large areas of what is now northern Russia.

Conversion of the Kevian Rus

Church Tradition reports that Christianity was introdyced in the area of Eastern Europe (modern Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine) by Saint Andrew). It is difficult to know the facts as opposed to the legend. Christianity for some time was limited to theNorth Pontic Greek colonies, both in Crimea and on the modern Ukrainian shores of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea as does not seem to ave penetrated inland. Brother saints Cyril and Methodius were important missionaries to the Slavic peoples of the Balkans (Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia). They had a major impact on the cultural development of the Slavs and became known as the 'Apostles to the Slavs'. The Glagolitic alphabet is attributed to them. It was the first alphabet used to transcribe Old Church Slavonic. Theirstudents devised the Cyrillic script during the First Bulgarian Empire amd it is now used in many Slavic countries, including Bulgaria and Russia. Their followers continued missionary work among other Slavs. Both Cyril and Methodiuss are today venerated in the Ukrainian Catholic and Byzantine Catholic Churches as well as the Orthodox Church as saints with the title of 'equal-to-apostles'. The Rus as late as the 10th century, however, were still sa pagan people. [Primary Chronicle] The conversion of the Kievan Rus took place in different stages. The Kievian Rus began to become Christianized (860-67). The precises details are largely unknown, in part because the ecclesistical history of Byzantium during the early 9th century is largely unknown. [Ericsson] Problems in the historiography exist inpart because of infighting with the Byzantune leadership. [Poppe] As well as can be constructed, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople began the process. He announced to the other Christian patriarchs at the time that that the Rus had been baptized by his bishop and they accepted Christianity with notable fervor. Moreaccurately the process had begun. Photius's efforts at Christianizing the Rus appears to bave been accepted with no real cnsequences. The major even was the baptiam of Vladimir the Great in Chersonesus and proceeded to baptize his family and people in Kiev (about 988). In Russian historiography this is reffered to as the baptism of the Rus' (Крещение Руси).

Medieval Era

Russia in the early Medieval era did not exist in any collective sence. There were a number of scattered cities along the major rivers with trade, but not political relationships. The history of Russia begins in the 9th century AD as part of the outburst of the Norsemen from Scandanavia that so affected England and Western Europe. Norsemen also moved east. The Varangians from modern Sweden crossed the Baltic Sea and landed in Eastern Europe. The Varangians leader was the warrior Rurik. He was an actual historical figure, although most of what we know about him comes from legend. He led a band of Varangians to Novgorod on the Volkhov River (862). He became the ruler of the city, although we are not sure he actually conquered the city. Rurik's descendents became known as the Rus. Rurik's successor Oleg using Novgorod as a base, extended his influence south along rivers which were the principal trade routes at the time. Oleg seized control of Kiev, the most important city on the Dineper (882). This provided the beginning of a unified state based on dynastic rule. Kiev was of special importance. Its strategic location along the Dnipper surounded by rich farm land was a key trading center located between between Scandinavia in the north and Byzantium in the south. Dominated by tge Rus, Kiev was an important trading empire which dominated much of European Russia and the Urkraine for three centuries. Vladimir I ruled a Kiev which dominated a vast area extending south to the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains, controlling the Dnipper and much of the Volga (989). Vladamir decided that an established religion was necessary for the Kievian state. He reportedly assessed several possibilities before deciding on Greek Orthodoxy. It is likely that trade and diplomacy rather than religiius zeal explained his choice. The choice of Orthodoxy allied him with the rich Byzantine trading center of Constaniople, at the time the richest city in the world and crucial to the Kievian economy. Vladmir apparently rejected Islam, apparently because he did not want to give up alcoholic beverages and was not sure he could bring hius people to do so. Vladimir's successor Yaroslav the Wise codified laws and promoted the arts. He decided, however, to divide his kingdom among his sons upon his death (1054). Once powerful Kiev son was split with interacine warfare. Gradually regional power centers began to develop, including theonce small village of Moscow at the confluence of the Moskva and Neglina Rivers which begins to appear in the historical record (1147). The decline of powerful central rule also exposed the Rus to raids by war-like people from the East which in the 13th century was the Mongols.

Russian Monarchy

Russian has had two principal dynasties: the House of Rurik and the House of Romanov. Oleh during the mid-8th century became the first prince of Kiev and founded the Rurick Dynasty. Oleh employed mercenary troops to unite the Eastern Slavs for the first time. He introduced a complex system combining tribute and military democracy. Oleh also led impressive military operations against Khozzars, a nation of Jewish origin residing on Volga. Oleh led and even larger army against Byzantium and assaulted Constantinople. This was the first Western introduction to a Slavic power in the East--the Kievian Rus. After Oleh's death, his relative Ihor became the Great Prince of Kiev. Thor's greed and cruelty led to his downfall. and his management of this newborn empire infuriated some of his subjects. When. His wife, Olga, replaced him as the Great Princess. She accepted Christianity and this becan tge Christianization of the Eastern Slavs. Olga also sought to establish more cooperative relations with Byzantium. Olga's son Svyatoslav, was a superb military leader. He fought predatory nomadic tribes like Pechenigy and conquered Bulgaria. SvyatoslavHe was killed by a group of Pechenigy after his victory over Byzantium. Kiev declined as a result of a debilatating feud among his sons. This period of instability was finally ended when Vladimir the Red Sun, seized Kiev and became the fifth Great Prince. He baptised the Rus' into Christianity (988) and repulsed a Byzantine army. His son, Yaroslav the Wise, enacted the first legal code which came to be known made up the first set of laws, came to be known as Rus's Truths. An internl power stuggle and an invasion by the Cumans followed. Few European families have dominated their country's history for such an extensive period as the Ronanovs. The Romanov dynasty was founded by Michael Romanov (1613-45). The first great Romanov Tsar was Michael's grandson who we know of today as Peter I or Peter the Great (1696-1725).

Time of Troubles (1598-1613)

The death of Fedor left Russia without any legitimate heirs to the crown (1598). The result was what has become known as "The Time of Rouvles" which brought Russia to its knees. Several powerful princes and boyars attempted to seize the crown. The resulting wars devestated the countryside bringing famine to Russia. Ivan IV's reign had weakened Russian institutions. Many weak rulers after Feodor's death attempted to govern, but with little succcess. The best known is Boris Godunov, a boyar who had gained power during Feodor's reign. He had, however, no blood connection to the ruling family. Godunov was elected tsar by a zemskii sobor. His reign proved short (1598-1605). His reign was beset with both Church and boyar opposition--a powerful combination in Russia. Serfs fleed the great estates and the Cossacks in the south rebelled. After Boris Godunov died, a pretender to the crown claiming to be Dmitrii (a younger son of Ivan IV who died mysteriously), seized control of the crown. He was soon murdered by dissatisfied boyars. Prince Vasilii Shuiskii reigned from 1606-10 as Vasilii IV, but he was unable to prevent either domestic strife or foreign invasion. Moscow was threatened by a Cossack rebellion. There was another rebellion by a second fale Dmitrii. This was followed by 2 years of debilitating civil war. The Poles occupied Moscow (1610). They occupied the city for 2 years. Two Russian fighters become prominent--Minin and Prince Pozharsky. They led an army that retook the Kremlin in (1612). It is after this that the boyars conclude that they had to put asided constant infighting and support a new tsar. The election of Michael Romanov ended the Time of Triubles and founded the Romanov Dynasty.


Great Northern War (1700-21)

The Great Northern War was the first war of the 18th century. It extended over two decades and was fought in different phases as battlefields and beligerants shifted. The phases of the War cnsisted of 1700-06, 1707-09, 1709-14, 1714-18, and 1718-21. The origins of the War began in the 1890s. At the time Sweden was the dominant power in northeastern Europe. A coaltion (Russia, Denmark, and Saxony-Poland) gradually formed to resist Sweden (1697-99). When Charles XII assumed the throne at only age 15, it seemed an opportunity to deal with Sweden which controlled a broad area of northeastern Europe. Charles V of Denmark had designs on Scania and other territories on northern coast of the Baltic that was once Danish territory. Denmark also wanted to seize the Duchy of Holstein-Gottorp which Sweden now controlled. Agustus II of Saxony-Poland wanted Livonia on the Baltic. Augustus was known as Augustus the Strong. He was the Elector Frederick Augustus of Saxony within the Holy Roman Empire. He was elected king of Poland (1697). Possession of Livonia would enable Augustus to significant reduce Swedish commercial influence in the Baltic. Augustus saw the potential of comvining Saxony's productive know how with Polish rawmaterials, but Sweden commercial power impaired Augustus' plans. Russia's dynamic young Tsar had more limited goals. He primarily wanted an outlet on the Baltic. And Sweden possession of Karelia, Ingria and Estonia blocked Peter's westward advancement. The War began in Livonia where by J R von Patkul and other anti-Swedish noblemen.

Polish Partition (1772-95)

Poland at one time was a majoe Euorpean power. The sucess of the noobility in emasculting the monarchy caused a disatrous decline in Polish fortunes. And ultimately the neigboring powers (Russia, Prussia, and Austria) partitioned and annexed all of the former Polish kingdom (1772-95). This Poland disappeared grom the maps of Europe until being revived after World War I. Russia acquired the largest share of Poland, including all of eastern and central Poland as well as Warsw. Prussia acquired western Poland, much of which was renamed West Prussia (formerly Royal Prussia) and Posen. This was Wielkopolska or Greater Poland. Austria acquired southern Poland, including Krak�w and Lw�w and renamed "Galicia". During and after the Napoleonic Wars, Poland briefly reemerged as the small Duchy of Warsaw under Napoleon and the Kingdom of Poland within the Tsarist Empire.

America and Russia

Another important observation in the similarities between Russia and America in the modern era. It is no accident that the two superpowers energing in the Western world were located on the perifery of Europe. Countries in the center of Europe had to fight states of relatively equal power which limited their ability to expand. Russia in the East and America in the West could expand east and west with relatively limited opposition, enabling them to create expansive states. The American westward expansion in some ways is similar to Russia's eastward expansion beyond the Urals into Siberia and occurred at about the samne time. The results were, however, very different. And America and Russia because of geography found themselves in very different situations. Russia was locked in an embrace with Europe. At times this has meant that Russian armies moved west into Europe. At other times European armies (Poles/Lithuamian, Swedish, French, and German moved west nto Russia). America since the 19th century has lived in relative isolation, protected by the Atlantic Ocean.

Napoleonic Wars ( 1799-1815)

The Napoleonic Wars followed the wars associated with the French Revolution. The Napoleoic Wars extended over 20 years and included a number of distinct campaigns. The First Coalition Wars (1792-97) including the Italian campaign can be associated with the French Revolution. The important campaign of the Napoleonic Wars are Egypt (1798-1801), Second Coalition (1798-1801), Third Coalition (1805), Fourth Coalition (1806-07), Fifth Coalition (1809), the Peninsular War, (1808-14), Invasion of Russia (1812), Germany (1813), Invasion of France (1814), and the 100 days campaign (1815). British actions against American shipping resulted in a war with the fledgling United States, referred to as the War of 1812 in America. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars did more to foster nationalist sentiment than any other events during the late 18th century and early 19th century. Fashions were largely pan-European before the Napoleonic Wars. After Waterloo (1815) and the Congress of Vienna (1814-15), individual nation satates coalessed and developed theie own values and fashions. One factor was the increasing nationalization of European monarchies. Before the Napoleonic Wars, there were many royal families which ruled provinces that that spoke different languages and had culturres different than the monarch. Even a large country like England had a series of Dutch and German kings. After the Naopoleonic Wars, nation states began to colaese, Finally Germany and Italy emerged. The monarchs in 19th centurty Europe (although not necesarily therir wives) were identified with the national culturel The English monarch (Victoria), the Czar, the Kaiser, the Italian king. the French kings and emperors were the embodiment of the national image--it would be unimaginable that such monarchs woulod be foreign. At the same time, destinctive national fashionsd became increasingly important. No longer would Europeans accept pan-European fashions like the skeleton suit. The impact on Germany and Central Europe after wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars need to be examined as much focus is usually on England and France.

Revolutions of 1848

Revolution swept Europe in 1848. The Revolutions of 1848 were a series of revolts caused by a heady mixture of rising nationalism mixed with the economic change resulting from the Industrial Revolution and political and social represson. The rising middle class created by the Industrial Revolution were demanding liberal reforms. An economic recession further heigtenened tensions. The major participants in the revolutions were the Czechs, Croats, Danes, French, Germans (including the Austrians), Hungarians, Italians, Poles, Slovaks, and the Romanians. Many of these nationalities did not yet have a country. The French monarchy fell. The Austrian monarch was forced to make concessions as did the Prussians. Other German monarchies introduced liberal reforms. In Britain he Chartists failed. Why did Britain prove less succetable to Revolution? Some have argued the Victorian penchant for constructive self criticism. [Wilson] The Revolutions of 1848 did overturn some regimes, although most were soon restored. Onlt the French monarchy was permanretly overturned. The revolutions did demonstrate that that popular unrest could overthrow monarchial government.

Crimean War (1854-56)

The Crimean War was a belicose interlude in a uncharacteristically long period of peace under which Europe flourished and prospered. The war is one of the least studies of the wars between the main European powers. Russian efforts to expand south brought it into conflict with the two great European powers, England and France. Notable is the fact that Prussia abstained from involvement. This was due to Bismark's efforts to separate the Russians and French which was later to lead to German unificatuion. This policy was later was abandoned by Wilhelm II, leading to dissaster in World War I. The Crimean War proved to be the first step in changing Prussia (soon to be Germany) from an English ally to an enemy. The Crimea was the only time the British and Russian's fought--although there was tension growing out of the Great Game in Afganistan and northern India. There was great suffering on both sides. In Russia, war with the European powers brought great strains. Taxes were needed to finance the War. The huge casualties required forced levies. Both mean increased hardship for the already exploited Russian serfs. There were serf uprisings everywhere. Intelectual ferment is oftn stimulated by war and social upheaval. Fashion and art are often affected. It is at this time that Russian blouse styles begin to appear in Europe. Many styles such as balaklava (ski mask), cardigan sweaters, and raglan sweaters coats later appeared. Russia was also affected. The conditions of Russian serfs worsened from their already exploited condition. The aftermath of war and rebelion appears to have enlived the previously rather static artistic life of Russia. It is in this period that the new school of critical realism is founded. The founder of critical realism is Vasily Perov.

Emancipation of the Serfs (1861)

Tzar Nicholas I refused to act on the issue of serfdom. Alexander II , by contrast was amenable to reform. Alexander's advisers argued that Russia's feudal serf-based economy could not compete with modern industrialized nations such as Britain, France, and Prussia. The Tzar began to consider the end of serfdom in Russia. The Russian nobility feeling their livelihood jeopardized, objected strenuously. Alexander responded, saying "It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below." Alexander in 1861, issued his Emancipation Manifesto. There were 17 legislative acts designed to free the serfs in Russia. Personal serfdom would be abolished and all peasants would be able to buy land. The State would advance the the money to the landlords and would recover it from the peasants in 49 annual sums known as redemption payments. This was necessary because the Crimean War had bankrupted the national treasury while confiscating land from the nobility would have been untenable politically. The action earned him the title of "The Liberator". Emancipation didn't in fact bring immediate changes in the condition of the peasants, in large part because they were not educated and the land process poorly administered by the reluctant nobility. Emancipation disappointed many peasants. Often in took years to get title to the land. Others were cheated by exorbitant land prices. One historian claims that the ukase emancipating the serfs was motivated by "cowardice and by caprice" and for those reasons was not effective. [Ludwig, p.167.]

The Great Game (1813-1907)

The Great Game was was the strategic rivalry between the British and Tsarist Russian Empires for aimed at entending their infuence into Central Asia. Historians commonly date the rivalry from the Russo-Persian Treaty (1813) to the Anglo-Russian Convention (1907). The British interest derived from the importance of the Raj in India--the most important element of the British Empire. It was in Afghanistant that Russia influence from Central Asia met and competed with British inteests from the Indian sub-continent. The Great Game was one of the reasons that Britain negotiated a Naval Treaty with Japan and help develop the Japanese Navy in the late 19th century. THe Great Game essentially ended when British and Russian concerns over the rising power of Imperial Germany overcame their rivalry in Central Asia. Ironically it came at a time in which the discovery of oil in Persia (modern Iran) upped the stakes of the rivalry. After the Russian Revolution (1917) a repeat of the 19th century Great Game occurred in which the Bolsgeviks restored Russian control of Central Asia. The pgrase "The Great Game" is commonly attributed to Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British East India Company's Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry. It became an element of common knowledge as a result of Rudyard Kipling's colorful novel, Kim, set in Afghanistan and India (1901).

Russo-Turkish War (1877-78)

Russian and the Ottomans fought a series of Balkan Wars. In each the Russians gained ground. The Ottoman Empire would have collpased early in the 19th century, had the major European powers not differed on how to carve it up. Concerned about the Russian succeeses, Britain and France intervened in the Crimean War to support Turkey. The last Russo-Turkish War occurred in 1877-78. It was also the most important one. Tsarist Russia in 1877 came to the aid of its fellow Christian Orthodox ally Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria in local rebellions against Ottoman rule. The Russians attacked diretly through Bulgaria toward Turkey and gained considerable success. After completing the Siege of Pleven, the Russians advance into Thrace, taking Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey) in January 1878. The Ottomans conceded and in March 1878 agree to the Treaty of San Stefano with Russia. This treaty liberated Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro from Ottoman rule. It granted autonomy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and created a Bulgaria (much larger than modern Bulgaria) under Russian protection. The great powers, especially Britain and Austria-Hungary, were concerned with the massive Russian gains confirmed by the treaty. Here the British were coflicted. Public opinion had been aroused against Ottoman attricities against Christians in the Balkans, yet Queen Victorian was stongly anti-Russian and many officials were concerned about the Russians mocing south toward Suez. The great powers this compelled Russia to accept more limited gains under the Treaty of Berlin (July 1878). Russia's gains from the war were sharply reduced.

Russification Effort

Russo-Japanrse War (1904-05)

The Russo-Japanese War developed out of the competing designs of the Japanese and Russian Empires over Manchuria and Korea. Resource-poor Japan coveted the resources of Manchuria where local war lords limited the authority of the Chinese government. Russia's control over Siberia was tenous. Only the Trans-Siberia Railway connected the two. Resistance to Tsarist absolutism was growing in Russia. Minister of the Interior, V.K. Plehve, commented "In order to hold back the revolution, we need a small victorious war" (early 1904). Russia did sot see Japan as major threat and refused to negotiate spheres of influence which woyld allow both countries to persue their interests. Japan launched a suorise attack--never bothering to declare war. The Japanese Navu bottled up the Russian Pacific squadron at Port Arthur and then seized it by a land attack (1904). A Russian Army was defeated at Mukden. The Russians massed their Atlantic squadorn and made made an epic voyage to engage the Japanese Imperial fleet. The Japanese destroyed the Russian squadron at Tsushima (1905). Most Europeans were surprised that the Japanese had the capability to defeat a European naval force. American President Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth ending the war. The War was a major factor in bringing about the Russian Revolution of 1905. It also marked the emergence of Japan as Asian powerhouse.

Revolution of 1905

The War with Japan was a major factor in bringing about the Russian Revolution of 1905. The War had a range of consequences. One was inflation whih led to increases in the price of food and other goods (1904). Poorly paid Russian workers were barely able to afford essebtials before inflation drove up prices. Inflation rose so rapidly that workers found their wages could no longer pay for the food need by their families. Workers led by the new Assembly of Russian Workers (SRW) demanded wage increases. Management at the Putilov Iron Works fired four ARW members. ARW leader Father Gapon began to organize industrial action. It was the first effective industrial strike in Russia. Over 110,000 workers in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) went out on strike. Father Gapon deciding it was pointless to work with management which refused to deal with him, made a personal appeal to Tsar Nicholas. He compsed a petition describing the workers' sufferings and listing their demands. Father Gapon called for a reduction in the working day to eight hours which was becoming standard in Europe. Gapon also wanted an increase in wages, improved working conditions, and an end to the War with Japan. The petition was carried by a peaceful procession of workers to the Winter Palace. There the workers were attacked by the police and the mounted Cossacks. The result was more than 100 workers killed and about 300 wounded. This became known as Bloody Sunday in Russian history. The violent response of the Tsarist establshment launched the Revolution of 1905. Workers in other industrial cities went out on strike. The Revolution was not limited to workers. University students also went out on strike to support the workers. The universities had to close down. Students complined of the lack of civil liberties. There was considerable sympathy for the workers among the middle class, including lawyers, doctors, engineers, and other middle-class workers. Middle class organizers established the Union of Unions and demanded that the Tsar establish a constituent assembly. The support of the middke class was an ominous development for the Tsar. Even more important was the beginning of a crack in the military which kept the Tsar in power, Discipline in the military was strict and conditioins for the ordinary soldier and sailor were harsh. Sailors on the Potemkin battleship at Petrograd protested about the serving of rotten meat (June 1905). The captain ordered men he identified as the ringleaders to be sumarily shot. The firing-squad , however, refused to carry out the order. The crew then threw the captain and his officers overboard. The Potemkin Mutiny began to spread to ther navy and army units. The industria strike continued to spread. The crucial railwaymen went on strike (October 1905). This brought the Russian industrial economy to a stop. Leon Trotsky and other Mensheviks (Socialists) established the Petrograd Soviet which would play a major role in Russian history. This set arecedent and more than 50 of these soviets were organized in the major cities throughout Russia. The Revolution shook the Tsarist Empire to the core. Tsar Nicholas had been forced to grant a constitution. This created a duma or parliament. The Tsar was back in control (1907). The Tsarist state was irevocably weakened.

World War I (1914-18)

Imperial Russia used pan-Slavism much as the Soviets used Communism. Thus when the Austro-Hungarians sought to punish Serbia, Russia came to its defence. This involved Germany becaise the Austrians had treaty ties to the Germans. Russia had the largest army in the world and with its huge population had the capability to mobilze an immense force. The Russian army, however, was not as well trained or equipped as the Germans. And mobilization would take condiserble time. Bismarck had maintained treaties with the Russians, but as a result of Kaiser Wilhelm II's disatrous diplomacy, the Russians had signed a treaty with the French placing the Germans in the position of fighting a two-front war. The Russians developed two war plans known as Plan G and Plan A (also called plan 19). The Russians saw two possible alternatives. Plan G entailed a massive German invasion. The reponse was the traditional Russian strategy of sacrificing lborder territory and withdrawing into the vastness of Russia buying time to mobilize a huge conscript force. Thus using this force, the German army with streached supplie lines and facing the severe Winter weather could be defeated like Napoleon. The Germans of course chose the other alternative, they concentrated the bulk of their force in a massive western offensive, striking France through Belgium. Thus the other Russian war plan, PLan A (19) came into force. The initial Russian version of Plan A theorized the German attack west and called for only minor Russian actions in the East. The French pressured the Russians to adopt a more aggressive strategy. The modified version of Plan A is known as Plan 19. General Danilov conceived of Plan 19 (1910). It was further modified in 1912. It involved a Russian offensive drive into East Prussia and Silesia to prevent the Germans from focusing its forces on France. This was precisely what occurred. The Germans had to withdraw forces from the West. This enabled the French to stop the Germans at the Marne. The German forces under Hindenburg and Ludendorf to devistate the Russians at Tannenberg and then the First and Second Battles of the Masurian Lakes.

Russian Revolution (1917)

The Revolution of 1905 following the disastrous Russo-Japanese War had shaken the Tsarist Empire to the core. Tsar Nicholas had been forced to grant a constitution. This created a duma or parliament. The Tsar was back in control (1907). The Tsarist state was irevocably weakened. The shooting of striking gold miners at the Lena field in Siberia resulted in a new wave of unrest (1912). Thus Tsarist Russia was in no condition to enter a general European war (1914). The War was a disaster for Russia. The country was unprepared and the result was huge casualties. Russia suffered more casualties than any other country. Dusruptions in the economy and the advance of German forces resulted in shortages including severe shortages and bread lines in the major cities. As a result, the Tsarist Government collapsed with relatively little resistance when riots broke out in St. Persburg. Army revolts forced the Tsar to abdicate. Nicholas II abdicated on March 2, 1917, in favor of his brother Michael. No fool, Michael renounced his claim the next day. The abdication of the Tsar left the Duma in control of Russia. The Duma was dominated by liberal politicans. Defense Minister Alexander Kerensky formnmed a provisional government. The Provisional Government, however, was hampered by thev Petrograd Council (Soviet) of Soldiers and Workers's Deputies. And here radical elements including the Bolshevils had considerable influence. The Provisional Government also honored commitments to the Allies. Kerensky tried to keep Russia in the War. He gave Brusilov command of another offensive against the German Southern Army in Galicia. This time Brusilov made little progress. He drove through mutinous Austrian units, but was stopped at great cost by German units commanded by Hoffman and Hutier. The Germans after stopping the Russians, launched a major offensive. This was the stroke that shattered the Russian Army. It's collapse paved the way for the Bolsheviks to seize power. The first Communist state was of course the Soviet Union. The Revolution was a reaction to the huge losses, government incompetence, and privations of World War I (1914-18), in which the Russian people, suffered greviously. The Bolsheviks emerged victorious against a democratic Provisional Government (1917). The Russian Revolution is often described as a result of social forces that had been developing for centuries. A strong case can be made for the Revolution as a coupd'�tat that may have never occurred without the leadership of Lenin. [Pipes] The Germans allowed Lenin who was in Switzerland to cross their territory in a sealed railway car. Hecarrived in Petrograd (April 1917). His demands for "peace, land, and bread" resonated with the Russian people, especially the Petrigrad Soviet with was not faorably disposed toward the liberal duma and Kerensky Government. Lenin and his allies demanded "all power to the Soviets". As the situation in Petrograd deteriorated, General Kornilov attempted to seize power. This backfired when his troops mutinied. The Bolsheviks then moved on the Provisional Government (November 7). They arrested members if the Provisional Government theu could find and seized power in the name of the Soviets.

Civil War (1918-20)

The abdication of the Tsar and subequent Civil War led to distructive fighting between Reds and Whites (1918-22). Foreign governments intervened to assist the Whites. The Red Army fought to retain the old Rusian imperial borders, but lost Finland, the Baltics Republic and large areas of White Russia to Poland. The Bolshevicks did succeed in the Russian hearland. The old Imperial Army was shatered by the Germans. Many soldiers mutinied and killed their officers. People's Commisar for War Leon Trotsky organized a new Red Army, recruiting massive numbers of peasants and workers. The Red Army without trained officers performed poorly in the early phases of the fighting. Leon Trotsky played a msajor role in fashioning the Red Army into an effective fighting force. The Bolshevicks attached political officers to all Red Army units to keep warch over the officers (many who had been in the old Imperial Army) and explain Communism to the largely illiterate peasant recruits. The Bolshevicks were especially concerned with the younger generation, untained by the Tsarist past and capitalism. The War and the Civil War affected agricultual production. Food shortsages were widespread. Large numbers of children orphaned in the fighting were psarticuilsrly at risk. As in Europe, American food again played a role in saving millions of children.

Stalinist Era

oviet scholars in the deStalinization period argued that Stalin was an aberation. The only problenm with that was that much of the history of the Soviet state and many of its most important achievements occurred during Stalin's rule. The country was transformed during the Stalinist era. The Soviet Union changed from a backward agricultural state to a major industrial power. A great emphasis was placed on education and peasants and workers saw their sons enter universities. The major achievement was the defeat of NAZI Germany in the Great Patriotic War. The industrial advances were achieved at great cost. The Soviet people were subjected to an unbelievable reign of terror. Not only did millions disappear into the Gulag, but the camps became a country within a country where millions laboored asslaves in horrendous conditions. In addition, mush of the developent was inefficent and not vialble in a market economy. There was also great damage to the environment.

World War II (1939-45)

The war on the Eastern Front was the most gighantic conflict in the history of warfare. In large measure, the result of the campaign determined the outcome of the War. It is difficult to see how the Western Allies could have staged the D-Day invassion to liberate France if the NAZIs had succeded in destroying the Red Army on the Easern Front. The resistance of the Soviet people to the NAZIs is one of the outstanding instances of heroism and valor in human history. It is no reflection on the character of the Soviet people that Stalin became virtually an ally of Hitler and launched a series of aggressions comparable to those of the NAZIs. Opperation Barbarossa came as a complete shock to Stalin (June 22, 1941). The Wehrmacht achieved stunning successes. In the drive toward Moscow and Leningrad, the NAZIs committed the most heinous attrocities in modern times. Hitler had made it clear from the onset that the campaign would be a war of extinction. At the gates of Moscow, the Russian Winter, interference by Hitler, and the bravery of the Red Army broke the Wehrmacht. Slowly after Moscow and Stalingrad the the weight of Allied production, the resurgent Red Army, the strastegic bombig campaign, and finally a second front with D-Day doomed the Wehrmacht.

Cold War

Germany's defeat left Stalin in control of the countries of Eastern Europe. President Harry Truman when he became president in April 1945 began taking a stringer aproach to the Soviets, disturbbed by Soviet actions in Poland. Stalin proceeded to install People's Republics in these states which men Stalinist police states subservient to the Soviet Union. American and European democracies sharply criticised the Soviet actions. Winston Churchill warned in 1946 that an "iron curtain" was descending through the middle of Europe. Joseph Stalin who had virtually allied himself with Hitler in 1939 to launch World War II, blamed the War on "capitalist imperialism" and threatened Western Europe. Preident Truman decided to support Western Europ ecomomically (the Marshall Plan) and militarily (NATO). The Cold War was a period of intense East-West competition, tension, and conflict, but always short of full-scale war. The first major episode was the oviet blockade of Berlin in 1948. Berlin was during much of the ColdWar a focal point of the conflict. The Soviets brutally supressed attempts by Eastern Europeans to overthrow Soviet imposed governments: East Germany (1953), Poland (195?), Hungary (1956), and Czeselovakia (1978). There were proxy wars and competition for influence in developing countries, many of which introduced Soviet command economics. There was also an arms race between the two super powers. After Stalin died in 1953, the Cold War became more unanced. There were periods of relaxation followed by resumed confrontation. The most dangerous point of tge Cold War was the Cuban Missle Criis (1962). There were efforts to persure detante during the 1970s. Unlike the other major conflicts in world history, in the end the Cold War was not settled by force of arms, but example of the West,

Soviet Collapse (1989)

The Cold War for all practical purposes end with the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the Communist satellite governments in Eastern Europe. The process of course began in Poland. Poland was the largest of the satellite countries with a long border with East Germany. Once the Communist Government fell in Poland, the continuation of a Communist police state in East Germany became untenable. As East German crowds converged on the Wall, German Communist officials wanted to use foirce to supress them. Gorbechov made it clear, however, that the Soviet Army in Germany would not support such actions. As a result, the East Germans surged through the check points in the Wall and crowds on both sides wre soon commenced desmantling the Wall. Other Communist Governments also soon fell. Most collapsed peacefully, exccept in Romania where Nikolai Cesecasneu ordered his security forces to fire on surging crowds. He was executed a few days later after a perfunctory trial. The capstone to the end of the Cold War was the disolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

America and Russia

Russia has a very long history. The United States is a relatively new country with a very short history. As a result, Russian relations with the Unitd States are a relatively short part od the panorama of Russian history. While short it during World War II emerged as a very important aspect of Russian history and the kost important aspect of Russian foreign relations s the two countries became super powers around which many other countries orbited. The first important trnsction between the two countries was the dale of Alaska (1867). The next important event was World War I in which the countries briefly became allies. From that point, first Soviet propagabda and thn President Putin has sought to depict the United States as an evil enemy of the Soviet people along the lines of NAZI Germany. Often mentioned is small American participation in the expeditionary forces that attmoted to keep supplies sent to Russia out of the hands of the Bolsheviks. Necver mentioned is that American entry into the War meantt an Allied victory which required the Germans to abrogate the Brest-Litovsk Treaty which had strioped Russia of vast swaths of territory, including the Ukraine. Also rarely mentioned and when mintioned down playd is the number of times that the Inited States has taken actions to saave and aid the Soviet/Russian people. Unknown to the Russian people is the millions of people today who owe their lives to the largess of the American people. The numbers amount to mny millions. No other country in all of history has stepped into save even small numbers of Russian lives. And America has done this at a time that the soviet Union was actively pursuing forign oprations aimed at harming America.

Russia's Future

Russia today is a very different state than the Soviet Union. Te terrible attrcitities of the Stalinist era no longer occur. It is not, however, a Western democracy. The West's concern with Islamic Fundamentalistrs, perhaps better called Islamo-Fascists, have taken the focus off Russia. There is concern that Russia was headed toward a Fascist state. Post-Cold War Russia has many similarities with post-World War I Germany. Tghere are prevalent attitudes toward race and nationalism in Russia that are troubling. There are also prevalent attitudes that Russia has a right to cintrol political trends in neigboring countries. It is unclear at this time where President Putin is taking Russia. It seems clear now that Putin is moving Russia toward an authritarian state, just how authoritarian we are not sure. Just how auhoritative is unclear. His suppression of independent media is troubling as is his suppression of oposition political parties and an independent judiciary. Some authors contend that he sees economic integration with the West as essential. But yet he seems to believe that Russia requires a different political and social political structure than the West.


Ericsson, K. "The eraliest conversiion od Rus' to Christianity," Slavonic and East European Review Vol. 44, No. 102 (January 1, 1966).

Ludwig, Emil. Bismarck: The Story of a Fighter (Little Brown, Boston, 1927), 661p.

Poppe, Andrzej. "How the conversion of Rus' was understood in the eleventh century," Harvard Ukrainian Studies Vol. 11, No. 3/4 (December 1987), pp. 287-302.

Primary Chronicle. The Primary Chronicle traces the history of the Slavic people all the way back to the times of Noah. It was formerly referred to as the Chronicle of Nestor.


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Created: 1:59 AM 1/1/2008
Last updated: 5:56 PM 3/20/2009