History of Russia

St.Petersburg is amazing city and it is worth learning about the colourful history of Russia before traveling to St.Petersburg. In the early 9th century Russia was inhabited by Slavic tribes. In 1088 Prince Vladimir converted to Greek Orthodox Christianity and his people followed his example. In the mid 13th century the Mongols stormed into Eastern Europe. In 1237 Khan Batu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, invaded Russia. In 1240 they destroyed Kiev. In 1242 Batu established himself as ruler of a large part of eastern Europe, including Russia. Although the Tartars at first destroyed towns and villages and massacred the inhabitants they afterwards let the Russian principalities rule themselves, although they were forced to pay tribute to the Tartars and to supply soldiers for their army.
Moreover the Tartars did not invade the Principality of Novgorod; instead Alexander Nevsky voluntarily submitted to them. In 1240 he defeated the Swedes on the Neva and in 1242 he crushed the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of the Ice. He wisely decided to submit to the Tartars.
Over the following centuries Moscow or Muscovy became more and more important. In 1326 the Metropolitan moved to Moscow. In 1382 the Tartars captured Moscow and burned it.
In 1438-39 the Greek Orthodox Church temporarily united with the Catholic Church. The Russians were very offended. The union was rejected in Russia. So in 1449 the Russian Church split from the Greek Orthodox Church.
Tartar dominance in Russia was finally extinguished in 1480. A Tartar army marched into Russia to demand tribute that had not been paid for four years. However they hesitated when their Polish allies did not turn up. Eventually the Tartars withdrew and gave up all claim to tribute.
The territory of Russia was greatly increased by Ivan III (1462-1505). In 1471-78 he gradually conquered Novgorod and eventually became ruler of most of the Russian people. The last independent parts of Russia were taken by his son Vasili III.
In the 16th century Russia established greater contacts with Western Europe;  many European craftsmen came to work in Russia and in 1553 the English reached northwest Russia by sea and began trading. In 1563 the first printing press was introduced into Russia.
In 1533 Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, inherited the throne of Russia. Ivan expanded Russian territory. He defeated Kazan in 1552, in 1554-56 he conquered Astrakhan and in 1582 Ivan triumped over the Khanate of Sibir.
In 1605 Russia entered a period of turmoil. There were several uprisings and order was not restored until 1613 when a man named Michael Romanov was made Tsar of Russia.
In 1645 he was succeeded by his son Alexis, known as 'Most Gentle'. During his reign the Ukrainians, who were ruled by the Poles, sought protection from Russia. In 1654 they formed a union with Russia. The Poles then went to war against Russia but they were defeated. In 1667 Russia gained all of the Ukraine east of the Dneiper and Kiev and Smolensk.
Meanwhile Russian settlers moved into Siberia. The Bering Straits were discovered in 1648 and in the late 17th century many Russians moved into the area. In 1689 the Russians made a treaty with the Chinese which fixed the border between them.
In the 17th century Russia was torn by schism. Patriarch Nikon (1652-1666) decided to 'update' books used by the Russian church by making sure they were correctly translated from the Greek originals. He hoped to remove any mistakes that had crept in over the years. He also made some changes to church rites. However some Russians refused to accept the changes. They were called Old Believers and they were mercilessly persecuted.
The great Tsar Peter embarked on his plan to modernise Russia. He built a navy and in 1696 he captured Azov from the Turks. Peter also encouraged foreign trade, and encouraged the translation of foreign books into Russian. He encouraged the building of factories. Peter also introduced the Julian calendar and reformed Russian government and administration.
When the patriarch died in 1700 Peter refused to replace him. Instead he formed a body called a Holy Synod to head the Russian Orthodox Church. The church was made subordinate to the Tsar and was meant to serve him.
Peter also founded a port in northwest Russia called St Petersburg. The new city was built in the years 1703-1712.
In 1700 Peter went to war with Sweden in what became known as The Great Northern War. In 1700 the Russians were defeated at Narva. However in 1709 the Swedes invaded Ukraine and were crushed at the Battle of Poltava. In 1721 the Russians and Swedes made peace. Russia gained Estonia and land around the Gulf of Finland.
Peter was less successful against the Turks. In 1710 he went to war with them but in 1711 his army was defeated and he was forced to make peace. Russia was forced to return Azov. Peter did prevail in a war against Persia in 1722-23.
Under Peter I (ruled 1682-1725), hegemony was extended to the Baltic Sea and the country was renamed the Russian Empire. During the 19th century, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia. Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 contributed to the Revolution of 1905, which resulted in the formation of a parliament and other reforms. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The Communists under Vladimir Lenin seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Josif Stalin (1928-53) strengthened Communist rule and Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize Communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into Russia and 14 other independent republics.


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