The Russian Century: A Hundred Years of Russian Lives

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By his bigoted anti-Catholicism Ivan brought down the curtain between Russia and the west.

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For the sake of territorial aggrandizement he deprived his country of the fruits of Western learning and civilization. The development of the Tsar's autocratic powers reached a peak during the reign of Ivan IV — , known as "Ivan the Terrible". Although his long Livonian War for control of the Baltic coast and access to the sea trade ultimately proved a costly failure, [59] Ivan managed to annex the Khanates of Kazan , Astrakhan , and Siberia.

Through these conquests, Russia acquired a significant Muslim Tatar population and emerged as a multiethnic and multiconfessional state. Also around this period, the mercantile Stroganov family established a firm foothold in the Urals and recruited Russian Cossacks to colonise Siberia. In the later part of his reign, Ivan divided his realm in two.

In the zone known as the oprichnina , Ivan's followers carried out a series of bloody purges of the feudal aristocracy whom he suspected of treachery after the betrayal of prince Kurbsky , culminating in the Massacre of Novgorod in This combined with the military losses, epidemics, and poor harvests so weakened Russia that the Crimean Tatars were able to sack central Russian regions and burn down Moscow in At the end of Ivan IV's reign the Polish—Lithuanian and Swedish armies carried out a powerful intervention in Russia, devastating its northern and northwest regions.

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 " — The country rocked by internal chaos also attracted several waves of interventions by the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth. Moscow revolted but riots there were brutally suppressed and the city was set on fire.

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The crisis provoked a patriotic national uprising against the invasion , both in and The Russian statehood survived the "Time of Troubles" and the rule of weak or corrupt Tsars because of the strength of the government's central bureaucracy. Government functionaries continued to serve, regardless of the ruler's legitimacy or the faction controlling the throne. In February , with the chaos ended and the Poles expelled from Moscow, a national assembly , composed of representatives from fifty cities and even some peasants, elected Michael Romanov , the young son of Patriarch Filaret , to the throne.

The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia until The immediate task of the new dynasty was to restore peace.

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Fortunately for Moscow, its major enemies, the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth and Sweden , were engaged in a bitter conflict with each other, which provided Russia the opportunity to make peace with Sweden in and to sign a truce with the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth in Recovery of lost territories began in the midth century, when the Khmelnitsky Uprising —57 in Ukraine against Polish rule brought about the Treaty of Pereyaslav , concluded between Russia and the Ukrainian Cossacks.

According to the treaty, Russia granted protection to the Cossacks state in Left-bank Ukraine , formerly under Polish control. Rather than risk their estates in more civil war, the boyars cooperated with the first Romanovs, enabling them to finish the work of bureaucratic centralization. Thus, the state required service from both the old and the new nobility, primarily in the military. In return, the tsars allowed the boyars to complete the process of enserfing the peasants.


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In the preceding century, the state had gradually curtailed peasants' rights to move from one landlord to another. With the state now fully sanctioning serfdom , runaway peasants became state fugitives, and the power of the landlords over the peasants "attached" to their land had become almost complete.

Together the state and the nobles placed an overwhelming burden of taxation on the peasants, whose rate was times greater in the midth century than it had been a century earlier. In addition, middle-class urban tradesmen and craftsmen were assessed taxes, and, like the serfs, they were forbidden to change residence. All segments of the population were subject to military levy and to special taxes. Riots amongst peasants and citizens of Moscow at this time were endemic, and included the Salt Riot , [77] Copper Riot , [77] and the Moscow Uprising As the free settlers of South Russia, the Cossacks , reacted against the growing centralization of the state, serfs escaped from their landlords and joined the rebels.

The Cossack leader Stenka Razin led his followers up the Volga River, inciting peasant uprisings and replacing local governments with Cossack rule.

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Yet, less than half a century later, the strains of military expeditions produced another revolt in Astrakhan , ultimately subdued. Much of Russia's expansion occurred in the 17th century, culminating in the first Russian colonisation of the Pacific in the midth century, the Russo-Polish War —67 that incorporated left-bank Ukraine, and the Russian conquest of Siberia. Poland was divided in the — era, with much of the land and population going to Russia.

Most of the 19th century growth came from adding territory in Asia, south of Siberia. Peter the Great — brought autocracy into Russia and played a major role in bringing his country into the European state system. The vast majority of the land was unoccupied, and travel was slow. Much of its expansion had taken place in the 17th century, culminating in the first Russian settlement of the Pacific in the midth century, the reconquest of Kiev, and the pacification of the Siberian tribes.

With a short growing season grain yields trailed behind those in the West and potato farming was not yet widespread. As a result, the great majority of the population workforce was occupied with agriculture. Russia remained isolated from the sea trade and its internal trade, communication and manufacturing were seasonally dependent.

Peter's first military efforts were directed against the Ottoman Turks.

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His aim was to establish a Russian foothold on the Black Sea by taking the town of Azov. Peter still lacked a secure northern seaport except at Archangel on the White Sea , whose harbor was frozen nine months a year. Access to the Baltic was blocked by Sweden, whose territory enclosed it on three sides. Peter's ambitions for a "window to the sea" led him in to make a secret alliance with the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth and Denmark against Sweden resulting in the Great Northern War. The war ended in when an exhausted Sweden sued for peace with Russia. Peter acquired four provinces situated south and east of the Gulf of Finland, thus securing his coveted access to the sea.

There, in , he had already founded the city that was to become Russia's new capital, Saint Petersburg , as a "window opened upon Europe" to replace Moscow, long Russia's cultural center. Russian intervention in the Commonwealth marked, with the Silent Sejm , the beginning of a year domination of that region by the Russian Empire. In celebration of his conquests, Peter assumed the title of emperor, and the Russian Tsardom officially became the Russian Empire in Peter reorganized his government based on the latest Western models, molding Russia into an absolutist state.

He replaced the old boyar Duma council of nobles with a nine-member senate, in effect a supreme council of state. The countryside was also divided into new provinces and districts. Peter told the senate that its mission was to collect tax revenues. In turn tax revenues tripled over the course of his reign.

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Administrative Collegia ministries were established in St. Petersburg, to replace the old governmental departments. In Peter promulgated his famous Table of ranks. As part of the government reform, the Orthodox Church was partially incorporated into the country's administrative structure, in effect making it a tool of the state. Peter abolished the patriarchate and replaced it with a collective body, the Holy Synod , led by a lay government official.

Peter continued and intensified his predecessors' requirement of state service for all nobles. By this same time, the once powerful Persian Safavid Empire to the south was heavily declining. Taking advantage of the profitable situation, Peter launched the Russo-Persian War , known as "The Persian Expedition of Peter the Great" by Russian histographers, in order to be the first Russian emperor to establish Russian influence in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea region. After considerable success and the capture of many provinces and cities in the Caucasus and northern mainland Persia, the Safavids were forced to hand over the territories to Russia.


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However, by twelve years later, all the territories were ceded back to Persia, which was now led by the charismatic military genius Nader Shah , as part of the Treaty of Resht and Treaty of Ganja and the Russo-Persian alliance against the Ottoman Empire, [85] the common neighbouring rivalling enemy. Peter the Great died in , leaving an unsettled succession, but Russia had become a great power by the end of his reign. Peter I was succeeded by his second wife, Catherine I — , who was merely a figurehead for a powerful group of high officials, then by his minor grandson, Peter II — , then by his niece, Anna — , daughter of Tsar Ivan V.

The heir to Anna was soon deposed in a coup and Elizabeth , daughter of Peter I, ruled from to During her reign, Russia took part in the Seven Years' War. Nearly forty years were to pass before a comparably ambitious ruler appeared on the Russian throne. Catherine II , "the Great" r. Finding him incompetent, Catherine tacitly consented to his murder and in she became ruler.

She contributed to the resurgence of the Russian nobility that began after the death of Peter the Great. Catherine promulgated the Charter to the Gentry reaffirming rights and freedoms of the Russian nobility and abolishing mandatory state service. She seized control of all the church lands, drastically reduced the size of the monasteries, and put the surviving clergy on a tight budget. Catherine spent heavily to promote an expansive foreign policy.


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She extended Russian political control over the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth with actions, including the support of the Targowica Confederation. The cost of her campaigns, on top of the oppressive social system that required serfs to spend almost all of their time laboring on the land of their lords, provoked a major peasant uprising in Inspired by a Cossack named Pugachev , with the emphatic cry of "Hang all the landlords! Like the other enlightened despots of Europe, Catherine made certain of her own power and formed an alliance with the nobility.

Catherine successfully waged war against the decaying Ottoman Empire [91] and advanced Russia's southern boundary to the Black Sea.

cleanera.com/images/337/ Then, by allying with the rulers of Austria and Prussia , she incorporated the territories of the Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth, where after a century of Russian rule non-Catholic, mainly Orthodox population prevailed [92] during the Partitions of Poland , pushing the Russian frontier westward into Central Europe. In accordance to the treaty Russia had signed with the Georgians to protect them against any new invasion of their Persian suzerains and further political aspirations, Catherine waged a new war against Persia in after they had again invaded Georgia and established rule over it about a year prior , and had expelled the newly established Russian garrisons in the Caucasus.

Innovative tsars such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great brought in Western experts, scientists, philosophers, and engineers. Powerful Russians resented their privileged positions and alien ideas. The backlash was especially severe after the Napoleonic wars. It produced a powerful anti-western campaign that "led to a wholesale purge of Western specialists and their Russian followers in universities, schools, and government service.

Russia was in a continuous state of financial crisis. While revenue rose from 9 million rubles in to 40 million in , expenses grew more rapidly, reaching 49 million in The budget was allocated 46 percent to the military, 20 percent to government economic activities, 12 percent to administration, and nine percent for the Imperial Court in St. The deficit required borrowing, primarily from Amsterdam; five percent of the budget was allocated to debt payments. Paper money was issued to pay for expensive wars, thus causing inflation. For its spending, Russia obtained a large and glorious army, a very large and complex bureaucracy, and a splendid court that rivaled Paris and London.

However, the government was living far beyond its means, and 18th-century Russia remained "a poor, backward, overwhelmingly agricultural, and illiterate country. By the time of her death in , Catherine's expansionist policy had made Russia into a major European power. Alexander I continued this policy, wresting Finland from the weakened kingdom of Sweden in and Bessarabia from the Ottomans in After Russian armies liberated allied Georgia from Persian occupation in , they clashed with Persia over control and consolidation over Georgia, as well as the Iranian territories that comprise modern-day Azerbaijan and Dagestan.

They also became involved in the Caucasian War against the Caucasian Imamate. In , the war with Persia concluded with a Russian victory, forcing Qajar Iran to cede swaths of its territories in the Caucasus to Russia, [95] which drastically increased its territory in the region. To the south-west, Russia attempted to expand at the expense of the Ottoman Empire , using Georgia at its base for the Caucasus and Anatolian front.

In European policy, Alexander I switched Russia back and forth four times in — from neutral peacemaker to anti-Napoleon to an ally of Napoleon, winding up in as Napoleon's enemy. In , he joined Britain in the War of the Third Coalition against Napoleon, but after the massive defeat at the Battle of Austerlitz he switched and formed an alliance with Napoleon by the Treaty of Tilsit and joined Napoleon's Continental System.

He fought a small-scale naval war against Britain, — He and Napoleon could never agree, especially about Poland, and the alliance collapsed by Furthermore, Russia's economy had been hurt by Napoleon's Continental System, which cut off trade with Britain. The invasion of Russia was a catastrophe for Napoleon and his , invasion troops. One major battle was fought at Borodino ; casualties were very high but it was indecisive and Napoleon was unable to engage and defeat the Russian armies.

He attempted to force the Tsar to terms by capturing Moscow at the onset of winter, even though the French Army had already lost most of its men. The expectation proved futile.