Portal:Russian Empire

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Russian Empire

Lesser Coat of Arms of Russian Empire.svg

The Russian Empire (Russian: Российская Империя, tr. Rossiyskaya Imperiya) or simply Russia (Russian: Россия, tr. Rossiya) was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

The third largest empire in world history, stretching over three continents, the Russian Empire was surpassed in landmass only by the British and Mongol empires. The rise of the Russian Empire happened in association with the decline of neighboring rival powers: the Swedish Empire, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Persia and the Ottoman Empire. It played a major role in 1812–1814 in defeating Napoleon's ambitions to control Europe and expanded to the west and south.

The House of Romanov ruled the Russian Empire from 1721 until 1762, and its German-descended cadet branch, the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov, ruled from 1762. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Russian Empire extended from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea in the south, from the Baltic Sea on the west to the Pacific Ocean, into Alaska and Northern California in America on the east. With 125.6 million subjects registered by the 1897 census, it had the third-largest population in the world at the time, after Qing China and India. Like all empires, it included a large disparity in terms of economics, ethnicity, and religion. There were numerous dissident elements, who launched numerous rebellions and assassination attempts; they were closely watched by the secret police, with thousands exiled to Siberia.

Economically, the empire had a predominantly agricultural base, with low productivity on large estates worked by serfs (until they were freed in 1861). The economy slowly industrialized with the help of foreign investments in railways and factories. The land was ruled by a nobility (the boyars) from the 10th through the 17th centuries, and subsequently by an emperor. Tsar Ivan III (1462–1505) laid the groundwork for the empire that later emerged. He tripled the territory of his state, ended the dominance of the Golden Horde, renovated the Moscow Kremlin, and laid the foundations of the Russian state. Emperor Peter the Great (1682–1725) fought numerous wars and expanded an already huge empire into a major European power. He moved the capital from Moscow to the new model city of St. Petersburg, and led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval social and political mores with a modern, scientific, Europe-oriented, and rationalist system.

Empress Catherine the Great (reigned 1762–1796) presided over a golden age; she expanded the state by conquest, colonization and diplomacy, continuing Peter the Great's policy of modernization along West European lines. Emperor Alexander II (1855–1881) promoted numerous reforms, most dramatically the emancipation of all 23 million serfs in 1861. His policy in Eastern Europe involved protecting the Orthodox Christians under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. That connection by 1914 led to Russia's entry into the First World War on the side of France, the United Kingdom, and Serbia, against the German, Austrian, and Ottoman empires.

The Russian Empire functioned as an absolute monarchy until the Revolution of 1905 and then became a de jure constitutional monarchy. The empire collapsed during the February Revolution of 1917, largely as a result of massive failures in its participation in the First World War.

Selected article

The November Uprising (1830–1831)—also known as the Cadet Revolution—was an armed rebellion against the rule of the Russian Empire in Poland and Lithuania. The uprising began on November 29, 1830 in Warsaw when a group of young non-commissioned officer conspirators from the Imperial Russian Army's military academy in Warsaw directed by Piotr Wysocki revolted. They were soon joined by large parts of Polish society. Despite several local successes, the uprising was eventually crushed by a numerically superior Russian army under Ivan Paskevich. After the Partitions of Poland, Poland ceased to exist as an independent political entity. However, the Napoleonic Wars and Polish participation in the wars against Russia and Austria resulted in the creation of a rump Duchy of Warsaw. The Congress of Vienna brought the existence of that state to an end as well and essentially divided Poland between Russia, Prussia and the Habsburg Empire. Austria-Hungary annexed some territories in the South, Prussia took control over the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Poznań in the West, and Russia assumed hegemony over the semi-autonomous so-called Congress Kingdom.

Selected biography

Catherine II of Russia

Catherine II, called Catherine the Great (Russian: Екатерина II Великая, Yekaterina II Velikaya; 2 May [O.S. 21 April] 1729 – 17 November [O.S. 6 November] 1796) reigned as Empress of Russia for 34 years, from 9 July [O.S. 28 June] 1762 until her death. She exemplified the enlightened despot of her era. Catherine's father, Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, held the rank of a Prussian general in his capacity as Governor of the city of Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) in the name of the king of Prussia. Though born as Sophia Augusta Frederica (Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst, nicknamed "Figchen"), a minor German princess in Stettin, Catherine did have some (very remote) Russian ancestry, and two of her first cousins became Kings of Sweden: Gustav III and Charles XIII. In accordance with the custom then prevailing amongst the German nobility, she received her education chiefly from a French governess and from tutors.

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Selected image

Clash between Polish insurgents and Russian cuirassiers on bridge in Warsaw's Łazienki Park. In background, an equestrian statue of King John III Sobieski. Painting by Wojciech Kossak, 1898.

Did you know?

...that the Russian Empire was a natural successor to the Tsardom of Russia. Though the empire was only officially proclaimed by Tsar Peter I following the Treaty of Nystad (1721), some historians would argue that it was truly born when Peter acceded to the throne in early 1682?

...that Napoleon made a major misstep when, following a dispute with Tsar Alexander I, he launched an invasion of the tsar's realm in 1812. The campaign was a catastrophe. Although Napoleon's Grande Armée made its way to Moscow, the Russians' scorched-earth strategy prevented the invaders from living off the country?

...that the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 was the single most important event in 19th-century Russian history. It was the beginning of the end for the landed aristocracy's monopoly of power. Emancipation brought a supply of free labor to the cities, industry was stimulated, and the middle class grew in number and influence; however, instead of receiving their lands as a gift, the freed peasants had to pay a special tax for what amounted to their lifetime to the government, which in turn paid the landlords a generous price for the land that they had lost?

...that the failure of the Russian armed forces in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) was a major blow to the Tsarist regime and increased the potential for unrest. In January 1905, an incident known as "Bloody Sunday" occurred when Father Gapon led an enormous crowd to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg to present a petition to the tsar. When the procession reached the palace, Russian Imperial Army opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. The Russian masses were so aroused over the massacre that a general strike was declared demanding a democratic republic. This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1905?

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