A Brief History of Russia

Russia’s empire expanded from the 14th century to the 20th. The 19th century saw the death of the last Tsar, Nicholas II of Russia, as he was swept from power. Albrecht Adam painted Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1851. The Russian Empire also witnessed the Battle of Stalingrad, which is one of the largest battles in history. It ended in Soviet victory over the German Army in 1943. In 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev met with President Ronald Reagan at the Reykjavik Summit. In 2000, Vladimir Putin took the oath of office.

The collapse of the Soviet Union radically altered the Russian landscape. The Soviet bureaucracy continues to affect the country today, from the cost of building a road to the forms required for dry cleaning. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian government moved toward a market economy, but some former Soviet officials gained control over many state-owned industries and other areas of government. In the process, Russia’s government consolidated their power, and a powerful autocratic ruler arose.

Geographically, Russia is large and diverse. The Ural and Caucasus mountain ranges, which separate Europe and Asia, are two prominent examples of the highlands of Russia. The eastern half of the country is low-lying, with many large plains. Its coastline is the Caspian Sea, 28 meters below sea level. Russia is bordered by fourteen countries. With such a vast landmass, Russia is home to significant natural resources.

The climate of Russia is dominated by several factors. Russia is near the equator, and as such its climate becomes colder the farther one travels away from it. The strong east-west alignment of Russia’s major biomes reflects this latitudinal influence. However, areas with a continental position experience more extreme temperatures than those with a maritime location. Water bodies regulate the air temperature and absorb temperature changes better than land.

Russians are primarily Russian speakers, but there are over 185 ethnic groups in the country. The population of the former Soviet Union includes people from nearly one hundred different languages. Despite the country’s vastness, ethnicity is still widely represented in Russia. For example, Tatars and Ukrainians make up just 4% of the population, while Votes have just a dozen members. There is a rich culture and history in Russia, and this diversity is reflected in its ethnic map.

During the nineteenth century, Russia’s political dominance was extended to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The sale of serfs separated from land fueled a peasant uprising. A Cossack named Pugachev inspired the peasants and threatened to take Moscow. The peasant uprising was ruthlessly suppressed by the state. The tsar had Pugachev drawn and quartered in Red Square, but the specter of revolution continued to linger.

By the fourteenth century, the Mongols’ power had waned and Russia had begun to annex the Khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan, and Siberia. While this did not end Tatar rule of Russia, it did bring fame to the Grand Prince. The Kremlin’s empire continued to expand, with the help of marriages and purchases. The czars’ territorial expansion made Russia a multi-ethnic nation.