Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
c.1000 BC to c.800 AD: Continuous foreign invasions and foreign domination.
Cimmerians (to 700 BC), Scythians (to 300 BC), Sarmatians (to 200 AD), Goths (to 370 AD), Huns (to 558 AD), Avars (to 650 AD).
-In mid 700s AD, Independent East Slavic city-states emerged. Vikings or Varangians became rulers over these Slavs, but did not impose an alien culture.
Founding of Russia
-In 862, the Viking Rurik estalished a larger state centered at Novgorod. Successor Oleg moved capital to Kiev (in 882).
-This Kiev centered state was the first Russia. By 1000, it extended from Black to Baltic Seas, from modern Romania to near modern Nizhni Novgorod.
-In 988, Kiev prince Vladimir I converted the state to Christianity. Moravian monks Cyril and Methodius developed the Cyrillic Alphabet and a written Russian language emerged. Uniform religion (Russian Orthodox), language, and culture throughout the empire helped create a national identity at this time. Vladimir married the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II.
-By 1200s, empire had decentralized, and invasions of Teutonic Knights (and others) from West left it weakened. Patriots such as Alexander Nevski led Russian resistance.
-Disunity among Russians, and superior military prowess caused Mongol (or Tatar) victory over all Russian principalities, 1237-1242. (go here for a map depicting this).
-Kiev was destroyed by Mongols; Moscow was made chief administrative center of the governments which the Mongol leaders, or Khans, appointed.
-Mongol rule initially was harsh, gradually became more indirect. Christian religion continued to be practiced by the Russians.
-In 1380, Russian Grand Prince Dmitri first defeated a Mongol army, at Kulikovo. By 1480, Ivan the Great of Moscow stopped recognition of Mongol rule over all the Russias.
In 1472, Ivan married Sophia, niece of the last Byzantine emperor, and first took title of Czar. His son, Basil III, and grandson Ivan IV The Terrible 1547-84 consolidated and expanded the power of Moscow.
left: Ivan IV, the Terrible
Ivan IV The Terrible", who ruled 1533-84:
-diminished the control over land by hereditary nobility, or boyars.
-created the oprichnina, or lands ruled directly by the Czar and his appointees. Established the oprichniki, or political police, who had complete and absolute authority in these areas. They were accountable directly to the Czar, operating outside official police of the state. This undermined the authority of the state indirectly, as two systems of authority existed side-by-side, and more and more it reinforced the sense that there was only power, not law, to obey.
-limited private property (votchina) rights of the nobles (or boyars): requiring service to the Czar in order to retain land; gave much of boyars' land/property to his faithful thugs, the oprichniki but not on a hereditary basis. Ownership of land by all thereafter was tied to service to the state (pomestie) for nearly 200 years. Only in the 18th century did inheritance again structure the passing of land titles among owners.
-harshly punished all who opposed him: individuals (e.g., of Metropolitan Philip and Prince Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky), whole classes he viewed as threats (e.g., the boyars or old nobility), whole towns. E.g., Novgorod, was plundered and nearly leveled.
-After his successor, his son Fedor, died (1598) Russia fell into chaos, The Time of Troubles.
Early Moscow rulers followed a Policy of Expansion.
Ivan III and Basil III conquered all remaining autonomous Duchies in Northern Russia
Ivan IV and his son Feodor, from 1550 to 1598, expanded the state further:
-1552 Khazan, on the Volga River
-1556, Astrakhan, on the Caspian Sea
-Founds Archangel, key seaport on Arctic Ocean which opens trade with England
-1581, conquers Sibir, capital of Siberian Khanate
Overall, Russia's size grew 12 fold, from 170,000 Sq. Mi. to 2,000,000 square miles prior to the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty.
Russia Under the Romanov Dynasty
The Romanov family's rule lasted 300+ years (1613-1917).
The Romanovs Continued the Policy of Expansion.
1. Between 1600 and 1650, Siberia was put under Russian rule; the state tripled in size to 6 million square miles. Ukraine came under Russian rule shortly thereafter (1654).
2. Further expansion into Poland (1790s), Crimea (by 1800), the Baltics, Bessarabia and Finland (by 1815), and Central Asia (1850s) augmented Russia. In 1900, the empire was 8 million square miles.
3. To administer this empire, the Romanovs relied on a large conscripted standing army. It was presided over by an officer corps of foreign mercenaries and sons of aristocrats.
4. Threat of foreign invasion and internal unrest were used to justify a harsh, repressive hand of government throughout this huge empire. Romanov rule recognized no rights of its subjects, and distributed few favors to its supporters. One concession made to nobles was the ending of their serfs' traditional right to migrate (1658).
Repressive State Policies Produced little real political stability.
Serfs earlier had joined in a Cossack uprising, 1606-07, led by Bolotnikov
Major uprisings during the Romanov era included:
-the Stepan Razin peasant uprising (1667-71). Razin, a Cossack, claimed his army was loyal to the Czars but his forces attacked landlords ferociously. Some peasant supporters turned against him due to these excesses. Razin was executed in 1671.
In Ukraine, the Cossack Bogdan Khmelnitsky (aka: Bohdan Chmielnicki) also led an uprising principally against Polish influence during the middle decades of the 17th century. Khmelnitsky rose to become "Hetman" of the Cossacks, concluded an alliance with the Russian state that led eventually to Ukraine's absorption into Russia, and is broadly remembered for the viciousness of the attacks his men directed against the Jews in Ukraine. Controversially, Khmelnitsky has attained near cult status in post-Communist Ukraine, with plentiful statues and commemorative displays about him, especially at Ukrainian universities.
-the Yemelyan Pugachev Cossack-peasant uprising (1773-75). Based in the Urals, Pugachev championed the views of the Old Believers (i.e., the `beards'), and opposed westernization. His army grew to 15,000 before it was defeated (1774), and he was executed (1775).
Between 1775 and 1800 there were 300 more peasant uprisings within the empire.
Major rulers of the 17th-18th centuries made Russia one of Europe's Great Powers:
-Peter I The Great (1682-1725), who embarked on modernization and westernization; moved capital to St. Petersburg (1703); led Russia in wars with Sweden, and with Turkey. Victory over Sweden (1721) gave Peter the Baltic areas of Estonia and Livonia (now Latvia). He married a Latvian captive who became Catherine I. Under Catherine I, Kamchatka became Russian.
-Catherine II The Great (1762-1796), intensified serfdom and absolute monarchy; and expanded Russian rule into East-Central Europe through the Partitions of Poland and more.
-1772: First Partition of Poland (with Prussia, Austria)
-1774: Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji:
-wins ports on Black Sea (Kherson)
-naval rights through Bosphorus and Dardenelles straits
-right to protect Christians in the Ottoman Empire
1783: Crimea taken from Turks
1791: Treaty of Jassy: Coast of Ukraine, city of Odessa rebuilt as Russian city.
1793, 1795: 2nd and 3rd Partitions of Poland gain more land in Poland, Ukraine.
Alexander I (1801-25) presided over Russia's victories in the Napoleonic Wars; wins Finland from Swedes (1809); and Bessarabia (1812) and Georgia from Turks. He failed to liberalize the system, alienated the nobles, and, upon his death, a group of reform minded officers known as the Decembrists nearly succeeded in seizing power.
Under Nicholas I (1825-55) repressive powers of the secret police were enhanced and harsh policies of discrimination against minorities intensified. These policies were not fully successful: From 1800 to the freeing of the serfs in 1861, there were another 1186 peasant revolts. Advanced Pan-Slavism: forced Turks to recognize autonomy of Serbia, Moldavia, and Wallachia (1826), and Greece (1832).
Alexander II (1855-81) took steps to reform Russia. Legal (e.g., jury trials), legislative (zemstvo), and most importantly, Land reform (1861) temporarily transformed state and society. These trends ended when Alexander II was assassinated. Expansion continued: Founds Vladivostok (1860), conquers Tashkent (1865).
Alexander III (1881-94) and Nicholas II (1894-1917) restored autocratic government and intensified repression. Pogroms became state policy. Expansion ends with defeat of Russia by Japan, 1904. Limited reforms introduced after the uprising of 1905-06 soon were reversed.
The final disaster of the system of Czardom was the decision made by Nicholas II to mobilize his armies in order to be able to come to the aid of co-religionist Slavs in the Balkans. Serb assassins had killed the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand at Sarajevo, Bosnia in the summer of 1914. By signalling Serbia it would join in its defense against impending attack by Austria-Hungary, Russia broadened the meaning of the conflict. Russian mobilization also prodded Germany to mobilize to aid Austria-Hungary, and to implement their plan to conquer France by way of Belgium. This set in motion British intervention on behalf of Belgium, and completed the chain of events which produced World War I. Disastrous as it was for soldiers on all sides, that conflict would ignite unrest long simmering in Russia, and would lead to a far greater disaster which would follow the initially popular revolution that brought down the Romanov Dynasty in 1917.
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