A brief history of Russia

Large Scale Political map of Russia. Image Taken from mapsland.com

Rurikid Dynasty: 862–1598 AD

The western part of what we call Russia was inhabited by various Slavic tribes(Slav is the Latin word for slave) until a Varangian(Viking) chief Rurik consolidated them into a state and formed his capital at Novgorod(south of St. Petersburg) in 862 A.D.. His people were called the Rus, which gives the country its name. His son Oleg conquered Kiev to create Kievan Rus, and start a millennia long love-hate affair between Russia and Ukraine(which means “the land on the edge”).

Era of Darkness

Ivan IV died in 1584, and his younger son who became king died childless in 1598. The Rurikid dynasty came to an end, and the country slid into anarchy. Occupied by Polish and Swedish forces in the West and the North respectively, it was on the brink of extinction. But then, Russian militia fought back. On 4th November 1612, they routed the Poles occupying Moscow, which is still celebrated as Russian national unity day(Remember Remember the 4th of November!).

Ilya Repin: Ivan the Terrible and is son Ivan on Nov 16, 1581. (1885). Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iv%C3%A1n_el_Terrible_y_su_hijo,_por_Ili%C3%A1_Repin.jpg

The Romanovs(1613–1917)

After the era of darkness, Russia’s assembly of nobles decided to unite behind a 16 year old Mikhail Romanov(“lord of the Romans/Rome”), and chose him to be the next Czar of Russia. This dynasty would go on to rule for the next 3 centuries. Mikhail’s son, Alexei I, enacted a legal code in 1649 which turned all peasants, 80% of their population, into Serfs, essentially slaves in all but name. Their children would inherit that status, and have no freedom of movement or to choose their masters. This system would dominate Russian rural life for the next 200 years. After a few years, Ukrainian Cossacks(Kazakhs), rebelling against the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, recognized Czar Alexei as overlord in exchange for military support. In 1689, Russia and China signed a treaty establishing a frontier between the two nations(something they’d obviously violate sooner or later).

War with Japan(1899–1905)

China allowed Russia to build a naval base on Port Arthur(in Dalian) in 1899, near the border of what is now North Korea. When China faced the Boxer rebellion, Russia sent in the troops through Manchuria as a pretext for securing its base. This irked Japan who also had their eyes set on Manchuria and Korea. The Japanese made a surprise attack on Port Arthur in 1904, then defeated the Russian army at the giant battle of Mukden in 1905. Meanwhile, Russia’s Baltic fleet sailed halfway across the globe to the pacific, where it was quickly annihilated. Russia had to sign another humiliating peace treaty at Portsmouth in 1905, brokered by Teddy Roosevelt, POTUS.

By SY — Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63801741

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Pranav Kumar

Pranav Kumar

Physics, Films, Fiction, Food, Football, …and travel and history