Russian historical roots can be traced back to Slav farmers, hunters, and fishers settled in the Northern European Plain in the AD 600s.
Scandinavian warriors, Varangians, joined the Slavs near the Dneiper and Volga rivers during the 800s. The Slav summinities became organized into a form of city-state union called Kievan Rus that was ruled by princes. Kiev, the leading city-state, controlled a main trading route that used Russia’s western rivers to connect the Baltic and Black seas. Kievan Rus was weakened by fighting that began in the early 1200s when the Mongols invaded. The Mongols allowed the Slavs to self-rule, but they stuck around and controlled the area for over 200 years.
The Rise of Russia
After the Mongol invasions, many Slavs fled to the Moskva River. One of these settlements in a territory called Muscovy became known as Moscow. Muscovy was linked by rivers to major trade routes and was surrounded by land that was good for farming and trapping animals. The princes of Muscovy kept the relationship between them and the Mongols peaceful for about two centuries. Prince Ivan III of Muscovy took control of many Slav territories, and “Ivan the Great’s” realm would be known as ‘Russia’. Ivan built a large fortress in Moscow that he called the Kremlin. Ivan filled it with churches and palaces, but today it is used by the Russian Federation as executive headquarters.
Ivan the Great’s grandson, Ivan IV, was Russia’s first crowned czar, or supreme ruler. He expanded his territory’s border into non-Slav land and was called “Ivan the Terrible.” Ivan the Terrible lead the country to foreign invasion, economic decline, and social upheaval. The government took control again when the Romanov dynasty took power in 1613. There were many serfs in the 1650s, a virtual enslaved workforce bound to the land and under the control of nobility.
Romanov Czars and the Empire
Czar Peter I, known as Peter the Great, took power in the late 1600s, and was determined to modernize Russia. Peter I enlarged Russia’s territory, including land along the Baltic Sea, built up the military forces, and developed trade with Western Europe. St. Petersburg, the new capital, was placed along the Gulf of Finland, which gave access to the Baltic Sea. St. Petersburg became a main port because the other ports were frozen for much of the year.
Empress Catherine the Great continued Russia’s success by gaining a warm water port on the Black Sea. A cultural gap developed between the nobility and the serfs as the Russian nobility adopted western cultures and the serfs continued to follow Russian tradition.
In 1891, Czar Alexander III helped Russia expand into Siberia with the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. This railroad connects Moscow to Vladivostok. It was completed in 1916 and opened the interior parts of Russia to settlement.
Boehm, Richard G. “Early History.” World Geography and Cultures. Columbus: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 2012. Print.
“Final Bargain Ends with Death of Czar.” Orffyre. Orffyre. Web. 02 Feb. 2012.