History and Population: Russia
Early Peoples and States
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Russia’s history extends back to A.D. 600s
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Slav farmers, hunters, and fishers settled near the
waterways of the North European Plain
These people became, over time, distinct cultural
groups
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West Slavs: Poles, Czechs, Slovaks
South Slavs: Bulgarians, Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes
East Slavs: Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians
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Settled along the Dnieper River in the west and Volga River
in the east
Kievan Rus
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A.D. 800s
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Varagians (Scandinavian Warriors) settled among the Slavs
along the Dnieper and Volga River
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They adopted the Slavs language and culture
They organized Slav communities into a loose union of city-states
ruled by princes
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Known as Kievan Rus
Internal fighting weakened Kievan Rus, and in the early A.D.
1200s Mongols from central Asia conquered Kiev, and much of
the region
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Mongols allowed the Slavs to self-rule
The Rise of Russia
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As Mongols conquered Kiev, many Slavs fled into
nearby forests
Some of these people started a settlement along the
Moskva River
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The settlements grew and the territory was called Muscovy,
and at its center was the city of Moscow
For nearly two centuries, Muscovy kept peace with the
Mongols
However, by the late 1400s, Muscovy became strong enough
to overrun the Mongols, reclaiming much of the lost Slav
territories
Ivan III “The Great”
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During this period of conquest, Muscovy was
led by Ivan III, aka Ivan “The Great”
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The land Ivan conquered eventually became known
as Russia
Ivan III built a huge fortress called the Kremlin, and
filled it with churches and palaces
Ivan IV, “The Terrible”
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In 1533, the grandson of Ivan III became the first
crowned czar (supreme ruler) of Russia
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Ivan IV crushed all opposition to his power, and became a
great conqueror, expanding Russia’s borders
After Ivan IV reign, Russia faced foreign invasion,
economic decline, and social upheaval
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When the Romanov dynasty came to power in 1613, they
responded to this decline by tightening its grip on the Russian
people
This led to the oppression of the common people, and by 1650
many peasants had been forced into serfdom
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Serf – laborer obliged to remain on the land where he or she
works
Peter the Great
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For years Russia continued to decline, being left behind in science and
technology by its western European counterparts
This began to change in the late 1600s as Czar Peter I, known as Peter
the Great, came to power
Peter I was determined to modernize Russia, and under him Russia:
– Enlarged its territory, built a strong military, developed trade with
Europe, acquired land along the Baltic Sea from Sweden, and
strengthened Russia’s control over Siberia
Peter also created a new capital, St. Petersburg, which was built along
the Gulf of Finland
– St. Petersburg provided access to the Baltic Sea, and became
Russia’s “window to the west”
Empress Catherine the Great
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During the late 1700s, Empress Catherine continued to
expand Russia’s empire
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Most importantly, Russia gained a warm-port on the Black Sea
By this point Russian nobility had began to adopted
western European culture
This cultural gap, as well as the continued poverty of
the common people, led to tensions between
commoners and the nobility
Tensions also rose between the nobility and nonRussians living in Russia, who were forced to adopt
Russian culture (including language and religion) in a
process called Russification.
Socialism / Marxism
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This discontent amongst the commoners for the
nobility, led to the Russian Revolution
Many of the people, seeking greater equality amongst
the Russian people, were favorable to socialism,
especially the socialism preached by Germany’s Karl
Marx
Karl Marx (Marxism) – promoted public ownership of all
land, and a classless society with an equal sharing of
wealth
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Marx believed the tensions between the rich and the poor
would eventually lead to a revolution by the working class,
overthrowing the power of the wealthy
The Russian Revolution
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In 1917, Marx’s prophecy became reality in Russia, as Russians weary
from World War I and poverty flooded the streets of the St. Petersburg,
the capital
By November of 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, had seized
control
– They promoted a communist society in which the workers led the
country
– The Bolsheviks withdrew Russia from WWI, and using their great
power began to take over Russian industry, direct food distribution,
established an 8 hr work day, and reformed the army
The Bolsheviks were not without opposition in Russia, and a civil war
soon broke out between the Bolshevik Red Army, and anti-Bolshevik
White Army
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In 1921, the Bolsheviks, now called Communists, won the civil war
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established, with Moscow
as its capital