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Russia

Country, once an empire, and formerly the majority of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The name is also applied to the Russian Federation. The world’s largest nation, the empire occupied Europe from the eastern European nations on the west to the Pacific Ocean on the east, taking in northern Asia, or Siberia. Many peoples have inhabited parts of Russia at different times; Scythians in southern Russia in the seventh century b.c., who were replaced in the third century by Sarmatians. The Russian steppes were invaded by Goths in the third century a.d., by Huns in the next century, by Avars in the sixth, by Khazars in the seventh, by Bulgars in the Volga River region in the eighth, and by Slavs in the ninth. The foundations of a Russian state were not laid, however, until the ninth century when the Varangians, Scand inavian Viking warriors and traders, established themselves at Novgorod c. 860 under their leader Rurik. Oleg, Rurik’s successor, transferred his headquarters to Kiev in 882. The Kievan state flourished until a Tatar, or Mongol, invasion in 1237 ended its power. In eastern and southern Russia the Tatars established the Empire of the Golden Horde, which lasted until 1480; while Belorussia and most of the Ukraine became part of Lithuania. Meanwhile, the Moscow area grew in strength, especially after Dmitri Donskoi defeated the Golden Horde at the battle of Kulikovo in 1380. The grand duchy of Moscow, or Muscovy, gained supremacy over other principalities. An era of expansion followed, and in 1547 Ivan IV, the Terrible, was crowned the first czar of all Russia. By the late 16th century Russia was able to conquer Siberia, the first expedition for this purpose being led by a Cossack, Yermak, in 1581. The first Romanov became czar in 1613, founding the dynasty that lasted until the fall of the empire; but Russia lagged far behind western Europe in all respects and was hardly considered a European nation. Serfdom, here especially a system of peasant slavery, became legal in 1649. Russia changed greatly in the late 17th and early 18th centuries under the rule of Peter I, the Great, who forced on his people military, economic, governmental, and cultural modernization. He founded St. Petersburg (during the Soviet years Leningrad) and made it his capital; won Livonia, Ingermanland (Ingria), Estonia, and other areas as a result of the Great Northern War of 1700 to 1721, and founded a navy with an outlet on the Baltic Sea. Russia now took an active part in European affairs, fought Prussia successfully in the Seven Years’ War of 1756 to 1763, and under Catherine II, the Great (reigned 1762–96), became the strongest power of continental Europe. Russia’s territory increased with her participation in the three partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793, and 1795; the annexation of the Crimea in 1783 and of Kurland in 1795; and the acquisition of large regions in the south and west as a result of wars with the Ottoman Empire. As an “enlightened despot,” Catherine encouraged the arts and stimulated a cultural development that continued through the 19th century, despite despotic rulers.

Under Alexander I, Russia annexed Finland in 1809, took Bessarabia in wars with Turkey and Persia in 1812, and parts of the Caucasus in 1813. Meanwhile, Russia had opposed and then been allied with Napoleon I, changing sides again when the French emperor invaded Russia in 1812, only to be repulsed. As a result of Napoleon’s downfall, Russia and Austria emerged as the chief powers of the continent. In 1815, with Prussia, they formed the Holy Alliance, a reactionary attempt to maintain a conservative and oppressive order in Europe. However, the accession of Nicholas I in 1825 triggered the Decembrist Conspiracy, an unsuccessful attempt to secure some measure of democracy. The Crimean War of 1854 to 1856, in which Turkey, Great Britain, and France fought Russia, revealed the basic weaknesses of the Russian system.

Some reforms were achieved under Alexander II (reigned 1855–81), especially his edict of 1861 freeing the serfs. Russia also continued to expand , taking the rest of the Caucusus and , during 1864–65, what is now Soviet Central Asia, including Turkistan, as well as some far eastern territory from China. The Pacific had been reached; and the construction of the Trans- Siberian Railroad from 1891 to 1905 began to open Siberia to exploitation and settlement. Shifting alliances marked European diplomacy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Russia, Germany, and Austria- Hungary formed the Three Emperors’ League in 1872. This was replaced in 1887 by a Russian-German alliance. In the meantime, the Congress of Berlin of 1878 awarded southern Bessarabia to Russia. Russia shifted sides again in 1894, forming an alliance with France and concluding an arrangement with Great Britain that resulted in the Triple Entente of these nations in 1907.

In the Far East, Russian and Japanese competition over Manchuria and Korea led to the Russo- Japanese War of 1904–05 in which Japan captured Port Arthur (Lu-shun) and Mukden (Shen-yang) and destroyed the Russian fleet. This disaster brought about the Revolution of 1905, which forced Nicholas II to grant a constitution and establish a parliament; but little came of this gesture toward democracy. World War I, into which Russia was immediately drawn in 1914, partly as the professed defender of Slavs everywhere, was another disaster. Many military defeats were suffered at the hand s of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the economy could not support a modern war, and food shortages developed.

Revolution broke out in February 1917, and Nicholas abdicated on March 15. A provisional government was organized, which in May admitted socialists and which in July made Aleksand r F. Kerensky its head. This government wanted to continue fighting the unpopular war and was unable to manage the economy. As a result, on November 7 it was overthrown by the Bolsheviks, the dominant faction of Russian socialism, led by Vladimir E. Lenin. The Russian Empire was thus succeeded by the USSR, the first government based on Marxist socialism. In 1991, the breakup of the USSR resulted in the creation of the Russian Federation out of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic that retained the international rights and powers of the Russian nation.

Nation astride NE Europe and N Asia. It occupies the same space as the former Russian Soviet Federated Republic, most of eastern Europe and northern Asia (Siberia), an area of approximately 5,000 miles from the Baltic Sea in the W to the Pacific Ocean in the E. The Ural Mountains are usually taken as the boundary between the European and Asian sections. Moscow remains the capital. As the USSR opened up under Glasnost, Boris Yeltsin and other nationalists and reformers were elected to the Russian parliament in 1990. Yeltsin was chosen as Russian president. Yeltsin, declared Russia’s sovereignty, and began to challenge the Soviet government’s authority. In 1991, Yeltsin was officially elected in the first popular election for president in the history of the Russian Republic.

A power sharing agreement by Yeltsin and the leaders of eight other republics with Soviet party leader Gorbachev caused a coup by Soviet hard-liners, but Yeltsin and others supported Gorbachev and the coup failed. The USSR fell apart, but Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus agreed to form the Commonwealth of Independent States. In December of 1991, Gorbachev resigned, Yeltsin took control of the central government, and Russia assumed the USSR’s UN seat. Yeltsin moved quickly to reform the economy, but market reforms were slow with opposition of former Communists in the Duma. In 1993 Yeltsin dissolved the Duma and called for new elections. A Duma refused, and battle broke out around the parliament building between anti-Yeltsin and pro-Yeltsin forces. The military supported the president, the building was stormed, and the parliament was dissolved. The subsequent elections introduced a new mixed presidential-parliamentary system similar to that of France. In the legislative elections, Yeltsin’s supporters were less than the majority as a range of parties from Communists, to reformers, to ultranationalists won seats. In 1994 the government granted amnesty to participants in the 1991 coup and 1993 rebellion. In the same year, Russia agreed to a loose association with NATO called the Partnership for Peace. In 1994 Russia invaded Chechnya after the province had declared independence in 1991. A peace accord between Russia and Chechnya was signed in Moscow in 1996.

Yeltsin was reelected in 1996. Economic reforms continued with mixed results. In 1998 Russia was in financial crisis. Yevgeny Primakov was installed, as a compromise prime minister agreeable to both reformers and Communists. Primakov acted as a stabilizing influence, but his popularity and his public support for the Communists led to Yeltsin firing him in 1999. Yeltsin was impeached but the opposition failed to get the required votes. In 1999 Islamic militants from Chechnya invaded Dagestan. Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin as prime minister. After a series of terrorist bombings in Moscow and elsewhere that were blamed on Chechen militants, Putin launched an another invasion of Chechnya. After the 1999 elections, Yeltsin resigned as president, and Putin became acting president. In 2000 Putin allied with the Communists into a Unity Bloc and won election as president. Putin moved to increase central government control. Chechen terrorists continued to mount attacks outside Chechnya, including the seizure of a crowded Moscow theater in 2002, and a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, 2004.

Under Putin, Russia has developed stronger relationships with many former Soviet client states. Putin was an earlier supporter of the U.S. “war on terrorism,” and in 2001 Russia began to explore establishing closer ties with NATO. In 2002 a NATO-Russia Council was created where Russia could participate in NATO discussions on many nondefense issues. Russia participated in the invasion of Afghanistan with the U.S. and allied forces in the overthrow of the Taliban. Russia opposed the United States, however, in the invasion of Iraq, partly because of large debts owed by the Hussein regime.

In 2003 Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine signed an agreement to create a common economic space. The 2003 election resulted in Putin’s supporters gaining two-thirds of the seats in the Duma. Putin has continued to consolidate power in the central government, asserting appointment rather than election of oblast leadership. Russia had a series of embarrassing setbacks in 2004 when Russian supported cand idates in the Ukraine and Georgia were defeated by anti-Russian cand idates in revolutionary changes of government. In 2005 Russia sided with antigovernment parties when a similar revolution occurred in Kyrgyzstan.

As Russia happens to be the largest country in the world people expect there to be many places to visit. Whether on it's own or as part of the defunct Soviet Union this huge country has witnessed major events and has places linked to some of the most important events in modern history. Travel to Russia has arguably got easier since the end of the Soviet era, although there places to visit made famous by the Communist Revolution and subsequent events.

Perhaps the obvious place to visit in Russia, and the one that most travellers think about first is Moscow. The most famous building there is the Kremlin, focus point of the government since the end of communism yet also at the heart of the old Soviet regime itself. The Kremlin has several hundred years of history and was a base of operations for the tzars before the reign of Peter the Great and then for the Soviet regime. Visitors can travel to Red Square and see the tomb of Lenin.

Then the next main destination owes it'svery existence to Peter the Great, St Petersburg. The city was built on swamps yet it was built to have fine classically themed buildings, most notably the Winter Palace. The city was renamed Petrograd and then Leningrad. As Leningrad it withstood a 1000 day siege. Much of the old buildings had to be restored after the war.

Travel attractions include the sites linked to the October Revolution of 1917.

Railway enthusiasts could travel on the Trans Siberian Railway to go from Moscow all the way to Vladivostok. Alternatively people could travel to Volgagrad and see the city more famously known as Stalingrad.


     

Russia in photos




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