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Russian Empire

Flag of Russian Empire for private use (1914–1917) 3.svg
Greater Coat of Arms of the Russian Empire 1700x1767 pix Igor Barbe 2006.jpg

The Russian Empire (Pre-reform Russian: Pоссiйская Имперiя, Modern Russian: Российская империя, translit: Rossiyskaya Imperiya) was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia, and the predecessor of the Soviet Union. It was one of the largest empires the world had seen. At one point in 1866, it stretched from eastern Europe, across northern Asia, and into North America. At the beginning of the 19th century, Russia was the largest country in the world, extending from the Arctic Ocean to the north to the Black Sea on the south, from the Baltic Sea on the west to the Pacific Ocean on the east. Across this vast realm were scattered the Emperor's 150 million subjects, who represented a great disparity in economic, ethnic, and religious positions. Its government, ruled by the Emperor, was one of the last absolute monarchies left in Europe.

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Bolshevik forces marching on Red Square.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 refers to a series of two popular revolutions in Russia, and the events surrounding them. These revolutions had the effect of completely changing the nature of society within the Russian Empire and transforming the Russian state, which ultimately led to the replacement of the old Tsarist autocracy with the Soviet Union.

The February Revolution of 1917 (March 1917 of the Gregorian calendar) was a spontaneous popular revolution focused around Petrograd, with an associated mutiny of the military. In the chaos members of the Duma assumed control of the country, forming the Russian Provisional Government. The army leadership felt they did not have the means to suppress the revolution and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the last Tsar of Russia, abdicated, effectively leaving the Provisional Government in power. The Soviets (workers' councils) which were led by more radical socialist factions initially permitted the new government to rule but insisted on a prerogative to influence the government and control various militias. The February Revolution took place in the context of the First World War, with much of the army in a state of mutiny.

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Catherine II of Russia

Catherine II, called Catherine the Great (Russian: Екатерина II Великая, Yekaterina II Velikaya; 2 May [O.S. 21 April] 1729 – 17 November [O.S. 6 November] 1796) reigned as Empress of Russia for 34 years, from 9 July [O.S. 28 June] 1762 until her death. She exemplified the enlightened despot of her era. Catherine's father, Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, held the rank of a Prussian general in his capacity as Governor of the city of Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) in the name of the king of Prussia. Though born as Sophia Augusta Frederica (Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst, nicknamed "Figchen"), a minor German princess in Stettin, Catherine did have some (very remote) Russian ancestry, and two of her first cousins became Kings of Sweden: Gustav III and Charles XIII. In accordance with the custom then prevailing amongst the German nobility, she received her education chiefly from a French governess and from tutors.

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...that the Russian Empire was a natural successor to the Tsardom of Russia. Though the empire was only officially proclaimed by Tsar Peter I following the Treaty of Nystad (1721), some historians would argue that it was truly born when Peter acceded to the throne in early 1682?

...that Napoleon made a major misstep when, following a dispute with Tsar Alexander I, he launched an invasion of the tsar's realm in 1812. The campaign was a catastrophe. Although Napoleon's Grande Armée made its way to Moscow, the Russians' scorched-earth strategy prevented the invaders from living off the country?

...that the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 was the single most important event in 19th-century Russian history. It was the beginning of the end for the landed aristocracy's monopoly of power. Emancipation brought a supply of free labor to the cities, industry was stimulated, and the middle class grew in number and influence; however, instead of receiving their lands as a gift, the freed peasants had to pay a special tax for what amounted to their lifetime to the government, which in turn paid the landlords a generous price for the land that they had lost?

...that the failure of the Russian armed forces in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) was a major blow to the Tsarist regime and increased the potential for unrest. In January 1905, an incident known as "Bloody Sunday" occurred when Father Gapon led an enormous crowd to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg to present a petition to the tsar. When the procession reached the palace, Russian Royal Army opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. The Russian masses were so aroused over the massacre that a general strike was declared demanding a democratic republic. This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1905?

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