The Russian Empire (Russian: Российская Империя, tr. Rossiyskaya Imperiya) or simply Russia (Russian: Россия, tr. Rossiya) was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.
The third largest empire in world history, stretching over three continents, the Russian Empire was surpassed in landmass only by the British and Mongol empires. The rise of the Russian Empire happened in association with the decline of neighboring rival powers: the Swedish Empire, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Persia and the Ottoman Empire. It played a major role in 1812–1814 in defeating Napoleon's ambitions to control Europe and expanded to the west and south.
The House of Romanov ruled the Russian Empire from 1721 until 1762, and its German-descended cadet branch, the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov, ruled from 1762. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Russian Empire extended from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea in the south, from the Baltic Sea on the west to the Pacific Ocean, into Alaska and Northern California in America on the east. With 125.6 million subjects registered by the 1897 census, it had the third-largest population in the world at the time, after Qing China and India. Like all empires, it included a large disparity in terms of economics, ethnicity, and religion. There were numerous dissident elements, who launched numerous rebellions and assassination attempts; they were closely watched by the secret police, with thousands exiled to Siberia.
Economically, the empire had a predominantly agricultural base, with low productivity on large estates worked by serfs (until they were freed in 1861). The economy slowly industrialized with the help of foreign investments in railways and factories. The land was ruled by a nobility (the boyars) from the 10th through the 17th centuries, and subsequently by an emperor. Tsar Ivan III (1462–1505) laid the groundwork for the empire that later emerged. He tripled the territory of his state, ended the dominance of the Golden Horde, renovated the Moscow Kremlin, and laid the foundations of the Russian state. Emperor Peter the Great (1682–1725) fought numerous wars and expanded an already huge empire into a major European power. He moved the capital from Moscow to the new model city of St. Petersburg, and led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval social and political mores with a modern, scientific, Europe-oriented, and rationalist system.
Empress Catherine the Great (reigned 1762–1796) presided over a golden age; she expanded the state by conquest, colonization and diplomacy, continuing Peter the Great's policy of modernization along West European lines. Emperor Alexander II (1855–1881) promoted numerous reforms, most dramatically the emancipation of all 23 million serfs in 1861. His policy in Eastern Europe involved protecting the Orthodox Christians under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. That connection by 1914 led to Russia's entry into the First World War on the side of France, the United Kingdom, and Serbia, against the German, Austrian, and Ottoman empires.
The Russian Empire functioned as an absolute monarchy until the Revolution of 1905 and then became a de jure constitutional monarchy. The empire collapsed during the February Revolution of 1917, largely as a result of massive failures in its participation in the First World War.
The Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792) involved a futile attempt by the Ottoman Empire to regain lands lost to Russia in the course of the previous Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774). It took place concomitantly with the Austro-Turkish War (1788–1791).
In 1786, Catherine II of Russia made a triumphal procession through the annexed Crimea in company with her ally, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. These events and the friction caused by mutual complaints of infringements of the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca, which had closed the previous war, stirred up public opinion in Constantinople, while the British and French ambassadors lent their unconditional support to the war party in Russian .
In 1788, war was declared and the Russian ambassador to the Ottomans, Yakov Bulgakov, was thrown into prison, but Ottoman preparations were inadequate and the moment was ill-chosen, now that Russia and Austria were in alliance, a fact of which the Ottomans became aware only when the horsetails were planted for the campaign. The Ottomans drove back the Austrians from Mehadia and overran the Banat (1789); but in Moldavia, Field Marshal Rumyantsev captured Iași and Khotyn. After a long winter siege, Ochakov fell to Prince Potemkin. This news affected the Ottoman Sultan so deeply as to cause his death.
Nicholas I (Russian: Николай I Павлович, Nikolaj I Pavlovič), July 6 (June 25, Old Style), 1796 – March 2 (February 18 Old Style), 1855), was the Tsar of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian empire reached its historical zenith spanning almost 5,000 million acres (20,000,000 km2). He was also King of Poland until his deposition in 1831.
He was born in Gatchina to Emperor Paul I and Empress Maria Feodorovna. He was a younger brother to Alexander I of Russia and Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich of Russia. Nicholas was not brought up to be the Emperor of Russia, as he had two elder brothers before him. As such, in 1825, when Alexander I suddenly died of typhus, Nicholas was caught between swearing allegiance to his second-eldest brother Konstantin Pavlovich and accepting the throne for himself.
The interregnum lasted until Konstantin Pavlovich who was in Warsaw at that time confirmed his refusal. Additionally, on December 25 (13 Old Style) Nicholas issued the manifesto claiming his accession to the throne. That manifesto named December 1 as official date of his reign start. During that confusion a plot was hatched by the military to overthrow Nicholas and to usurp power. This led to the Decembrist revolt in December 26 (14 Old Style), 1825 where Nicholas almost lost his life but in the end was successful in suppressing the uprising.
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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 Imperial 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?