A Brief History of History andGovernments in Russia By Mr. Belter
The Russian Empire • Main Idea Strong leaders made Russia a vast empire, but widespread suffering eventually led to revolution. • Geography and You What causes people to rise up and overthrow their government? Read on to learn about Russia’s history up to the time of the Russian Revolution.
The Beginning • Russia today is a vast country, covering millions of square miles and spreading across two continents. This world power, however, began as a small trade center.
Early Russia • Modern Russians descend from Slavic peoples who settled along the rivers of what are today Ukraine and Russia. During the a.d. 800s, these early Slavs built a civilization around the city of Kiev (Kyiv), today the capital of Ukraine. This civilization, called Kievan Rus (KEE∙eh∙vuhn ROOS), prospered from river trade between Scandinavia and the Byzantine Empire.
Religion • In a.d. 988 the people of Kievan Rus converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Missionaries, or people who move to another area to spread their religion, brought this form of Christianity from the Byzantine Empire to Kievan Rus. The missionaries also brought a written language.
Moscow • In the 1200s, Mongol warriors from Central Asia conquered Kievan Rus. Under Mongol rule, Kiev lost much of its power. Many Slavs moved northward and built settlements. One new settle ment was the small trading post of Moscow.
Ivan the Great • a new Slavic territory called Muscovy (muh∙SKOH∙vee). In 1480 Ivan III, a prince of Muscovy, rejected Mongol rule and declared independence. Because he was a strong ruler, Ivan became known as “Ivan the Great.”
Revolution • Several times during Russia’s history, the country’s cold climate and huge size proved to be strong defenses against invasion. In 1812 a French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia. To conquer Russia, the French forces had to march hundreds of miles and capture Moscow.
Czar Alexander II • In the late 1800s, Russia entered a period of great change. In 1861 Czar Alexander II freed the country’s 40 million serfs. Freedom did not release them from poverty, however. Alexander began to modernize Russia’s economy, building industries and expanding railroads. Despite these changes, most Russians remained poor, and unrest spread among workers and peasants.
World War I • In 1914 Russia joined France and Britain to fight Germany and Austria in World War I. Poorly prepared, Russia suffered military defeats, losing millions of men between 1914 and 1916. Many Russians blamed Czar Nicholas II for the country’s poor performance in the war and for food shortages. In early 1917 the people staged a revolution that forced the czar to step down from the throne.
Vladimir Lenin 1917 • Later that year, Vladimir Lenin led a second revolt that overthrew the temporary government. He set about establishing a communist state in which the government controlled the economy and society. Fearing invasion, Lenin also moved Russia’s capital from
The Rise and Fall ofCommunism • What would it be like if the government told you what job you had to do and also greatly limited the choices of products you could buy in stores? Read to learn about the changes that the Communist government brought to Russia.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), • Vladimir Lenin and his followers created a new nation called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), or the Soviet Union. This nation included 15 republics made up of different ethnic groups.
Karl Marx • Lenin followed the ideas of a German political thinker named Karl Marx. Marx believed that industrialization created an unjust system in which factory owners held great power, while the workers held very little. Lenin said that he wanted to make everyone in Soviet society more equal.
Joseph Stalin • Lenin’s policies were later continued by Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death in 1924. A harsh dictator, Stalin prevented the Soviet people from practicing their religions and had religious property seized. His secret police killed or imprisoned anyone who disagreed with his policies.
Agriculture and Industry • Soviet leaders set up a command economy in which the government ran all areas of economic life. They decided what crops farmers should grow and what goods factories should produce.
Leaders also introduced collectivization— a system in which small farms were combined into large, factory like farms run by the government. Government leaders hoped these farms would be more efficient
The Soviet economic plans had mixed success. • The new farms were inefficient and did not produce enough food for the Soviet people. Industrial production was more successful. Huge factories produced steel, machinery, and military equipment. Strict government control, however, had drawbacks. The government eliminated, or did away with, competition, allowing only certain factories to make certain goods. This led to a lack of efficiency and poor-quality goods.
Soviet Power • In 1941, during World War II, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviets joined Great Britain and the United States to defeat the Germans. About 20 to 30 million Russian soldiers and civilians died in the war.
Cold War • The Soviet Union and the United States were allies during the war but became bitter rivals after it. From the late 1940s until about 1990, these superpowers, the two most powerful nations in the world, engaged in a struggle for world influence. Because the struggle never became “hot,” with actual combat between the two opponents, the conflict became known as the Cold War.
NATO • Each superpower became the center of a group of nations. Members of each group pledged to come to one another’s aid if a member country were attacked by a country from the other group. The United States was the chief member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO,
Warsaw Pact • The Soviet Union led the Warsaw Pact, a group of Communist countries that included most of Eastern Europe.
Shortages • The Soviet Union and the United States competed to produce military weapons and to explore outer space. With so many resources going to the military, the Soviet people had to endure shortages of basic goods, such as food and cars. By the 1980s, many Soviets were ready for change.
Attempts at Reform • In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev (mih∙KAH∙eel gawr∙buh∙CHAWF) became the Soviet leader. He quickly began a number of reforms in the Soviet Union. Under the policy of glasnost(GLAZ∙nohst), or “openness,”
rebuilding • Soviet citizens could say and write about what they thought without fear of being punished. Another policy, known as perestroika(pehr∙uh∙STROY∙kah), or “rebuilding,” aimed at boosting the Soviet economy. It gave factory managers more freedom to make economic decisions and encouraged the creation of small, privately owned businesses.
The End • Instead of strengthening the country, Gorbachev’s policies made the Soviet people doubt communism even more. Huge protests against Soviet control arose across Eastern Europe. By 1991 all of the region’s Communist governments had fallen.
Collapse of the Soviet Union • As communism ended in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union faced growing unrest among its ethnic groups. Gorbachev was criticized both by hard-liners who wished to maintain Communist rule as well as by reformers. The hard-liners wanted to stop changes. The reformers, on the other hand, felt that Gorbachev was not making changes fast enough.
The reformers • were led by a rising politician named Boris Yeltsin (buhr∙YEES YEHLT∙suhn). He became the president of Russia,
The Last Stand • In August 1991, hard-line Communists attempted a coup (KOO), an overthrow of the government by military force. Boris Yeltsin called on the people to resist.
Ethnic Unrest • Challenges also came from some ethnic minorities. In the Chechnya (chehch·NYAH) region, a group trying to separate from Russia waged a bloody civil war.
Cultures and Lifestyles • Russia has many different ethnic groups and religions. As the Russian Empire expanded, different peoples came under its control. Today dozens of ethnic groups live in Russia. Many of these groups speak their own language and have their own culture. Most people, however, speak Russian, the country’s official language.
Ethnic Groups • Russians, or Slavs who descended from the people of Muscovy, are the largest ethnic group. They live throughout Russia, although most Russians live west of the Urals. The next-largest groups include Tatars, who are Muslim descendants of the Mongols, and Ukrainians, who are descendants of Slavs that settled the area around Kiev (Kyiv). Smaller ethnic groups include the Yakut, who herd reindeer and also raise horses and cattle in eastern Siberia.
religion • Under communism, Russia’s people were not allowed to practice religion. The Soviet government officially promoted the position in its schools that there is no god or other supreme being.
The Arts • Russia has a rich tradition of literature, art, and music. Early Russians developed a strong oral tradition, or passing stories by word of mouth from generation to generation. Later, many writers and musicians drew on these stories or on folk music for their works. The Russian people’s strong sense of nationalism,or feelings of loyalty toward their country, is reflected in many artistic works.