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Age of Absolutism: Russia. First, some geography Russia in BIG Physically diverse Ethnically diverse. Compared in Latitude & Area with the United States. Russia’s Time Zones. The Steppes. Grassland used for growing cereals or for raising livestock “Bread Basket” of Russia

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First, some geography
  • Russia in BIG
  • Physically diverse
  • Ethnically diverse

The Steppes

Grassland used for growing cereals or for raising livestock

“Bread Basket” of Russia

Essential to Russia’s well-being


Themes in Russian History

Expansion by conquest

Need for warm-water port

The necessity of a strong, central government

These dictate emerging Russian policy




(before 1000 CE)

  • Oldest Slavic city in Russia
  • Eastern-most trading post with the Hanseatic League (furs)
  • Decline: Could not feed population, had to import grain
  • Annexed by the Grand Duke of Muscovy
golden age of kiev
Golden Age of Kiev
  • 980-1054
  • Orthodox Christianity arrives
  • Written legal code
  • Trade with West brings prosperity
  • Rise of the Boyars (hereditary nobles)
kievan administration
Kievan Administration
  • Boyars have highest offices
  • Boyar Council advised the Prince
  • Received grants of land
the mongols invade russia 1237 1240
The Mongols Invade Russia: 1237-1240
  • Policy: keep rival Russian states weak and divided
  • 1340s – plague weakens Mongol rule
  • Internal strife for Mongols
  • Duchy of Muscovy challenges Mongol rule
  • Remote, secure from Mongol attack
  • Rivers lead to the Baltic and Black Seas and Caucasus region.
  • Rule by a series of ambitious and lucky princes
  • Strong dynasty, smooth transitions
  • Rival states fragmented
  • Vasily II (1448) declares Russian Orthodox independence from Constantinople
  • Ivan III: “The Great”
    • 1462-1505
    • Expands Muscovite borders, includes“ethnically” Russian people
    • (tripled size)
    • Expels Mongols
    • Grand Duke of Muscovy (Moscow) and first ruler of the “Russian” people
    • Centralized government
ivan iii
Ivan III

Ivan III Tearing the Great Khan’s Letter Requesting More Tribute in 1480.

ivan iv the terrible
Ivan IV: “The Terrible”
  • 1530-1584
  • Grandson of Ivan III
  • First to take title of Tsar
ivan the terrible
Ivan The Terrible
  • Modernizations:
    • Standing army
    • Parliament of feudal estates, council of nobles
    • Rural areas “self-manage”
    • Restricted mobility of peasants – led to permanent serfdom
    • Trade with England
    • Annexed land farther south, east: Russia becomes more multi-ethnic
ivan the terrible1
Ivan the Terrible
  • Death and Destruction
    • Oprichnina
      • Quasi Religious
      • Black robes
      • No taxes
      • Monastic vows
    • Massacre of Novgorod (60,000 dead)
ivan the terrible2
Ivan the Terrible
  • Warfare
    • Fought Sweden, Lithuania, Poland with no gain
    • 24 years
    • Trade blockade
    • Famine
  • Mentally unstable
    • Beat son to death
    • Probably poisoned by closest advisor (Godunov)
    • Succeeded by son who left rule to Godunov
boris godunov
Boris Godunov
  • Brother in law of Tsar Feodor
  • Murdered Ivan’s last son
  • Tried to modernize
  • Peace with Scandinavian countries
time of troubles 1598 1613
Time of Troubles: 1598-1613
  • Little Ice Age destroys harvests
  • Starvation
  • Migration, disintegration
  • Pretenders to the throne: all claim to be the last son of Ivan

Peter the Great (r. 1682-1725)

  • Co-rulers with older half-brother
  • Rebellion by half-sister
  • Greatly expands Russian borders
peter i
Peter I
  • Modernizer
    • no beards, western clothing, French
  • Suppressed rebellions
    • Rank by service, not inheritance
    • Diminished Boyars
  • Warm-water port (Black Sea)
    • Must defeat Ottomans, must gain support of other rulers
    • France and Austria are busy with war of Spanish Succession
  • War with Sweden for control of Baltic.
rebellion of the streltsy 1698
Rebellion of the Streltsy: 1698
  • While Peter is away, Sophia attempts a coup
  • Returns, wins, and forces her to become a nun.
  • Loses only one man; helps execute over 1,200 rebels

Battle of Poltava

(Great Northern War: 1709)

  • Swedes invade Ukraine with help of Cossacks
  • Swedish army finally defeated
    • Disease
    • Starvation
    • Outnumbered
  • 1711: Peter defeated by the Ottomans
    • Must give back Black Sea regions
  • Great Northern War: 1700-1720
    • Gives up Finland
    • Gains Baltic States
empress anna i
Empress Anna I
  • Daughter of Peter the Great's half-brother and co-ruler, Ivan V
ivan vi
Ivan VI
  • Tsar 1740-41 (at age of 1)
  • Imprisoned, replaced by Elizabeth, daughter of Peter I
  • Murdered after 20 years of imprisonment (at age 24)
empress elizabeth
Empress Elizabeth
  • Seized power from Empress Anna
  • "Who do you want to serve? Me, the natural sovereign, or those who have stolen my inheritance?"
  • Expansionism
  • Pro-Austria, Pro English
  • Attempts to reduce power of Prussia
peter iii
Peter III
  • Nephew of Elizabeth, hated all things Russian
  • Ruled for 6 months
    • Arrested, abdicated, murdered
    • Mentally weak
  • Unpopular
    • Made peace with Prussia
    • Lutheranism
catherine ii
Catherine II
  • German, but loved all things Russian
  • Wife of Peter III
  • Regent for son Paul, but ruled in own right
  • Gained territory from Ottomans
    • Crimean penninsula on Black Sea
  • Allied with Poland, Prussia, and Sweden to counter the Austrians
catherine an enlightened ruler
Catherine: An “Enlightened” Ruler
  • Welcomed western ideas
    • Modernization to advance Russian interests
  • “Age of Imitation”
    • Leads to great Russian art, music, and literature
  • Voltaire
paul i
Paul I
  • Son of Catherine, but raised by Empress Elizabeth (his great aunt)
  • Encouraged love of Russia from birth
  • Death brings stability

The Pendulum of Russian History

Pro-WestFor Progress & ChangeEncourage New Ideas,Technologies, etc.


  • Most Tsars
  • Russian Orthodox Church
  • Military
  • Boyars
  • peasants
  • A few Tsars
  • Intellectual elites
  • Merchants/businessmen
  • Young members of the middle class.


appeals to popular fears