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Russian and Chinese Empire-Building [1450-1750]. AP World History Notes. Russia Today. Former Soviet Region Compared in Latitude & Area with the United States. Russia’s Time Zones. Topography of Russia. Rich Soil of the Steppes. Chernozen Soil. Siberia  “Permafrost”.

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Siberia  “Permafrost”

  • Average temperatures of January vary from 0 to -50°C, and in July from 1 to 25°C
  • 150,000,000 population.
  • A former “gulag” Soviet prison camp.
making the russian empire
Making the Russian Empire

Russian state centered on the city of Moscow

Conquered a number of neighboring Russian-speaking cities

Continued to expand south and east of Moscow

Brought together a wide variety of different peoples and cultures

motivations for russian expansion
Motivations for Russian Expansion
  • Motivation #1 = security from the nomadic pastoral peoples
    • Lived in the grasslands south and east of the Russian heartland
    • Russians = afraid one of these groups will rise to power like the Mongols
    • These nomads frequently raided Russia’s neighbors and sold many of them into slavery
motivations for russian expansion1
Motivations forRussian Expansion
  • Motivation #2 = Pelts of fur-bearing animals
    • To the east across the vast expanse of Siberia
    • Very valuable and in-demand item
    • Nickname = “soft gold”
russian point of view
Russian Point of View
  • To Russians, their empire meant:
    • Defending the Russian frontiers
    • Enhancing the power of the Russian state
    • Bringing Christianity, civilization, and enlightenment to “savages”
life in russia
Life in Russia
  • Russia was still in the Middle Ages .
  • There was very, very little interaction with the rest of Europe or the world.
  • Mongol rule had isolated them.
  • No Renaissance, Age of Exploration
russian life
Russian Life
  • There were only three social classes.
    • The Boyars
    • The Church
    • The Serfs
the boyars
The Boyars
  • Russian nobles, most called themselves Princes.
  • 10th – 17th Centuries were the “real” rulers of Russia.
  • Positions in society were based on service your family did for the Czar and owning land.
  • Pretty much had no checks on their local power.
    • Could change your loyalty to different princes, depending on what they would give you in return.
the boyars1
The Boyars
  • Lived on their feudal estates with their own armies and self-sufficient economies.
  • Little interest in the outside world.
  • ?
the church russian orthodox
The Church = Russian Orthodox
  • One of the oldest Christian religions.
  • Does not recognize the Pope or Catholic Church.
  • They believe they practice the Christian religion of the Roman Emperor Constantine.
russian orthodox church
Russian Orthodox Church
  • Ruled by the Patriarch.
  • Urged people to not be corrupted by outside influences.
  • Urged the serfs to remain loyal without questioning the Boyars.
  • Life is suffering, but heaven will be your reward.
the serfs
The Serfs
  • At the time of Peter the Great, they made up 95% of the population in Russia.
  • They were essentially slaves – bound to the land and bound to the noble.
the serfs1
The Serfs
  • Had absolutely no say about anything in their lives.

Ivan the Great (r. 1462-1505)

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

gathering in the russias
  • Ivan III (or Ivan the Great, reigned 1462-1505)
    • Declared Russian independence from Mongol rule, 1480
    • “Gathering the Russian land"
      • Acquire Russian speaking lands under Moscovy
      • Incorporated trading city Novgorod, 1470s
  • Cossacks
    • Free peasants settled on newly conquered lands
    • Recruited to settle steppe, serve as cavalry
    • Live as Orthodox steppe nomads
    • Extended Russian influence south into the steppes
  • The Third Rome
    • Ivan built strong centralized government
    • Modeled after the Byzantine empire
    • Called himself tsar (after Greek title "caesar")
    • Tsar head of both the state and Russian Orthodox church
    • Russians saw themselves as God’s successors to Rome, Constantinople
time of troubles
  • Ivan IV (reigned 1533-1584), Ivan III's grandson
    • Known as Ivan the Terrible (Or Dread in Russian)
    • Notorious for erratic, often violent rule
    • Reshaped the Russian government
      • Chosen Council--advisors chosen for merit
      • "Assemblies of the land" = local assemblies
    • Confiscated large estates
    • Redistributed land to supporters
  • Ivan IV's reign of terror
    • Oprichniki: Private, secret “police”
    • Used terror, cruelty to subdue civilian populations
  • War and famine followed Ivan's death in 1598
    • Died without an heir
  • Romanov Dynasty establishes an autocratic monarchy
    • Mikhail Romanov chosen as new tsar in 1613 by representatives
      • Son of Russian Patriarch
      • Founder of Romanov dynasty, lasted until 1917
    • Alexis Romanov limits power of nobles, Orthodox Church
peter the great of russia
Peter the Great of Russia

Examine the portrait of Russian king Peter the Great & find things in the painting that help show his accomplishments


Russia before Peter the Great

Russia’s was influenced by the Byzantine Empire but was conquered by the Mongols

Ivan III successfully liberated Russia from the Mongols & ruled as the first czar

(“caesar” or “king”)

Over time, czars expanded Russia’s borders, increased their power over the nobles, & created an absolute monarchy

peter the great

But Russia was not as advanced as Western European nations

By the time Peter the Great became czar in 1682, Russia was a large empire

Peter the Great

Russia before Peter the Great

Russia was isolated from Western Europe & knew very little about the new ideas of the Renaissance

While European nations grew wealthy from trade, made cultural advances, & had strong economies…

…Russia had no advanced industry, no overseas colonies, & an economy of small-scale farmers

Most Russians were feudal peasants working for nobles (called boyars)


Czar Peter the Great wanted to modernize & “Westernize” Russia to catch up with Europe

In disguise, Peter toured Europe to learn new ways to modernize Russia

While in Europe, Peter learned new ideas about shipbuilding, manufacturing, gov’t organization, city planning, music, & fashion


When he returned from Europe, Peter imposed new reforms to Westernize Russia:

Adopted European fashions by banning beards for men & veils for women

Adopted a European calendar

Improved farming techniques

Used mercantilism as an economic policy

Modernized the army & navy

Created iron & lumber factories

Made himself head of the Orthodox Church (like Henry VIII in England)


Peter expanded Russia’s borders & built a new “European-style” Russian capital at St. Petersburg

the legacy of peter the great
The Legacy of Peter the Great

As a result of Peter the Great, Russia became a more advanced, Western nation

But, modernization was a slow process & Russia had not fully industrialized by World War I

During World War I, revolutionaries overthrew the monarchy & created a radical new gov’t based on socialism

  • 1725 construction of Peterhof was completed
  • Dutch for "Peter's Court” was a grand residence, becoming known as the "Russian Versailles”
limits of westernization
  • Catherine II (reigned 1762-1795)
    • Made deal with boyars: back me, keep serfs
    • Continued Peter's policies of westernization
    • Attracted to Enlightenment
    • Rejected changes that would weaken her rule
  • Pugachev's rebellion in Caucasus (1773-1774)
    • Led by Cossacks, exiles, peasants, and serfs
    • Protest taxes
    • Led by Pugachev
    • Rebels Killed thousands of nobles, officials, and priests
    • Crushed by imperial army, 1774
  • The end of Catherine's reforms
    • Pugachev's rebellion and French Revolution soured Catherine on reform
    • Reversed policy of westernization
    • Tried to restrict foreign influence in Russia
  • Expanded-southern Russia, Crimea, Lithuania, Belarus, Black Sea region

Russian empire building was motivated by the desire to subdue the pastoral peoples of central Asia and establish greater security.

Remember their historical encounter with The Mongols?


WHAP is not all about "Leaders" & "Men" or in this case "Women, too."

It is about ideas, comparisons, themes, & concepts.

In this case, the main point is that Russia expanded quickly. Fur trade and the riches of the eastern territories drove this expansion as much, or more so than the leaders did.

But their stories are pretty interesting, aren't they?

russian fur trade

Russian Fur Trade

Profits were the chief incentive for Russian expansion

Had a similar toll on native Siberians as it had on Indians

Dependence on Russian goods

Depletion of fur-bearing animal

Russians didn’t have competition, so they forced Siberians to provide furs instead of negotiating commercial agreements

Private Russian hunters & trappers competed directly with Siberians populations

russian identity problem

Russian Identity Problem

Expansion made Russia a very militarizedstate

Reinforced autocracy

Colonization experience was different from the Americas

Conquest of territories with which Russia had long interacted

Conquest took place at the same time as development of the Russian state

The Russian Empire remained intact until 1991 (more on the Soviets in CH 22)

how did the north american siberian fur trades differ

How did the North American & Siberian fur trades differ?

Both driven by demands of the world market

Both had similar consequences for the native populations that participated in them - both native Siberians & Native Americans suffered from new diseases & dependence on the goods for which they traded furs.

However, the trades also differed in that Native Americans dealt with several competing European nations who generally obtained their furs through commercial negotiations. No such competition existed in Siberia, where Russian authorities imposed a tax or tribute, payable in furs, on every able-bodied Siberian male between 18 & 50 years of age.

A further difference lay in the large-scale presence of private Russian hunters & trappers, who competed directly with their Siberian counterparts.

compare north american fur trade siberian fur trade

“Soft Gold” or animal furs were often used as payment, money, & source of barter: Great value.

Animal populations declined because of hunting. While natives in both America and Russian Siberia were greatly impacted by foreign disease.

Muscovites is to Russians as Europeans is to Native Americans. In Siberia there was competition, Muscovites forced tribute.

Yasak: fur tax that the natives of Siberia were forced to pay to the tsarist government of Russia. The political independence & economic prosperity of nomadic peoples came to an end.

CompareNorth Americanfur trade&Siberian fur trade.