Russian history can be divided into several different periods, and the twentieth century alone encompasses many of the events that helped shape the country it is today, particularly its Soviet history. Russia has an intriguing and tumultuous history marked by land conquered during the reign of Peter the Great, a grand imperial era under the tsars, and a revolutionary period under the supervision of various Soviet leaders. Today, many of the relics and interesting Russia facts extend from these eras and have been preserved throughout the ages and remain some of the most popular attractions in Russia.
The ancient history of Russia begins with the migration of nearby nations and kingdoms, leading to the creation of an empire and a collection of cities. The Vikings and the Varangians, known as Scandinavian Norsemen, roamed the land practicing piracy and trade. In 862, Rurik, a Varangian leader, brought his people into Novgorod, where he was elected to rule over the surrounding area. The Kievan Rus’ emerged as the first East Slavic state in the ninth century. In the late tenth century, Vladimir I gained power, and in an effort to form allies with Constantinople and other western kingdoms, he established the state religion as Greek Orthodox, something that remains very much part of the Russian culture today.
In the thirteenth century, Mongols took advantage of disunited princes reigning over the land and destroyed the cities of Kiev and Vladimir; however, the Novgorod Republic escaped the tragedy, and new cities, including Moscow, Tver, and Nizhny Novgorod came out of the dust. Amid several rebellions against the Tatar Empire, Mongolian rule continued until near the end of the fifteenth century, when Moscow, under the care of Ivan the Great, finally managed to shrug off the shadow of the Mongols for good.
Decades later, in 1533, his grandson, Ivan the Terrible, assumed the throne at the age of three under the title of Grand Duke, with his mother, followed by several chosen nobles, acted as regent until her death. After he assumed the title of tsar in 1547, the state of Russia became a unified entity. Interestingly, Ivan the Terrible was considerably congenial during the early part of his reign; however, with age, his temper heightened and worsened as the years continued, during which time he confiscated land and executed or exiled those with whom he was dissatisfied; the final blow to his reputation was the incident when he struck and killed his own son with an iron rod in a fit of anger.
The imperial era is among the most important in the history of Russia. The Romanovs occupied the throne during this royal period of Russia. Peter the Great was the youngest of four children, and his takeover of the throne in 1682 was accompanied by turmoil and strife among family members. Because of his terrible experience of losing his family amid this turbulence in Moscow, he grew to hate the city for the rest of his life, and as a result, he later moved the capital from Moscow to his own St Petersburg. He toured much of Europe, and upon his return, he embarked on an effort to recreate Russia with a European image. Peter revamped the entire state of Russia, expanding, increasing revenue, and reorganizing the church.
Ultimately one of the most influential rulers in Russian history, Catherine the Great carried on through a conflicting marriage to Peter III, Peter the Great’s grandson, and after her husband’s death, she continued to carry out his efforts to create a new image for the Russian state; she became the most powerful monarch in Europe.
During the reign of Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, who came to power in 1896, the country became unsettled. Beginning in 1917, revolutionaries took the opportunity to overthrow the empire, ultimately leading to the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922. During the revolution, Nicholas and his family were held at Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg for several days before they were executed and buried under a dirt road just outside of town. Travelers interested in learning Russia facts about this era in history can visit the numerous monuments and the Church on the Blood that stand in memory of the royal family.
Lenin, Stalin, and Gorbachev are three of the most well known leaders throughout the history of the USSR. In the early years of the Soviet, the country was facing enormous challenges, but with Lenin's efforts for rebuilding the country from the bottom up, a great deal of hope and optimism remained with the population. After his death, the Communist Party underwent a power struggle, through which Joseph Stalin surfaced as the new leader, and the USSR was placed under tight control; churches were closed, the arts were all but eliminated, any possible political opposition was eradicated, and the economic plan was revamped, pulling each establishment into a collective, state run operation.
Due in part to these policies, the country was unprepared for the massive scale of World War II, and Germany seized much of the land; however, because of the extreme effort of pushing the Germans back to Poland, the country arguably emerged stronger. Stalin died of a brain hemorrhage in 1953, after which Soviet leaders included Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Breznev. Mikhail Gorbachev assumed power in 1985, and his leadership ended with the end of the Soviet Union; on New Year's Eve of 1990, the Russian tricolor flag replaced the Soviet flag above the Kremlin in Moscow. Today, many attractions are dedicated to these leaders, including Lenin’s mausoleum in Red Square, and are popular among travelers wishing to learn Russia facts during their vacation.
From ancient Russian history to the revolutionary years, each era has left behind an abundance of relics that intrigue many tourists and historians. Today, visitors can fill their itinerary with a host of historic attractions from many of these periods that span the history of Russia—these are among the most spectacular opportunities for sightseeing in the world.