Russian History

Originally a collection of independent villages and towns, Russia began organizing into a country in the 8th century. As different cultures such as the Norsemen and the Danes began taking over portions of the Western European area, the Varangians began to move into Eastern Europe and settled in the city of Novgorod. From Novgorod, the Varangians began taking over rule of the small towns and villages, making the town of Kiev there center of trade and political power.

A leader soon emerged among the Varangians, known as Oleg, who began to expand the empire that was known as Kievan Rus. By the middle of the 10th century, Olegs great-grandson, Vladimir I would become the ruler of the empire and reign over a territory that reached from the Volga River in the East to the Caucusus Mountains in the West and the Black Sea in the South.

By the 13th Century a new group, known as the Mongols, began to take over, destroying the towns of the Varangians and developed their own cultural and political centers. including the city of Moscow. By the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible had become the ruler of the country and was named Grand Duke of Moscow. In the early 17th century, the Romanov family became the rulers of the Russian Empire with Peter the Great becoming the head of the Empire. Ruling for two centuries, the nation continued to expand under the Tsars until the Russian Revolution overthrew the existing government in the early 1800's.

In the late 1800's another revolution took place in Russia, overthrowing Tsar Nicholas II and paving the way for what would become the new Soviet Union (USSR). A new leader, Vladimir Lenin would emerge as the Bolsheviks gained more and more power. Following the death of Lenin, an even stronger leader, Joseph Stalin would gain control and expand the empire.

By the late 1930's, the empire was continuing to grow, but a new threat was developing on the western border of the Soviet Union. Germany invaded Poland in the Fall of 1939, threatening the stability of the USSR. When Germany moved to invade the Soviet Union and march on Moscow, the country was initially unprepared for the attack. With a great military effort, the Soviet Union was able to move the German invasion back and succeeded in driving the army back into Poland.

Facing the continuing challenge of the German military, the Soviet Union made an uneasy alliance with the United States and England to bring Germany to its knees. The years immediately following World War II saw many changes for the empire as a Cold War began to develop between the Soviet Union and the United States. Under Nakita Khruschev, the country began to threaten the west with a buildup of nuclear weapons.

A new leader emerged in 1985 as the General Secretary of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev would lead the country to a new future that included establishing a new relationship with the United States and ultimately, the dismantling of the Soviet Union and reestablishment of Russia under Boris Yeltsin in the late 1980's.

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