Russian Empire


August 19, 2022

The Russian Empire (Russian: Российская империя ?, transliterated: Rossiyskaja imperija), often also referred to as Imperial Russia, was the state body that by the will of Peter I the Great (1682-1725) ruled Tsarist Russia from 1721 until to the forced abdication of Nicholas II (1894–1917) following the February revolution of 1917. It was preceded by the reign of the Moscow tsars and followed by the Russian Republic. All the tsars of the empire belonged to the Romanov family. From a territorial point of view it was the third largest state in history: in 1790 it extended over three continents (Europe, Asia and North America), bordering both Prussia and the province of Canada (British Empire), overlooking both the sea Baltic and Pacific Ocean. The surface was 23.7 million km² (22.8 in 1866), about 1⁄6 of all the land on the planet. Economically the empire was heavily linked to agriculture, with low productivity and a strong presence of serfdom until this was definitively abolished in 1861. Over time the economy was able to industrialize itself with the help of foreign investments in railways. and in factories. The lands were mostly governed by local nobles (the so-called boyars) from the 10th to the 17th century and the empire was placed under the control of the emperor, called tsar (also written tsar or tzar). Tsar Ivan III (1462-1505) prepared the ground to welcome the reforms of the following centuries: he tripled the territory of his state, put an end to the domination of the Golden Horde, renovated the Moscow Kremlin and founded the main institutions of the Russian state. Tsar Peter the Great (1682–1725) fought numerous wars and built a modern empire strong enough to establish itself as one of the major European powers of his time. He moved the capital from Moscow to his new city of St. Petersburg and replaced the traditional medieval social and political models with a rationalist system inspired by the Western model. Catherine the Great (1761–1796) reigned during Russia's golden age: she was concerned with rapidly expanding the nation through conquest, colonization and diplomacy. She continued the modernization work introduced by Peter the Great along Europeanist lines. Tsar Alexander II (1855–1881) promoted numerous reforms including that relating to the emancipation of 23 million serfs in 1861. His policy in Eastern Europe was to protect local Orthodox Christians who found themselves living under the government of the Ottoman Empire. This involvement and others led Russia to enter the First World War in 1914 and to side with France, the United Kingdom and Serbia against Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Russia remained an absolute monarchy until the 1905 revolution and then became a constitutional monarchy. The empire collapsed during the February Revolution of 1917 largely due to the state's failed participation in the Great War.


The Russian Empire was officially proclaimed by Peter I following the Treaty of Nystad (1721), although some historians assert that it can be considered founded when Ivan III of Russia conquered Novgorod or even when Ivan the Terrible conquered the Kazan Khanate. According to another point of view, the tsar, which was introduced starting with the coronation of Ivan IV in 1547, was a word already used at the time to indicate the empire, while Peter the Great simply extended and Latinized it. Much of the expansion of Russia's borders also occurred in the 17th century, culminating in the first Russian colonization in the Pacific in the mid-18th century and with the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667) which allowed for the incorporation of the western part of Ukraine. as well as favoring the Russian conquest of Siberia.