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Russia Facts and History

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Russia – the newly awakened great power

Russia – from cold warrior to partner: Even if the Russian winter still lives up to its reputation, the frosty political relations between Russia and the West, especially with Germany, thawed years ago and have been fairly frost-free since then.

Even if it has become a bit cooler between Russia and the West recently.

The close friendship between the Russian President Putin and Gerhard Schröder was a symbol of the new affection until the Social Democrats were voted out of office. With foresight, Putin had learned the German language during his time as a KGB officer in the former GDR and thus laid the foundation for personal communication.

In the past election campaign, Angela Merkel called for “less Putin”. In lockstep with the US, she expressed concerns that Putin, as Schröder had put it, was a “flawless democrat”. To what extent these concerns were motivated by Putin’s rejection of the recent Iraq war is difficult to say. However, it is clear that, contrary to all gloomy predictions, the German-Russian relationship has not deteriorated even after Merkel took office.

Although a large part of the Russian population still lives below or at least close to the poverty line, the country’s economic developments are very positive. After a decade of the political fall, the Russian giant has been on the rise since 2000. It is no coincidence that Russia is once again playing a decisive role on the international stage. As a link between Europe and Asia, Christianity and Islam, the country’s importance will continue to grow.

A visit to Moscow or Saint Petersburg and a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway are undoubtedly an unforgettable experience!

On February 1, 2009, the new head of the Russian Orthodox Church – KyriI I (born 1946) was solemnly inaugurated in the Moscow Church of the Savior in the presence of President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.

He succeeds Alexis II as head of around 150 million Russian Orthodox Christians around the world.

Alcohol abuse in the country is still a major social problem. Not least because of this, the mean life expectancy of Russian men is only 59 years.

Name of the country Rossijskaja Federacija (Russian Federation)
Form of government Presidential republic since 1991
Geographical location Eastern Europe/Asia
National anthem Russia, Our Holy
Head of state Since May 7, 2012 Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Population with the Crimea a little less than 150 million (Credit: Countryaah: Russia Population)
Ethnicities 81% Russians, 4% Tatars, 3% Ukrainians and approx. 0.6% Russian-Germans, a total of 160 ethnic groups
Religions Around 75% Russian Orthodox Christians (see also Christianity), 15-20% Muslims (see also Islam), a total of 69 denominations (including Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Protestantism and the strong spread of new religions (Moon, Aoum)
Languages Russian is used by approximately 87% of people.In addition, languages are spoken by around 100 minorities.
Capital Moskva (Moscow) with around 12 million residents
Surface 17,098,200 km² (the largest country on earth)
Highest mountain Elbrus in the Caucasus with an altitude of 5,642 m
Longest river Yenisei with a length of 5,870 km
Largest lake the Caspian Sea with an area of about 393,898 km²
International license plate RUS
National currency 1 ruble (rbl) = 100 kopecks
Time difference to CET + 1 to + 11 h – since 2011 there has been summer time all year rou
International phone code +7
Mains voltage, frequency 220 volts, 50Hertz
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .ru

Russia: history

Russia’s history is extremely varied. More than in other countries, Russian historiography is influenced by the perspective of the respective author in a time and place-bound manner and follows the historical thought patterns of the respective epoch. In their entirety, these self-portraits reflect a fairly authentic picture of Russia and help the visitor to understand the idiosyncratic country. On the basis of the listing of the year, an attempt is made to paint a “neutral” picture of Russia’s history.

Until around the year 1000

According to Abbreviationfinder website, in 862, the progenitor of the Ryurikid dynasty, Ryurik, founded Novgorod, today’s oldest Russian city, on the banks of the Volkhov.

In 863, the philosopher Kyrill (827-869) and his brother Method (around 815-885) founded Slavic orthodoxy and the Slavic literacy with the approval of Rome.

The Kievan Rus


succeeded Prince Oleg to unite 14 East Slavic tribes under his rule. His new empire stretched from Karelia in the north to the steppe borders in the south and from the Dniester to the Volga. The city of Kiev became the center of the empire of the same name. In 911 Prince Oleg concluded a trade agreement between his Kievan Rus and Byzantium. Extremely intensive trade relations were the result.

The word “Rus” originally comes from the Greek Rhos (= sources) and was the name for the Varangian upper class of the emerging empire. In the course of time, the term was carried over to the East Slav population in order to finally become the name of the homeland of the Russians in “Russia”.

988the Christianization of Rus took place under Vladimir (978-1015). Slavic was introduced and recognized as a church language as the Russian Orthodox Church was subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

From the year 1000 to the 17th century


The death of Wladimir led to brotherly feuds: Svyatopolk had his brothers Boris and Gleb slain, who later were venerated as the first saints of the Russian Orthodox Church.


The political and cultural heyday of Kievan Rus began with Yaroslavl the Wise. He strengthened the internal security through the generally valid legal order, the “Russkaja prawda”, and he had the imperial capital Kiev converted into a magnificent residence, the center of which was the St. Sophia Cathedral, begun in 1037. Jarowslavl’s church policy was shaped by efforts to gain independence from Byzantium, so that in 1051, without the consent of the Patriarch of Constantinople, he had his chaplain Ilarion elected as the new Metropolitan of Kievan Rus. Numerous monasteries were founded during this time. Since the middle of the 11th century, a few cities in addition to Kiev have developed into up-and-coming trading cities. The merchant class in particular reflected the new self-image of the cities.

In 1054 the five sons of Yaroslavl divided Kievan Rus among themselves. Wars of succession and military attacks by the steppe nomads led to the formation of new political centers in northeastern Russia. The principalities of Vladimir-Suzdal and Rostov Veliky were established.


The supremacy of the Kiev princely house was very much weakened within Russia. Grand Duke Vladimir II (Monomakh) and his son Grand Duke Mstislav I successfully defended their royal house for the last time.


The city of Novgorod broke away from the Kiev principality.


Moscow was founded by Jurij Dolgorukij, Prince of Suzdal. Fierce fighting began for supremacy in Kievan Rus.

In 1169 Kiev, the Russian capital, was destroyed by Andrei Bogolyubsky (1157-1174). Vladimir became the residential capital of his Grand Duchy. Due to his strong claim to sole rule, Bogolyubsky fell victim to a boyar conspiracy in 1175.


The Russian principalities gained more and more importance, the principality Vladimir-Sudal experienced under Vsevolod III. the height of his power. The result of the increase in power of the principalities were always new armed conflicts, the only peacemaker was the unifying influence of the church.

Tatar rule in


The disintegration of Rus into largely isolated individual principalities heralded Tatar rule. Genghis Khan invaded the southern Russian steppes, his grandson, Batu Khan, conquered Kiev in 1240 and thus brought all of Russia (with the exception of Pskov and Novgorod) into Tataro-Mongolian power. The Tataro-Mongolian power center became the city of Sarai on the lower reaches of the Volga. The realm of the Tatars or the realm of “The Golden Horde” extended from Irtysh and the Dniester and from the Volga to the Caspian and the Black Sea.


The prince of Novgorod, Alexander Newskij (the nickname refers to the Neva river), saved Russia from papal proselytizing through his victories over the Swedes (1240) and especially over the Teutonic Order on the ice of Lake Peipus (1242) to Catholicism.

In 1263 the city of Vladimir became the center of power in the Russian Empire. Alexander Nevsky entered the service of Genghis Khan’s grandson, Batu Khan, and received the title of Grand Duke because of his success as a power-conscious vassal. The metropolitan moved his seat from Kiev to Vladimir (1299).


Ivan I (Prince of Moscow since 1325) was appointed Grand Duke of Vladimir by the Khan of the Golden Horde. However, Ivan I did not move his residence to the new Grand Duchy, but to Moscow (1328). There he began buying land, which initiated his policy of “collecting Russian soil”. During his 12-year reign, he was able to triple his territory.


The Grand Duke Dmitrij Donskoj made Moscow the center of the Great Russian Empire. He also successfully led the Russian troops into battle against the Tataro Mongols on the snipe field near the cathedral. Despite the retaliatory strike by the Mongols on Moscow in 1382, Russian self-confidence remained strengthened.


The struggle for the dignity of the Grand Duke flared up again, but the unstable balance of power was also made clear by armed conflicts among the Golden Horde.


The union of the Roman Catholic and the Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) Churches at the Council in Ferrara/Florence met with fierce opposition in Russia.


In response to the Union of Churches in Florence, the election of the Bishop of Ryazan as Metropolitan “of Kiev and all Russia” initiated the independence of the Russian Orthodox Church. The conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 encouraged Russia to inherit the Byzantine Empire.

Ivan III ruled 1462-1505. as the “ruler of all Russia” the country. The marriage of the niece of the last Byzantine emperor (1472) gave Ivan’s rule an imperial character: the Byzantine concept of the state, the symphonia, the idea of the unity of church and state, became state doctrine.

In 1478

Moscow succeeded in subjugating Novgorod, thus successfully completing the policy of “gathering the Russian soil”.

1480 put Ivan III. the tribute payments to the Golden Horde that began in 1325 and ended the 250-year foreign rule of the Tataro-Mongols.

The “Third Rome” and its first Russian tsar in


After the fall of Constantinople, Russia saw itself as the guardian and standard bearer of Byzantine traditions in the religious-cultural as well as in the political field. The Russian autocracy saw themselves as the only legitimate rulers of Christianity in the succession of Rome and Byzantium. The centerpiece of their state and imperial ideology was the statement formulated by monk Filofei in 1510 that Moscow was the third – and last – Rome. This idea was to be reflected in the imperial policy of the tsars for centuries.


reign of Ivan IV – he was called “the rigor” and later the “terrible” due to his government policy.


Ivan IV was crowned tsar and married the boyar’s daughter Anastassija Romanowa. The marriage united the Ryurikid dynasty with that of the Romanovs. Under Ivan IV there was the preliminary form of a standing army for the first time.

In 1552,

by conquering Kazan, Ivan IV created the basis for a multi-ethnic empire. Astrakhan was annexed in 1556.


During the Livonian War, Ivan IV established the oprichnina, his bodyguard, and took action against his enemies in the interior of the country (1565-1572). He passed a law that tied the farmers to the plaice for life (1582). The country has been weakened by the plague and famine. Ataman Ermak Timofejew conquered the West Siberian Khanatas.


reign of Fyodor I – under his rule the first access to Russia, the port of Arkhangelsk, was built in 1584.

In 1589 the Russian Orthodox Church was finally independent from Constantinople and the Patriarchate was established in Moscow.


The Ryurikid dynasty ended and the imperial assembly elected Boris Godunov as tsar.

Troubled times and the first Romanov Tsar


Troubled times began, as various pretenders to the throne presented themselves as the murdered son Dimitrij of Ivan IV. They plunged Russia into armed conflicts, among other things through the rule of the “false Dimitrij” (1605/06).


Moscow was besieged by Polish-Lithuanian troops for two years.


During the reign of Tsar Mikhail Romanov, peace finally returned to Russia.


The reform of the Russian Orthodox Church began under Patriarch Nikon.


Ukraine is annexed to Russia


The split in the Russian Orthodox Church began. Old believers were grouped around the archpriest Avakum, the reformers continued to support the patriarch Nikon. Thousands of reform supporters fled to the forests in the north of the country to escape persecution by the Old Believers.


The Cossack leader Stepan Razin led a peasant uprising.


In the first Turkish war, Fyodor III tried. in vain to conquer the Crimea as the Russian gateway to the sea.

The opening of Russia to the west


Coronation of Peter I as Tsar. The coronation of Peter’s feeble-minded brother Fyodor was also brought about by the armed uprisings of the Strelizi. The reign of the two underage brothers was taken over by their half-sister Sofia.


During the reign of Peter the Great, Russia had only one year of peace (1724).


Contrary to Moscow’s expectations, Peter I was the first Russian tsar to travel abroad to study. In the Netherlands and England in particular, he looked for models for the modernization of Russia he intended.


Peter the Great successfully put down a Strelizan uprising. Beginning of the Petrine reforms – almost all areas of private and public life were covered.

In the 18th and 19th centuries


Introduction of the Julian calendar (replaced the Byzantine calendar). After the death of Patriarch Adrian, Peter I abolished the office of patriarch and built up a provisional church leadership in Russia that was subordinate to the state.


During the Northern War, Peter I pursued the goal of giving Russia access to the Baltic Sea. He wanted to wrest the delta of the Neva from his war opponents, the Swedes.


Peter I founded Saint Petersburg on the Neva.


victory over King Karl XII. from Sweden near Poltava.


First Russo-Turkish War.


Saint Petersburg was made the Russian capital. So that the city could become a “stone paradise”, the construction of stone buildings was banned throughout the country. Peter the Great married Katharina Skawronskaja. After his death in 1725 she was appointed tsarina.


In the Peace of Nystad Sweden undertook to cede the goods Livonia, Estonia, Ingermanland and Karelia to Russia. As a result, Peter the Great accepted the title of “All-Russian Emperor”.


The Academy of Science was founded in Saint Petersburg.


The reign of Catherine II was characterized by reforms to modernize Russia in the sense of enlightened absolutism. Parallel to the reforms, a noble society based on the Western European model replaced boyarism.


Second Russo-Turkish War.


The peasant revolt under Emeljan I.: Pugachev made the politically unstable situation of the country clear. Catherine II then rejected enlightenment reforms and liberal-humanitarian ideas.


annexation of the Crimea.


The third Russo-Turkish war ended with the Peace of Jassy.


Fourth Russo-Turkish War.


Russia fought against Napoleon in the “Patriotic War”. Three quarters of Moscow’s building structure fell victim to fire.


At the Congress of Vienna Alexander I was celebrated as “the savior of Europe”. In Berlin, Alexanderplatz was dedicated to him. Alexandrian Classicism – the symbol of Russia’s strengthened self-confidence – is particularly evident in the cities of Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Industrialization and Revolution in


Numerous secret societies were founded against Russia’s social and socio-political backwardness.


Decembrist Uprising – it was supported by young nobles who stood up for democratic conditions in Russia. The uprising failed.


In the Crimean War, Russia fought in isolation against the great powers France, Great Britain and Turkey.


Serfdom was lifted in Russia. As a result, millions of farmers poured into the cities. The impoverishment of large sections of society began.


The German Empire, Austria and Russia formed the three emperors alliance.


Assassination attempt on Alexander II by the terrorist group “Volkswille”. Austria-Hungary, the German Empire and Russia signed the neutrality treaty.


The world exhibition was opened in Moscow.


The neutrality agreement between the German Empire and Russia was renewed.


Russia concluded a secret military alliance with France because after Bismarck’s dismissal as Chancellor in 1890, the new Chancellor Leo Caprivi did not extend the neutrality agreement.


Nikolai II became tsar.


Under Lenin’s leadership, the Petersburg Kampfbund prepared for the liberation of the working class.


The Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party was founded in Minsk, later the nucleus of the CPSU.

20th century until today


The Social Democratic Workers’ Party split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.


Strikes and unrest rocked the country during the Russo-Japanese War.


On the so-called “Bloody Sunday”, peacefully demonstrating workers were gunned down in front of the Petersburg Winter Palace. The 130 dead provided the final impetus for the first Russian, bourgeois-democratic revolution.

August 1914

Russia entered the First World War and lost millions of soldiers at the front because of outdated military equipment. Saint Petersburg was renamed Petrograd.


As a result of the February Revolution, Nikolai II had to abdicate on March 15th. A bourgeois government, workers ‘and soldiers’ councils took over the leadership of Russia. In April Lenin began to formulate the “April Theses” in his new adopted home, Petrograd.

November 7th, 1917

(October 25th according to the Byzantine era) The Bolsheviks stormed the Petersburg Winter Palace – the seat of the Provisional Government. Lenin ousted Kerensky’s chairman and took over government power. Lenin signed an armistice with Germany and Austria-Hungary in December, which was confirmed in a peace treaty in 1918.

The Soviet Union

The Rossiyskaya Socialisticheskaya Federatiwnaya Sovetskaya Respublika (RSFSR) was proclaimed in January. Lenin appointed Moscow as the seat of government for strategic military reasons and introduced the Gregorian calendar; January 31, 1918 was followed by February 14 that year. The royal family was the victim of a massacre in Ekaterinburg.


A Russian civil war raged between the Red Army, commanded by Trotsky (Lev Bronstein), and the White units supported by Allied intervention troops. 1924: Lenin suffered his third stroke and died in Nizhny Novgorod. He was buried in the mausoleum on Red Square. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad.

The way from Stalinism to democracy


Stalin won the power struggle in the party and became the new general secretary.

From 1927

start of industrialization and forced collectivization. A politically controlled famine killed millions.


Sad climax of Stalinist terror policy: Millions of people were dragged into the country’s prisons and camps or murdered.

August 1939

In the non-aggression pact between Hitler and Stalin, among other things, the partition of Poland was agreed. With the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the Second World War began. June 1941: Under the code name “Operation Barbarossa”, the German Wehrmacht invaded Russia without a declaration of war. Within three months, the Wehrmacht was able to advance to shortly before Moscow.


On September 8th, the 900-day siege of Leningrad and Stalingrad by the German Wehrmacht began. It was not until January 27, 1944 that the Red Army succeeded in liberating the city again. The siege claimed the lives of more than a million people. They starved to death, froze to death or were killed by artillery fire.


The battle for Stalingrad is considered to be one of the decisive turning points of the Second World War. The VI. German Wehrmacht Army was encircled by Soviet forces in Stalingrad in November 1942. In the winter of 1943 General Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus and General Wilhelm von Seydlitz capitulated; 90,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner and around 146,000 lost their lives in the battle.

May 8, 1945

Germany surrendered unconditionally and lost northern East Prussia to the Soviet Union. On the side of the Soviet Union, around 20 million people lost their lives in World War II.

From 1947: The world split into two political camps (bipolar world order). The Cold War between the two superpowers USA and Soviet Union began.


The Soviet blockade of Berlin led to an Allied airlift.


Stalin died.


The Warsaw Pact was established.


On the XX. At the CPSU party congress, it was decided to de-Stalinize. During the reign of Nikita Khrushchev, the approach of a tentative liberalization of social life in the Soviet Union emerged. In the race for space, the Soviet Union led the United States: In April 1961, the Russian Jurij A. Gagarin was the first person in space. 1964-1982: The successor of the overthrown Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, pursued a strict reform course. The country was threatened with decline – not least because of the political stubbornness of the aging government members. The scope of the arms race was felt in the poor economic situation in the country.


Afghanistan war.


Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform course – perestroika – social restructuring – broke with the absurd politics of the aged party leadership. His political program of transparency and openness – glasnost – thinned the Iron Curtain, which had been closely guarded for decades, and gave the Soviet citizen a voice in the political process again. In 1986 the worst nuclear accident to date occurred in Chernobyl in Ukraine. The ongoing damage to people and the environment is still visible today.


Gorbachev’s balance between reform and restoration became more and more a dangerous tightrope act for the party leader. The resentment of the population against the politician, who is highly valued by the West, increased steadily, also because of enormous shortages in the food supply. His will to reform from above sparked an unstoppable revolution from below. 1991: Orthodox-Communist forces of the army and the party staged a coup in August and arrested Gorbachev in Crimea. The coup was put down on August 21, when the radical reformer and free market advocate Boris Yeltsin declared the “Emergency Committee” to take power as unconstitutional and called on the population to resist. The resistance of the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg in particular contributed massively to the failure of the coup and ultimately to the ban on the all-powerful CPSU for 70 years. As a result of the coup, Gorbachev resigned as general secretary of the CPSU in August and as president in December. Boris Yeltsin became the new president. This was followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Leningrad got its founding name back – Saint Petersburg.


National conservative forces put a coup against Yeltsin (October coup) and were crushed on the same day. Russia saw its first free elections in December. 1994/95: The brutally waged war against the breakaway Caucasian republic of Chechnya began under Boris Yeltsin’s leadership. The president, initially referred to as the “man of the hour”, gambled away his popular sympathies through the war and numerous wrong decisions “in free fall” into capitalism. More than 60 million former Soviet citizens lived below the subsistence level. Citizens’ frustration turned into reform fatigue.



Russia tried to counteract the great financial crisis with a reform of the tax system and the financial sector. The World Bank granted billions in loans to stabilize the ruble. The Russian economy was weakened and the downward trend seemed unstoppable. At the political level, there was an ongoing power struggle in the State Duma between the democratic-liberal reformers and the parliamentary majority of an anti-Western alliance of national conservatives and communists. The economic malaise of Russia led to a devaluation of the ruble in August – the financial crisis developed into a state crisis.


In the presidential elections, Yeltsin’s favorite candidate, Vladimir Putin, prevailed despite the crisis in the economy. Within a few months, the former KGB officer and foreign agent won the affection of the Russians with the promise of order and prosperity. The announcement of a “politico-military” regulation – i.e. a particularly tough crackdown on the Chechen rebels in the Caucasus Republic – helped Putin after the attacks in August 1999 on two prefabricated buildings in Moscow (210 dead) and in Volgodonsk in southern Russia (17 dead and over 300 injured) to an election victory. The fact that there was no evidence that the bombers were of Chechen origin, as later in the case of the attacks on the Moscow Metro in 2000 and 2001, was ignored.


After the attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, Putin was criticized more and more for his Chechnya policy and his radical military engagement at the international level. 2002: In October, Chechen rebels took around 800 visitors to a Moscow musical hostage; the high proportion of women among the rebels was noticeable. The liberation of the hostages by Russian special forces claimed 170 lives. The gas used in the liberation was seen as a major cause of death.

2003: With the looming Iraq crisis in early 2003, Russia spoke out against the US war plans. Like other European countries, Russia demanded further weapons inspections in order to prevent a US war against Iraq.

June 2003

Russia staged an elaborately designed celebration on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Saint Petersburg. The world was a guest in Russia, and over 40 heads of government accepted Putin’s invitation to take part in the festivities.

October 2003: Valentina Matveenko became the first female mayor of Saint Petersburg. Putin supported her in her election campaign.

December 2003

Putin’s party “United Russia” was able to win a clear two-thirds majority in the parliamentary elections. Putin had unrestricted power in the State Duma, the democratic opposition in the Kremlin had failed. The communists lost almost half of their votes; in 1999 they were still the strongest party with 32%. The influence of the right-wing populist party under Shirinovsky also increased, and they became the third strongest force in the Duma. The course of the elections is controversial, but Western observers certified a “free, but not fair” election. The new balance of power made it possible for Putin to intervene heavily in the legal situation in Russia.

Early 2004: Just before the presidential elections in March 2004, Putin appointed a new cabinet of ministers headed by Prime Minister Fradkov. Putin reduced the number of ministries from 30 to 17 and, as expected, was re-elected in the presidential election with over 70% of the vote. Again, as in the 2000 elections, international observers judged the election process to be free, but not fair.


In domestic politics, Putin strove to stabilize Russia under the slogans “managed democracy” and “dictatorship of the law”. His economic reforms strengthened the once economically weak Russia. Nevertheless, he has not yet achieved a solution to the Chechnya conflict, as he strictly rejects negotiations or an improvement in the living situation in the Caucasus Republic. His radical stance became clear at the 2004 Beslan school massacre. In foreign policy, Putin sees only one role for the Russian Federation: while maintaining good relations with the West, he wants to revive Russia’s status as a great power. This claim to great power became clear not least in the conflict over the increase in natural gas prices with neighboring Ukraine in January 2006.

February/May 2008

According to the constitution, Putin could no longer run for the presidential election. In the election on March 2, 2008, Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev (born 1965) ran as his “husband”. With a turnout of around 65%, he was elected the new President of the Russian Federation with 70% of the vote. Putin will then remain in an influential position “under” him as prime minister. The solemn inauguration of Medvedev took place on May 7, 2008 in Moscow in the Kremlin.

May 7, 2012

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was ceremonially reinstated as President of Russia.

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