Russia

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Posted by bender 03/27/2009 @ 20:07

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Georgia, Russia to hold further talks July 1 - Reuters
GENEVA, May 19 (Reuters) - Georgia and Russia had constructive security talks on Tuesday and agreed to meet again on July 1, said senior EU diplomat Pierre Morel, one of the co-chairs of the talks. "The process is in full swing and it today...
Russia and US begin nuclear talks - BBC News
Russia and the US are holding the first of three days of talks in Moscow on a new treaty aimed at reducing their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Senior diplomats need to hammer out a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start I) which...
Sochi 2014 – Branding, Volunteers - GamesBids.com
One of the leading Russian asset management companies will be renaming one of its mutual funds to comply with Olympic law which provides the necessary legal basis to protect the Olympic and Paralympic brands in Russia. Dmitry Chernyshenko, President...
Q+A-What does Russia want with Germany's Opel? - Reuters
MOSCOW, May 19 (Reuters) - The government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the driving force behind Russia's interest in gm's (GM.N) German affiliate Opel, analysts say. Germany has called on bidders to present their plans for Opel by May 20....
Russia, Norway discuss Arctic energy development - AFP
BARVIKHA, Russia (AFP) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg met Tuesday for talks on the Arctic, amid growing international interest in the region's vast energy resources. "Our countries are northern,...
Russia to Gays: Get Back into the Closet - TIME
18, 2009 Being gay is not supposed to be a crime in Russia. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993; six years later, the law that sent gays and lesbians to psychiatric wards was annulled. But Russia would still rather have its homosexual citizenry...
Russia's MTS sells 15 billion rouble bond - Reuters
N), Russia's top mobile phone operator, said on Tuesday it had placed in full a five-year bond worth 15 billion roubles ($464.5 million). Bids amounted to 25.72 billion roubles, VTB Capital, one of the issue organisers, said in a statement....
Russia's AvtoVAZ to slash work week in June - Reuters
MM) will slash working hours starting in June, Russia's largest car maker said on Tuesday, less than two months after the government unveiled a massive bailout plan meant to keep auto workers employed. The collapse in the Russian auto industry has...
FACTBOX-Telenor's legal battles in Russia and Ukraine - Reuters
The Norwegian firm's operations in Russia and Ukraine are mired in lawsuits, putting its investment in Russia's No. 2 mobile operator Vimpelcom (VIP.N) at risk and preventing it from consolidating its majority-owned Ukrainian mobile venture Kyivstar....
EU trade with US, Russia drops, Turkey shows biggest decline - Hürriyet
Exports to Russia slumped by 37 percent while imports suffered even more with a 39-percent drop. The biggest drop came in exports to Turkey , 41 percent, while imports fell 30 percent. The initial estimate for the overall trade balance of the European...

Russia

Russia is Europe's key oil and gas supplier.[128]

Russia /ˈrʌʃə/ (help·info) (Russian: Россия, Rossiya), or the Russian Federation (Russian: Российская Федерация?·i, Rossiyskaya Federatsiya), is a transcontinental country extending over much of northern Eurasia. It is a semi-presidential republic comprising 83 federal subjects. Russia shares land borders with the following countries (counterclockwise from northwest to southeast): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (via Kaliningrad Oblast), Poland (via Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and Democratic People's Republic of Korea. At 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than an eighth of the Earth’s land area; with 142 million people, it is the ninth largest by population. It extends across the whole of northern Asia and 40% of Europe, spanning 11 time zones and incorporating a great range of environments and landforms. Russia has the world's greatest reserves of mineral and energy resources, and is considered an energy superpower. It has the world's largest forest reserves and its lakes contain approximately one-quarter of the world's unfrozen fresh water.

The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs, which emerged as a recognizable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Founded and ruled by a noble Viking warrior class and their descendants, the first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus', arose in the 9th century and adopted Christianity from the Byzantine Empire in 988, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated and the lands were divided into many small feudal states. The most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus' was Moscow, which served as the main force in the Russian reunification process and independence struggle against the Golden Horde. Moscow gradually reunified the surrounding Russian principalities and came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation and exploration to become the Russian Empire, which was the third largest empire in history, stretching from Poland eastward to the Pacific Ocean and Alaska.

Russia established worldwide power and influence from the times of the Russian Empire to being the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union, the world's first and largest constitutionally socialist state and a recognized superpower. The nation can boast a long tradition of excellence in every aspect of the arts and sciences. The Russian Federation was founded following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, but is recognized as the continuing legal personality of the Soviet Union. It has one of the world's fastest growing major economies and has the world's eighth largest GDP by nominal GDP or seventh largest by purchasing power parity with the fifth largest military budget. It is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the world's largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8, APEC and the SCO, and is a leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Russian Federation stretches across a large extent of the north of the super-continent of Eurasia. Because of its size, Russia displays both monotony and diversity. As with its topography, its climates, vegetation, and soils span vast distances. From north to south the East European Plain is clad sequentially in tundra, coniferous forest (taiga), mixed and broad-leaf forests, grassland (steppe), and semi-desert (fringing the Caspian Sea) as the changes in vegetation reflect the changes in climate. Siberia supports a similar sequence but is taiga. The country contains 23 World Heritage Sites and 40 UNESCO Biosphere reserves.

The two widest separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (5,000 mi) apart along a geodesic line. These points are: the boundary with Poland on a 60 km long (40-mi long) spit of land separating the Gulf of Gdańsk from the Vistula Lagoon; and the farthest southeast of the Kuril Islands, a few miles off Hokkaidō Island, Japan. The points which are furthest separated in longitude are 6,600 km (4,100 mi) apart along a geodesic. These points are: in the West, the same spit; in the East, the Big Diomede Island (Ostrov Ratmanova). The Russian Federation spans 11 time zones.

Russia has the world's largest forest reserves and is known as "the lungs of Europe", second only to the Amazon Rainforest in the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs. It provides a huge amount of oxygen for not just Europe, but the world. With access to three of the world's oceans — the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific — Russian fishing fleets are a major contributor to the world's fish supply. The Caspian is the source of what is considered the finest caviar in the world.

Most of Russia consists of vast stretches of plains that are predominantly steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, Russia's and Europe's highest point at 5,642 m / 18,511 ft) and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes on Kamchatka. The Ural Mountains, rich in mineral resources, form a north-south range that divides Europe and Asia. Russia possesses 10% of the world's arable land.

Russia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 kilometers (23,000 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Baltic Sea, Sea of Azov, Black and Caspian seas. The Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan are linked to Russia. Major islands and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just three kilometers (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island is about twenty kilometers (12 mi) from Hokkaidō.

Russia has thousands of rivers and inland bodies of water, providing it with one of the world's largest surface water resources. The largest and most prominent of Russia's bodies of fresh water is Lake Baikal, the world's deepest, purest, most ancient and most capacious freshwater lake. Lake Baikal alone contains over one fifth of the world's fresh surface water. Other major lakes include Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega, two largest lakes in Europe. Of Russia's 100,000 rivers, The Volga is the most famous—not only because it is the longest river in Europe but also because of its major role in Russian history. Russia has a wide natural resource base unmatched by any other country, including major deposits of petroleum, natural gas, coal, timber and mineral resources.

The climate of the Russian Federation formed under the influence of several determining factors. The enormous size of the country and the remoteness of many areas from the sea result in the dominance of the humid continental and subarctic climate, which is prevalent in European and Asian Russia except for the tundra and the extreme southeast. Mountains in the south obstructing the flow of warm air masses from the Indian Ocean and the plain of the west and north makes the country open to Arctic and Atlantic influences.

Throughout much of the territory there are only two distinct seasons — winter and summer; spring and autumn are usually brief periods of change between extremely low temperatures and extremely high. The coldest month is January (on the shores of the sea—February), the warmest usually is July. Great ranges of temperature are typical. In winter, temperatures get colder both from south to north and from west to east. Summers can be quite hot and humid, even in Siberia. A small part of Black Sea coast around Sochi has a subtropical climate. The continental interiors are the driest areas.

In prehistoric times, the vast steppes of Southern Russia were home to disunited tribes of nomadic pastoralists. In classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia. Remnants of these steppe civilizations were discovered in the course of the 20th century in such places as Ipatovo, Sintashta, Arkaim, and Pazyryk. In the latter part of the eighth century BC, Greek traders brought classical civilization to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria. Between the third and sixth centuries BC, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes, such as the Huns and Turkic Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas until the 8th century.

The ancestors of modern Russians are the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pinsk Marshes. Moving into the lands vacated by the migrating Germanic tribes, the Early East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov. From the 7th century onwards, the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia and slowly but peacefully assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, including the Merya, the Muromians, and the Meshchera.

The 9th century saw the establishment of Kievan Rus', a predecessor state to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Scandinavian Norsemen, called "Vikings" in Western Europe and "Varangians" in the East, combined piracy and trade in their roamings over much of Northern Europe. In the mid-9th century, they ventured along the waterways extending from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the earliest Russian chronicle, a Varangian named Rurik was elected ruler (konung or knyaz) of Novgorod around the year 860; his successors moved south and extended their authority to Kiev, which had been previously dominated by the Khazars.

In the 10th to 11th centuries this state of Kievan Rus' became the largest and most prosperous in Europe. The reigns of Vladimir the Great (980-1015) and his son Yaroslav I the Wise (1019–1054) constitute the Golden Age of Kiev, which saw the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity and the creation of the first East Slavic written legal code, the Russkaya Pravda.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, caused a massive migration of Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye. Like many other parts of Eurasia, these territories were overrun by the Mongols. About half of the Russian population perished during the invasion. The invaders, later known as Tatars, formed the state of the Golden Horde, which pillaged the Russian principalities and ruled the southern and central expanses of Russia for over three centuries. Mongol rule retarded the country's economic and social development. However, the Novgorod Republic together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and was largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Led by Alexander Nevsky, Novgorodians repelled the Germanic crusaders who attempted to colonize the region. Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated as a state because of in-fighting between members of the princely family that ruled it collectively. Kiev's dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, Novgorod in the north-west and Galicia-Volhynia in the south-west. Conquest by the Golden Horde in the 13th century was the final blow and resulted in the destruction of Kiev in 1240. Galicia-Volhynia was eventually absorbed into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and the independent Novgorod Republic, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, established the basis for the modern Russian nation.

The most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus' was Grand Duchy of Moscow. It would annex rivals such as Tver and Novgorod, and eventually become the basis of the modern Russian state. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire. While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance, the Duchy of Moscow (or "Muscovy") began to assert its influence in Western Russia in the early 14th century. Assisted by the Russian Orthodox Church and Saint Sergius of Radonezh's spiritual revival, Russia inflicted a defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380). Ivan III (Ivan the Great) eventually threw off the control of the Tatar invaders, consolidated surrounding areas under Moscow's dominion and was the first to take the title "grand duke of all the Russias".

In 1547, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) was officially crowned the first Tsar of Russia. During his long reign, Ivan IV annexed the Tatar khanates (Kazan, Astrakhan) along the Volga River and transformed Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state. Ivan IV promulgated a new code of laws (Sudebnik of 1550), established the first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor) and introduced local self-management into the rural regions. But Ivan IV's rule was also marked by the long and unsuccessful Livonian War against the coalition of Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden for access to the Baltic coast and sea trade. The military losses, epidemics and poor harvests weakened the state, and the Crimean Tatars were able to burn down Moscow. The death of Ivan's sons, combined with the famine of 1601–1603, led to the civil war and foreign intervention of the Time of Troubles in the early 1600s. By the mid-17th century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on the Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, and on the Pacific coast. The Bering Strait between Asia and North America was first sighted by a Russian explorer in 1648.

Under the Romanov dynasty and Peter I (Peter the Great), the Russian Empire became a world power. Ruling from 1682 to 1725, Peter defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War, forcing it to cede West Karelia and Ingria (two regions lost by Russia in the Time of Troubles), Estland, and Livland, securing Russia's access to the sea and sea trade. It was in Ingria that Peter founded a new capital, Saint Petersburg. Peter's reforms brought considerable Western European cultural influences to Russia. Catherine II (Catherine the Great), who ruled from 1762 to 1796, continued the efforts to establish Russia as one of the Great Powers of Europe. In alliance with Prussia and Austria, Russia stood against Napoleon's France and eliminated its rival Poland-Lithuania in a series of partitions, gaining large areas of territory in the west. As a result of its victories in the Russo-Turkish War, by the early 19th century Russia had made significant territorial gains in Transcaucasia. Napoleon's invasion of Russia at the height of his power in 1812 failed miserably as obstinate Russian resistance combined with the bitterly cold Russian winter dealt him a disastrous defeat, in which more than 95% of his invading force perished. The officers in the Napoleonic Wars brought ideas of liberalism back to Russia with them and even attempted to curtail the tsar's powers during the abortive Decembrist revolt of 1825, which was followed by several decades of political repression.

The prevalence of serfdom and the conservative policies of Nicolas I impeded the development of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855–1881) enacted significant reforms, including the abolition of serfdom in 1861; these "Great Reforms" spurred industrialization. However, many socio-economic conflicts were aggravated during Alexander III’s reign and under his son, Nicholas II. Harsh conditions in factories created mass support for the revolutionary socialist movement. In January 1905, striking workers peaceably demonstrated for reforms in Saint Petersburg but were fired upon by troops, killing and wounding hundreds. The abject failure of the Tsar's military forces in the initially-popular Russo-Japanese War, and the event known as "Bloody Sunday", ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905. Although the uprising was swiftly put down by the army and although Nicholas II retained much of his power, he was forced to concede major reforms, including granting the freedoms of speech and assembly, the legalization of political parties and the creation of an elected legislative assembly, the Duma; however, the hopes for basic improvements in the lives of industrial workers were unfulfilled. Droughts and famines in Russia tended to occur on a fairly regular basis, with famine occurring every 10–13 years. The 1891-92 famine killed approximately half-million people. Cholera epidemics claimed more than 2 million lives.

Russia entered World War I in aid of its ally Serbia and fought a war across three fronts while isolated from its allies. Russia did not want war but felt that the only alternative was German domination of Europe. Although the army was far from defeated in 1916, the already-existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by the rising costs of war, casualties (Russia suffered the highest number of both military and civilian deaths of the Entente Powers), and tales of corruption and even treason in high places, leading to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917. A series of uprisings were organized by workers and peasants throughout the country, as well as by soldiers in the Russian army, who were mainly of peasant origin. Many of the uprisings were organized and led by democratically-elected councils called Soviets. The February Revolution overthrew the Russian monarchy, which was replaced by a shaky coalition of political parties that declared itself the Provisional Government. The abdication marked the end of imperial rule in Russia, and Nicholas and his family were imprisoned and later executed during the Civil War. While initially receiving the support of the Soviets, the Provisional Government proved unable to resolve many problems which had led to the February Revolution. The second revolution, the October Revolution, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government and created the world’s first socialist state.

Following the October Revolution, a civil war broke out between the new regime and the Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, and the White movement. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk concluded hostilities with the Central Powers in World War I. Russia lost its Ukrainian, Polish and Baltic territories, and Finland by signing the treaty. The Allied powers launched a military intervention in support of anti-Communist forces and both the Bolsheviks and White movement carried out campaigns of deportations and executions against each other, known respectively as the Red Terror and White Terror. The famine of 1921 claimed 5 million victims. By the end of the Russian Civil War, some 20 million had died and the Russian economy and infrastructure were completely devastated. Following victory in the Civil War, the Russian SFSR together with three other Soviet republics formed the Soviet Union on 30 December 1922. The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic dominated the Soviet Union for its entire 69-year history; the USSR was often referred to as "Russia" and its people as "Russians." The largest of the republics, Russia contributed over half the population of the Soviet Union. After Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin consolidated power and became dictator. Stalin launched a command economy, rapid industrialization of the largely rural country and collectivization of its agriculture and the Soviet Union was transformed from an agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in a short span of time. This transformation came with a heavy price, however; millions of citizens died as a consequence of his harsh policies.

On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union with the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history, opening the largest theater of the Second World War. Although the German army had considerable success early on, they suffered defeats after reaching the outskirts of Moscow and were dealt their first major defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–1943. Soviet forces drove through Eastern Europe in 1944–45 and captured Berlin in May, 1945. In the conflict, Soviet military and civilian death toll were 10.6 million and 15.9 million respectively, accounting for half of all World War II casualties. The Soviet economy and infrastructure suffered massive devastation but the Soviet Union emerged as an acknowledged superpower. The Red Army occupied Eastern Europe after the war, including the eastern half of Germany; Stalin installed socialist governments in these satellite states. Becoming the world's second nuclear weapons power, the USSR established the Warsaw Pact alliance and entered into a struggle for global dominance with the United States, which became known as the Cold War.

After Stalin's death, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin and eased his repressive policies. He began the process of eliminating the Stalinist political system known as de-Stalinization and abolished the Gulag labor camps, releasing millions of prisoners. The Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 and the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to orbit the Earth aboard the first manned spacecraft, Vostok 1. Tensions with the United States heightened when the two rivals clashed over the deployment of the U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba. Following the ousting of Khrushchev, another period of rule by collective leadership ensued until Leonid Brezhnev established himself in the early 1970s as the pre-eminent figure in Soviet politics. Brezhnev's rule oversaw economic stagnation and the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which drained economic resources and dragged on without achieving meaningful military or political results. Ultimately Soviet forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan in 1989 because of international opposition and a lack of political support from Soviet citizens at home. An incident furthering tension between the Soviet Union and the United States was the Sept. 1, 1983 downing by the Soviets of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 carrying 269 people, including a sitting U.S. congressman, Democrat from Georgia, Larry McDonald. From 1985 onwards, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize the country. Prior to its dissolution, the USSR economy was the second largest in the world, after the United States, until it began to collapse. During its last years, the economy was afflicted by shortages of goods in grocery stores, huge budget deficits and explosive growth in money supply leading to inflation. In August 1991, an unsuccessful military coup against Gorbachev aimed at preserving the Soviet Union instead led to its collapse. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin came to power and declared the end of socialist rule. The USSR splintered into fifteen independent republics and was officially dissolved in December 1991. Boris Yeltsin was elected the President of Russia in June 1991, in the first direct presidential election in Russian history.

During and after the disintegration of the USSR when wide-ranging reforms including privatisation and market and trade liberalization were being undertaken, the Russian economy went through a major crisis. This period was characterized by deep contraction of output, with GDP declining by roughly 50 percent between 1990 and the end of 1995 and industrial output declining by over 50 percent. In October 1991, Yeltsin announced that Russia would proceed with radical, market-oriented reform along the lines of "shock therapy", as recommended by the United States and International Monetary Fund. Price controls were abolished, privatization was started. Millions plunged into poverty. According to the World Bank, whereas 1.5% of the population was living in poverty in the late Soviet era, by mid-1993 between 39% and 49% of the population was living in poverty. Delays in wage payment became a chronic problem with millions being paid months, even years late. Russia took up the responsibility for settling the USSR's external debts, even though its population made up just half of the population of the USSR at the time of its dissolution. The privatization process largely shifted control of enterprises from state agencies to groups of individuals with inside connections in the Government and the mafia. Violent criminal groups often took over state enterprises, clearing the way through assassinations or extortion. Corruption of government officials became an everyday rule of life. Many of the newly rich mobsters and businesspeople took billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight. The long and wrenching depression was coupled with social decay. Social services collapsed and the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed. The early and mid-1990s was marked by extreme lawlessness. Criminal gangs and organized crime flourished and murders and other violent crime spiraled out of control.

In 1993 a constitutional crisis resulted in the worst civil strife in Moscow since the October Revolution. President Boris Yeltsin illegally dissolved the country's legislature which opposed his moves to consolidate power and push forward with unpopular neo-liberal reforms; in response, legislators barricaded themselves inside the White House, impeached Yeltsin and elected a new President and major protests against Yeltsin's government resulted in hundreds killed. With military support, Yeltsin sent the army to besiege the parliament building and disperse its defenders and used tanks and artillery to eject the legislators.

The 1990s were plagued by armed ethnic conflicts in the North Caucasus. Such conflicts took a form of separatist Islamist insurrections against federal power, or of ethnic/clan conflicts between local groups. Since the Chechen separatists declared independence in the early 1990s, an intermittent guerrilla war (First Chechen War, Second Chechen War) has been fought between disparate Chechen rebel groups and the Russian military. Terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by Chechen separatists, most notably the Moscow theater hostage crisis and Beslan school siege, caused hundreds of deaths and drew worldwide attention. High budget deficits and the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis caused the financial crisis of 1998 and resulted in further GDP decline. On 31 December 1999 Boris Yeltsin resigned from the presidency, handing the post to the recently appointed prime minister, Vladimir Putin, who then won the 2000 election. Putin won popularity for suppressing the Chechen insurgency, although sporadic violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus. High oil prices and initially weak currency followed by increasing domestic demand, consumption and investments has helped the economy grow for nine straight years, alleviating the standard of living and increasing Russia's clout on the world stage. While many reforms made during the Putin administration have been generally criticized by Western nations as un-democratic, Putin's leadership over the return of order, stability and progress has won him widespread popularity in Russia. On March 7, 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected President of Russia.

According to the Constitution, which was adopted by national referendum on 12 December 1993 following the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, Russia is a federation and formally a semi-presidential republic, wherein the President is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Russian Federation is fundamentally structured as a representative democracy. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Federal Assembly. The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which serves as the country's supreme legal document and as a social contract for the people of the Russian Federation.

According to the Constitution, constitutional justice in the court is based on the equality of all citizens, judges are independent and subject only to the law, trials are to be open and the accused is guaranteed a defense. Since 1996, Russia has instituted a moratorium on the death penalty in Russia, although capital punishment has not been abolished by law.

The president is elected by popular vote for a four-year term (eligible for a second term but constitutionally barred for a third consecutive term); election last held 2 March 2008. Ministries of the government are composed of the premier and his deputies, ministers, and selected other individuals; all are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (whereas the appointment of the latter requires the consent of the State Duma). The national legislature is the Federal Assembly, which consists of two chambers; the 450-member State Duma and the 176-member Federation Council. Leading political parties in Russia include United Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Fair Russia.

The Russian Federation comprises 83 federal subjects. These subjects have equal representation—two delegates each—in the Federation Council. However, they differ in the degree of autonomy they enjoy.

Federal subjects are grouped into seven federal districts, each administered by an envoy appointed by the President of Russia. Unlike the federal subjects, the federal districts are not a subnational level of government, but are a level of administration of the federal government. Federal districts' envoys serve as liaisons between the federal subjects and the federal government and are primarily responsible for overseeing the compliance of the federal subjects with the federal laws.

The Russian Federation is recognized in international law as continuing the legal personality of the former Soviet Union. Russia continues to implement the international commitments of the USSR, and has assumed the USSR's permanent seat on the UN Security Council, membership in other international organizations, the rights and obligations under international treaties and property and debts. Russia has a multifaceted foreign policy. It maintains diplomatic relations with 178 countries and has 140 embassies. Russia's foreign policy is determined by the President and implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia plays a major role in maintaining international peace and security, and plays a major role in resolving international conflicts by participating in the Quartet on the Middle East, the Six-party talks with North Korea, promoting the resolution of the Kosovo conflict and resolving nuclear proliferation issues. Russia is a member of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations, the Council of Europe, OSCE and APEC. Russia usually takes a leading role in regional organizations such as the CIS, EurAsEC, CSTO, and the SCO. Former President Vladimir Putin had advocated a strategic partnership with close integration in various dimensions including establishment of four common spaces between Russia and the EU. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has developed a friendlier, albeit volatile relationship with NATO. The NATO-Russia Council was established in 2002 to allow the 26 Allies and Russia to work together as equal partners to pursue opportunities for joint collaboration.

Russia assumed control of Soviet assets abroad and most of the Soviet Union's production facilities and defense industries are located in the country. The Russian military is divided into the Ground Forces, Navy, and Air Force. There are also three independent arms of service: Strategic Rocket Forces, Military Space Forces, and the Airborne Troops. In 2006, the military had 1.037 million personnel on active duty.

Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. It has the second largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines and is the only country apart from the U.S. with a modern strategic bomber force. The country has a large and fully indigenous arms industry, producing all of its own military equipment. Russia is the world's top supplier of weapons, a spot it has held since 2001, accounting for around 30% of worldwide weapons sales and exporting weapons to about 80 countries. Following the Soviet practice, it was mandatory before 2007 for all male citizens aged 18–27 to be drafted for two years' Armed Forces service. Various problems associated with this, such as dedovschina (institutionalised physical and psychological abuse), explain why the armed forces have reduced the conscription term first to 18 months in 2007 and then to 12 since 2008, and are planning to increase the proportion of contract servicemen to 70% of the armed forces by 2010. Defense expenditure has quadrupled over the past six years. Official government military spending for 2008 is $40 billion, making it the eighth largest in the world, though various sources, including US intelligence, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, have estimated Russia’s military expenditures to be considerably higher. Currently, the military is undergoing a major equipment upgrade with about $200 billion on procurement of military equipment between 2006 and 2015.

The economic crisis that struck all post-Soviet countries in the 1990s was twice as intense as the Great Depression in the countries of Western Europe and the United States in the 1930s. Even before the financial crisis of 1998, Russia's GDP was half of what it had been in the early 1990s. Since the turn of the century, rising oil prices, increased foreign investment, higher domestic consumption and greater political stability have bolstered economic growth in Russia. The country ended 2007 with its ninth straight year of growth, averaging 7% annually since the financial crisis of 1998. In 2007, Russia's GDP was $2.076 trillion (est. PPP), the 6th largest in the world, with GDP growing 8.1% from the previous year. Growth was primarily driven by non-traded services and goods for the domestic market, as opposed to oil or mineral extraction and exports. The average salary in Russia was $640 per month in early 2008, up from $80 in 2000. Approximately 14% of Russians lived below the national poverty line in 2007, significantly down from 40% in 1998 at the worst of the post-Soviet collapse. Unemployment in Russia was at 6% in 2007, down from about 12.4% in 1999.

Russia has the world's largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves and the eighth largest oil reserves. It is the world's leading natural gas exporter and the second leading oil exporter. Oil, natural gas, metals, and timber account for more than 80% of Russian exports abroad. Since 2003, however, exports of natural resources started decreasing in economic importance as the internal market strengthened considerably. Despite higher energy prices, oil and gas only contribute to 5.7% of Russia's GDP and the government predicts this will drop to 3.7% by 2011. Russia is also considered well ahead of most other resource-rich countries in its economic development, with a long tradition of education, science, and industry. The country has more higher education graduates than any other country in Europe.

A simpler, more streamlined tax code adopted in 2001 reduced the tax burden on people, and dramatically increased state revenue. Russia has a flat personal income tax rate of 13 percent. This ranks it as the country with the second most attractive personal tax system for single managers in the world after the United Arab Emirates, according to a 2007 survey by investment services firm Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The federal budget has run surpluses since 2001 and ended 2007 with a surplus of 6% of GDP. Over the past several years, Russia has used oil revenues from its Stabilization Fund of the Russian Federation to prepay all Soviet-era sovereign debt to Paris Club creditors and the IMF. Oil export earnings have allowed Russia to increase its foreign reserves from $12 billion in 1999 to $597.3 billion on 1 August 2008, the third largest reserves in the world. The country has also been able to substantially reduce its formerly massive foreign debt.

The economic development of the country though has been uneven geographically with the Moscow region contributing a disproportionately high amount of the country's GDP. Much of Russia, especially indigenous and rural communities in Siberia, lags significantly behind. Nevertheless, the middle class has grown from just 8 million persons in 2000 to 55 million persons in 2006. Russia is home to the largest number of billionaires in the world after the United States, gaining 50 billionaires in 2007 for a total of 110.

Over the last five years, fixed capital investments have averaged real gains greater than 10% per year and personal incomes have achieved real gains more than 12% per year. During this time, poverty has declined steadily and the middle class has continued to expand. Russia has also improved its international financial position since the 1998 financial crisis. A principal factor in Russia's growth has been the combination of strong growth in productivity, real wages, and consumption. Despite the country's strong economic performance since 1999, however, the World Bank lists several challenges facing the Russian economy including diversifying the economy, encouraging the growth of small and medium enterprises, building human capital and improving corporate governance. Inflation grew to about 12% by the end of 2007, up from 9% in 2006. The upward trend continued in the first quarter of 2008, driven largely by rising food costs. Infrastructure, ageing and inadequate after years of being neglected, is considered to be a bottleneck to economic growth. The government has said $1 trillion will be invested in infrastructure by 2020.

According to preliminary estimates, the resident population of the Russian Federation on 1 January 2009 was 141.9 million people. In 2008, the population declined by 121,400 people, or by -0.085% (in 2007 - by 212,000, or 0.15% and in 2006 - by 532,600 people, or 0.37%). Migration continued to grow by a pace of 2.7% in 2008, to reach 281,615, while emigration declined by 16% to 39,508. The vast majority of migrants came from CIS states and were Russians or Russian-speaking. There are also an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants from the ex-Soviet states in Russia. The Russian Federation is a diverse, multi-ethnic society, home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. Though Russia's population is comparatively large, its population density is low because of the country's enormous size. Population is densest in European Russia, near the Ural Mountains, and in southwest Siberia.

73% of the population lives in urban areas. As of the 2002 Census, the two largest cities in Russia are Moscow (10,126,424 inhabitants) and Saint Petersburg (4,661,219). Eleven other cities have between one and two million inhabitants: Chelyabinsk, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Ufa, Volgograd, and Yekaterinburg. In 2006, 186,380 migrants arrived to the Russian Federation of which 95% came from CIS countries.

Russia's population peaked in 1991 at 148,689,000, but began to experience a rapid decline starting in the mid-90s. The decline has slowed to near stagnation in recent years due to reduced mortality rates, increased birth rates and increased immigration. The number of deaths during 2008 was 363,500 greater than the number of births. This is down from 477,700 in 2007, and 687,100 in 2006. According to data published by the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, the mortality rate in Russia declined 4% in 2007, as compared to 2006, reaching some 2 million deaths, while the birth rate grew 8.3% year-on-year to an estimated 1.6 million live births. The primary causes of Russia's population decrease are a high death rate and low birth rate. While Russia's birth-rate is comparable to that of other European countries (11.3 births per 1000 people in 2007 compared to the European Union average of 10.00 per 1000) its population declines at much greater rate due to a substantially higher death rate (In 2007, Russia's death rate was 14.7 per 1000 people compared to the European Union average of 10.00 per 1000). However, the Russian health ministry predicts that by 2011, the death rate will equal the birth rate due to increases in fertility and decline in mortality.

Russia has a free education system guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution, and has a literacy rate of 99.4%. Entry to higher education is highly competitive. As a result of great emphasis on science and technology in education, Russian medical, mathematical, scientific, and space and aviation research is generally of a high order.

The Russian Constitution grants a universal right to higher education free of charge through competitive entry. The Government allocates funding to pay the tuition fees within an established quota, or number of students for each state institution. This is considered crucial because it provides access to higher education to all skilled students, as opposed to only those who can afford it. In addition, students are paid a small stipend and provided with free housing. However, the institutions have to be funded entirely from the federal and regional budgets; institutions have found themselves unable to provide adequate teachers' salaries, students' stipends, and to maintain their facilities. To address the issue, many state institutions started to open commercial positions, which have been growing steadily since. Many private higher education institutions have emerged to address the need for a skilled work-force for high-tech and emerging industries and economic sectors.

The Russian Constitution guarantees free, universal health care for all citizens. While Russia has more physicians, hospitals, and health care workers than almost any other country in the world on a per capita basis, since the collapse of the Soviet Union the health of the Russian population has declined considerably as a result of social, economic, and lifestyle changes. As of 2007, the average life expectancy in Russia is 61.5 years for males and 73.9 years for females. The average Russian life expectancy of 67.7 years at birth is 10.8 years shorter than the overall figure in the European Union. The biggest factor contributing to this relatively low life expectancy for males is a high mortality rate among working-age males from preventable causes (e.g., alcohol poisoning, stress, smoking, traffic accidents, violent crimes). Mortality among Russian men rose by 60% since 1991, four to five times higher than in Europe. As a result of the large difference in life expectancy between men and women and because of the lasting effect of World War II, where Russia lost more men than any other nation in the world, the gender imbalance remains to this day and there are 0.859 males to every female.

Heart diseases account for 56.7% of total deaths, with about 30% involving people still of working age. About 16 million Russians suffer from cardiovascular diseases, placing Russia second in the world, after Ukraine, in this respect. Death rates from homicide, suicide and cancer are also especially high. According to a 2007 survey by Romir Monitoring, 52% of men and 15% of women smoke. More than 260,000 lives are lost each year as a result of tobacco use. HIV/AIDS, virtually non-existent in the Soviet era, rapidly spread following the collapse, mainly through the explosive growth of intravenous drug use. According to official statistics, there are currently more than 364,000 people in Russia registered with HIV, but independent experts place the number significantly higher. In increasing efforts to combat the disease, the government increased spending on HIV control measures 20-fold in 2006, and the 2007 budget doubled that of 2006. Since the Soviet collapse, there has also been a dramatic rise in both cases of and deaths from tuberculosis, with the disease being particularly widespread amongst prison inmates.

In an effort to stem Russia’s demographic crisis, the government is implementing a number of programs designed to increase the birth rate and attract more migrants to alleviate the problem. The government has doubled monthly child support payments and offered a one-time payment of 250,000 Rubles (around US$10,000) to women who had a second child since 2007. In 2007, Russia saw the highest birth rate since the collapse of the USSR. The First Deputy PM also said about 20 billion rubles (about US$1 billion) will be invested in new prenatal centres in Russia in 2008–2009. Immigration is increasingly seen as necessary to sustain the country's population.

Russia's 160 ethnic groups speak some 100 languages. According to the 2002 census, 142.6 million people speak Russian, followed by Tatar with 5.3 million and German with 2.9 million speakers. Russian is the only official state language, but the Constitution gives the individual republics the right to make their native language co-official next to Russian. Despite its wide dispersal, the Russian language is homogeneous throughout Russia. Russian is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken Slavic language. Russian belongs to the Indo-European language family and is one of the living members of the East Slavic languages; the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian (and possibly Rusyn). Written examples of Old East Slavic (Old Russian) are attested from the 10th century onwards.

Over a quarter of the world's scientific literature is published in Russian. Russian is also applied as a means of coding and storage of universal knowledge—60–70% of all world information is published in the English and Russian languages. The language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism are Russia’s traditional religions, deemed part of Russia's "historical heritage" in a law passed in 1997. Estimates of believers widely fluctuate among sources, and some reports put the number of non-believers in Russia as high as 16–48% of the population. Russian Orthodoxy is the dominant religion in Russia. 95% of the registered Orthodox parishes belong to the Russian Orthodox Church while there are a number of smaller Orthodox Churches. However, the vast majority of Orthodox believers do not attend church on a regular basis. Nonetheless, the church is widely respected by both believers and nonbelievers, who see it as a symbol of Russian heritage and culture. Smaller Christian denominations such as Roman Catholics, Armenian Gregorian and various Protestants exist.

The ancestors of many of today’s Russians adopted Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century. The 2007 International Religious Freedom Report published by the US Department of State said that approximately 100 million citizens consider themselves Russian Orthodox Christians. According to a poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 63% of respondents considered themselves Russian Orthodox, 6% of respondents considered themselves Muslim and less than 1% considered themselves either Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. Another 12% said they believe in God, but did not practice any religion, and 16% said they are non-believers.

It is estimated that Russia is home to some 15–20 million Muslims. However, surveys say that there are only 7 to 9 million people who adhere to the Islamic faith in Russia. Russia also has an estimated 3 million to 4 million Muslim migrants from the ex-Soviet states. Most Muslims live in the Volga-Ural region, as well as in the North Caucasus, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and western Siberia. Buddhism is traditional for three regions of the Russian Federation: Buryatia, Tuva and Kalmykia. Some residents of the Siberian and Far Eastern regions, Yakutia, Chukotka, etc., practice shamanist, pantheistic, and pagan rites, along with the major religions. Induction into religion takes place primarily along ethnic lines. Slavs are overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian. Turkic speakers are predominantly Muslim, although several Turkic groups in Russia are not.

Russia's large number of ethnic groups have distinctive traditions of folk music. Music in 19th century Russia was defined by the tension between classical composer Mikhail Glinka and his followers, who embraced Russian national identity and added religious and folk elements to their compositions, and the Russian Musical Society led by composers Anton and Nikolay Rubinstein, which was musically conservative. The later Romantic tradition of Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era whose music has come to be known and loved for its distinctly Russian character as well as its rich harmonies and stirring melodies, was brought into the 20th century by Sergei Rachmaninoff, one of the last great champions of the Romantic style of European classical music.

World-renowned composers of the 20th century included Scriabin, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. During most of the Soviet Era, music was highly scrutinized and kept within a conservative, accessible idiom in conformity with the Stalinist policy of socialist realism. Russian conservatories have turned out generations of world-renowned soloists. Among the best known are violinists David Oistrakh and Gidon Kremer, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianists Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, and vocalist Galina Vishnevskaya.

Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the world's most famous works of ballet—Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty. During the early 20th century, Russian dancers Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky rose to fame, and impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes' travels abroad profoundly influenced the development of dance worldwide. Soviet ballet preserved the perfected 19th century traditions, and the Soviet Union's choreography schools produced one internationally famous star after another, including Maya Plisetskaya, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Kirov in Saint Petersburg remain famous throughout the world.

Russian literature is considered to be among the most influential and developed in the world, contributing much of the world's most famous literary works. Russia's literary history dates back to the 10th century and by the early 19th century a native tradition had emerged, producing some of the greatest writers of all time. This period and the Golden Age of Russian Poetry began with Alexander Pushkin, considered to be the founder of modern Russian literature and often described as the "Russian Shakespeare". Amongst Russia's most renowned poets and writers of the 19th century are Anton Chekhov, Mikhail Lermontov, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Ivan Goncharov, Mikhail Saltykov, Aleksey Pisemsky, and Nikolai Leskov made lasting contributions to Russian prose. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in particular were titanic figures to the point that many literary critics have described one or the other as the greatest novelist ever.

By the 1880s Russian literature had begun to change. The age of the great novelists was over and short fiction and poetry became the dominant genres of Russian literature for the next several decades which became known as the Silver Age of Russian Poetry. Previously dominated by realism, symbolism dominated Russian literature in the years between 1893 and 1914. Leading writers of this age include Valery Bryusov, Andrei Bely, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Aleksandr Blok, Nikolay Gumilev,Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Fyodor Sologub, Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Marina Tsvetaeva, Leonid Andreyev, Ivan Bunin and Maxim Gorky.

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing civil war, Russian cultural life in was left in chaos. Some established writers left Russia while a new generation of talented writers who had at least some sympathy for the ideals of the revolution was emerging. The most ardent of these joined together in writers organizations with the aim of creating a new and distinctive proletarian (working-class) culture appropriate to the new state. Throughout the 1920s writers enjoyed broad tolerance. In the 1930s censorship over literature was tightened in line with Joseph Stalin's policy of socialist realism. After his death several thaws took place and restrictions on literature were eased. By the 1970s and 1980s, writers were increasingly ignoring the guidelines of socialist realism. The leading writers of the Soviet era included Yevgeny Zamiatin, Isaac Babel, Ilf and Petrov, Yury Olesha, Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Boris Pasternak, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Mikhail Sholokhov, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Andrey Voznesensky.

While in the industrialized nations of the West, motion pictures had first been accepted as a form of cheap recreation and leisure for the working class, Russian filmmaking came to prominence following the 1917 revolution when it explored editing as the primary mode of cinematic expression. Russian and later Soviet cinema was a hotbed of invention in the period immediately following the 1917 revolution, resulting in world-renowned films such as Battleship Potemkin. Soviet-era filmmakers, most notably Sergei Eisenstein and Andrei Tarkovsky, would become some of the world's most innovative and influential directors.

Eisenstein also was a student of filmmaker and theorist Lev Kuleshov, who formulated the groundbreaking editing process called montage at the world's first film school, the All-Union Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Dziga Vertov, whose kino-glaz (“film-eye”) theory—that the camera, like the human eye, is best used to explore real life—had a huge impact on the development of documentary film making and cinema realism. In 1932, Stalin made socialist realism the state policy; this stifled creativity but many Soviet films in this style were artistically successful, including Chapaev, The Cranes Are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier. Leonid Gaidai's comedies of the 1960s and 1970s were immensely popular, with many of the catch phrases still in use today. In 1969, Vladimir Motyl's White Sun of the Desert was released, starting a genre known as 'osterns'. The film is watched by cosmonauts before any trip into space.

The 1980s and 1990s were a period of crisis in Russian cinema. Although Russian filmmakers became free to express themselves, state subsidies were drastically reduced, resulting in fewer films produced. The early years of the 21st century have brought increased viewership and subsequent prosperity to the industry on the back of the economy's rapid development, and production levels are already higher than in Britain and Germany. Russia's total box-office revenue in 2007 was $565 million, up 37% from the previous year (by comparison, in 1996 revenues stood at $6 million). Russian cinema continues to receive international recognition. Russian Ark (2002) was the first feature film ever to be shot in a single take.

Early Russian painting focused on icon painting and vibrant frescos inherited by Russians from Byzantium. As Moscow rose to power, Theophanes the Greek and Andrei Rublev are vital names associated with the beginning of a distinctly Russian art. The Russian Academy of Arts was created in 1757, aimed to give Russian artists an international role and status. Notable portrait painters from the Academy include Ivan Argunov, Fyodor Rokotov, Dmitry Levitzky and Vladimir Borovikovsky. Realism flourished in the 19th century and the realists captured Russian identity. Russian landscapes of wide rivers, forests, and birch clearings, as well as vigorous genre scenes and robust portraits of their contemporaries asserted a sense of identity. Other artists focused on social criticism, showing the conditions of the poor and caricaturing authority while critical realism flourished under the reign of Alexander II.

After the abolition of serfdom in 1861 some artists made the circle of human suffering their focus. Artists sometimes created wide canvasses to depict dramatic moments in Russian history. The Peredvizhniki (wanderers) group of artists broke with Russian Academy and initiated a school of art liberated from Academic restrictions. Their paintings had deep social and political meaning. Leading realists include Ivan Shishkin, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Ivan Kramskoi, Vasily Polenov, Isaac Levitan, Vasily Surikov, Viktor Vasnetsov, and Ilya Repin. By the 1830s the Academy was sending painters overseas to learn. The most gifted of these were Aleksander Ivanov and Karl Briullov, both of whom were noted for the Romantic historical canvasses. Uniquely Russian styles of painting emerged by the late 19th century that was intimately engaged with the daily life of Russian society.

The Russian avant-garde is an umbrella term used to define the large, influential wave of modernist art that flourished in Russia from approximately 1890 to 1930. The term covers many separate, but inextricably related, art movements that occurred at the time; namely neo-primitivism, suprematism, constructivism, rayonism and futurism. Notable artists from this era include El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko, and Marc Chagall amongst others. The Russian avant-garde reached its creative and popular height in the period between the Russian Revolution of 1917 and 1932, at which point the ideas of the avant-garde clashed with the newly emerged conservative Stalinist direction of socialist realism.

By the late 1920s the rigid policy of socialist realism enveloped the visual arts as it did literature and motion pictures and soon the avant-garde had faded from sight. Some artists combined innovation with socialist realism including Ernst Neizvestny, Ilya Kabakov, Mikhail Shemyakin, Erik Bulatov and Vera Mukhina. They employed techniques as varied as primitivism, hyperrealism, grotesque, and abstraction, but they shared a common distaste for the canons of socialist realism. Soviet artists produced works that were furiously patriotic and anti-fascist in the 1940s. Events and battles from the Great Patriotic War were depicted with stirring patriotism and after the war sculptors made many monuments to the war dead, the greatest of which have a great restrained solemnity. In the 20th century many Russian artists made their careers in Western Europe, due in part to the traumas of the Revolution. Russian artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, and Naum Gabo spread their work and ideas internationally. These Russian artists studied internationally in Paris and Munich and their involuntary exile spread the impact of Russian art globally.

Russians have been successful at a number of sports and continuously finishing in the top rankings at the Olympic Games. During the Soviet era, the national team placed first in the total number of medals won at 14 of its 18 appearances; with these performances, the USSR was the dominant Olympic power of its era. Since the 1952 Olympic Games, Soviet and later Russian athletes have always been in the top three for the number of gold medals collected at the Summer Olympics. The 1980 Summer Olympic Games were held in Moscow while the 2014 Winter Olympics will be hosted by Sochi.

As the Soviet Union, Russia was traditionally very strong in basketball, winning various Olympic tournaments, World Championships and Eurobasket. At the moment they have various players in the NBA, notably Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, and are considered as a worldwide basketball force. In 2007, Russia defeated world champions Spain to win Eurobasket 2007. Russian basketball clubs such as PBC CSKA Moscow (2006 and 2008 Euroleague Champions) have also had great success in European competitions such as the Euroleague and the ULEB Cup.

During the soviet period, Russia was also a competitive footballing nation, reaching the finals of various international tournaments. With ice hockey and possibly basketball, football is the most popular sport in Russia today. Despite having fantastic players, the USSR never really managed to assert itself as one of the major forces of international football, although its teams won various championships (such as Euro 1960) and reached numerous finals (such as Euro 1988). In recent years, Russian football, which suffered terribly from the break up of 1991, has experienced something of a revival. Russian clubs (such as CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg, Lokomotiv Moscow and of course Spartak Moscow) are becoming more and more successful on the European stage (CSKA and Zenit winning the UEFA Cup in 2005 and 2008 respectively) and many predict that the Russian league will become one of the strongest in Europe, partly due to Russia's wealth of footballing talent (visible in their team at Euro 2008) and also because of the injection of serious money into the Russian game, which helps to attract notable foreign players as well. The Russian national team, which played some of the most entertaining and skillful football of Euro 2008 and reached the semi final, losing to eventual champions Spain, is rapidly reemerging as a dominant force in international football, under the guidance of Dutch manager Guus Hiddink.

Soviet gymnasts, track-and-field athletes, weight lifters, wrestlers, cross country skiers, and boxers were consistently among the best in the world. Even since the collapse of the Soviet empire, Russian athletes have continued to dominate international competition in these areas. Although ice hockey was only introduced during the Soviet era, the national team soon dominated the sport internationally, winning gold at almost all the Olympics and World Championships they contested, most recently in the 2008 World Championships.

Figure skating is another popular sport; in the 1960s, the Soviet Union rose to become a dominant power in figure skating, especially in pair skating and ice dancing. At every Winter Olympics from 1964 until the present day, a Soviet or Russian pair has won gold, often considered the longest winning streak in modern sports history. Since the end of the Soviet era, tennis has grown in popularity and Russia has produced a number of famous tennis players. Chess is a widely popular pastime; from 1927, Soviet and Russian chess grandmasters have held the world championship almost continuously.

1 Has part of its territory outside Europe.  2 Entirely in West Asia but having socio-political connections with Europe.  3 Has dependencies or similar territories outside Europe. 4 Name disputed by Greece; see Macedonia naming dispute. 5 Declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 and is recognised by 56 United Nations member states.

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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History of Russia

Coat of Arms of Russia

The history of Russia begins with that of the East Slavs. The first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus', adopted Christianity from the Byzantine Empire in 988, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated as a state, finally succumbing to Mongol invaders in the 1230s. During this time a number of regional magnates, in particular Novgorod and Pskov, fought to inherit the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'.

After the 13th century, Moscow gradually came to dominate the former cultural center. By the 18th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow had become the huge Russian Empire, stretching from Poland eastward to the Pacific Ocean. Expansion in the western direction sharpened Russia's awareness of its separation from much of the rest of Europe and shattered the isolation in which the initial stages of expansion had occurred. Successive regimes of the 19th century responded to such pressures with a combination of halfhearted reform and repression. Russian serfdom was abolished in 1861, but its abolition was achieved on terms unfavorable to the peasants and served to increase revolutionary pressures. Between the abolition of serfdom and the beginning of World War I in 1914, the Stolypin reforms, the constitution of 1906 and State Duma introduced notable changes to the economy and politics of Russia, but the tsars were still not willing to relinquish autocratic rule, or share their power.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 was triggered by a combination of economic breakdown, war weariness, and discontent with the autocratic system of government, and it first brought a coalition of liberals and moderate socialists to power, but their failed policies led to seizure of power by the Communist Bolsheviks on October 25. Between 1922 and 1991, the history of Russia is essentially the history of the Soviet Union, effectively an ideologically based state which was roughly coterminous with Russia before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The approach to the building of socialism, however, varied over different periods in Soviet history, from the mixed economy and diverse society and culture of the 1920s to the command economy and repressions of the Stalin era to the "era of stagnation" in the 1980s. From its first years, government in the Soviet Union was based on the one-party rule of the Communists, as the Bolsheviks called themselves, beginning in March 1918. However, by the late 1980s, with the weaknesses of its economic and political structures becoming acute, the Communist leaders embarked on major reforms, which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The history of the Russian Federation is brief, dating back only to the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Since gaining its independence, Russia was recognized as the legal successor to the Soviet Union on the international stage. However, Russia has lost its superpower status as it faced serious challenges in its efforts to forge a new post-Soviet political and economic system. Scrapping the socialist central planning and state ownership of property of the Soviet era, Russia attempted to build an economy with elements of market capitalism, with often painful results. Even today Russia shares many continuities of political culture and social structure with its tsarist and Soviet past.

In prehistoric eras, the vast steppes of Southern Russia were home to disunited tribes of nomadic pastoralists. In classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia. Remnants of these long-gone steppe civilizations were discovered in the course of the 20th century in such places as Ipatovo, Sintashta, Arkaim, and Pazyryk. In the latter part of the eighth century BC, Greek merchants brought classical civilization to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria. Between the third and sixth centuries AD, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes which would often move on to Europe, as was the case with the Huns and Turkish Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas through to the 8th century. Noted for their laws, tolerance, and cosmopolitanism, the Khazars were the main commercial link between the Baltic and the Muslim Abbasid empire centered in Baghdad. They were important allies of the Byzantine Empire, and waged a series of successful wars against the Arab Caliphates. In the 8th century, the Khazars embraced Judaism.

The ancestors of the Russians were the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pripet Marshes. The Early East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov. From the 7th century onwards, the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia and slowly but peacefully assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, such as the Merya, the Muromians, and the Meshchera.

Scandinavian Norsemen, called "Vikings" in Western Europe and "Varangians" in the East, combined piracy and trade in their roamings over much of Northern Europe. In the mid-9th century, they began to venture along the waterways from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the earliest Russian chronicle, a Varangian named Rurik was elected ruler (konung or knyaz) of Novgorod in about 860, before his successors moved south and extended their authority to Kiev, which had been previously dominated by the Khazars.

Thus, the first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus', emerged in the 9th century along the Dnieper River valley. A coordinated group of princely states with a common interest in maintaining trade along the river routes, Kievan Rus' controlled the trade route for furs, wax, and slaves between Scandinavia and the Byzantine Empire along the Volkhov and Dnieper Rivers.

The name "Russia", together with the Finnish Ruotsi and Estonian Rootsi, are found by some scholars to be related to Roslagen. The etymology of Rus and its derivatives are debated, and other schools of thought connect the name with Slavic or Iranic roots.

By the end of the 10th century, the Norse minority had merged with the Slavic population, which also absorbed Greek Christian influences in the course of the multiple campaigns to loot Tsargrad, or Constantinople. One such campaign claimed the life of the foremost Slavic druzhina leader, Svyatoslav I, who was renowned for having crushed the power of the Khazars on the Volga. At the time, the Byzantine Empire was experiencing a major military and cultural revival; despite its later decline, its culture would have a continuous influence on the development of Russia in its formative centuries.

Kievan Rus' is important for its introduction of a Slavic variant of the Eastern Orthodox religion, dramatically deepening a synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next thousand years. The region adopted Christianity in 988 by the official act of public baptism of Kiev inhabitants by Prince Vladimir I. Some years later the first code of laws, Russkaya Pravda, was introduced. From the onset the Kievan princes followed the Byzantine example and kept the Church dependent on them, even for its revenues, so that the Russian Church and state were always closely linked.

By the 11th century, particularly during the reign of Yaroslav the Wise, Kievan Rus' could boast an economy and achievements in architecture and literature superior to those that then existed in the western part of the continent. Compared with the languages of European Christendom, the Russian language was little influenced by the Greek and Latin of early Christian writings. This was due to the fact that Church Slavonic was used directly in liturgy instead.

A nomadic Turkic people, the Kipchaks (also known as the Cumans), replaced the earlier Pechenegs as the dominant force in the south steppe regions neighbouring to Rus' at the end of 11th century and founded a nomadic state in the steppes along the Black Sea (Desht-e-Kipchak). Repelling their regular attacks, especially on Kiev, which was just one day's ride from the steppe, was a heavy burden for the southern areas of Rus'. The nomadic incursions caused a massive influx of Slavs to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye.

Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated as a state because of in-fighting between members of the princely family that ruled it collectively. Kiev's dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, Novgorod in the north, and Halych-Volhynia in the south-west. Conquest by the Mongol Golden Horde in the 13th century was the final blow. Kiev was destroyed. Halych-Volhynia would eventually be absorbed into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and independent Novgorod Republic, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, would establish the basis for the modern Russian nation.

The invading Mongols accelerated the fragmentation of the Rus'. In 1223, the disunited southern princes faced a Mongol raiding party at the Kalka River and were soundly defeated. In 1237-1238 the Mongols burnt down the city of Vladimir (February 4, 1238) and other major cities of northeast Russia, routed the Russians at the Sit' River, and then moved west into Poland and Hungary. By then they had conquered most of the Russian principalities. Only the Novgorod Republic escaped occupation and continued to flourish in the orbit of the Hanseatic League.

The impact of the Mongol invasion on the territories of Kievan Rus' was uneven. The advanced city culture was almost completely destroyed. As older centers such as Kiev and Vladimir never recovered from the devastation of the initial attack, the new cities of Moscow, Tver and Nizhny Novgorod began to compete for hegemony in the Mongol-dominated Russia. Although a Russian army defeated the Golden Horde at Kulikovo in 1380, mongol domination of the Russian-inhabited territories, along with demands of tribute from Russian princes, continued until about 1480.

After the fall of the Khazars in the 10th century, the middle Volga came to be dominated by the mercantile state of Volga Bulgaria, the last vestige of Greater Bulgaria centered at Phanagoria. In the 10th century the Turkic population of Volga Bulgaria converted to Islam, which facilitated its trade with the Middle East and Central Asia. In the wake of the Mongol invasions of the 1230s, Volga Bulgaria was absorbed by the Golden Horde and its population evolved into the modern Chuvashes and Kazan Tatars.

The Mongols held Russia and Volga Bulgaria in sway from their western capital at Sarai, one of the largest cities of the medieval world. The princes of southern and eastern Russia had to pay tribute to the Mongols of the Golden Horde, commonly called Tatars; but in return they received charters authorizing them to act as deputies to the khans. In general, the princes were allowed considerable freedom to rule as they wished, while the Russian Orthodox Church even experienced a spiritual revival under the guidance of Metropolitan Alexis and Sergius of Radonezh.

To the Orthodox Church and most princes, the fanatical Northern Crusaders seemed a greater threat to the Russian way of life than the Mongols. In the mid-13th century, Alexander Nevsky, elected prince of Novgorod, acquired heroic status as the result of major victories over the Teutonic Knights and the Swedes. Alexander obtained Mongol protection and assistance in fighting invaders from the west who, hoping to profit from the Russian collapse since the Mongol invasions, tried to grab territory and convert the Russians to Roman Catholicism.

The Mongols left their impact on the Russians in such areas as military tactics and transportation. Under Mongol occupation, Russia also developed its postal road network, census, fiscal system, and military organization. Eastern influence remained strong well until the 17th century, when Russian rulers made a conscious effort to Westernize their country. In popular memory, this period left a very unpleasant impression, and is referred to as the Tataro-Mongol Yoke.

Daniil Aleksandrovich, the youngest son of Alexander Nevsky, founded the principality of Moscow (known in the western tradition as Muscovy), which eventually expelled the Tatars from Russia. Well-situated in the central river system of Russia and surrounded by protective forests and marshes, Moscow was at first only a vassal of Vladimir, but soon it absorbed its parent state. A major factor in the ascendancy of Moscow was the cooperation of its rulers with the Mongol overlords, who granted them the title of Grand Prince of Moscow and made them agents for collecting the Tatar tribute from the Russian principalities. The principality's prestige was further enhanced when it became the center of the Russian Orthodox Church. Its head, the Metropolitan, fled from Kiev to Vladimir in 1299 and a few years later established the permanent headquarters of the Church in Moscow under the original title of Kiev Metropolitan.

By the middle of the 14th century, the power of the Mongols was declining, and the Grand Princes felt able to openly oppose the Mongol yoke. In 1380, at Kulikovo on the Don River, the Mongols were defeated, and although this hard-fought victory did not end Tatar rule of Russia, it did bring great fame to the Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoy. Moscow's leadership in Russia was now firmly based and by the middle of the fourteenth century its territory had greatly expanded through purchase, war, and marriage.

In the 15th century, the grand princes of Moscow went on gathering Russian lands to increase the population and wealth under their rule. The most successful practitioner of this process was Ivan III who laid the foundations for a Russian national state. Ivan competed with his powerful northwestern rival, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, for control over some of the semi-independent Upper Principalities in the upper Dnieper and Oka River basins. Through the defections of some princes, border skirmishes, and a long war with the Novgorod Republic, Ivan III was able to annex Novgorod and Tver. As a result, the Grand Duchy of Moscow tripled in size under his rule. During his conflict with Pskov, a monk named Filofei (Philotheus of Pskov) composed a letter to Ivan III, with the prophecy that the latter's kingdom will be the Third Rome. The Fall of Constantinople and the death of the last Greek Orthodox Christian emperor contributed to this new idea of Moscow as 'New Rome' and the seat of Orthodox Christianity.

A contemporary of the Tudors and other "new monarchs" in Western Europe, Ivan proclaimed his absolute sovereignty over all Russian princes and nobles. Refusing further tribute to the Tatars, Ivan initiated a series of attacks that opened the way for the complete defeat of the declining Golden Horde, now divided into several Khanates and hordes. Ivan and his successors sought to protect the southern boundaries of their domain against attacks of the Crimean Tatars and other hordes. To achieve this aim, they sponsored the construction of the Great Abatis Belt and granted manors to nobles, who were obliged to serve in the military. The manor system provided a basis for an emerging horse army.

In this way, internal consolidation accompanied outward expansion of the state. By the 16th century, the rulers of Moscow considered the entire Russian territory their collective property. Various semi-independent princes still claimed specific territories, but Ivan III forced the lesser princes to acknowledge the grand prince of Moscow and his descendants as unquestioned rulers with control over military, judicial, and foreign affairs. Gradually, the Russian ruler emerged as a powerful, autocratic ruler, a tsar. The first Russian ruler to officially crown himself "Tsar" was Ivan IV.

Although his long Livonian War for the control of the Baltic coast and the access to sea trade ultimately proved a costly failure, Ivan managed to annex the Khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan, and Siberia. These conquests complicated the migration of the aggressive nomadic hordes from Asia to Europe through Volga and Ural. Through these conquests, Russia acquired a significant Muslim Tatar population and emerged as a multiethnic and multiconfessional state. Also around this period, the mercantile Stroganov family established a firm foothold at the Urals and recruited Russian Cossacks to colonize Siberia.

In the later part of his reign, Ivan divided his realm in two. In the zone known as the oprichnina, Ivan's followers carried out a series of bloody purges of the feudal aristocracy (which he suspected of treachery after the betrayal of prince Kurbsky), culminating in the Massacre of Novgorod (1570). This combined with the military losses, epidemics, poor harvests so weakened Russia that the Crimean Tatars were able to sack central Russian regions and burn down Moscow (1571). In 1572 Ivan abandoned the oprichnina.

At the end of Ivan IV's reign the Polish-Lithuanian and Swedish armies carried out the powerful intervention into Russia, devastating its northern and northwest regions.

The death of Ivan's childless son Feodor was followed by a period of civil wars and foreign intervention known as the "Time of Troubles" (1606–13). Extremely cold summers (1601-1603) wrecked crops, which led to the Russian famine of 1601 - 1603 and increased the social disorganization. Boris Godunov's reign ended in chaos, civil war combined with foreign intrusion, devastation of many cities and depopulation of the rural regions. The country rocked by internal chaos also attracted several waves of interventions by Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The invaders reached Moscow and installed, first, the impostor False Dmitriy I and, later, a Polish prince Władysław IV Vasa on the Russian throne. Moscow population revolted but the riots were brutally suppressed and the city was set on fire.

The crisis provoked the patriotic national uprising against the invasion and in autumn, 1612, the volunteer army led by the merchant Kuzma Minin and prince Dmitry Pozharsky, expelled the foreign forces from the capital.

The Russian statehood survived the "Time of Troubles" and the rule of weak or corrupt Tsars because of the strength of the government's central bureaucracy. Government functionaries continued to serve, regardless of the ruler's legitimacy or the faction controlling the throne. However, the "Time of Troubles" provoked by the dynastic crisis resulted in the loss of much territory to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the the Russo-Polish war, as well as to Swedish Empire in the Ingrian War.

In February, 1613, with the chaos ended and the Poles expelled from Moscow, a national assembly, composed of representatives from fifty cities and even some peasants, elected Michael Romanov, the young son of Patriarch Filaret, to the throne. The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia until 1917.

The immediate task of the new dynasty was to restore peace. Fortunately for Moscow, its major enemies, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Sweden, were engaged in a bitter conflict with each other, which provided Russia the opportunity to make peace with Sweden in 1617 and to sign a truce with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1619. Recovery of lost territories started in the mid-17th century, when the Khmelnitsky Uprising in Ukraine against the Polish rule brought about the Treaty of Pereyaslav concluded between Russia and the Ukrainian Cossacks.

According to the treaty, Russia granted protection to the Cossacks state in the Left-bank Ukraine, formerly under the Polish control. This triggered a prolonged Russo-Polish War which ended with the Treaty of Andrusovo (1667) were Poland accepted the loss of Left-bank Ukraine, Kiev and Smolensk.

Rather than risk their estates in more civil war, the great nobles or boyars cooperated with the first Romanovs, enabling them to finish the work of bureaucratic centralization. Thus, the state required service from both the old and the new nobility, primarily in the military. In return the tsars allowed the boyars to complete the process of enserfing the peasants.

In the preceding century, the state had gradually curtailed peasants' rights to move from one landlord to another. With the state now fully sanctioning serfdom, runaway peasants became state fugitives, and the power of the landlords over the peasants "attached" to their land have become almost complete. Together the state and the nobles placed the overwhelming burden of taxation on the peasants, whose rate was 100 times greater in the mid-17th century than it had been a century earlier. In addition, middle-class urban tradesmen and craftsmen were assessed taxes, and, like the serfs, they were forbidden to change residence. All segments of the population were subject to military levy and to special taxes.

Under such circumstances, peasant disorders were endemic; even the citizens of Moscow revolted against the Romanovs during the Salt Riot (1648), Copper Riot (1662), and the Moscow Uprising (1682). By far the greatest peasant uprising in 17th century Europe erupted in 1667. As the free settlers of South Russia, the Cossacks, reacted against the growing centralization of the state, serfs escaped from their landlords and joined the rebels. The Cossack leader Stenka Razin led his followers up the Volga River, inciting peasant uprisings and replacing local governments with Cossack rule. The tsar's army finally crushed his forces in 1670; a year later Stenka was captured and beheaded. Yet, less than half a century later, the strains of military expeditions produced another revolt in Astrakhan, ultimately subdued.

Peter I, the Great (1672–1725), brought Autocracy in Russia and played a major role in bringing his country into the European state system. From its modest beginnings in the 14th century principality of Moscow, Russia had become the largest state in the world by Peter's time. Three times the size of continental Europe, it spanned the Eurasian landmass from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Much of its expansion had taken place in the 17th century, culminating in the first Russian settlement of the Pacific in the mid-17th century, the reconquest of Kiev, and the pacification of the Siberian tribes. However, this vast land had a population of only 14 million. Grain yields trailed behind those of agriculture in the West (that can be partly explained by the heavier climatic conditions, in particular long cold winters and short vegetative period ) compelling almost the entire population to farm. Only a small fraction of the population lived in the towns. Russia remained isolated from the sea trade, its internal trade communications and many manufactures were dependent on the seasonal changes.

Peter's first military efforts were directed against the Ottoman Turks. His attention then turned to the north. Peter still lacked a secure northern seaport except at Archangel on the White Sea, whose harbor was frozen nine months a year. Access to the Baltic was blocked by Sweden, whose territory enclosed it on three sides. Peter's ambitions for a "window to the sea" led him in 1699 to make a secret alliance with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Denmark against Sweden resulting in the Great Northern War. The war ended in 1721 when an exhausted Sweden sued for peace with Russia. Peter acquired four provinces situated south and east of the Gulf of Finland, thus securing his coveted access to the sea. There, in 1703, he had already founded the city that was to become Russia's new capital, Saint Petersburg, as a "window opened upon Europe" to replace Moscow, long Russia's cultural center. Russian intervention in the Commonwealth marked, with the Silent Sejm, beginning of 200-year domination of that region by the Russian Empire. In celebration of his conquests, Peter assumed the title of emperor as well as tsar, and Russian Tzardom officially became the Russian Empire in 1721.

Peter reorganized his government on the latest Western models, molding Russia into an absolutist state. He replaced the old boyar Duma (council of nobles) with a nine-member senate, in effect a supreme council of state. The countryside was also divided into new provinces and districts. Peter told the senate that its mission was to collect tax revenues. In turn tax revenues tripled over the course of his reign. As part of the government reform, the Orthodox Church was partially incorporated into the country's administrative structure, in effect making it a tool of the state. Peter abolished the patriarchate and replaced it with a collective body, the Holy Synod, led by a lay government official. Meanwhile, all vestiges of local self-government were removed, and Peter continued and intensified his predecessors' requirement of state service for all nobles.

Peter the Great died in 1725, leaving an unsettled succession and an exhausted realm. His reign raised questions about Russia's backwardness, its relationship to the West, the appropriateness of reform from above, and other fundamental problems that have confronted many of Russia's subsequent rulers. Nevertheless, he had laid the foundations of a modern state in Russia.

Nearly forty years were to pass before a comparably ambitious and ruthless ruler appeared on the Russian throne. Catherine II, the Great, was a German princess who married the German heir to the Russian crown. Finding him incompetent, Catherine tacitly consented to his murder. It was announced that he had died of "apoplexy", and in 1762 she became ruler.

Catherine contributed to the resurgence of the Russian nobility that began after the death of Peter the Great. Mandatory state service had been abolished, and Catherine delighted the nobles further by turning over most government functions in the provinces to them.

Catherine the Great extended Russian political control over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with actions including the support of the Targowica Confederation, although the cost of her campaigns, on top of the oppressive social system that required lords' serfs to spend almost all of their time laboring on the lords' land, provoked a major peasant uprising in 1773, after Catherine legalized the selling of serfs separate from land. Inspired by another Cossack named Pugachev, with the emphatic cry of "Hang all the landlords!" the rebels threatened to take Moscow before they were ruthlessly suppressed. Catherine had Pugachev drawn and quartered in Red Square, but the specter of revolution continued to haunt her and her successors.

Catherine successfully waged war against the decaying Ottoman Empire and advanced Russia's southern boundary to the Black Sea. Then, by allying with the rulers of Austria and Prussia, she incorporated the territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, where after a century of Russian rule non-Catholic mainly Orthodox population prevailed) during the Partitions of Poland, pushing the Russian frontier westward into Central Europe. By the time of her death in 1796, Catherine's expansionist policy had made Russia into a major European power. This continued with Alexander I's wresting of Finland from the weakened kingdom of Sweden in 1809 and of Bessarabia from the Ottomans in 1812.

Napoleon made a major misstep when he declared war on Russia after a dispute with Tsar Alexander I and launched an invasion of Russia in 1812. The campaign was a catastrophe. Unable to decisively engage and defeat the standing Russian armies, Napoleon attempted to force the Tsar to terms by capturing Moscow at the onset of winter. The expectation proved futile. Unprepared for winter warfare in the cold Russian weather, thousands of French troops were ambushed and killed by peasant guerrilla fighters. As Napoleon's forces retreated, Russian troops pursued them into Central and Western Europe and to the gates of Paris. After Russia and its allies defeated Napoleon, Alexander became known as the 'savior of Europe,' and he presided over the redrawing of the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna (1815), which made Alexander the monarch of Congress Poland.

Although the Russian Empire would play a leading political role in the next century, secured by its defeat of Napoleonic France, its retention of serfdom precluded economic progress of any significant degree. As West European economic growth accelerated during the Industrial Revolution, sea trade and exploitation of colonies which had begun in the second half of the 18th century, Russia began to lag ever farther behind, creating new problems for the empire as a great power.

Russia's great power status obscured the inefficiency of its government, the isolation of its people, and its economic backwardness. Following the defeat of Napoleon, Alexander I was willing to discuss constitutional reforms, and though a few were introduced, no thoroughgoing changes were attempted.

In the early decades of the 19th century, Russia expanded into South Caucasus and the highlands of the North Caucasus. In 1831 Nicholas crushed a major uprising in Congress Poland; it would be followed by another large-scale Polish and Lithuanian revolt in 1863.

In this setting Michael Bakunin would emerge as the father of anarchism. He left Russia in 1842 to Western Europe, where he became active in the socialist movement. After participating in the May Uprising in Dresden of 1849, he was imprisoned and shipped to Siberia, but eventually escaped and made his way back to Europe. There he practically joined forces with Karl Marx, despite significant ideological and tactical differences. Alternative social doctrines were elaborated by such Russian radicals as Alexander Herzen and Peter Kropotkin.

The question of Russia's direction had been gaining steam ever since Peter the Great's program of Westernization. Some favored imitating Europe while others renounced the West and called for a return of the traditions of the past. The latter path was championed by Slavophiles, who heaped scorn on the "decadent" West. The Slavophiles were opponents of bureaucracy, preferred the collectivism of the medieval Russian mir, or village community, to the individualism of the West.

Tsar Nicholas died with his philosophy in dispute. One year earlier, Russia had become involved in the Crimean War, a conflict fought primarily in the Crimean peninsula. Since playing a major role in the defeat of Napoleon, Russia had been regarded as militarily invincible, but, once pitted against a coalition of the great powers of Europe, the reverses it suffered on land and sea exposed the decay and weakness of Tsar Nicholas' regime.

When Alexander II came to the throne in 1855, desire for reform was widespread. A growing humanitarian movement, which in later years has been likened to that of the abolitionists in the United States before the American Civil War, attacked serfdom. In 1859, there were 23 million serfs (total population of Russia 67.1 Million) living under conditions frequently worse than those of the peasants of Western Europe on 16th century manors. Alexander II made up his own mind to abolish serfdom from above rather than wait for it to be abolished from below through revolution.

The emancipation of the serfs in 1861 was the single most important event in 19th century Russian history. It was the beginning of the end for the landed aristocracy's monopoly of power. Emancipation brought a supply of free labor to the cities, industry was stimulated, and the middle class grew in number and influence; however, instead of receiving their lands as a gift, the freed peasants had to pay a special tax, called redemption payments, for what amounted to their lifetime to the government, which in turn paid the landlords a generous price for the land that they had lost. In numerous instances the peasants wound up with the poorest land. All the land turned over to the peasants was owned collectively by the mir, the village community, which divided the land among the peasants and supervised the various holdings. Although serfdom was abolished, since its abolition was achieved on terms unfavorable to the peasants, revolutionary tensions were not abated, despite Alexander II's intentions.

In the late 1870s Russia and the Ottoman Empire again clashed in the Balkans. The Russo-Turkish War was popular among Russians, who supported the independence of their fellow Orthodox Slavs, the Serbs and the Bulgarians. However, the war increased tension with Austria-Hungary, which also had ambitions in the region. During this period Russia expanded its empire into Central Asia, which was rich in raw materials, conquering the khanates of Kokand, Bokhara and Khiva. as well as the Trans-Caspian region.

In the 1860s a movement known as Nihilism developed in Russia. A term originally coined by Ivan Turgenev in his 1862 novel Fathers and Sons, Nihilists favoured the destruction of human institutions and laws, based on the idea that such institutions and laws are artificial and corrupt. At its core, Russian nihilism was characterized by the belief that the world lacks comprehensible meaning, objective truth, or value. For some time many Russian liberals had been dissatisfied by what they regarded as the empty discussions of the intelligentsia. The Nihilists questioned all old values and shocked the Russian establishment. They moved beyond being purely philosophical to becoming major political forces after becoming involved in the cause of reform. Their path was facilitated by the previous actions of the Decembrists, who revolted in 1825, and the financial and political hardship caused by the Crimean War, which caused large amounts of Russian peoples to lose faith in political institutes.

The Nihilists first attempted to convert the aristocracy to the cause of reform. Failing there, they turned to the peasants. Their campaign, which targeted the people instead of the aristocracy or the landed gentry, became known as the Narodnik movement. It was based upon the belief that the common people, known as the Narod, possessed the wisdom and peaceful ability to lead the nation..

While the Narodnik movement was gaining momentum, the government quickly moved to extirpate it. In response to the growing reaction of the government, a radical branch of the Narodniks advocated and practiced terrorism. One after another, prominent officials were shot or killed by bombs. This represented the ascendancy of anarchism in Russia as a powerful revolutionary force. Finally, after several attempts, Alexander II was assassinated by anarchists in 1881, on the very day he had approved a proposal to call a representative assembly to consider new reforms in addition to the abolition of serfdom designed to ameliorate revolutionary demands.

Unlike his father, the new tsar Alexander III (1881–1894) was throughout his reign a staunch reactionary who revived the maxim of "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and National Character". A committed Slavophile, Alexander III believed that Russia could be saved from chaos only by shutting itself off from the subversive influences of Western Europe. In his reign Russia concluded the union with republican France to contain the growing power of Germany, completed the conquest of Central Asia, and exacted important territorial and commercial concessions from China.

The tsar's most influential adviser was Konstantin Pobedonostsev, tutor to Alexander III and his son Nicholas, and procurator of the Holy Synod from 1880 to 1895. He taught his royal pupils to fear freedom of speech and press and to hate democracy, constitutions, and the parliamentary system. Under Pobedonostsev, revolutionaries were hunted down and a policy of Russification was carried out throughout the empire.

Alexander was succeeded by his son Nicholas II (1894–1917). The Industrial Revolution, which began to exert a significant influence in Russia, was meanwhile creating forces that would finally overthrow the tsar. Politically, these opposition forces organized into three competing parties: The liberal elements among the industrial capitalists and nobility, who believed in peaceful social reform and a constitutional monarchy, founded the Constitutional Democratic party or Kadets in 1905. Followers of the Narodnik tradition established the Socialist-Revolutionary Party or Esers in 1901, advocating the distribution of land among those who actually worked it—the peasants. A third and more radical group founded the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party or RDSLP in 1898; this party was the primary exponent of Marxism in Russia. Gathering their support from the radical intellectuals and the urban working class, they advocated complete social, economic and political revolution.

In 1903 the RDSLP split into two wings: the radical Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, and the relatively moderate Mensheviks, led by Lenin's former friend Yuli Martov. The Mensheviks believed that Russian socialism would grow gradually and peacefully and that the tsar’s regime should be succeeded by a democratic republic in which the socialists would cooperate with the liberal bourgeois parties. The Bolsheviks, under Vladimir Lenin, advocated the formation of a small elite of professional revolutionists, subject to strong party discipline, to act as the vanguard of the proletariat in order to seize power by force.

The disastrous performance of the Russian armed forces in the Russo-Japanese War was a major blow to the Russian State and increased the potential for unrest. In January 1905, an incident known as "Bloody Sunday" occurred when Father Gapon led an enormous crowd to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg to present a petition to the tsar. When the procession reached the palace, Cossacks opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. The Russian masses were so aroused over the massacre that a general strike was declared demanding a democratic republic. This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1905. Soviets (councils of workers) appeared in most cities to direct revolutionary activity.

In October 1905, Nicholas reluctantly issued the famous October Manifesto, which conceded the creation of a national Duma (legislature) to be called without delay. The right to vote was extended, and no law was to go into force without confirmation by the Duma. The moderate groups were satisfied; but the socialists rejected the concessions as insufficient and tried to organize new strikes. By the end of 1905, there was disunity among the reformers, and the tsar's position was strengthened for the time being.

Bound by treaty, Tsar Nicholas II and his subjects entered World War I at the defense of Serbia. At the opening of hostilities in August 1914, the Russians took the offensive against both Germany and Austria-Hungary in support of her French ally.

Later, military failures and bureaucratic ineptitude soon turned large segments of the population against the government. Control of the Baltic Sea by the German fleet, and of the Black Sea by combined German and Ottoman forces prevented Russia from importing supplies and exporting goods.

By the middle of 1915 the impact of the war was demoralizing. Food and fuel were in short supply, casualties kept occurring, and inflation was mounting. Strikes increased among low-paid factory workers, and the peasants, who wanted land reforms, were restless. Meanwhile, public distrust of the regime was deepened by reports that a semiliterate mystic, Grigory Rasputin, had great political influence within the government. His assassination in late 1916 ended the scandal but did not restore the autocracy's lost prestige.

On March 3, 1917, a strike occurred in a factory in the capital Petrograd (formerly Saint Petersburg). On February 23 (March 8) 1917, International Women's Day, thousands of women textile workers in Petrograd walked out of their factories protesting the lack of food and calling on other workers to join them. Within days, nearly all the workers in the city were idle, and street fighting broke out. When the tsar ordered the Duma to disband, ordered strikers to return to work, and ordered troops to shoot at demonstrators in the streets, his orders triggered the February Revolution, especially when soldiers openly sided with the strikers. On March 2 (15), Nicholas II abdicated. To fill the vacuum of authority, the Duma declared a Provisional Government, headed by Prince Lvov. Meanwhile, the socialists in Petrograd organized elections among workers and soldiers to form a soviet (council) of workers' and soldiers' deputies, as an organ of popular power that could pressure the "bourgeois" Provisional Government.

In July, following a series of crises that undermined their authority with the public, the head of the Provisional Government resigned and was succeeded by Alexander Kerensky, who was more progressive than his predecessor but not radical enough for the Bolsheviks or many Russians discontented with the deepening economic crisis and the continuation of the war. While Kerensky's government marked time, the socialist-led soviet in Petrograd joined with soviets that formed throughout the country to create a national movement.

Lenin returned to Russia from exile in Switzerland with the help of Germany, which hoped that widespread strife would cause Russia to withdraw from the war. After many behind-the-scenes maneuvers, the soviets seized control of the government in November 1917, and drove Kerensky and his moderate provisional government into exile, in the events that would become known as the October Revolution.

When the national Constituent Assembly, elected in December 1917 and meeting in January 1918, refused to become a rubber-stamp of the Bolsheviks, it was dissolved by Lenin's troops. With the dissolution of the constituent assembly, all vestiges of bourgeois democracy were removed. With the handicap of the moderate opposition removed, Lenin was able to free his regime from the war problem by the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918) with Germany, in which Russia lost the territories of Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, the parts of the territories of Latvia and Belarus (line Riga-Dvinsk-Druia-Drisvyaty-Mikhalishki-Dzevalishki-Dokudova-r.Neman-r.Yelvyanka-Pruzhany-Vidoml), and the territories captured from the Ottoman Empire during World War I. On November, 13, 1918 the Soviet government cancelled the Treaty of Brest .

The Bolshevik grip on power was by no means secure and a lengthy struggle broke out between the new regime and its opponents, who included the Socialist Revolutionaries, right-wing "Whites" and large numbers of peasants. At the same time the Allied powers sent several expeditionary armies to support the anti-Communist forces in an attempt to force Russia to rejoin the world war. The Bolsheviks fought against these forces and against national independence movements in the former Russian Empire. By 1921, they had defeated their internal enemies and brought most of the newly independent states under their control, with the exception of Finland, the Baltic States, the Moldavian Democratic Republic (which joined Romania), and Poland (with whom they had fought the Polish-Soviet War). Finland also annexed the region Pechenga of the Russian Kola peninsula, Romania annexed Northern Bukovina; Soviet Russia and allied Soviet republics conceded the parts of its territory to Estonia (Pechory and the right bank of Narva), Latvia (Pytalovo) and Turkey (Kars). Poland incorporated the contested territories of Western Belarus and Western Ukraine, the former parts of the Russian Empire (except Galicia) east to Curzon Line.

The history of Russia between 1922 and 1991 is essentially the history of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Soviet Union. This ideologically-based union, established in December 1922 by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party, was roughly coterminous with Russia before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. At that time, the new nation included four constituent republics: the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, Belarusian SSR, and the Transcaucasian SFSR.

The constitution, adopted in 1924, established a federal system of government based on a succession of soviets set up in villages, factories, and cities in larger regions. This pyramid of soviets in each constituent republic culminated in the All-Union Congress of Soviets. But while it appeared that the congress exercised sovereign power, this body was actually governed by the Communist Party, which in turn was controlled by the Politburo from Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union, just as it had been under the tsars before Peter the Great.

The period from the consolidation of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 until 1921 is known as the period of war communism. Land, all industry and small businesses were nationalized and the money economy was restricted. Strong opposition soon developed. The peasants wanted cash payments for their products and resented having to surrender their surplus grain to the government as a part of its civil war policies. Confronted with peasant opposition, Lenin began a strategic retreat from war communism known as the New Economic Policy (NEP). The peasants were freed from wholesale levies of grain and allowed to sell their surplus produce in the open market. Commerce was stimulated by permitting private retail trading. The state continued to be responsible for banking, transportation, heavy industry, and public utilities.

Although the left opposition among the Communists criticized the rich peasants or kulaks who benefited from the NEP, the program proved highly beneficial and the economy revived. The NEP would later come under increasing opposition from within the party following Lenin's death in early 1924.

While the Russian economy was being transformed, the social life of the people underwent equally drastic changes. From the beginning of the revolution, the government attempted to weaken patriarchal domination of the family. Divorce no longer required court procedure; and to make women completely free of the responsibilities of childbearing, abortion was made legal as early as 1920. As a side effect, the emancipation of the women increased the labor market. Girls were encouraged to secure an education and pursue a career in the factory or the office. Communal nurseries were set up for the care of small children and efforts were made to shift the center of people's social life from the home to educational and recreational groups, the soviet clubs.

The regime abandoned the tsarist policy of discriminating against national minorities in favor of a policy of incorporating the more than two hundred minority groups into Soviet life. Another feature of the regime was the extension of medical services. Campaigns were carried out against typhus, cholera, and malaria; the number of doctors was increased as rapidly as facilities and training would permit; and infant mortality rates rapidly decreased while life expectancy rapidly increased.

The government also promoted atheism and materialism, which formed the basis of Marxist theory. It opposed organized religion, especially in order to break the power of the Russian Orthodox Church, a former pillar of the old tsarist regime and a major barrier to social change. Many religious leaders were sent to internal exile camps. Members of the party were forbidden to attend religious services and the education system was separated from the Church. Religious teaching was prohibited except in the home and atheist instruction was stressed in the schools.

The years from 1929 to 1939 comprised a tumultuous decade in Russian history—a period of massive industrialization and internal struggles as Joseph Stalin established near total control over Russian society, wielding virtually unrestrained power. Following Lenin's death Stalin wrestled to gain control of the Soviet Union with rival factions in the Politburo, especially Leon Trotsky's. By 1928, with the Trotskyists either exiled or rendered powerless, Stalin was ready to put a radical program of industrialization into action.

In 1928 Stalin proposed the First Five-Year Plan. Abolishing the NEP, it was the first of a number of plans aimed at swift accumulation of capital resources through the buildup of heavy industry, the collectivization of agriculture, and the restricted manufacture of consumer goods. For the first time in history a government controlled all economic activity.

As a part of the plan, the government took control of agriculture through the state and collective farms (kolkhozes). By a decree of February 1930, about one million individual peasants (kulaks) were forced off their land. Many peasants strongly opposed regimentation by the state, often slaughtering their herds when faced with the loss of their land. In some sections they revolted, and countless peasants deemed "kulaks" by the authorities were executed. The combination of bad weather, deficiencies of the hastily-established collective farms, and massive confiscation of grain precipitated a serious famine, and several million peasants died of starvation, mostly in Ukraine and parts of southwestern Russia. The deteriorating conditions in the countryside drove millions of desperate peasants to the rapidly growing cities, fueling industrialization, and vastly increasing Russia's urban population in the space of just a few years.

The plans received remarkable results in areas aside from agriculture. Russia, in many measures the poorest nation in Europe at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, now industrialized at a phenomenal rate, far surpassing Germany's pace of industrialization in the nineteenth century and Japan's earlier in the twentieth century.

While the Five-Year Plans were forging ahead, Stalin was establishing his personal power. The NKVD gathered in tens of thousands of Soviet citizens to face arrest, deportation, or execution. Of the six original members of the 1920 Politburo who survived Lenin, all were purged by Stalin. Old Bolsheviks who had been loyal comrades of Lenin, high officers in the Red Army, and directors of industry were liquidated in the Great Purges. Purges in other Soviet republics also helped centralize control in the USSR.

Stalin's repressions led to the creation of a vast system of internal exile, of considerably greater dimensions than those set up in the past by the tsars. Draconian penalties were introduced and many citizens were prosecuted for fictitious crimes of sabotage and espionage. The labor provided by convicts working in the labor camps of the Gulag system became an important component of the industrialization effort, especially in Siberia. An estimated 18 million people passed through the Gulag system, and perhaps another 15 million had experience of some other form of forced labor.

The Soviet Union viewed the 1933 accession of fervently anti-Communist Hitler's government to power in Germany with the great alarm from the onset, especially since Hitler proclaimed the Drang nach Osten as one of the major objectives in his vision of the German strategy of Lebensraum. The Soviets supported the republicans of Spain who struggled against the fascist German and Italian troops in the Spanish Civil War In 1938-1939, immediately prior to the WWII, the Soviet Union successfully fought against Imperial Japan in the Soviet-Japanese Border Wars in the Russian Far East, which led to the Soviet-Japanese neutrality and the tense border peace that lasted until August 1945.

In 1938 Germany annexed Austria and, together with major Western European powers, signed the Munich Agreement following which Germany, Hungary and Poland divided the Czech territory between themselves. German plans for further eastward expansion as well as the lack of resolve from the Western powers to oppose it became more apparent. Despite Soviet Union strongly opposed the Munich deal and repeatedly reaffirmed its readiness to militarily back the Soviet commitments given earlier to Czechoslovakia, the Western Betrayal of Czechoslovakia reached over the Soviet opposition further increased fears in the Soviet Union of a coming German attack, which led the Soviet Union to rush the modernization of Soviet military industry and carry its own diplomatic maneuvers. In 1939 the Soviet Union signed the Non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany dividing spheres of influence between themselves in Eastern Europe. Following the agreement, the USSR normalized the relations with Nazi Germany and resumed the Soviet-German trade.

On September 17, 1939, seventeen days after the start of World War II and victorious German advance deep into the Polish territory, the Red Army invaded eastern portions of Poland stating the protection of Ukrainians and Belarusians as their operation's primary goal and Poland's "seizure to exist" as the justification of the action. As a result, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Soviet republics' western borders were moved westward and the new Soviet western border was drawn close to the original Curzon line. In the meantime the negotiations with Finland about the Soviet-proposed land swap that would redraw the Soviet-Finnish border further away from Leningrad failed; and in December, 1939 the USSR started a campaign against Finland, known as the Winter War (1939–40). The war took a heavy death toll on the Red Army but forced Finland to sign a Moscow Peace Treaty and cede the Karelian Isthmus and Ladoga Karelia. In summer 1940 the USSR issued an ultimatum to Romania forcing it to cede the territories of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. At the same time, the Soviet Union also occupied the three formerly independent Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania).

The peace with Germany was tense, as both sides were preparing for the military conflict, and abruptly ended when the Axis forces led by Germany swept across the Soviet border on June 22, 1941. By the autumn the German army had seized Ukraine, laid a siege of Leningrad, and threatened to capture the capital, Moscow, itself. Despite the fact that in December 1941 the Red Army threw off the German forces from Moscow in a successful counterattack, the Germans retained the strategic initiative for approximately another year and held a deep offensive in the south-eastern direction, reaching the Volga and the Caucasus. However, two major German defeats in Stalingrad and Kursk proved decisive and reversed the course of the entire World War as Germans never regained the strength to sustain their offensive operations and the Soviet Union recaptured the initiative for the rest of the conflict. By the end of 1943, the Red Army had broken through the German siege of Leningrad and liberated much of Ukraine, much of Western Russia and moved into Belarus. By the end of 1944, the front had moved beyond the 1939 Soviet frontiers into eastern Europe. Soviet forces drove into eastern Germany, capturing Berlin in May 1945. The war with Germany thus ended triumphantly for the Soviet Union.

As agreed at the Yalta Conference, three months after the Victory Day in Europe the USSR launched the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, defeating the Japanese troops in neighboring Manchuria, the last Soviet battle of World War II.

Although the Soviet Union was victorious in World War II, the war resulted in around 26–27 million Soviet deaths (estimates vary) and had devastated the Soviet economy in the struggle. Some 1,710 towns and 70 thousand settlements were destroyed. The occupied territories suffered from the ravages of German occupation and deportations of slave labor in Germany. Thirteen million Soviet citizens became victims of a repressive policy of Germans and their allies on an occupied territory, where died because of mass murders, famine, absence of elementary medical aid and slave labor. , . The Nazi Genocide of the Jews carried by German Einsatzgruppen, along the local collaborators resulted in almost complete annihilation of the Jewish population over the entire territory temporary occupied by Germany and its allies., ,, . During occupation, Russia's Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, region lost around a quarter of its population . Soviet Belarus lost from a quarter to a third of its population. 3.6 million Soviet prisoners of war (of 5.5 million) died in German camps.

Collaboration among the major Allies had won the war and was supposed to serve as the basis for postwar reconstruction and security. However, the conflict between Soviet and U.S. national interests, known as the Cold War, came to dominate the international stage in the postwar period.

The Cold War emerged out of a conflict between Stalin and U.S. President Harry Truman over the future of Eastern Europe during the Potsdam Conference in the summer of 1945. Russia had suffered three devastating Western onslaughts in the previous 150 years during the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, and the Second World War, and Stalin's goal was to establish a buffer zone of states between Germany and the Soviet Union. Truman charged that Stalin had betrayed the Yalta agreement. With Eastern Europe under Red Army occupation, Stalin was also biding his time, as his own atomic bomb project was steadily and secretly progressing.

In April 1949 the United States sponsored the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact in which most Western nations pledged to treat an armed attack against one nation as an assault on all. The Soviet Union established an Eastern counterpart to NATO in 1955, dubbed the Warsaw Pact. The division of Europe into Western and Soviet blocks later took on a more global character, especially after 1949, when the U.S. nuclear monopoly ended with the testing of a Soviet bomb and the Communist takeover in China.

The foremost objectives of Soviet foreign policy were the maintenance and enhancement of national security and the maintenance of hegemony over Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union maintained its dominance over the Warsaw Pact through crushing the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, suppressing the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and supporting the suppression of the Solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980s. The Soviet Union opposed the United States in a number of proxy conflicts all over the world, including Korean War and Vietnam War.

As the Soviet Union continued to maintain tight control over its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, the Cold War gave way to Détente and a more complicated pattern of international relations in the 1970s in which the world was no longer clearly split into two clearly opposed blocs. Less powerful countries had more room to assert their independence, and the two superpowers were partially able to recognize their common interest in trying to check the further spread and proliferation of nuclear weapons in treaties such as SALT I, SALT II, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

U.S.-Soviet relations deteriorated following the beginning of the nine-year Soviet War in Afghanistan in 1979 and the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, a staunch anti-communist, but improved as the Soviet bloc started to unravel in the late 1980s. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia lost the superpower status that it had won in the Second World War.

In the power struggle that erupted after Stalin's death in 1953, his closest followers lost out. Nikita Khrushchev solidified his position in a speech before the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party in 1956 detailing Stalin's atrocities.

In 1964 Khrushchev was impeached by the Communist Party's Central Committee, charging him with a host of errors that included Soviet setbacks such as the Cuban Missile Crisis.After a brief period of collective leadership, a veteran bureaucrat, Leonid Brezhnev, took Khrushchev's place. Brezhnev followed Stalin's emphasis on heavy industry, and also attempted to ease relationships with the United States. In the 1960s the USSR became a leading producer and exporter of petroleum and natural gas.

Khruschev and Brezhnev years were time when Soviet science and industry peaked. World's first nuclear power plant was established in 1954 in Obninsk. Baikal Amur Mainline was built. Soviet space program, led by Sergey Korolev, was especially successful. On October 4, 1957 Soviet Union launched the first space satellite Sputnik. On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space in the Soviet spaceship Vostok 1.

Two developments dominated the decade that followed: the increasingly apparent crumbling of the Soviet Union's economic and political structures, and the patchwork attempts at reforms to reverse that process. After the rapid succession of former KGB Chief Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, transitional figures with deep roots in Brezhnevite tradition, Mikhail Gorbachev announced perestroika in an attempt to modernize Soviet communism, and made significant changes in the party leadership. However, Gorbachev's social reforms led to unintended consequences. Because of his policy of glasnost, which facilitated public access to information after decades of government repression, social problems received wider public attention, undermining the Communist Party's authority. In the revolutions of 1989 the USSR lost its satellites in Eastern Europe. Glasnost allowed ethnic and nationalist disaffection to reach the surface. Many constituent republics, especially the Baltic republics, Georgian SSR and Moldavian SSR, sought greater autonomy, which Moscow was unwilling to provide. Gorbachev's attempts at economic reform were not sufficient, and the Soviet government left intact most of the fundamental elements of communist economy. Suffering from low pricing of petroleum and natural gas, ongoing war in Afghanistan, outdated industry and pervasive corruption, the Soviet planned economy proved to be ineffective, and by 1990 the Soviet government had lost control over economic conditions. Due to price control, there were shortages of almost all products, reaching their peak in the end of 1991, when people had to stand in long lines and to be lucky enough to buy even the essentials. Control over the constituent republics was also relaxed, and they began to assert their national sovereignty over Moscow.

The tension between Soviet Union and Russian SFSR authorities came to be personified in the bitter power struggle between Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Squeezed out of Union politics by Gorbachev in 1987, Yeltsin, an old-style party boss with no dissident background or contacts, needed an alternative platform to challenge Gorbachev. He established it by representing himself as a committed democrat. In a remarkable reversal of fortunes, he gained election as chairman of the Russian republic's new Supreme Soviet in May 1990. The following month, he secured legislation giving Russian laws priority over Soviet laws and withholding two-thirds of the budget. In the first Russian presidential election in 1991 Yeltsin became president of the Russian SFSR. At last Gorbachev attempted to restructure the Soviet Union into a less centralized state. However, on August 19, 1991, a coup against Gorbachev, conspired by senior Soviet officials, was attempted. The coup faced wide popular opposition and collapsed in three days, but disintegration of the Union became imminent. The Russian government took over most of the Soviet Union government institutions on its territory. Because of the dominant position of Russians in the Soviet Union, most gave little thought to any distinction between Russia and the Soviet Union before the late 1980s. In the Soviet Union, only Russian SFSR lacked even the paltry instruments of statehood that the other republics possessed, such as its own republic-level Communist Party branch, trade union councils, Academy of Sciences, and the like. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was banned in Russia in 1991-1992, although no lustration has ever taken place, and many of its members became top Russian officials. However, as the Soviet government was still opposed to market reforms, the economic situation continued to deteriorate. By December 1991, the shortages had resulted in the introduction of food rationing in Moscow and Saint Petersburg for the first time since World War II. Russia received humanitarian food aid from abroad. After the Belavezha Accords, the Congress of Soviets of RSFSR withdrew Russia from the Soviet Union on December 12. The Soviet Union officially ended on December 25, 1991, and the Russian Federation (formerly the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) took power on December 26. The Russian government lifted price control on January 1992. Prices raised dramatically, but shortages disappeared.

Although Yeltsin came to power on a wave of optimism, he never recovered his popularity after endorsing Yegor Gaidar's "shock therapy" of ending Soviet-era price controls, drastic cuts in state spending, and an open foreign trade regime in early 1992 (see Russian economic reform in the 1990s). The reforms immediately devastated the living standards of much of the population. In the 1990s Russia suffered an economic downturn that was, in some ways, more severe than the United States or Germany had undergone six decades earlier in the Great Depression. Hyperinflation hit the ruble, due to monetary overhang from the days of the planned economy.

Meanwhile, the profusion of small parties and their aversion to coherent alliances left the legislature chaotic. During 1993, Yeltsin's rift with the parliamentary leadership led to the September–October 1993 constitutional crisis. The crisis climaxed on October 3, when Yeltsin chose a radical solution to settle his dispute with parliament: he called up tanks to shell the Russian White House, blasting out his opponents. As Yeltsin was taking the unconstitutional step of dissolving the legislature, Russia came close to a serious civil conflict. Yeltsin was then free to impose the current Russian constitution with strong presidential powers, which was approved by referendum in December 1993. The cohesion of the Russian Federation was also threatened when the republic of Chechnya attempted to break away, leading to two bloody conflicts.

Economic reforms also consolidated a semi-criminal oligarchy with roots in the old Soviet system. Advised by Western governments, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, Russia embarked on the largest and fastest privatization that the world had ever seen in order to reform the fully nationalized Soviet economy. By mid-decade, retail, trade, services, and small industry was in private hands. Most big enterprises were acquired by their old managers, engendering a new rich (Russian tycoons) in league with criminal mafias or Western investors.

By the mid-1990s Russia had a system of multiparty electoral politics. But it was harder to establish a representative government because of two structural problems—the struggle between president and parliament and the anarchic party system.

Meanwhile, the central government had lost control of the localities, bureaucracy, and economic fiefdoms; tax revenues had collapsed. Still in deep depression by the mid-1990s, Russia's economy was hit further by the financial crash of 1998. After the 1998 financial crisis, Yeltsin was at the end of his political career. Just hours before the first day of 2000, Yeltsin made a surprise announcement of his resignation, leaving the government in the hands of the little-known Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB official and head of the KGB's post-Soviet successor agency FSB. In 2000, the new acting president defeated his opponents in the presidential election on March 26, and won a landslide 4 years later. International observers were alarmed by late 2004 moves to further tighten the presidency's control over parliament, civil society, and regional officeholders. In 2008 Dmitri Medvedev, a former Gazprom chairman and Putin's head of staff, was elected new President of Russia.

Nevertheless, reversion to a socialist command economy seemed almost impossible, meeting widespread relief in the West. Russia ended 2006 with its eighth straight year of growth, averaging 6.7% annually since the financial crisis of 1998. Although high oil prices and a relatively cheap ruble initially drove this growth, since 2003 consumer demand and, more recently, investment have played a significant role. Russia is well ahead of most other resource-rich countries in its economic development, with a long tradition of education, science, and industry.

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French invasion of Russia

century

The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. The campaign reduced the French and allied invasion forces to a tiny fraction of their initial strength. Its sustained role in Russian culture may be seen in Tolstoy's War and Peace, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, and the Soviet identification of it with the German invasion of 1941-45.

Napoleon's invasion is better known in Russia as the Patriotic War (Russian Отечественная война, Otechestvennaya Vojna), not to be confused with the Great Patriotic War (Великая Отечественная война, Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voyna) which refers to Hitler's, rather than Napoleon's, invasion of Russia. The Patriotic War is also occasionally referred to as the "War of 1812", which is not to be confused with the conflict of the same name between the United Kingdom and the United States. In an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, Napoleon in his own words termed this war the "Second Polish War" (the first Polish war being the liberation of Poland from Russia, Prussia and Austria), because one of the main goals of this war was the resurrection of the Polish state on the territories of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine.

At the time of the invasion, Napoleon was at the height of his power with virtually all of continental Europe either under his direct control or held by countries defeated by his empire and under treaties favorable for France. No European power on the continent dared move against him. The 1809 Austrian war treaty had a clause removing Western Galicia from Austria and annexing it to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Russia viewed this as against its interests and as a potent launching point for an invasion of Russia. Tsar Alexander found Russia in an economic bind as his country had little in the way of manufacturing and being rich in raw materials yet being part of Napoleon's continental system denied it the trade that was its lifeblood for both money and manufactured goods. Russia's withdrawal from the system was a further incentive to Napoleon to force a decision.

The invasion of Russia clearly and dramatically demonstrates the role that logistics, or in this case the lack thereof, will play in a campaign where the land will not provide for the number of troops deployed in an area of operations far exceeding the experience of the invading army. Napoleon and the Grande Armée had developed a proclivity for living off the land that had served it well in the densely populated and agriculturally rich central Europe with its dense network of roads. Rapid forced marches had dazed and confused old order Austrian and Prussian armies and much had been made of the use of foraging. In Russia many of the Grande Armee's methods of operation worked against it. Forced marches often made troops do without supplies as the supply wagons struggled to keep up. Lack of water, lack of food, and a thinly populated and much less agriculturally dense region led to the death of horses and men through weakening them from lack of food, exposure to waterborne diseases from drinking from mud puddles and rotten forage. The front of the army would receive whatever could be provided while the formations behind starved.

Napoleon had in fact made extensive preparations providing for the provisioning of his army. Seventeen train battalions of 6000 vehicles were to provide a 40 day supply for the Grande Armée and its operations, and a large system of magazines were established in towns and cities in Poland and East Prussia. At the start of the campaign, no march on Moscow was envisioned and so the preparations would have sufficed. However, the Russian Armies could not stand singularly against the main battle group of 285,000 men and would continue to retreat and attempt to join one another. This demanded an advance by the Grand Armée over a road network of dirt roads that would dissolve into bottomless mires, where deep ruts in the mud would freeze solid, killing already exhausted horses and breaking wagons. As the graph of Charles Joseph Minard, given below, shows, the majority of the losses to the Grand Armée were incurred during the march to Moscow during the summer and autumn. Starvation, desertion, typhus, and suicide would rob the French Army of more men than all the battles of the Russian invasion combined.

On June 24, 1812, the Grande Armée of 690,000 men, the largest army assembled up to that point in European history, crossed the river Neman and headed towards Moscow.

In addition 80,000 National Guards had been conscripted for full military service defending the imperial frontier of the Duchy of Warsaw. With these included total French imperial forces on the Russian border and in Russia came to almost 800,000 men. This vast commitment of manpower severely strained the Empire — especially considering that there were a further 300,000 French troops fighting in Iberia and over 200,000 more in Germany and Italy.

Figures on how many men Napoleon took into Russia and how many eventually came out vary rather widely.

Whatever the accurate number, it is generally accepted that the overwhelming majority of this grand army, French and allied, remained, in one condition or another, inside Russia.

Adam Zamoyski estimated that between 550,000 and 600,000 French and allied troops (including reinforcements) operated beyond the Niemen, of which as many as 400,000 troops died.

These forces, however, could count on reinforcements from the second line, which totaled 129,000 men and 8,000 Cossacks, with 434 guns.

Of these about 105,000 men were actually available for the defense against the invasion. In the third line were the 36 recruit depots and militias, which came to the total of approximately 161,000 men of various and highly disparate military values, of which about 133,000 actually took part in the defense.

Thus, the grand total of all the forces was 488,000 men, of which about 428,000 gradually came into action against the Grand Army. This bottom line, however, includes more than 80,000 Cossacks and militiamen, as well as about 20,000 men who garrisoned the fortresses in the operational area.

Sweden, Russia's only ally, did not send supporting troops. But the alliance made it possible to withdraw the 45,000 men Russian corps Steinheil from Finland and use it in the later battles (20,000 men were sent to Riga).

The invasion commenced on June 24, 1812. Napoleon had sent a final offer of peace to Saint Petersburg shortly before commencing operations. He never received a reply, so he gave the order to proceed into Russian Poland. He initially met little resistance and moved quickly into the enemy's territory. The French coalition of forces amounted to 449,000 men and 1146 cannon being opposed by the Russian armies combining to muster 153,000 men, 938 cannon, and 15,000 Cossacks. The center of mass of French forces focused on Kovno and the crossings were made by the French Guard, I, II, and III corps amounting to some 120,000 at this point of crossing alone. The actual crossings were made in the area of Alexioten where three pontoon bridges were constructed. The sites had been selected by Napoleon in person. Napoleon had a tent raised and he watched and reviewed troops as they crossed the Niemen. The roads along this area of Lithuania were hardly such in any but name, actually being small dirt tracks through areas of dense forest. Already the problems began to manifest themselves, in the example of I corps 5 divisions that took more than an infantry battalion's marching capacity of a days march. The logistics trains simply could not keep up with the forced marches of the corps and rear formations always suffered the worst privations.

The 25th of June found Napoleon's group past the bridge head with Ney's command approaching the existing crossings at Alexioten. Murat's reserve cavalry provided the vanguard with Napoleon the guard and Davout's 1st corp following behind. Eugene's command would cross the Niemen further north at Piloy, and MacDonald crossed the same day. Jerome command wouldn't complete its crossing at Grodno until the 28th. Napoleon rushed towards Vilna pushing the infantry forward in columns that suffered from heavy rain then stifling heat. The central group would cross 70 miles in two days. Ney's III corps would march down the road to Suterva with Oudinot marching on the other side of the Vilia river in an operation attempting to catch General Wittgenstein's command between Ney, Oudinout, and Macdonald's, commands, but Macdonald's command was late in arriving to an objective too far away and the opportunity vanished. Jerome was tasked with tackling Bagration by marching to Grodno and Reynier's VII corps sent to Bialystok in support.

The Russian headquarters was in fact centered in Vilna on June 24 and couriers rushed news about the crossing of the Niemen to Barclay de Tolley. Before the night had passed orders were sent out to Bagration and Platov to take the offensive. Alexander left Vilna on June 26 and Barclay assumed overall command. Although Barclay wanted to give battle he assessed it as a hopeless situation and ordered Vilna's magazines burned and its bridge dismantled. Wittgenstein moved his command to Perkele passing beyond Macdonald and Oudinot's operations with Wittgenstein's rear guard clashing with Oudinout's forward elements. Doctorov on the Russian Left found his command threatened by Phalen's III cavalry corp. Bagration was ordered to Vileyka which moved him towards Barclay though reading the orders intent is still something of a mystery to this day.

The thunderstorms of the 24th turned into other downpours, turning the tracks-some diarist claim there were no roads as in Lithuania-into bottomless mires. Wagon sank up to their hubs; horses dropped from exhaustion; men lost their boots. Stalled wagons became obstacles that forced men around them and stopped supply wagons and artillery columns. Then came the sun which would bake the deep ruts into canyons of concrete, where horses would break their legs and wagons their wheels.

A Lieutenant Mertens — a Wurttemberger serving with Ney's III corps — reported in his diary that oppressive heat followed by rain left them with dead horses and camping in swamp-like conditions with dysentery and influenza raging though the ranks with hundreds in a field hospital that had to be set up for the purpose. He reported the times, dates, and places, of events reporting thunderstorms on the 6th of June and men dying of sunstroke by the 11th. The Crown Prince of Wurttemberg reported 21 men dead in bivouacs. The Bavarian corps was reporting 345 sick by June 13.

Desertion was high among Spanish and Portuguese formations. These deserters proceeded to terrorize the population, looting whatever lay to hand. The areas in which the Grande Armee passed were devastated. A Polish officer reporting that areas around him were depopulated.

The French light Cavalry was shocked to find itself outclassed by Russian counterparts so much so that Napoleon had ordered that infantry be provided as back up to French light cavalry units. This affected both French reconnaissance and intelligence operations. Despite 30,000 cavalry, contact was not maintained with Barclay's forces leaving Napoleon guessing and throwing out columns to find his opposition.

The operation intended to split Bagration's forces from Barclay's forces by driving to Vilna had cost the French forces 25,000 losses from all causes in a few days. Strong probing operations were advanced from Vilna towards Niemenczin, Michaliszki, Oszmiana, and Maliaty.

Eugene crossed at Prenn on June 30 while Jerome moved VII Corps to Bialystok, with everything else crossing at Grodno. Murat advanced to Niemenczin on July 1 running into elements of Doctorov's III Russian Cavalry Corps enroute to Djunaszev. Napoleon assumed this was Bagration's 2nd Army and rushed out before being told it was not 24 hours later. Napoleon then attempted to use Davout, Jerome, and Eugene, out on his right in a hammer/anvil to catch Bagration to destroy the 2nd army in an operation spanning Oszmiana and Minsk. This operation had failed to produce results on his left before with Macdonald and Oudinot. Doctorov had moved from Djunaszev to Svir narrowly evading French forces, with a 11 regiments and a battery of 12 guns heading to join Bagration when moving too late to stay with Doctorov.

Conflicting orders and lack of information had placed Bagration in a bind almost marching into Davout, however Jerome could not arrive in time over the same mud tracks, supply problems, and weather, that had so badly affected the rest of the Grande Armée, losing 9000 men in four days. Command disputes between Jerome and General Vandamme would not help the situation. Bagration joined with Doctorov and had 45,000 men at Novi-Sverzen by the 7th. Davout had lost 10,000 men marching to Minsk and would not attack Bagration without Jerome joining him. Two French Cavalry defeats by Platov kept the French in the dark and Bagration was no better informed with both overestimating the other's strength, Davout thought Bagration had some 60,000 men and Bragation thought Davout had 70,000. Bagration was getting orders from both Alexander's staff and Barclay (which Barclay didn't know) and left Bagration without a clear picture of what was expected of him and the general situation. This stream of confused orders to Bagration had him upset with Barclay which would have repercussions later.

Napoleon reached Vilna on the 28th of June leaving 10,000 dead horses in his wake. These horse were vital to bringing up further supplies to an army in desperate need. Napoleon had supposed that Alexander would sue for peace at this point and was to be disappointed; it would not be his last disappointment. Barclay continued to retreat to the Drissa deciding that the concentration of the 1st and 2nd armies was his 1st priority.

Barclay continued his retreat and with the exception of the occasional rearguard clash remained unhindered in his movements ever further east. To date the standard methods of the Grande Armee were working against it. Rapid forced marches quickly caused desertion, starvation, exposed the troops to filthy water and disease, while the logistics trains lost horses by the thousands, further exacerbating the problems. Some 50,000 stragglers and deserters became a lawless mob warring with local peasantry in all-out guerrilla war, that further hindered supplies reaching the Grand Armee which was already down 95,000 men.

Barclay, the Russian commander-in-chief, refused to fight despite Bagration's urgings. Several times he attempted to establish a strong defensive position, but each time the French advance was too quick for him to finish preparations and he was forced to retreat once more. When the French army progressed further, serious problems in foraging surfaced, aggravated by scorched earth tactics of the Russian army advocated by Karl Ludwig von Phull.

Political pressure on Barclay to give battle and the general's continuing resistance (viewed as intransigence by the populace) led to his removal from the position of commander-in-chief to be replaced by the boastful and popular Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov. Despite Kutuzov's rhetoric to the contrary, he continued in much the way Barclay had, immediately seeing that to face the French in open battle would be to sacrifice his army pointlessly. Following an indecisive clash at Smolensk on August 16–8, he finally managed to establish a defensive position at Borodino. The Battle of Borodino on September 7 was the bloodiest single day of battle in the Napoleonic Wars. The Russian army could only muster half of its strength on September 8 and was forced to retreat, leaving the road to Moscow open. Kutuzov also ordered the evacuation of the city.

By this point the Russians had managed to draft large numbers of reinforcements into the army bringing total Russian land forces to their peak strength in 1812 of 904,000 with perhaps 100,000 in the immediate vicinity of Moscow — the remnants of Kutuzov's army from Borodino partially reinforced.

On September 14, 1812 Napoleon moved into an empty city that was stripped of all supplies by its governor, Fyodor Rostopchin. Relying on classical rules of warfare aiming at capturing the enemy's capital (even though Saint Petersburg was the political capital at that time, Moscow was the spiritual capital of Russia), Napoleon had expected Tsar Alexander I to offer his capitulation at the Poklonnaya Hill, but the Russian command did not think of surrendering.

As Napoleon prepared to enter Moscow he was surprised to have received no delegation from the city. At the approach of a victorious General, the civil authorities customarily presented themselves at the gates of the city with the keys to the city in an attempt to safeguard the population and their property. As nobody received Napoleon he sent his aides into the city, seeking out officials with whom the arrangements for the occupation could be made. When none could be found, it became clear that the Russians had left the city unconditionally.

In a normal surrender, the city officials would be forced to find billets and make arrangement for the feeding of the soldiers, but the situation caused a free-for-all in which every man was forced to find lodgings and sustenance for himself. Napoleon was secretly disappointed by the lack of custom as he felt it robbed him of a traditional victory over the Russians, especially in taking such a historically significant city..

After entering Moscow, the Grande Armée, unhappy with military conditions and no sign of victory, began looting what little remained within Moscow. Already the same evening, the first fires began to break out in the city, spreading and reemerging over the next few days.

Moscow, comprised two thirds of wooden buildings at the time, burnt down almost completely (it was estimated that four-fifths of the city was destroyed), effectively depriving the French of shelter in the city. French historians assume that the fires were due to Russian sabotage.

Tolstoy, in War and Peace, claimed that the fire was not deliberately set, either by the Russians or the French: the natural result of placing a wooden city in the hands of strangers in wintertime is that they will make small fires to stay warm, cook their food, and other benign purposes, and that some of those fires will get out of control. Without an efficient Fire Department, these house fires will spread to become neighborhood fires and ultimately a city-wide conflagration.

Sitting in the ashes of a ruined city without having received the Russian capitulation, and facing a Russian maneuver forcing him out of Moscow, Napoleon started his long retreat by the middle of October. At the Battle of Maloyaroslavets, Kutuzov was able to force the French army into using the very same Smolensk road on which they had earlier moved East and which had already been stripped of food supplies by both armies. This is often presented as yet another example of scorched-earth tactics. Continuing to block the southern flank to prevent the French from returning by a different route, Kutuzov again deployed partisan tactics to constantly strike at the French train where it was weakest. Light Russian cavalry, including mounted Cossacks, assaulted and broke up isolated French units.

Supplying the army became an impossibility – the lack of grass weakened the army's remaining horses, almost all of which died or were killed for food by starving soldiers. With no horses the French cavalry ceased to exist, and cavalrymen were forced to march on foot. In addition the lack of horses meant that cannons and wagons had to be abandoned, depriving the army of artillery and support convoys. Although the army was quickly able to replace its artillery in 1813, the abandonment of wagons created an immense logistics problem for the remainder of the war, as thousands of the best military wagons were left behind in Russia. As starvation and disease took their toll the desertion rate soared. Most of the deserters were taken prisoner or promptly executed by Russian peasants. Badly weakened by these circumstances, the French military position collapsed. Elements of the Grande Armée were defeated by the Russians at Vyazma, Krasnoi, and Polotsk. The crossing of the river Berezina was the final French catastrophe of the war, as two separate Russian armies inflicted horrendous casualties on the remnants of the Grande Armée as it struggled to escape across pontoon bridges.

In early December 1812 Napoleon learned that General Claude de Malet had attempted a coup d’état back in France. He abandoned the army and returned home on a sleigh, leaving Marshal Joachim Murat in charge. Murat later deserted in order to save his kingdom of Naples, leaving Napoleon's former stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais, in command.

In the following weeks, the remnants of the Grande Armée were further diminished, and on December 14, 1812 they were expelled from Russian territory. According to the popular legend only about 22,000 of Napoleon's men survived the Russian campaign. However, some sources do not mention more than 380,000 soldiers killed. The difference can be explained by up to 100,000 French prisoners in Russian hands (mentioned by Eugen Tarlé, released in 1814) and more than 80,000 (including all wing-armies, not only the rest of the "main army" under Napoleon's direct command) returning troops (mentioned by German military historians). Most of the Prussian contingent, for example, survived thanks to the Convention of Tauroggen, and almost the whole Austrian contingent under Schwarzenberg withdrew successfully, too. The Russians formed the Russian-German Legion from other German prisoners and deserters.

Russian casualties in the few open battles are comparable to the French losses, but civilian losses along the devastated war path were much higher than the military casualties. In total, despite earlier estimates giving figures of several million dead, around one million were killed including civilians — fairly evenly split between the French and Russians. Military losses amounted to 300,000 French, about 72,000 Poles, 50,000 Italians, 80,000 Germans, 61,000 from other nations. As well as the loss of human life the French also lost some 200,000 horses and over 1,000 artillery pieces.

The overall losses of the Russian armies are hard to assess. A 19th century historian Michael Bogdanovich assessed reinforcements of the Russian armies during the war using Military Registry archive of the General Staff. According to this the reinforcements totaled 134,000. The main army at the time of capture of Vilna in December had 70,000 men, while its number at the war start was about 150,000. Thus, the total loss is 210,000 men. Of these about 40,000 returned to duty. Losses of the formations operating in secondary areas of operations as well as losses in militia units were about 40,000. Thus, he came up with the number of 210,000 men and militiamen.

One study concluded the winter only had a major effect once Napoleon was in full retreat: "In regard to the claims of "General Winter", the main body of Napoleon's Grande Armée diminished by half during the first 8 weeks of his invasion before the major battle of the campaign. This decrease was partly due to garrisoning supply centres, but disease, desertions, and casualties sustained in minor actions caused thousands of losses. At Borodino...Napoleon could muster no more than 135,000 troops, and he lost at least 30,000 of them to gain a narrow and Pyrrhic victory almost 1000 km deep in hostile territory. The sequels were his uncontested and self-defeating occupation of Moscow and his humiliating retreat, which began on 19 October, before the first severe frosts later that month and the first snow on 5 November.

Napoleon's invasion of Russia is listed among the most lethal military operations in world history.

The Russian victory over the French army in 1812 marked a huge blow to Napoleon's ambitions of European dominance. This war was the reason the other coalition allies triumphed once and for all over Napoleon. His army was shattered, and morale was low, both for French troops still in Russia, fighting battles just before the campaign ended, and for the troops on other fronts. Out of an original force of 500,000-600,000, only 40,000 frost-bitten and half starved survivors stumbled back into France. The Russian campaign was the decisive turning-point of the Napoleonic Wars that ultimately led to Napoleon's defeat and exile on the island of Elba. For Russia the term Patriotic War (an English rendition of the Russian Отечественная война) formed a symbol for a strengthened national identity that would have great effect on Russian patriotism in the 19th century. The indirect result of the patriotic movement of Russians was a strong desire for the modernization of the country that would result in a series of revolutions, starting with the Decembrist revolt and ending with the February Revolution of 1917.

Napoleon was not completely defeated by the disaster in Russia. The following year he would raise an army of around 400,000 French troops supported by a quarter of a million French allied troops to contest control of Germany in an even larger campaign. Despite being outnumbered, he won a large victory at the Battle of Dresden. It was not until the decisive Battle of Nations (October 16–19, 1813) that he was finally defeated and afterwards no longer had the necessary troops to stop the Coalition's invasion of France. Napoleon did still manage to inflict heavy losses on the far larger Allied armies as they drove towards Paris, though they captured the city and forced him to abdicate in 1814.

The Russian campaign, though, had revealed that Napoleon was not invincible, putting an end to his reputation as an undefeated military genius. Napoleon had foreseen what it would mean, so he fled back to France quickly before word of the disaster became widespread. Sensing this, and urged on by Prussian nationalists and Russian commanders, German nationalists revolted across the Confederation of the Rhine and Prussia. The decisive German campaign likely could not have occurred without the message the defeat in Russia sent to the rest of Europe.

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Source : Wikipedia