Tsarist Russia

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Русское царство
Russkoje tsarstvo
Tsarism Russia
Flag of Russia.svg
coat of arms
Seal of Ivan 4 1539 a.svg navigation Flag of Russia.svg
Official language Russian
1547–1712 Moscow
1712–1721 St. Petersburg
Form of government Absolute Monarchy
Form of government autocracy
Head of state Tsar
currency Russian ruble
founding 1547
Russia's expansion around 1500, 1600 and 1700

Czardom or Tsarist Russia ( Russian царство Русское , transcribed Russkoye zarstwo ) was the official name of the Russian state between 1547 , when Ivan IV. The tsar was crowned, and in 1721 , when Peter I the Latin title of Emperor ( Emperor ) took and renamed his country to the Russian Empire ( Russian Российская империя ).


The name Tsarist Russia is based on the title of ruler. At the same time there is the term Russian Empire , which covers the entire period between the emergence of a centralized Russian state under Ivan III. at the end of the 15th century and the end of the Russian monarchy in 1917.

In Western European parlance, Russia was often called Moscow until the epoch of Peter the Great . The term Moscow Empire is also frequently used in historical studies for this period . In addition to these two terms from the field of political geography, the sources also contain Reussia or Ruthenia as terms for Russia, which refer to the Rus as an ethnic-cultural area.

According to the official title of the Tsar Tsar and Grand Duke of the whole of Russia (Царь и Великий князь всея Руси), the name can also be translated as "Tsarism of Rus" (the adjective русское is originally derived from Русь ). The title reflected the self-image of the Moscow rulers to be the free part of the Rus, which made claims on the Polish-Lithuanian occupied parts of the Rus.


Byzantine heritage

When the Moscow Grand Duke Ivan the Terrible was crowned Tsar of the whole of Rus in 1547, the already under Ivan III strengthened . Elaborated conception of Moscow as the Third Rome , the only remaining “refuge of orthodox Christianity”. Byzantine rituals, forms of rule and state symbols such as the double-headed eagle found their way into Russian life. The coronation ritual of Ivan the Terrible, then 17 years old, corresponded to the coronation ritual of Byzantine emperors. The simultaneous Moscow self-image as the free part of the Rus, which had a mission for their complete liberation from foreign rule , caused tensions and wars with Poland and Lithuania and with the later Polish-Lithuanian real union .

Contacts with Europe

In Europe, Russia remained a little-known country and the sparse information that was available came mostly from Polish-Lithuanian hands. The situation changed somewhat when Baron Siegmund von Herberstein published his work Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii in 1549 . This provided a comprehensive description of the state, which was once hardly visited and hardly described by Europeans. In the 1630s Adam Olearius toured the tsarist monarchy. His detailed and knowledgeable notes have been translated into all major European languages. More information about Russia came from English and Dutch merchants. One of them was Richard Chancellor , who sailed to the White Sea in 1553 and from there traveled overland to Moscow. On his return to England he founded the Muscovy Company with Sir Hugh Willoughby and some London merchants . Ivan the Terrible had letters exchanged with Queen Elizabeth I of England through the merchants .


Reign of Ivan the Terrible

The first book printed in Moscow: The Apostle (1563) by Ivan Fyodorov and Pyotr Mstislavets

With the assistance of boyars , Ivan carried out a number of useful reforms during the early stages of his reign. In the 1550s a new code of law was created that reorganized the administrative and military order. This reform was aimed at strengthening the Russian state against the backdrop of the incessant wars it waged.

Submission of the Volga Tatars

Despite internal unrest that preceded the adult reign of Ivan the Terrible, Russia waged wars and continued to expand. Ivan defeated and annexed the Kazan Khanate in 1552, marking the end of the long Moscow-Kazan Wars . This opened the way to Siberia for Russia . A little later, the Tsar that on the lower Volga located Astrakhan Khanate taking and access to Russia Caspian Sea to ensure that trade and cultural exchange with Persia and Central Asia meant. With these victories, Russia was able to break the long encirclement by hostile Muslim Tatar states and for the first time became a multinational and multi-denominational country. At the same time, relations with the Ottoman Empire , which acted as feudal lord of the Tatars, and the Crimean Khanate cooled dramatically.

War in the Baltic States and against the Crimean Tatars

Encouraged by the acquired access to the Caspian Sea, Ivan IV wanted to achieve similar success on the Baltic Sea . Sweden and the Livonian Order controlled the trade routes connecting Russia with Europe, which made goods very expensive to import, while some strategic goods were not allowed through. The Livonian War , which broke out in 1558, began successfully for Russia: the Tsar's troops conquered large parts of the Baltic States. Further territories were conquered by the traditional rival Grand Duchy of Lithuania , which had supported the Livonian Order. As this, however, due to the Lublin Union a union state made with Poland, Russia was an increase in power with his opponents. Devastating incursions by the Crimean Tatars, internal terror by the Tsar and a plague epidemic further weakened Russia.

An Ottoman-Crimean Tatar attack on Astrakhan was repelled in 1569 and access to the Caspian Sea was defended. But in the Russian-Crimean Tatar War in 1571, the Crimean Tatars managed a lightning-fast attack on Moscow, as a result of which the city burned almost completely. A year later, the Crimean Khan and the Ottoman Sultan planned the final overthrow of Russia and dispatched a huge army. However, this suffered a heavy defeat in the Battle of Molodi by outnumbered Russians. The threat to Russia from the south was averted, but in the west, opponents counterattacked. Russia lost its conquests on the Baltic Sea and had to defend its own soil during the siege of Pskov . After the conclusion of the peace treaty with Poland and Sweden, Russia was further removed from its goals than before the war.

Conquest of Siberia

Vasily Surikov : The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895)

During the Russo-Crimean Tatar war, the Turkic Khanate of Sibir politically approached the Crimean Khanate and attacked Russian settlements in the Urals that belonged to the influential Stroganov merchant family . The Tsar then gave them the right to raise their own troops to protect their lands and to take action against the Siberian Tatars . To this end, the Stroganov hired in the steppes between the Volga and Don live Cossacks on. Under the leader Yermak Timofejewitsch , a small Cossack troop (barely a thousand men) but well equipped with cannons and muskets undertook a campaign against the Siberian Khanate . Skillfully exploiting the dissatisfaction of smaller Ugric peoples with Kütschüm Khan , they were able to advance inexorably and take his capital Qashliq by storm. Although the Siberian Tatars then besieged the Cossacks Yermaks for one winter and ultimately ambushed them, the collapsed Siberian state could no longer be rebuilt. A few years later, the tsar's regular troops crushed the last resistance, while the Cossacks and the northern Russian fur hunters used the new open spaces to find freedom or profit. Gradually forts ( ostrogs ) and trading settlements such as Verkhoturye , Tobolsk , Mangaseja , Jenisseisk and Bratsk emerged .

Time of turmoil

Polish surrender in the Moscow Kremlin, 1612, painting by Ernst Lissner (1874–1941)
Tsar Michael I Romanov in front of the Boyar Duma

The death of Ivan IV the Terrible was followed by several years of the rule of his ailing son Fyodor I , for whom the boyar Boris Godunov ruled de facto . With the death of Fjodor in 1598, the more than 700 year old dynasty of the Rurikids also died out. Godunov was crowned tsar, but rumors of a miraculous survival of the young tsarevich Dmitri , the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, who died under unexplained circumstances at the age of 9, did not let the country rest. In addition, crop failures plunged the country into a severe economic and social crisis. When Boris Godunow died in 1605, Poland-Lithuania saw a good chance of bringing a well-meaning puppet to the throne in Moscow. A Polish army invaded Russia and made a man the tsar who pretended to be Dmitri and went down in history as pseudodimitri I. His reign was short-lived as he was soon killed in a revolt. But even the new Tsar Vasily IV Shuisky could not rule for long, because the Poles invaded Russia again to enforce the claims of Pseudodimitri II and later their own king Władysław IV Wasa . Their intervention was accompanied by great terror against the largely hostile Orthodox civilian population. The Poles occupied Moscow, but a people's army was formed in Nizhny Novgorod under the leadership of Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitri Poscharsky , which besieged the Poles in the Kremlin in 1612 and forced them to surrender . Thereupon Michael I of the Romanovs ascended the Tsar's throne and thus founded a new dynasty that would rule until 1917.

Even if the war against Poland lasted until 1618, the year 1613 is considered to be the end of the Time of Troubles ( Smuta ). During this period countless Russians were killed by starvation, foreign occupiers or robbers. In the meantime, state power de facto ceased to exist. As a reminder of the liberation initiative that came from the depths of Russian society, as well as the re-establishment of the Russian state, the end of the Smuta was celebrated as a national holiday until the October Revolution. Vladimir Putin led in 2005 to November 4 , the anniversary of the Polish surrender, as National Unity Day on again as a holiday.

Connection of Ukraine

Russia and Poland-Lithuania remained enemies. From the 1630s onward, feudal and religious pressure on the Orthodox peasant population increased in Ukraine, which belongs to Poland , which resulted in numerous uprisings by the Ukrainian Cossacks, of which the Khmelnytskyi uprising was the largest and the most successful. The royal Polish troops suffered numerous defeats in Ukraine, but Ukraine also began to bleed to death, as the sporadic allied Crimean Khan constantly switched sides in order to be able to gain rich booty in the ongoing state of war. The Cossacks under Bohdan Khmelnitsky turned to the Russian tsar with a request for assistance. On the Rada of Pereyaslavl , the vast majority of the Ukrainian Cossack elite took the oath of allegiance to the tsar and declared themselves to be his subjects. In return, the hetmanate was given extensive autonomy. A new war began between Russia and Poland in 1654 , at the end of which the part of Ukraine east of the Dnieper remained with Russia together with Kiev .

Church division

Patriarch Nikon and Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in the Archangel Michael Cathedral

In the years 1654–1655, the Patriarch Nikon carried out church reforms, which met resistance in large parts of the population. The result was a split of the so-called Old Believers who did not want to follow the innovations. For this they were confronted with state persecution until the time of Peter the Great , whereupon many old-believing Russians emigrated to Northern Russia, Siberia, the Baltic States and the Danube Delta ( Lipovans ).

Fyodor III and Sofia

After the death of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich , who ruled for much of the 17th century, several years of reign of his older son Fyodor III followed. During this time the Russo-Turkish War 1676–1681 fell , in which Russia and the Ukrainian Cossacks were able to prevent Ottoman expansion into eastern Ukraine. After the early death of Fyodor III. there was a power struggle of several parties. Behind the younger sons Alexeis, Iwan and Peter , both of whom were still children, were the Miloslawski and Naryschkin houses , to which the two half-brothers on their mother's side belonged. As a result of the Strelitzen uprising in 1682 , the Miloslawski party was able to prevail, the elder daughter Alexeis Sofia became regent . Their rule failed in 1689 due to two unsuccessful Crimean campaigns .

Reign of Peter the Great until 1721

The Peter and Paul Fortress as the core of the newly founded Saint Petersburg
The Russian ship of the line Goto Predestinazija , copper engraving (1701)

The young and energetic Peter seized power, while his half-brother Ivan V preferred a life in the monastery. Peter was a very active and patriotic ruler, but he soon realized that Russian society needed a comprehensive modernization based on the Western model in order to be able to defend its interests effectively on the international stage. As part of the Great Legation , Peter undertook a multi-year trip through Western Europe to study know-how, make alliances and recruit experts. He was particularly taken with shipbuilding, which he learned himself in the Netherlands . In order to be able to participate in European trade and the exchange of knowledge, Russia still lacked access to the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea , which could only be conquered and maintained in combination with a modern fleet. Especially Peter's Azov campaigns in the years 1695–1696 brought this knowledge. Peter's journey was interrupted by the second Strelitzen uprising. In Peter's absence, the old tsarist guards rebelled against the introduction of Western customs and the abolition of the old order. After his early return, Peter violently put down the uprising , many Strelitzen were executed and their status finally abolished. In the course of his return from Western Europe, Peter I began the Petrine reforms .

As a result of the alliances Peter made in Western Europe, Russia entered the Great Northern War in 1700 . The goal was to conquer the access to the Baltic Sea, which was lost in 1617. The severe defeat of Narva against the then great power Sweden once again made clear the need for comprehensive reforms in the army, which Peter began immediately. As early as 1703 the Russians conquered the mouth of the Neva , where the new capital Saint Petersburg was laid out, which was to serve as a “window to Europe”. Peter had the Russian Baltic fleet built on Lake Ladoga , which is protected from access by the Swedes . In the Battle of Poltava in 1709, the reformed Russian army won a decisive victory over the Swedes, further successes followed in several sea battles on the Baltic Sea. The Treaty of Nystad in 1721 gave Russia the Baltic States and replaced Sweden as the dominant power in the Baltic region. In the same year Peter had his country renamed the Russian Empire ( Rossijskaja Imperija ) and assumed the title of emperor ( Imperator ).

See also


Web links

Commons : Tsarism Russia  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files


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  6. Maureen Perrie (Ed.): The Cambridge History of Russia . Volume 1, p. 256.
  7. Maureen Perrie (Ed.): The Cambridge History of Russia . Volume 1, p. 270.
  8. Maureen Perrie (Ed.): The Cambridge History of Russia . Volume 1, pp. 264 ff. And 409 ff.
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