The Vikings and their descendants founded the first East Slavic state of Kievan Rus’ in the 9th century.
Prince Vladimir, the ruler of Kievan Rus’ from 980 to 1015, decided that his nation needed a monotheistic religion and an entry into the civilized world so he dispatched ambassadors to neighboring countries to inquire about their religious beliefs and practices.
In 988 two envoys of Prince Vladimir visited a service at the Great Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople. They were greatly impressed and reported back to their master positively. “We know not whether we are in Heaven or on Earth, for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere upon Earth. We cannot describe it to you, only we know that God dwells there among men and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places, for we cannot forget that beauty.”
The Russian prince decided to accept Christianity and the Russian Orthodox Church was born.
|The Baptism of Saint Prince Vladimir, by Viktor Vasnetsov (1890)|
The following year, Prince Vladimir ordered all his subjects to gather on the bank of the River Dneiper. He then led the entire population of Kiev into the water in order that they all might be baptized.
Prince Vladimir also ordered that all idols should be destroyed. The great wooden idol Perun was beaten by twelve appointed men with sticks as it was dragged along attached to a horse‘s tail, in order to cast out the demon, which had fooled the idol worshippers. It was then thrown into the river Dneiper.
Kievan Rus’ eventually broke up and the lands were divided into many small feudal states. The most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus’ was the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
Times remained difficult, with frequent Mongol-Tatar raids. Ivan III (“the Great”) finally threw off the control of the Golden Horde and consolidated the whole of Central and Northern Rus’ under Moscow‘s dominion. He was also the first to take the title “Grand Duke of all the Russias”
By the 18th century, the nation had expanded through conquest, annexation and exploration to become the Russian Empire, the third largest empire in history. It stretched from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth eastward to the Pacific Oceanand Alaska. The empire was ruled by an emperor called the Tsar.
Peter the Great ruled Russia from 1689 until 1725. The Tsar moved the capital from Moscow to a new city named Saint Petersburg and proclaimed the Russian Empire in 1721.
|Peter The Great|
Czar Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar, believed his subjects should be base and servile tools. Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra ran Russia like a small country estate failing to notice the church was rotten with corruption.
The Russian Bloody Sunday occurred on January 22, 1905 when the Imperial Guards shot down hundreds of unarmed peasants who were marching to petition Czar Nicholas II in St Petersburg.
After the revolution, in response to the peoples’ wishes, Czar Nicholas granted a parliament with limited powers.
|22 January 1905: Crowd of petitioners, led by Father Gapon, near Narva Gate, St. Petersburg|
The Russian Republic was declared on September 14, 1917 under the leadership of Minister-President Alexander Kerensky. The Russians called the date September 1 because they were still using the Julian Calendar. They adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1918.
For the same reason, they call the Russian Revolution the “October Revolution” though it began on November 7 by the modern calendar.
On November 7, 1917, Kerensky’s government was overthrown by the Lenin-led Bolsheviks in the October Revolution. Once they took power, the Bolsheviks, under Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, created the first Marxist Communist State.
The Russian Empire had lasted from 1721-1917, the Russian Republic lasted only a few weeks.
The new post-revolution Russian republic existed from 1917-1922 when it became part of the USSR.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (also known as the USSR or Soviet Union for short) was founded on December 30, 1922, five years after the Russian Revolution overthrew the monarchy of the tsar.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics consisted of Russia and surrounding countries that today make up Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
Eighty percent of Soviet males born in 1923 died during World War II.
During Soviet times, the sale of vodka was one-third of the Russian government’s income.
On October 12, 1960 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev reportedly pounded his shoe on a desk during the Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in response to Filipino delegate Lorenzo Sumulong’s assertion of Soviet colonial policy being conducted in Eastern Europe.
All church properties had been confiscated by the government following the 1917 October Revolution. By the late 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, was introducing radical liberal reforms and churches were being allowed to reopen. At this stage, despite decades of persecution by the communist regime authorities church members were outnumbering communist members in the USSR by 10:1.
On December 8, 1991 the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine signed an agreement that dissolved the Soviet Union. All official Soviet Union institutions had ceased operations by this date.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia again became an independent country.
The Russian flag was first used as an ensign for Russian merchant ships and became official as the flag of the Tsardom of Russia in 1696. It remained in use until the establishment of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic in 1917. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the pre-revolutionary tricolor was re-introduced as the flag of the Russian Federation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law on December 25, 2000 that officially established a new National Anthem of Russia, with music adopted from the anthem of the Soviet Union that was composed by Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov.
Covering 6.6 million square miles, Russia is by far the largest country in the world by area.
|Map of Russia|
If you travel across Russia, you will cross seven time zones.
Russia accounts for 20% of the world’s forest area.
Russia has the deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal.
At 5,642 metres or 18,510 feet Mount Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe. It’s located just in Russia, though it is only a few miles from the border of Georgia.
Yakutsk, Russia, is probably the coldest city on earth. The average January temperature is -40C.
|Theater in Jakutsk (Yakutsk), Russia.|
75% of Russian territory is located in Asia. That being said, only 22% of the population lives in the parts of Russia that are technically in Asia. An overwhelming majority of Russians are concentrated in western Russia.
The life expectancy for men in Russia is 64 years old, a total among that of the 50 lowest countries in the world.
25% of Russian men die before reaching 55, compared with 7% in the UK and less than 1% in the US. Vodka is cited as the cause for low life expectancy.
In Russia, there are 1,159 women for every 1,000 men.
The wildlife of Russia includes about four million reindeer in the tundra region which can endure temperatures down to about −50 °C (−58 °F).
The Russian language doesn’t have a word for “fun.”