A Brief History of History and Governments in Russia By Mr. Belter
The Russian Empire Main Idea Strong leaders made Russia a vast empire, but widespread suffering eventually led to revolution. Geography and You What causes people to rise up and overthrow their government? Read on to learn about Russia’s history up to the time of the Russian Revolution.
The Beginning Russia today is a vast country, covering millions of square miles and spreading across two continents. This world power, however, began as a small trade center.
Early Russia Modern Russians descend from Slavic peoples who settled along the rivers of what are today Ukraine and Russia. During the a.d. 800s, these early Slavs built a civilization around the city of Kiev (Kyiv), today the capital of Ukraine. This civilization, called Kievan Rus (KEE∙eh∙vuhn ROOS), prospered from river trade between Scandinavia and the Byzantine Empire.
Religion In a.d. 988 the people of Kievan Rus converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Missionaries, or people who move to another area to spread their religion, brought this form of Christianity from the Byzantine Empire to Kievan Rus. The missionaries also brought a written language.
Moscow In the 1200s, Mongol warriors from Central Asia conquered Kievan Rus. Under Mongol rule, Kiev lost much of its power. Many Slavs moved northward and built settlements. One new settle ment was the small trading post of Moscow.
Ivan the Great a new Slavic territory called Muscovy (muh∙SKOH∙vee). In 1480 Ivan III, a prince of Muscovy, rejected Mongol rule and declared independence. Because he was a strong ruler, Ivan became known as “Ivan the Great.”
Revolution Several times during Russia’s history, the country’s cold climate and huge size proved to be strong defenses against invasion. In 1812 a French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia. To conquer Russia, the French forces had to march hundreds of miles and capture Moscow.
Czar Alexander II In the late 1800s, Russia entered a period of great change. In 1861 Czar Alexander II freed the country’s 40 million serfs. Freedom did not release them from poverty, however. Alexander began to modernize Russia’s economy, building industries and expanding railroads. Despite these changes, most Russians remained poor, and unrest spread among workers and peasants.
World War I In 1914 Russia joined France and Britain to fight Germany and Austria in World War I. Poorly prepared, Russia suffered military defeats, losing millions of men between 1914 and 1916. Many Russians blamed Czar Nicholas II for the country’s poor performance in the war and for food shortages. In early 1917 the people staged a revolution that forced the czar to step down from the throne.
Vladimir Lenin 1917 Later that year, Vladimir Lenin led a second revolt that overthrew the temporary government. He set about establishing a communist state in which the government controlled the economy and society. Fearing invasion, Lenin also moved Russia’s capital from
The Rise and Fall of Communism What would it be like if the government told you what job you had to do and also greatly limited the choices of products you could buy in stores? Read to learn about the changes that the Communist government brought to Russia.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), Vladimir Lenin and his followers created a new nation called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), or the Soviet Union. This nation included 15 republics made up of different ethnic groups.
Karl Marx Lenin followed the ideas of a German political thinker named Karl Marx. Marx believed that industrialization created an unjust system in which factory owners held great power, while the workers held very little. Lenin said that he wanted to make everyone in Soviet society more equal.
Joseph Stalin Lenin’s policies were later continued by Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death in 1924. A harsh dictator, Stalin prevented the Soviet people from practicing their religions and had religious property seized. His secret police killed or imprisoned anyone who disagreed with his policies.
Agriculture and Industry Soviet leaders set up a command economy in which the government ran all areas of economic life. They decided what crops farmers should grow and what goods factories should produce.
Leaders also introduced collectivization— a system in which small farms were combined into large, factory like farms run by the government. Government leaders hoped these farms would be more efficient
The Soviet economic plans had mixed success. The new farms were inefficient and did not produce enough food for the Soviet people. Industrial production was more successful. Huge factories produced steel, machinery, and military equipment. Strict government control, however, had drawbacks. The government eliminated, or did away with, competition, allowing only certain factories to make certain goods. This led to a lack of efficiency and poor-quality goods.
Soviet Power In 1941, during World War II, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviets joined Great Britain and the United States to defeat the Germans. About 20 to 30 million Russian soldiers and civilians died in the war.
Cold War The Soviet Union and the United States were allies during the war but became bitter rivals after it. From the late 1940s until about 1990, these superpowers, the two most powerful nations in the world, engaged in a struggle for world influence. Because the struggle never became “hot,” with actual combat between the two opponents, the conflict became known as the Cold War.
NATO Each superpower became the center of a group of nations. Members of each group pledged to come to one another’s aid if a member country were attacked by a country from the other group. The United States was the chief member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO,
Warsaw Pact The Soviet Union led the Warsaw Pact, a group of Communist countries that included most of Eastern Europe.
Shortages The Soviet Union and the United States competed to produce military weapons and to explore outer space. With so many resources going to the military, the Soviet people had to endure shortages of basic goods, such as food and cars. By the 1980s, many Soviets were ready for change.
Attempts at Reform In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev (mih∙KAH∙eel gawr∙buh∙CHAWF) became the Soviet leader. He quickly began a number of reforms in the Soviet Union. Under the policy of glasnost (GLAZ∙nohst), or “openness,”
rebuilding Soviet citizens could say and write about what they thought without fear of being punished. Another policy, known as perestroika (pehr∙uh∙STROY∙kah), or “rebuilding,” aimed at boosting the Soviet economy. It gave factory managers more freedom to make economic decisions and encouraged the creation of small, privately owned businesses.
The End Instead of strengthening the country, Gorbachev’s policies made the Soviet people doubt communism even more. Huge protests against Soviet control arose across Eastern Europe. By 1991 all of the region’s Communist governments had fallen.
Collapse of the Soviet Union As communism ended in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union faced growing unrest among its ethnic groups. Gorbachev was criticized both by hard-liners who wished to maintain Communist rule as well as by reformers. The hard-liners wanted to stop changes. The reformers, on the other hand, felt that Gorbachev was not making changes fast enough.
The reformers were led by a rising politician named Boris Yeltsin (buhr∙YEES YEHLT∙suhn). He became the president of Russia,
The Last Stand In August 1991, hard-line Communists attempted a coup (KOO), an overthrow of the government by military force. Boris Yeltsin called on the people to resist.
Ethnic Unrest Challenges also came from some ethnic minorities. In the Chechnya (chehch·NYAH) region, a group trying to separate from Russia waged a bloody civil war.
The city of Grozny during the First Chechen War (1994-1996)
Cultures and Lifestyles Russia has many different ethnic groups and religions. As the Russian Empire expanded, different peoples came under its control. Today dozens of ethnic groups live in Russia. Many of these groups speak their own language and have their own culture. Most people, however, speak Russian, the country’s official language.
Ethnic Groups Russians, or Slavs who descended from the people of Muscovy, are the largest ethnic group. They live throughout Russia, although most Russians live west of the Urals. The next-largest groups include Tatars, who are Muslim descendants of the Mongols, and Ukrainians, who are descendants of Slavs that settled the area around Kiev (Kyiv). Smaller ethnic groups include the Yakut, who herd reindeer and also raise horses and cattle in eastern Siberia.
religion Under communism, Russia’s people were not allowed to practice religion. The Soviet government officially promoted the position in its schools that there is no god or other supreme being.
The Arts Russia has a rich tradition of literature, art, and music. Early Russians developed a strong oral tradition, or passing stories by word of mouth from generation to generation. Later, many writers and musicians drew on these stories or on folk music for their works. The Russian people’s strong sense of nationalism, or feelings of loyalty toward their country, is reflected in many artistic works.
Leo Tolstoy The 1800s are often called the “golden age” of Russian literature. During this period, Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest Russian writers, wrote War and Peace.
Scientific Advances For decades, the Soviet Union emphasized education in the sciences. As a result, Russia has many scientists, mathematicians, and doctors. During the Cold War, Russian scientists helped the Soviet Union compete with the United States in space exploration. In 1961 Russian Yuri Gagarin was the first person to fly in space. Since 1998 the Russians have joined with Americans and people from other countries in building the International Space Station.
Everyday Life Most Russians live in cities located west of the Ural Mountains. City residents generally live in large apartment buildings rather than in single-family houses. Housing is scarce and often expensive. For this reason, grandparents, parents, and children frequently share the same apartment or house.
Sports Today, Russian hockey players, figure skaters, and gymnasts are strong competitors in international events. Russian ballet Is also imporant
Holidays Russians celebrate several holidays. The newest holiday, Independence Day, falls on June 12 and marks Russia’s declaration of autonomy, or independence from the Soviet Union. New Year’s Eve is one of the most festive holidays. Russian children decorate a fir tree and exchange presents with others in their families. In the spring, Russians celebrate Maslenitsa.
Transportation and Communications Russia is so large that people and goods must often be transported over great distances. Railroads were the primary means of transportation during the Soviet era and are still important today. The heavily populated area west of the Urals is covered by an extensive railroad network.
Trans-Siberian Railroad This railroad system is linked to the famed Trans-Siberian Railroad, which runs from Moscow in the west to Vladivostok in the east. Completed in the early 1900s, it is the longest rail line in the world. The railroad made it possible for Russians to exploit, or use, Siberia’s natural resources.
Summary: The Russian Empire ● Russia had its beginnings in small trading centers built by Slavic peoples. ● Rulers known as czars governed the Russian Empire from 1547 to 1917. ● The czars expanded Russian territory to reach from Europe to the Pacific Ocean. ● Revolutions in 1917 overthrew the czar and brought the Communists to power.
The Soviet Union ● Under the Communist Party, the government ran all areas of economic life. ● After World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States became bitter rivals.
The Rise of Democracy ● In 1991 the Soviet Union broke up into Russia and other independent republics. ● Russia has struggled to build a democracy and a market economy.
People and Culture ● Russia has many different ethnic groups. ● Russians practice a number of different religions, but most of the population is Eastern Orthodox Christian. ● Russian artists, musicians, and writers often used themes based on Russian history.
Life in Russia ● Most Russians live in apartments in large cities rather than in single-family homes. ● Railroads link heavily populated European Russia with sparsely settled Siberia. ● Russia is working to improve its highway and communications systems.
Russia Today Regions Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has been struggling to build a democracy and a free market economy. It also has sought to regain its influence in world affairs. Such major changes are difficult, however, and the world will watch with great interest as Russia works to become a successful democratic nation. Why is the success of democracy in Russia important to the rest of the world?
Changing Politics and Society Main Idea The fall of communism led to great changes in Russia’s government, economy, and society. Geography and You Can you imagine having to completely change your way of life? Read to learn how Russians faced that situation in the early 1990s.
Section 1: A Changing Russia BIG IDEA Geographers organize the Earth into regions that share common characteristics. New democratic institutions and a free market economy link the different parts of Russia. These positive changes, however, are threatened by the government’s abuse of power, the spread of corruption in business, and a decline in population.
Russia is still adjusting to the changes that occurred in the 1990s. When communism fell in 1991, Russia was forced to build a new government and economy. These ongoing changes continue to greatly affect the everyday lives of the Russian people.
A New Form of Government The Communist Party ruled Russia when it was part of the Soviet Union. The Communists did not allow people to challenge their power, and everyday citizens had no voice in choosing their leaders. After the fall of communism, In a 1993 election, Russian voters approved a new constitution and elected members of a legislature to represent them. however, Russia became more democratic.
Russia’s official name is the Russian Federation. This name reflects the fact that Russia comprises, or is made up of, many different regions and territories.
A New Economic System As part of the Soviet Union, Russia had a command economy. In a command economy, the central government makes all the economic decisions. Since the fall of communism, Russia has attempted to shift to a market economy. To create a market economy, the government introduced privatization (pry∙vuh∙tuh∙ZAY∙shuhn). This is the transfer of ownership of businesses from the government to individuals. In the new system, businesses have to compete with one another.
Changes in Society With the end of Communist rule, the government loosened its control on Russian society. Many different political parties were able to organize. Russians were allowed to criticize leaders and their policies. Additionally, the government no longer controlled the content of news reports or books.
Russia’s new economy led to the spread of consumerism—the desire to buy goods. Russians eagerly sought goods they had not been able to buy for years. Businesses prospered, and a Russian middle class emerged. This term refers to a social group that is neither very rich nor poor, but has enough money to buy cars, new clothing, electronics, and other luxury items.
skilled Russian workers still face underemployment, which means they are forced to take jobs that require lesser skills than they have. Many people must work second jobs to survive.
The unsettled economy is also difficult for pensioners (PEHN∙shuh∙nuhrs). Pensioners are people who receive regular payments from the government because they are too old or too sick to work.
The Moscow Region Moscow is the political, economic, and transportation center of Russia. A large amount of manufacturing takes place in or near Moscow. Under Soviet rule, most of Russia’s factories focused on heavy industry, or the production of goods such as machinery, mining equipment, and steel. After communism’s fall, more factories shifted to light industry, or the production of consumer goods, such as clothing and household products. High technology and electronics industries have also developed in Moscow.
St. Petersburg and the Baltic Region Located near the Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg is an important trading center. A high volume, or amount, of goods passes through its port. The city is also a major industrial center. Factories here make machinery, ships, automobiles, and other items. St. Petersburg relies on other regions for food, fuel, and other resources.
The Volga and Urals Region The Volga and Urals region lies south and east of Moscow. It is a major center of manufacturing and farming. The Volga River is vital to these economic activities. This 2,300-mile (3,701-km) waterway carries nearly half of Russia’s river traffic. The Volga River also supplies water for hydroelectric power and for irrigation. Farmers in the region grow large amounts of wheat, sugar beets, and other crops.
Siberia Siberia’s cold Arctic winds, rugged landscapes, and frozen ground make it difficult to take advantage of the region’s many resources. The lands of Siberia hold valuable deposits of iron ore, uranium, gold, and coal. Timber from the sprawling taiga is also an important resource for Russia. Since resources in other parts of the world are being used up, Russia’s economic future may depend on its ability to make use of Siberia’s resources.
Section 2: Issues and Challenges BIG IDEA Geography is used to interpret the past, understand the present, and plan for the future. The change to democracy and a market economy has been difficult for Russia because of its long history of all- powerful governments. The country also faces challenges from ethnic groups that want independence.
What do you think is the most popular possession in Russia? A car? A computer? No, it is most likely a cell phone. The popularity of cell phones has skyrocketed in Russia. Russia has a growing middle class with money to spend.
Political and Economic Challenges Main Idea Russians face many challenges as they try to build a democracy and a market economy. Geography and You Do you think a country needs strong leaders to solve serious problems? Can leaders become too strong? Read to learn about growing challenges to Russia’s democracy and free market economy.
Roadblocks to Democracy Becoming truly democratic has not been easy for Russia. Confusion over governmental powers is one problem. For example, the Russian president’s power to issue decrees—rulings that have the force of law but do not need the approval of the legislature— might make that office too strong.
Shifting to a Market Economy Russia’s shift to a free market economy has brought many positive changes. New companies have been started, and some personal incomes have risen. Higher prices for Russia’s oil and natural gas exports have brought the country more income.
Shifting to a Market Economy Economic success, however, has brought an increase in crime and business corruption. A small group of people, often referred to as oligarchs, control various parts of the economy. An oligarch (AH∙luh∙gahrk) is a member of a small group of rulers that holds great power.
deposit insurance Many Russians, however, do not trust the country’s banks. To encourage people to save their money, the government created a deposit insurance system, which will repay people who deposit their money in a bank if the bank goes out of business.
Challenges to National Unity When the Soviet Union fell, several ethnic groups in Russia saw a chance for independence. They launched separatist movements, campaigns to break away from the national government and form independent countries.
Russia and the World As a major world power, Russia plays an important role in world affairs. In recent years, it has worked to strengthen ties with other countries. Russia sees the war in Chechnya, for example, as a struggle against terrorism. As a result, it agreed in 2002 to support the United States and other NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) countries in fighting global terrorist activities.
Terms 1.Capitalist System free enterprise; if you work hard you can get ahead; you can start your own business and become a millionaire, or lose every penny 2.Socialist a person who wants to change society
Terms 3.Communist System everyone works to his or her ability and receives according to his or her need; totally economic equality; no one gets ahead, but no one starves either. 4.Czarist Government a government ruled by a Czar, who had absolute powers similar to a king
Terms 5. Deported sent away from a country into exile 6.Idealistic overly optimistic thinking 7.Totalitarianism a one-party-rules-everything type of government
A Brief History In the mid 1800’s, the capitalist system was going strong in Europe and America. But, the profits of businesses came at the expense of workers who labored 14 to 18 hours a day under unsafe conditions. There were no child labor laws, and wages were barely livable for the common worker.
Highways and Telephones Under communism most people did not own cars, therefore extensive highways were not needed. Also, most people did not have phones so since the 1990’s Russia has been working to build a modern telecommunication systems not and an extensive highway system, since car ownership is increasing.
This diagram from 1867 perfectly illustrates the inherent genius within the capitalist system and how it is indestructible: it has a strong base built on inequality. Like the ancient pyramids of Egypt, the capitalist system is based upon the pyramid shape which yields great unknown powers and like those great historic monuments, was built from the sweat and blood of slaves. If we stay strong the capitalism will stay with us for thousands of years to come just like the great pyramids.
A Brief History… In 1847, an international workers’ group asked Karl Marx, a German philosopher, to draw up a plan for their organization. The group was called the Communist League. Marx wrote a plan called The Manifesto of the Communist Party.
A Brief History… Marx envisioned a workers’ revolt followed by a kind of paradise where each person would work according to his or her ability and receive according to his or her need. Marx saw the final stage of his communist system being total worldwide economic equality.
A Brief History… About this time, labor laws were passed in Western Europe and America that made the work place more safer and more tolerable of workers. The worldwide revolution that Marx foresaw never came to pass.
A Brief History… The people that followed Marx’s thinking were called Socialists. The Socialists split into two groups. The milder group wanted to bring about communism slowly by passing new laws. The other group (we’ll call them Communists) stuck to Marx’s original idea of a major worker revolt. The Communists were a small extremist group compared to the total number of Socialists. They formed a political party called the Bolshevik Party, which was led by a man named Nikolai Lenin.
A Brief History… Russia at this time was being poorly managed by a Czarist government, ruled by Czar Nicholas II. Most of the Russian people were still underpaid workers on land owned by a small number of wealthy landlords.
A Brief History… In 1917 a revolution occurred in Russia. The Bolshevik Party successfully overthrew Czar Nicholas II. Besides Lenin, there were two other men who were leaders in the Bolshevik party: Leon Trotsky, a man who believed in using terrorism, and Joseph Stalin, a strong ruthless man.
A Brief History… In 1926, Lenin died, and there was a power struggle between Trotsky and Stalin. Stalin gained control and Trotsky went to Mexico and was later assassinated. As the new Russian leader, Stalin deported to Siberia all those who did not agree with him. His secret police also used random arrests, torture, and mass executions to maintain his dictatorship. Anyone could be a victim of these killings, or “purges” for no apparent reason.
A Brief History… The idealistic goals of Marx, had turned into a system that was in many ways more terrifying than the rule by the Czars. There was no freedom in the new system, which was based on military rule. Forced labor created wealth for a limited few, while the lives of most people changed very little or got worse. Terrorist police prevented uprisings by unhappy people.
A Brief History… The communist type of government that came about after the revolution in 1917 was “totalitarian”. Totalitarianism is when one party or group has total control of everything.
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