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Imperial Expansion


By 1800 Russia had conquered the Crimea, thus gaining the access to the Black Sea. By the early nineteenth century it had completed the incorporation of the whole of the Transcaucasian region, including the Azerbaidjanian khanates, Georgia and Eastern Armenia. During the Napoleonic Wars Finland and Bessarabia were seized. Russia annexed Vladivostok on the Pacific coast by 1860 and the Kazakh lands and Central Asia by 1885.  


By the second half of the nineteenth Russian empires borders had assumed their definitive contours. Russia had spread its authority over vast territories, stretching from the Danubes estuary and the Vistula in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, from the Eurasian tundra in the north to the borders of Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and China in the south. In its territory and population Russia was the biggest world power. It had the area of  21.3 million square kilometers. Its population, according to the general census of 1897, was 128 million and reached 178 million by 1914. In 1917 the Bolsheviks inherited from the tsars the worlds largest land mass and one of the most populous countries.

Russias continual expansion and, in particular, the incorporation of  territories which lagged behind in socio-economic development or were culturally different conflicted with the countrys historic goal of catching up with the advanced countries of the West. Only by straining all its economic, demographic and military resources could it sustain the status of a great power capable of playing an influential role in the international arena and controlling the numerous nationalities which populated its huge territory.  The territorial expansion therefore was a factor which did more to constrain, rather than advance, the economic and socio-political development of Russia.

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Pre-Petrine Russia

Origins of Kievan Rus
Emergence of Muscovy
Imperial Expansion
Key Historical Factors
Environment and Climate
Geopolitical Factor
Religious Factor
Social Organization
"Service State"
Consolidation of Serfdom
Vast Powers of the State
Traditional Society
Political Regime


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
Catherine the Great
Alexander I
Nicholas I
Alexander II
The Revolutionary Movement
Appearance of Marxism
The Last Romanovs
The Birth of Bolshevism
The Revolution of 1905-7
Between Revolutions
The Revolutions of 1917
Interpretations of 1917
The End of an Empire
Tables and Statistics

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