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The Russian Empire (Российская империя) was a state in eastern Europe and northern Asia, lasting from 1721 to the overthrowing of the monarchy in 1917. It shared borders with numerous nations throughout its history, though before it fell it shared them with Sweden, Norway, Austria, Germany, Romania, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, Afghanistan, China, and Korea.
The Russian Empire was founded in 1721 by Peter the Great, who introduced autocracy to Russia as well as the European state system. It was officially founded after the defeat of Sweden in 1721, which resulted in Russia gaining four provinces near the Baltic Sea, finally giving the nation the "warm-water port" they wanted. There he built the new Russian capital, St. Petersburg, which replaced Moscow, which had for long been Russia's cultural central and capital. He also increased Russian influence in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, and engaged in a full-scale war against Persia from 1722 to 1723. He reorganized his government based off of the latest political models, creating an absolutist Russian state. He replaced the Duma with a nine-member senate and a supreme council of state. The countryside was also divided into new provinces and districts. Peter passed away in 1725, in which the crown went to his wife Catherine who eventually passed the crown to Anna, who slowed down the reforms and led a successful war against the Ottomans. Afterwards the crown went to Peter's daughter Elizabeth, who led the country for 20 years. She is most well-known for her involvement in the Seven Years' War, which was very successful for the nation militarily.
Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great was a German princess who married Peter III, the heir to the Russian throme. After the death of Elizabeth, Catherine came to power after her coup d'état against her unpopular husband succeeded. She pleased the nobles by turning over most state functions in the provinces to them, and expanded Russian control to what was Poland-Lithuania, showing the West that Russia isn't a force to be messed with. There were some peasant revolutions during her career, however. This foreshadowed how the Russian Empire would come to fall in the early 20th century. She also waged a successful war against the Ottoman Empire, expanding Russia's boundary south to the Black Sea. This continued after her death in 1796, with Alexander I annexing Finland from the weakened Swedish state.
Napoleon made a major mistake upon invading Russia. The bitterly cold Russian winter prevented the invaders from making much progress, and thousands of French troops were ambushed and killed by guerrilla fighters. Napoleon's troops retreated, and the Russian troops pursued them into Central and Western Europe. After Russia and allies defeated Napoleon, Tsar Alexander became known as the "savior of Europe", and he presided over the redrawing of the European map at the Congress of Vienna. Thanks to the defeat of Napoleonic France, Russia would play a large part in the politics of Europe. However, as West European power grew with the Industrial Revolution, Russia began to lag far behind, creating new weaknesses for the Empire's role as a great power. Alexander was replaced by his younger brother, Nicholas I. Nicholas had to deal with the Decembrist revolt; the work of a small circle of liberal nobles and officers who wanted to install Nicholas' brother as monarch. Nicholas began to look away from the modernization Peter the Great began and instead founded the doctrine of Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality. One year before Nicholas died, Russia had become involved in the Crimean War, which showed Russia's true weaknesses to the world. Tsar Alexander II ascended to the throne in 1855, and desire for reform was widespread. Alexander also started a series of military successes similar to the previous tsars, resulting in the gaining of parts of Manchuria, Central Asia, and Caucasia. Under Alexander, Russia also helped liberate numerous other Slavic states from the Ottomans including Serbia and Bulgaria. The throne passed to his son Alexander III after Alexander II was assassinated. The new Alexander revived the Nicholas I's doctrine; however he changed it to Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Respect to the People". He also completed the conquest of Central Asia and demanded commercial concessions from China.
Fall of the Empire
In 1894, the throne was passed to Alexander's son, Nicholas, who was committed to retaining his father's government. The Industrial Revolution also finally reached Russia during his reign, giving Russia the technology required to remain an European powerhouse. Thanks to their fleets in North America, Russia was able to win a war against Japan, which increased confidence in the tsardom and expanded Russian influence to Manchuria and Korea. However, unrest in the empire remained common. Nicholas's son, Alexei's hemophilia also played a massive influence over the Russian government as it led Siberian peasant Grigori Rasputin to power at court. In 1914, Russia entered the World War with enthusiasm and patriotism, with hopes of defending fellow Orthodox Slavs. Russia would manage to occupy parts of the Austrian province of Galicia as well as small parts of eastern Prussia. However, the impact of the war was demoralizing. Food and fuel were in short supply, and strikes arose among factory workers and peasants. The tsar decided to take personal command of the army partly due to what he was told from Rasputin, which led Russia into even more chaos. Bolsheviks began to rebel, forcing Nicholas and his family to abdicate. In 1918, shortly before their would-be execution, White soldiers rescued the tsar and his family, and after the end of the war and the proclamation of the Russian Republic, the tsar and his family retained the throne. Despite this, they were just constitutional monarchs and had no real power.