Sovereign state in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia
Top 10 Russia related articles
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Politics
- 4 Geography
- 5 Economy
- 6 Demographics
- 7 Culture
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
"Gosudarstvennyy Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii"
"State Anthem of the Russian Federation"
and largest city
and national language
|Recognised national languages||See Languages of Russia|
|Ethnic groups |
|Religion||Predominately Orthodox Christianity. See Religion in Russia|
|Government||Federal dominant-party semi-presidential constitutional republic|
• Kievan Rus' formed
• Tsardom proclaimed
|16 January 1547|
• Empire proclaimed
|22 October 1721|
• Republic proclaimed
|14 September 1917|
|7 November 1917|
|30 December 1922|
|12 June 1990|
|8 December 1991[a]|
|26 December 1991[b]|
|12 December 1993|
|2 April 1996|
|17,098,246 km2 (6,601,670 sq mi) (without Crimea)[c] (1st)|
• Water (%)
|13 (including swamps)|
• 2020 estimate
|8.4/km2 (21.8/sq mi) (225th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2020 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2020 estimate|
• Per capita
medium · 98th
very high · 49th
|Currency||Russian ruble (₽) (RUB)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 to +12|
|ISO 3166 code||RU|
Russia (Russian: Росси́я, tr. Rossiya, IPA: [rɐˈsʲijə]), or the Russian Federation,[d] is a transcontinental country located in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Covering an area of 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), it is the largest country in the world by area, spanning more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, stretching eleven time zones, and bordering 16 sovereign nations. The territory of Russia extends from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea and the Caucasus in the south. With 146.7 million inhabitants living in the country's 85 federal subjects, Russia is the most populous nation in Europe and the ninth-most populous nation in the world. Russia's capital and largest city is Moscow; other major urban areas include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and Chelyabinsk.
The East Slavs emerged as a recognisable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. The medieval state of Rus' arose in the 9th century. In 988 it adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Rus' ultimately disintegrated into a number of smaller states, until it was finally reunified by the Grand Duchy of Moscow in the 15th century. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire, which became a major European power, and the third-largest empire in history, stretching from Norway on the west to Canada on the east. Following the Russian Revolution, the Russian SFSR became the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union, the world's first constitutionally socialist state. The Soviet Union played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II, and emerged as a recognised superpower and rival to the United States during the Cold War. The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite and the launching of the first humans in space. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian SFSR reconstituted itself as the Russian Federation and is recognised as the continuing legal personality and a successor of the USSR.
Since 1993, Russia is governed as a federal semi-presidential republic. Vladimir Putin has dominated Russia's political system since 2000, serving as either president or prime minister. His government has been accused by non-governmental organisations of numerous human rights abuses, authoritarianism and corruption. In response, Putin has argued that Western-style liberalism is obsolete in Russia, while maintaining that the country is still a democratic nation.
The Russian economy ranks as the fifth-largest in Europe, the eleventh-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the fifth-largest by PPP. Russia's extensive mineral and energy resources are the largest such reserves in the world, making it one of the leading producers of oil and natural gas globally. The country is one of the five recognised nuclear weapons states and possesses the largest stockpile of nuclear warheads. Russia is a major great power, as well as a regional power, and has been characterised as a potential superpower. The Russian Armed Forces have been ranked as the world's second most powerful, and the most powerful in Europe. Russia hosts the world's ninth-greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, at 29, and is among the world's most popular tourist destinations. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and an active global partner of ASEAN, as well as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the International Investment Bank (IIB) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as being the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Russia Intro articles: 154
The name Russia is derived from Rus', a medieval state populated mostly by the East Slavs. However, this proper name became more prominent in the later history, and the country typically was called by its inhabitants "Русская Земля" (russkaja zemlja), which can be translated as "Russian Land" or "Land of Rus'". In order to distinguish this state from other states derived from it, it is denoted as Kievan Rus' by modern historiography. The name Rus itself comes from the early medieval Rus' people, Swedish merchants and warriors who relocated from across the Baltic Sea and founded a state centered on Novgorod that later became Kievan Rus.
An old Latin version of the name Rus' was Ruthenia, mostly applied to the western and southern regions of Rus' that were adjacent to Catholic Europe. The current name of the country, Россия (Rossija), comes from the Byzantine Greek designation of the Rus', Ρωσσία Rossía—spelled Ρωσία (Rosía pronounced [roˈsia]) in Modern Greek.
The standard way to refer to citizens of Russia is "Russians" in English and rossiyane (Russian: россияне) in Russian. There are two Russian words which are commonly translated into English as "Russians". One is "русские" (russkiye), which most often means "ethnic Russians". Another is "россияне" (rossiyane), which means "citizens of Russia, regardless of ethnicity". Translations into other languages often do not distinguish these two groups.
Russia Etymology articles: 10
In classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia. Beginning in the 8th century BC, Ancient Greek traders brought their civilization to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria. Ancient Greek explorers, most notably Pytheas, even went as far as modern day Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea. Romans settled on the western part of the Caspian Sea, where their empire stretched towards the east. In the 3rd to 4th centuries AD a semi-legendary Gothic kingdom of Oium existed in Southern Russia until it was overrun by Huns. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was also overwhelmed by nomadic invasions led by warlike tribes, such as the Huns and Eurasian Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas until the 10th century.
The ancestors of modern Russians are the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pinsk Marshes. The East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov. From the 7th century onwards, the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia and assimilated the native Finno-Ugric peoples, including the Merya, the Muromians, and the Meshchera.
The establishment of the first East Slavic states in the 9th century coincided with the arrival of Varangians, the traders, warriors and settlers from the Baltic Sea region. Primarily they were Vikings of Scandinavian origin, who ventured along the waterways extending from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the Primary Chronicle, a Varangian from Rus' people, named Rurik, was elected ruler of Novgorod in 862. In 882, his successor Oleg ventured south and conquered Kiev, which had been previously paying tribute to the Khazars. Oleg, Rurik's son Igor and Igor's son Sviatoslav subsequently subdued all local East Slavic tribes to Kievan rule, destroyed the Khazar khaganate and launched several military expeditions to Byzantium and Persia.
In the 10th to 11th centuries Kievan Rus' became one of the largest and most prosperous states in Europe. The reigns of Vladimir the Great (980–1015) and his son Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054) constitute the Golden Age of Kiev, which saw the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity from Byzantium and the creation of the first East Slavic written legal code, the Russkaya Pravda.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, caused a massive migration of Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye.
The age of feudalism and decentralization was marked by constant in-fighting between members of the Rurik Dynasty that ruled Kievan Rus' collectively. Kiev's dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, Novgorod Republic in the north-west and Galicia-Volhynia in the south-west.
Ultimately Kievan Rus' disintegrated, with the final blow being the Mongol invasion of 1237–40 that resulted in the destruction of Kiev and the death of about half the population of Rus'. The invading Mongol elite, together with their conquered Turkic subjects (Cumans, Kipchaks, Bulgars), became known as Tatars, forming the state of the Golden Horde, which pillaged the Russian principalities; the Mongols ruled the Cuman-Kipchak confederation and Volga Bulgaria (modern-day southern and central expanses of Russia) for over two centuries.
Galicia-Volhynia was eventually assimilated by the Kingdom of Poland, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and Novgorod Republic, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, established the basis for the modern Russian nation. The Novgorod together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and were largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Led by Prince Alexander Nevsky, Novgorodians repelled the invading Swedes in the Battle of the Neva in 1240, as well as the Germanic crusaders in the Battle of the Ice in 1242, breaking their attempts to colonise the Northern Rus'.
Grand Duchy of Moscow
The most powerful state to eventually arise after the destruction of Kievan Rus' was the Grand Duchy of Moscow ("Muscovy" in the Western chronicles), initially a part of Vladimir-Suzdal. While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance, Moscow began to assert its influence in the Central Rus' in the early 14th century, gradually becoming the leading force in the process of the Rus' lands' reunification and expansion of Russia. Moscow's last rival, the Novgorod Republic, prospered as the chief fur trade center and the easternmost port of the Hanseatic League.
Times remained difficult, with frequent Mongol-Tatar raids. Agriculture suffered from the beginning of the Little Ice Age. As in the rest of Europe, plague was a frequent occurrence between 1350 and 1490. However, because of the lower population density and better hygiene—widespread practicing of banya, a wet steam bath—the death rate from plague was not as severe as in Western Europe, and population numbers recovered by 1500.
Led by Prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow and helped by the Russian Orthodox Church, the united army of Russian principalities inflicted a milestone defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Moscow gradually absorbed the surrounding principalities, including formerly strong rivals such as Tver and Novgorod.
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". After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire. Ivan III married Sophia Palaiologina, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI, and made the Byzantine double-headed eagle his own, and eventually Russia's, coat-of-arms.
Tsardom of Russia
In development of the Third Rome ideas, the Grand Duke Ivan IV (the "Terrible") was officially crowned first Tsar ("Caesar") of Russia in 1547. The Tsar promulgated a new code of laws (Sudebnik of 1550), established the first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor) and introduced local self-management into the rural regions.
During his long reign, Ivan the Terrible nearly doubled the already large Russian territory by annexing the three Tatar khanates (parts of the disintegrated Golden Horde): Kazan and Astrakhan along the Volga River, and the Siberian Khanate in southwestern Siberia. Thus, by the end of the 16th century Russia was transformed into a multiethnic, multidenominational and transcontinental state.
However, the Tsardom was weakened by the long and unsuccessful Livonian War against the coalition of Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden for access to the Baltic coast and sea trade. At the same time, the Tatars of the Crimean Khanate, the only remaining successor to the Golden Horde, continued to raid Southern Russia. In an effort to restore the Volga khanates, Crimeans and their Ottoman allies invaded central Russia and were even able to burn down parts of Moscow in 1571. But in the next year the large invading army was thoroughly defeated by Russians in the Battle of Molodi, forever eliminating the threat of an Ottoman–Crimean expansion into Russia. The slave raids of Crimeans, however, did not cease until the late 17th century though the construction of new fortification lines across Southern Russia, such as the Great Abatis Line, constantly narrowed the area accessible to incursions.
The death of Ivan's sons marked the end of the ancient Rurik Dynasty in 1598, and in combination with the famine of 1601–03 led to civil war, the rule of pretenders, and foreign intervention during the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied parts of Russia, including Moscow. In 1612, the Poles were forced to retreat by the Russian volunteer corps, led by two national heroes, merchant Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky. The Romanov Dynasty acceded to the throne in 1613 by the decision of Zemsky Sobor, and the country started its gradual recovery from the crisis.
Russia continued its territorial growth through the 17th century, which was the age of Cossacks. Cossacks were warriors organised into military communities, resembling pirates and pioneers of the New World. In 1648, the peasants of Ukraine joined the Zaporozhian Cossacks in rebellion against Poland-Lithuania during the Khmelnytsky Uprising in reaction to the social and religious oppression they had been suffering under Polish rule. In 1654, the Ukrainian leader, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, offered to place Ukraine under the protection of the Russian Tsar, Aleksey I. Aleksey's acceptance of this offer led to another Russo-Polish War. Finally, Ukraine was split along the Dnieper River, leaving the western part, right-bank Ukraine, under Polish rule and the eastern part (Left-bank Ukraine and Kiev) under Russian rule. Later, in 1670–71, the Don Cossacks led by Stenka Razin initiated a major uprising in the Volga Region, but the Tsar's troops were successful in defeating the rebels.
In the east, the rapid Russian exploration and colonisation of the huge territories of Siberia was led mostly by Cossacks hunting for valuable furs and ivory. Russian explorers pushed eastward primarily along the Siberian River Routes, and by the mid-17th century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on the Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, and on the Pacific coast. In 1648, the Bering Strait between Asia and North America was passed for the first time by Fedot Popov and Semyon Dezhnyov.
Under Peter the Great, Russia was proclaimed an Empire in 1721 and became recognised as a world power. Ruling from 1682 to 1725, Peter defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War, forcing it to cede West Karelia and Ingria (two regions lost by Russia in the Time of Troubles), as well as Estland and Livland, securing Russia's access to the sea and sea trade. On the Baltic Sea, Peter founded a new capital called Saint Petersburg, later known as Russia's "window to Europe". Peter the Great's reforms brought considerable Western European cultural influences to Russia.
The reign of Peter I's daughter Elizabeth in 1741–62 saw Russia's participation in the Seven Years' War (1756–63). During this conflict Russia annexed East Prussia for a while and even took Berlin. However, upon Elizabeth's death, all these conquests were returned to the Kingdom of Prussia by pro-Prussian Peter III of Russia.
Catherine II ("the Great"), who ruled in 1762–96, presided over the Age of Russian Enlightenment. She extended Russian political control over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and incorporated most of its territories into Russia during the Partitions of Poland, pushing the Russian frontier westward into Central Europe. In the south, after successful Russo-Turkish Wars against Ottoman Turkey, Catherine advanced Russia's boundary to the Black Sea, defeating the Crimean Khanate. As a result of victories over Qajar Iran through the Russo-Persian Wars, by the first half of the 19th century Russia also made significant territorial gains in Transcaucasia and the North Caucasus, forcing the former to irrevocably cede what is nowadays Georgia, Dagestan, Azerbaijan and Armenia to Russia. This continued with Alexander I's (1801–25) wresting of Finland from the weakened kingdom of Sweden in 1809 and of Bessarabia from the Ottomans in 1812. At the same time, Russians colonised Alaska and even founded settlements in California, such as Fort Ross.
In alliances with various European countries, Russia fought against Napoleon's France. The French invasion of Russia at the height of Napoleon's power in 1812 reached Moscow, but eventually failed miserably as the obstinate resistance in combination with the bitterly cold Russian winter led to a disastrous defeat of invaders, in which more than 95% of the pan-European Grande Armée perished. Led by Mikhail Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly, the Russian army ousted Napoleon from the country and drove through Europe in the war of the Sixth Coalition, finally entering Paris. Alexander I headed Russia's delegation at the Congress of Vienna that defined the map of post-Napoleonic Europe.
The officers of the Napoleonic Wars brought ideas of liberalism back to Russia with them and attempted to curtail the tsar's powers during the abortive Decembrist revolt of 1825. At the end of the conservative reign of Nicolas I (1825–55), a zenith period of Russia's power and influence in Europe was disrupted by defeat in the Crimean War. Between 1847 and 1851, about one million people died of Asiatic cholera.
Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855–81) enacted significant changes in the country, including the emancipation reform of 1861. These Great Reforms spurred industrialization and modernised the Russian army, which had successfully liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War.
The late 19th century saw the rise of various socialist movements in Russia. Alexander II was killed in 1881 by revolutionary terrorists, and the reign of his son Alexander III (1881–94) was less liberal but more peaceful. The last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II (1894–1917), was unable to prevent the events of the Russian Revolution of 1905, triggered by the unsuccessful Russo-Japanese War and the demonstration incident known as Bloody Sunday. The uprising was put down, but the government was forced to concede major reforms (Russian Constitution of 1906), including granting the freedoms of speech and assembly, the legalization of political parties, and the creation of an elected legislative body, the State Duma of the Russian Empire. The Stolypin agrarian reform led to a massive peasant migration and settlement into Siberia. More than four million settlers arrived in that region between 1906 and 1914.
February Revolution and Russian Republic
In 1914, Russia entered World War I in response to Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Russia's ally Serbia, and fought across multiple fronts while isolated from its Triple Entente allies. In 1916, the Brusilov Offensive of the Russian Army almost completely destroyed the military of Austria-Hungary. However, the already-existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by the rising costs of war, high casualties, and rumors of corruption and treason. All this formed the climate for the Russian Revolution of 1917, carried out in two major acts.
The February Revolution forced Nicholas II to abdicate; he and his family were imprisoned and later executed in Yekaterinburg during the Russian Civil War. The monarchy was replaced by a shaky coalition of political parties that declared itself the Provisional Government. On 1 September (14), 1917, upon a decree of the Provisional Government, the Russian Republic was proclaimed. On 6 January (19), 1918, the Russian Constituent Assembly declared Russia a democratic federal republic (thus ratifying the Provisional Government's decision). The next day the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.
Soviet Russia and civil war
An alternative socialist establishment co-existed, the Petrograd Soviet, wielding power through the democratically elected councils of workers and peasants, called Soviets. The rule of the new authorities only aggravated the crisis in the country, instead of resolving it. Eventually, the October Revolution, led by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government and gave full governing power to the Soviets, leading to the creation of the world's first socialist state.
Following the October Revolution, a civil war broke out between the anti-Communist White movement and the new Soviet regime with its Red Army. Bolshevist Russia lost its Ukrainian, Polish, Baltic, and Finnish territories by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that concluded hostilities with the Central Powers of World War I. The Allied powers launched an unsuccessful military intervention in support of anti-Communist forces. In the meantime both the Bolsheviks and White movement carried out campaigns of deportations and executions against each other, known respectively as the Red Terror and White Terror. By the end of the civil war, Russia's economy and infrastructure were heavily damaged. There were an estimated 7–12 million casualties during the war, mostly civilians. Millions became White émigrés, and the Russian famine of 1921–22 claimed up to five million victims.
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (called Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic at the time), together with the Ukrainian, Byelorussian, and Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republics, formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union, on 30 December 1922. Out of the 15 republics that would make up the USSR, the largest in size and over half of the total USSR population was the Russian SFSR, which came to dominate the union for its entire 69-year history.
Following Lenin's death in 1924, a troika was designated to govern the Soviet Union. However, Joseph Stalin, an elected General Secretary of the Communist Party, managed to suppress all opposition groups within the party and consolidate power in his hands. Leon Trotsky, the main proponent of world revolution, was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1929, and Stalin's idea of Socialism in One Country became the primary line. The continued internal struggle in the Bolshevik party culminated in the Great Purge, a period of mass repressions in 1937–38, during which hundreds of thousands of people were executed, including original party members and military leaders accused of coup d'état plots.
Under Stalin's leadership, the government launched a command economy, industrialization of the largely rural country, and collectivization of its agriculture. During this period of rapid economic and social change, millions of people were sent to penal labor camps, including many political convicts for their opposition to Stalin's rule; millions were deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. The transitional disorganisation of the country's agriculture, combined with the harsh state policies and a drought, led to the Soviet famine of 1932–1933, which killed between 2 and 3 million people in the Russian SFSR. The Soviet Union made the costly transformation from a largely agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in a short span of time.
Under the doctrine of state atheism in the Soviet Union, there was a "government-sponsored program of forced conversion to atheism" conducted by Communists. The communist regime targeted religions based on State interests, and while most organised religions were never outlawed, religious property was confiscated, believers were harassed, and religion was ridiculed while atheism was propagated in schools. In 1925 the government founded the League of Militant Atheists to intensify the persecution. Accordingly, although personal expressions of religious faith were not explicitly banned, a strong sense of social stigma was imposed on them by the official structures and mass media and it was generally considered unacceptable for members of certain professions (teachers, state bureaucrats, soldiers) to be openly religious. As for the Russian Orthodox Church, Soviet authorities sought to control it and, in times of national crisis, to exploit it for the regime's own purposes; but their ultimate goal was to eliminate it. During the first five years of Soviet power, the Bolsheviks executed 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and over 1,200 Russian Orthodox priests. Many others were imprisoned or exiled. Believers were harassed and persecuted. Most seminaries were closed, and the publication of most religious material was prohibited. By 1941 only 500 churches remained open out of about 54,000 in existence prior to World War I.
World War II
The Appeasement policy of Great Britain and France towards Adolf Hitler's annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia did not stem an increase in the power of Nazi Germany. Around the same time, the Third Reich allied with the Empire of Japan, a rival of the USSR in the Far East and an open enemy of the USSR in the Soviet–Japanese Border Wars in 1938–39.
In August 1939, the Soviet government decided to improve relations with Germany by concluding the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, pledging non-aggression between the two countries and dividing Eastern Europe into their respective spheres of influence. When Germany launched the Invasion of Poland, the Soviets followed weeks later with their own invasion of the country, claiming the eastern half of Poland while avoiding war with the Allied Powers. The Soviet government engaged in significant cooperation with Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1941, through extensive trade agreements which supplied Germany with vital raw materials for her war effort against Britain and France. As the other European powers were busy fighting in World War II, the USSR expanded her own military, and occupied the Hertza region as a result of the Winter War, annexed the Baltic states and annexed Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina from Romania.
On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany broke their non-aggression treaty with their erstwhile partner and invaded the Soviet Union with the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history, opening the largest theater of World War II. The Nazi Hunger Plan foresaw the "extinction of industry as well as a great part of the population". Nearly 3 million Soviet POWs in German captivity were murdered in just eight months of 1941–42. Although the German army had considerable early success, their attack was halted in the Battle of Moscow. Subsequently, the Germans were dealt major defeats first at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–43, and then in the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943. Another German failure was the Siege of Leningrad, in which the city was fully blockaded on land between 1941 and 1944 by German and Finnish forces, and suffered starvation and more than a million deaths, but never surrendered. Under Stalin's administration and the leadership of such commanders as Georgy Zhukov and Konstantin Rokossovsky, Soviet forces took Eastern Europe in 1944–45 and captured Berlin in May 1945. In August 1945 the Soviet Army ousted the Japanese from China's Manchukuo and North Korea, contributing to the allied victory over Japan.
The 1941–45 period of World War II is known in Russia as the "Great Patriotic War". The Soviet Union together with the United States, the United Kingdom and China were considered as the Big Four of Allied powers in World War II and later became the Four Policemen which was the foundation of the United Nations Security Council. During this war, which included many of the most lethal battle operations in human history, Soviet civilian and military death were about 27 million, accounting for about a third of all World War II casualties. The full demographic loss to the Soviet peoples was even greater. The Soviet economy and infrastructure suffered massive devastation which caused the Soviet famine of 1946–47, but the Soviet Union emerged as an acknowledged military superpower on the continent.
The Soviet rear was also badly damaged by the German invasion. Luftwaffe bombed the cities of the Soviet Union from the air. Gorky suffered the most from the bombing. This city was the main industrial center of the USSR and was located near the Moscow Defence Zone. The bombing of the Volga capital destroyed the largest automobile plant GAZ. This plant supplied tanks for the front. Whole residential areas and other large factories of the city were destroyed. From 1941 to 1943, German pilots bombed different areas of the city. This bombardment is comparable to the London Blitz. Some damage remains until this time.
After the war, Eastern and Central Europe including East Germany and part of Austria was occupied by Red Army according to the Potsdam Conference. Dependent socialist governments were installed in the Eastern Bloc satellite states. Becoming the world's second nuclear weapons power, the USSR established the Warsaw Pact alliance and entered into a struggle for global dominance, known as the Cold War, with the United States and NATO. The Soviet Union supported revolutionary movements across the world, including the newly formed People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and, later on, the Republic of Cuba. Significant amounts of Soviet resources were allocated in aid to the other socialist states.
After Stalin's death and a short period of collective rule, the new leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced the cult of personality of Stalin and launched the policy of de-Stalinization. The penal labor system was reformed and many prisoners were released and rehabilitated (many of them posthumously). The general easement of repressive policies became known later as the Khrushchev Thaw. At the same time, tensions with the United States heightened when the two rivals clashed over the deployment of the United States Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, thus starting the Space Age. Russia's cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth, aboard the Vostok 1 manned spacecraft on 12 April 1961.
Following the ousting of Khrushchev in 1964, another period of collective rule ensued, until Leonid Brezhnev became the leader. The era of the 1970s and the early 1980s was later designated as the Era of Stagnation, a period when economic growth slowed and social policies became static. The 1965 Kosygin reform aimed for partial decentralization of the Soviet economy and shifted the emphasis from heavy industry and weapons to light industry and consumer goods but was stifled by the conservative Communist leadership.
In 1979, after a Communist-led revolution in Afghanistan, Soviet forces entered that country. The occupation drained economic resources and dragged on without achieving meaningful political results. Ultimately, the Soviet Army was withdrawn from Afghanistan in 1989 due to international opposition, persistent anti-Soviet guerrilla warfare, and a lack of support by Soviet citizens.
From 1985 onwards, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who sought to enact liberal reforms in the Soviet system, introduced the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to end the period of economic stagnation and to democratise the government. This, however, led to the rise of strong nationalist and separatist movements. Prior to 1991, the Soviet economy was the second largest in the world, but during its last years it was afflicted by shortages of goods in grocery stores, huge budget deficits, and explosive growth in the money supply leading to inflation.
By 1991, economic and political turmoil began to boil over, as the Baltic states chose to secede from the Soviet Union. On 17 March, a referendum was held, in which the vast majority of participating citizens voted in favour of changing the Soviet Union into a renewed federation. In August 1991, a coup d'état attempt by members of Gorbachev's government, directed against Gorbachev and aimed at preserving the Soviet Union, instead led to the end of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. On 25 December 1991, the USSR was dissolved into 15 post-Soviet states.
Post-Soviet Russia (1991–present)
In June 1991, Boris Yeltsin became the first directly elected president in Russian history when he was elected President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, which became the independent Russian Federation in December of that year. The economic and political collapse of USSR led to a deep and prolonged depression, characterised by a 50% decline in both GDP and industrial output between 1990 and 1995, although some of the recorded declines may have been a result of an upward bias in Soviet-era economic data. During and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, wide-ranging reforms including privatization and market and trade liberalization were undertaken, including radical changes along the lines of "shock therapy" as recommended by the United States and the International Monetary Fund.
The privatization largely shifted control of enterprises from state agencies to individuals with inside connections in the government. Many of the newly rich moved billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight. The depression of the economy led to the collapse of social services; the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed. Millions plunged into poverty, from a level of 1.5% in the late Soviet era to 39–49% by mid-1993. The 1990s saw extreme corruption and lawlessness, the rise of criminal gangs and violent crime.
The 1990s were plagued by armed conflicts in the North Caucasus, both local ethnic skirmishes and separatist Islamist insurrections. From the time Chechen separatists declared independence in the early 1990s, an intermittent guerrilla war has been fought between the rebel groups and the Russian military. Terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by separatists, most notably the Moscow theater hostage crisis and Beslan school siege, caused hundreds of deaths and drew worldwide attention.
Russia took up the responsibility for settling the USSR's external debts, even though its population made up just half of the population of the USSR at the time of its dissolution. In 1992, most consumer price controls were eliminated, causing extreme inflation and significantly devaluing the Ruble. With a devalued Ruble, the Russian government struggled to pay back its debts to internal debtors, as well as international institutions like the International Monetary Fund. Despite significant attempts at economic restructuring, Russia's debt outpaced GDP growth. High budget deficits coupled with increasing capital flight and inability to pay back debts caused the 1998 Russian financial crisis and resulted in a further GDP decline.
On 31 December 1999, President Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned, handing the post to the recently appointed Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who then won the 2000 presidential election. Putin suppressed the Chechen insurgency although sporadic violence still occurs throughout the Northern Caucasus. High oil prices and the initially weak currency followed by increasing domestic demand, consumption, and investments helped the economy grow at an average of 7% per year from 1998 to 2008, improving the standard of living and increasing Russia's influence on the world stage. Following the world economic crisis of 2008 and a subsequent drop in oil prices, Russia's economy stagnated and poverty again started to rise until 2017 when, after the prolonged recession, Russia's economy began to grow again, supported by stronger global growth, higher oil prices, and solid macro fundamentals. While many reforms made during the Putin presidency have been generally criticised by Western nations as undemocratic, Putin's leadership over the return of order, stability, and progress has won him widespread admiration in Russia.
On 2 March 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected President of Russia while Putin became Prime Minister. Putin returned to the presidency following the 2012 presidential elections, and Medvedev was appointed Prime Minister. This quick succession in leadership change was coined "tandemocracy" by outside media. Some critics claimed that the leadership change was superficial, and that Putin remained as the decision making force in the Russian government. Within the context of the ongoing Russia–Ukraine gas dispute in early January 2009, Nikolai Petrov, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center said: "What we see right now is the dominant role of Putin. We see him as a real head of state. ... This is not surprising. We are still living in Putin's Russia." Some Russian political analysts and commentators viewed the political power as truly tandem between Medvedev and Putin. Prior to the 2008 election, political scientists Gleb Pavlovsky and Stanislav Belkovsky discussed the future configuration of power. According to Mr. Pavlovsky, people would be very suited with the option of the union of Putin and Medvedev "similar to the two Consuls of Rome". Belkovsky called Medvedev "President of a dream", referring to the early 1990s when people ostensibly dreamed of the time they "would live without the stranglehold of ubiquitous ideology, and a common person would become the head of the state".
In 2014, after President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine fled as a result of a revolution, Putin requested and received authorization from the Russian Parliament to deploy Russian troops to Ukraine, leading to the takeover of Crimea. Following a Crimean referendum in which separation was favored by a large majority of voters, the Russian leadership announced the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation, though this and the referendum that preceded it were not accepted internationally. On 27 March the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a non-binding resolution opposing the Russian annexation of Crimea by a vote of 100 member states in favor, 11 against and 58 abstentions. The annexation of Crimea lead to sanctions by Western countries, in which the Russian government responded with its own against a number of countries.
In September 2015, Russia started military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, consisting of air strikes against militant groups of the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in the Levant), and the Army of Conquest.