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Russian empire

The meaning of «russian empire»

The Russian Empire[b], commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.[5][6] The third-largest empire in history, at one point stretching over three continents—Europe, Asia, and North America—the Russian Empire was surpassed in size only by the British and Mongol empires. The rise of the Russian Empire coincided with the decline of neighboring rival powers: the Swedish Empire, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Qing China. It played a major role in 1812–1814 in defeating Napoleon's ambitions to control Europe, and it further expanded to the west and south, becoming one of the most powerful European empires of the time.

From the 10th through the 17th centuries, the land was ruled by a noble class, the boyars, above whom was a tsar, who later became an emperor. Tsar Ivan III (1462–1505) laid the groundwork for the empire that later emerged. He tripled the territory of his state, ended the dominance of the Golden Horde, renovated the Moscow Kremlin, and laid the foundations of the Russian state. The House of Romanov ruled the Russian Empire from its beginning in 1721 until 1762. Its matrilineal branch of patrilineal German descent, the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov, ruled from 1762 until the end of the empire. At the beginning of the 19th century, the empire extended from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea in the south, from the Baltic Sea on the west into Alaska and Northern California, in North America, on the east.[7]

With 125.6 million subjects, according to the 1897 census, it had the third-largest population in the world at the time, after Qing China and India. Like all empires, it featured great economic, ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity. The empire had a predominantly agricultural economy based on large estates worked unproductively by Russian peasants, known as serfs, who were tied to the land under a feudal arrangement. The serfs were freed in 1861, but the landowning aristocratic class kept control. The economy slowly industrialized with the help of foreign investments in railways and factories. Many dissident elements launched numerous rebellions and assassinations over the centuries. In the 19th century, dissidents were closely watched by the imperial secret police, and thousands were exiled to Siberia.

Emperor Peter I (1682–1725) fought numerous wars and expanded an already huge empire into a major European power. He moved the capital from Moscow to the new model city of Saint Petersburg, which was largely built according to Western design. He led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval social and political mores with a modern, scientific, Europe-oriented, and rationalist system. Empress Catherine the Great (1762–1796) presided over a golden age; she expanded the state by conquest, colonization, and diplomacy, while continuing Peter I's policy of modernization along Western European lines. Emperor Alexander II (1855–1881) initiated numerous reforms, most dramatically the emancipation of all 23 million serfs in 1861. His policy in Eastern Europe involved the protection of Orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire. This led to Russia's entry into World War I in 1914, on the side Allied powers against the Central Powers.

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