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History Of Russia

Early Russia


   Numerous remains indicate that Russia was inhabited in the Paleolithic period. By the 7th cent. B.C. the northern shore of the Black Sea and the Crimea were controlled by the Scythians (see under Scythia); in the 3d cent. B.C. the Scythians were displaced by the Sarmatians (see under Sarmatia). Later the open steppes of Russia were invaded by numerous peoples, notably the Germanic Goths (3d cent. A.D.), the Asian Huns (4th cent.), and the Turkic Avars (6th cent.). The Turkic Khazars built up (7th cent.) a powerful state in S Russia, and the Eastern Bulgars established (8th cent.) their empire in the Volga region. By the 9th cent. the Eastern Slavs had settled in N Ukraine, in Belarus, and in the regions of Novgorod and Smolensk, and they had established colonies to the east on the Oka and upper Volga rivers. The chief Slavic tribes in S Russia were dominated by the Khazars.

   The origin of the Russian state coincides with the arrival (9th cent.) of Scandinavian traders and warriors, the Varangians. Tradition has it that one of their leaders, Rurik, established himself peaceably at Novgorod by 862 and founded a dynasty. The name Russ or Rhos possibly originally designated the Varangians, or some of them, but it was early extended to the Eastern Slavs and became the name of their country in general. Rurik's successor, Oleg (reigned 879–912), transferred (882) his residence to Kiev, which remained the capital of Kievan Rus until 1169. He united the Eastern Slavs and freed them from Khazar suzerainty, and signed (911) a commercial treaty with the Byzantine Empire. Under Sviatoslav (reigned 964–72) the duchy reached the peak of its power. 
   Christianity was made the state religion by Vladimir I (reigned 980–1015), who adopted (988–89) the Greek Orthodox rite. Thus Byzantine cultural influence became predominant. After the death of Yaroslav (reigned 1019–54), Kievan Rus was divided in a rotation system among his sons. Political supremacy shifted, passing from Kiev to the western principalities of Halych and Volodymyr (see Volodymyr-Volynskyy and Volhynia) and to the northeastern principality of Suzdal-Vladimir (see Vladimir). In 1169, Kiev was stormed by the Suzdal prince Andrei Bogolubsky (reigned 1169–74), who made Vladimir the capital of the grand duchy. In 1237–40 the Mongols (commonly called Tatars) under Batu Khan invaded Russia and destroyed all the chief Russian cities except Novgorod and Pskov. In S and E Russia the Tatars established the empire of the Golden Horde, which lasted until 1480.
   Belarus, most of the Ukraine, and part of W Russia were incorporated (14th cent.) into the grand duchy of Lithuania. Thus NE Russia became the main center of economic and political life. At the end of the 13th cent. Tver was the most important political center, but in the 14th cent. the Muscovite princes of the grand duchy of Vladimir, although still tributary to the Tatars, began to consolidate their position. Under Ivan I (Ivan Kalita; reigned 1328–41), Moscow took precedence over the other cities. After the victory of Dmitri Donskoi (reigned 1359–89) over the Tatars at Kulikovo in 1380, the grand duchy of Vladimir was bequeathed, without the sanction of the Golden Horde, to his son Vasily (reigned 1389–1425), and its rulers began to be called grand dukes of Moscow or Muscovy (see Moscow, grand duchy of).

Consolidation of the Russian State

   Under Ivan III (1462–1505) and his successor, Vasily III (1505–33), the Muscovite state expanded, and its rulers became more absolute. The principality of  Yaroslavl was annexed in 1463 and Rostov-Suzdal in 1474; Novgorod was conquered in 1478, Tver in 1485, Pskov in 1510, and Ryazan in 1521. The Mari, Yurga, and Komi were subjugated at the end of the 14th cent., and the Pechora and Karelians at the end of the 15th cent. Ivan ceased to pay tribute to the Tatars, and in 1497 he adopted the first code of laws. Having married the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Ivan considered Moscow the “third Rome” and himself heir to the tradition of the Byzantine Empire.
   In 1547, at the age of 17, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible; reigned 1533–84) was crowned czar (tsar) of all Russia. He conquered the Tatar khanates of Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1556), establishing Russian rule over the huge area of the middle and lower Volga; thus he laid the basis for the colonization and annexation of Siberia, begun by the Cossack Yermak in 1581. The conquered border territories were colonized by Russian settlers and defended by the Cossacks. At home, Ivan crushed the opposition of the great feudal nobles—the boyars—and set up an autocratic government. After the reign of the sickly Feodor I (1584–98), state power passed to Boris Godunov (reigned 1598–1605), who was elected czar by a zemsky sobor [national council].
   With the death of Boris in 1605 began the “Time of Troubles”—a political crisis marked by the appearance of pretenders (see Dmitri) and the intervention of foreign powers. In 1609, Sigismund III of Poland invaded Russia, and in 1610 Polish troops entered Moscow according to an agreement concluded with the boyars. However, in 1612, Russian forces led by Prince Dmitri Pozharski took Moscow, and in 1613 a zemsky sobor unanimously chose Michael Romanov as czar (see Michael; reigned 1613–45). Thus began the Romanov dynasty, which ruled Russia until 1917. Michael was succeeded by Alexis (reigned 1645–76), who gained E Ukraine from Poland. 
  Russia in the 17th cent. was still medieval in culture and outlook, and it was not regarded as a member of the European community of nations. In its economic development it was centuries behind Western Europe; distrust of foreign ways and innovations kept its inhabitants ignorant and isolated. The consolidation of central power was effected not with the help of the almost nonexistent middle class or by social reforms but by forcibly depriving the nobility and gentry of their political influence. The nobles were compensated with land grants and with increasing rights over the peasants. Thus serfdom (see serf), which became a legal institution in Russia in 1649, included growing numbers of persons and became increasingly oppressive. The process of enserfment, which reached its peak in the 18th cent., resulted in several violent peasant revolts, notably those led by Stenka Razin (1667–71) and by Pugachev (1773–75).

Empire and European Eminence

Peter I (Peter the Great)

   During the reign (1689–1725) of Peter I (Peter the Great) Russian politics, administration, and culture were altered considerably. However, the trend of increased autocracy and enserfment of peasants was accelerated by the changes. Peter, who assumed (1721) the title of emperor, “Westernized” Russia by using stringent methods to force on the people a series of reforms. He created a regular conscript army and navy. He abolished the patriarchate of Moscow (see Orthodox Eastern Church) and created (1721) the Holy Synod, directly subordinate to the emperor, thus depriving the church of the last vestiges of independence. He recast the administrative and fiscal systems, creating new organs of central government and reforming local administration, and he also founded the first modern industries and made an attempt to introduce elements of Western education. 
  Seeking to make Russia a maritime power, Peter acquired Livonia, Ingermanland (Ingria), Estonia, and parts of Karelia and Finland as a result of the Northern War (1700–1721), thus securing a foothold on the Baltic Sea. As a symbol of the new conquests he founded (1703) Saint Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland and transferred (1712) his capital there. Russia was rapidly becoming a European power. Peter also began the Russian push to the Black Sea, taking Azov in 1696, but his war with Turkey from 1711 to 1713 ended in failure and the loss of Azov. In addition, he sent (1725) Vitus Bering on an exploratory trip to NE Siberia.
   The Russo-Turkish Wars of the next two centuries resulted in the expansion of Russia at the expense of the Ottoman Empire and in the growing influence of Russia on Ottoman affairs (see Eastern Question). Russia also took an increasing part in European affairs. The immediate successors of Peter the Great were Catherine I (reigned 1725–27), Peter II (reigned 1727–30), Anna (reigned 1730–40), and Ivan VI (reigned 1740–41). Empress Elizabeth (reigned 1741–62) successfully sided against Prussia in the Seven Years War, but her successor, Peter III, took Russia out of the war.
   Peter's wife successfully seized power from him (1762), and when he was murdered shortly thereafter she became empress as Catherine II (Catherine the Great; reigned 1762–96). Under her rule Russia became the chief power of continental Europe. She continued Peter I's policies of absolute rule at home and of territorial expansion at the expense of neighboring states. The three successive partitions of Poland (1772, 1793, 1795; see Poland, partitions of), the annexations of the Crimea (1783) and of Courland (1795), and the treaties of Kuchuk Kainarji (1774) and Jassy (1792) with Turkey gave Russia vast new territories in the west and south, including what is now Belarus, parts of Ukraine W of the Dnieper River, and the Black Sea shores. Catherine's administrative reforms further centralized power. The suppression of Pugachev's rebellion strengthened the privileged classes and lessened the chances of social reform. However, under her “enlightened despotism,” Russian writers, scientists, and artists began the great creative efforts that culminated in the late 19th and early 20th cent. 
  Russia became involved in the French Revolutionary Wars under Catherine's successor, the demented Paul I, who was murdered in 1801. His son, Alexander I (reigned 1801–25), joined the third coalition against Napoleon I, but made peace with France at Tilsit (1807) and annexed (1809) Finland from Sweden. In wars with Turkey and Persia, Alexander gained Bessarabia by the Treaty of Bucharest (1812) and Caucasian territories by the Treaty of Gulistan (1813). In 1812, Napoleon began his great onslaught on Russia and took Moscow, but his army was repulsed and nearly annihilated in the winter of that year. Napoleon's downfall and the peace settlement (see Vienna, Congress of) made Russia and Austria the leading powers on the Continent at the head of the Holy Alliance.

Reaction, Reform, and Expansion

   Liberal ideas gained influence among the Russian aristocracy and educated bourgeoisie despite Alexander I's growing intransigence. They found an outlet in the unsuccessful Decembrist Conspiracy of 1825 (see Decembrists), which sought to prevent the accession of Nicholas I. Under Nicholas (reigned 1825–55), Russia became the most reactionary European power, acting as the “policeman of Europe” in opposing liberalism and helping Austria to quash the Hungarian revolution (1848–49). Russian Poland, nominally a kingdom ruled by the Russian emperor, lost its autonomy after an unsuccessful rising there in 1830–31. 
  A clash of interests between Russia and the Western powers over the Ottoman Empire led to the Crimean War (1854–56), which revealed the inner weakness of Russia. Alexander II (reigned 1855–81), who acceded one year before the war ended, passed important liberal reforms during the first decade of his reign, after which time he became increasingly conservative. Just as he seemed to be entering another liberal phase, Alexander was assassinated in 1881. Among his reforms, the liberation (1861) of the serfs (see Emancipation, Edict of) was the most far-reaching, but significant changes were also made in local government, the judicial system, and education.
   During the second half of the 19th cent., Russia continued its territorial expansion, and industrialization was accelerated. The remainder of the Caucasus was acquired and pacified; the territories of what is now the Central Asian Republics, including Turkistan, were taken during 1864–65; and the southern section of the Far Eastern Territory (see Russian Far East) was acquired from China. Russia thus reached the frontiers of Afghanistan and China and the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Vladivostok was founded in 1860; in the early 20th cent. it became an important naval base. The Trans-Siberian Railroad (constructed 1891–1905) opened much of Siberia to colonization and exploitation.
   Alexander III (reigned 1881–94), who succeeded Alexander II, pursued a reactionary domestic policy, guided by the influential Pobyedonostzev. Alexander was followed by Nicholas II (reigned 1894–1917), the last Russian emperor, a generally incompetent ruler surrounded by a reactionary entourage. However, there was considerable financial and industrial development, directed largely by Count Witte. Russia, having suffered a severe diplomatic setback at the Congress of Berlin (see Berlin, Congress of, 1878), eventually abandoned the Three Emperors' League with Germany and Austria-Hungary and in 1892 entered into an alliance with republican France. This alliance led to the Triple Entente (see Triple Alliance and Triple Entente) of England, France, and Russia.

War and Revolution

Nicholas II

   The disastrous and unpopular Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) led to the Revolution of 1905 (see Russian Revolution). Nicholas II was forced to grant a constitution, and a parliament (see duma) was established. Soon, however, the new democratic freedoms were curtailed, as the government again became reactionary. As a result, there was renewed agitation by revolutionaries; the emperor countered with police terror and attempted to channel popular discontent into anti-Semitic outbreaks (see pogrom). At the same time, Piotr Stolypin (prime minister during 1906–11) tried to create a class of independent landowning peasants by breaking up and redistributing the land held by village communities (see mir); however, he refused to split up the estates held by large landlords and generally ignored the peasant masses. 
  Although the Russian economy was mainly agricultural and underdeveloped, industry—largely financed by foreign capital—was growing rapidly in a few centers, notably St. Petersburg, Moscow, and the Baku (Baky; now in Azerbaijan) oil fields. It was particularly among the industrial workers, who because of their geographic concentration possessed great political strength, that the leftist Social Democratic party found its adherents. The formal split of the party into Bolshevism and Menshevism in 1912 had crucial consequences after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917. By promoting Pan-Slavism in the Balkan Peninsula and in Austria-Hungary, Russia played a leading role in the events that led to the outbreak (1914) of World War I. Ill-prepared and cut off from its allies in the West, the country suffered serious reverses in the war at the hands of the Germans and Austrians. 
  Inflation, food shortages, and poor morale among the troops contributed to the outbreak of the February Revolution of 1917. Nicholas abdicated in Mar., 1917 (he was executed in July, 1918). A provisional government under Prince Lvov, a moderate, tried to continue the war effort, but was opposed by the soviets (councils) of workers and soldiers. Kerensky, who succeeded Lvov as prime minister in July, 1917, was also unable to enforce the authority of the central government. Finally, on Nov. 7, 1917 (Oct. 25 O.S.), the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, seized the government. Russia ended its involvement in World War I by signing the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Mar., 1918), under which it lost much territory to the Central Powers. 
  Shortly after the signing of the treaty, and partly because of the reaction to its poor terms, civil war (complicated by foreign intervention) broke out in Russia. It continued until 1920, when the Soviet regime emerged victorious. (For a more detailed account of the intellectual and political background of the Russian Revolution and for the events of the revolution and the civil war, see Russian Revolution.) Poland, Finland, and the Baltic countries emerged as independent states in the aftermath of the civil war; Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Transcaucasian countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia proclaimed their independence, but by 1921 were conquered by the Soviet armies. In 1917, Russia was officially proclaimed the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, which in 1922 was united with the Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Transcaucasian republics to form the see Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Great Patriotic War 1941-1945

    At 4.00 on June 22,1941 the German Army, by invading the territory of the USSR, opened the greatest battle in the history - the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945. The War unfolded on the front from Murmansk to Odessa, involving millions in it. Dramatic changes of the situation, greatest battles, tremendous losses-1417 days and nights included all it and more. Tens thousand of tanks, aircraft and millions of soldiers remained on the battlefields. In some aspects, the war still has not yet ended, as not all the dead are buried, and remains of Soviet and German soldiers are still laying in some hidden places in Russia as well as too many questions remain unanswered. 
    While preparing for the war against the USSR Germany created a vast military and economic potential based on its own resources and those of the European countries it occupied. 

    Germany together with its allies accumulated for aggression against the USSR 190 divisions, including 19 tank and 13 motorized divisions. The enemy military group numbered 5,500,000 people, about 4,500 tanks and assault guns, 47,200 artillery pieces and mortars, 4,980 combat planes, 192 warships. Germany planned to wage a Blitzkrieg against the USSR. 

   Efforts of the USSR aimed at establishing a system of collective security in the 1930s failed. The Non-aggression Pact with Germany signed in August 1939 helped to delay the war. However, the secret protocols signed together with the Pact and with the German-Soviet Treaty on Friendship and Borders of September 1939 were incompatible with the rules of international law and undermined the country's prestige. 

   The efficiency of efforts of the Soviet leadership to improve defense capability was impaired by serious mistakes in economic policy, military construction, mass repressions against army personnel, as well as in determining probable time of the beginning of war, that Stalin and his closest associates are mainly to blame for. 

   By June 1941 the Red Army had 187 divisions, including 40 tank and 20 motorized divisions. It numbered about 3,000,000 people, more than 38,000 artillery pieces and mortars, 13,100 tanks (8,800 in operating condition), 8,700 warplanes (7,400 in operating condition). The North, Baltic and Black Sea navies numbered 182 warships and 1,400 warplanes.
   The official Soviet/Russian historiography separates the war into three periods with the Soviet Union entering the war against Japan as a separate campaign. This approach appears to be politically biased as the campaigns, such as Winter/Finnish war, "Liberation" of Poland , Occupation of Baltic states etc., were taken out of the general context of the World War and considered as a chain of non-related events. Otherwise the division of the Great Patriotic War, i.e. 22.06.1941 - 9.05.1945, is reasonable as the periods are based on the main operations with Defense of Stalingrad marking the end of the first period. 
  The first period, lasting from June 22,1941 to November 18,1942, comprised three campaigns: Autumn-winter 1941, winter 1941/1942, and spring-autumn 1942. One of the most dramatic periods in the Russian history featured by the stunning defeats of the Red Army and heavy losses sustained during unsuccessful counter-offensives, defense operations. The German Army moved deep in the USSR and reached Moscow.
   The second periodlasted from November 19,1942 to December 31,1943 comprised two campaigns: Winter 1942/1943 and spring-autumn 1943.  Offense under Stalingrad 19.11.42-2.02.1943: part of the Stalingrad battle. 76 days. Front line-850 km. Advance: 150-200 km at 4-4.5 km/day. 1,143,500 men. Average losses 6,392 men/day. Comprised smaller operations : Uranium, Smaller Saturn - surrounding of German troops, The Circle-liqudation of surounded troops. The desitive victory was one of turning points of the war. About 1/4 of all German troops on the Eastern front were lost. The Red Army accumulated the massive forces for the task: 15500 pieces of artillery,1463 tanks, 1350 aircraft - 1.5-2.0 times more than the Germans could find. Besides the most of the Soviet troops were fresh units from the strategic reserve as opposed tot heir battered counterparts. The opening strike of the Soviet artillery equaled the tactical nuclear strike. The Italian and Romanian units were virtually annihilated when the Soviet Tank Corps entered the breakthrough on the flanks to cut through the steppes on the full speed to complete the surrounding of the German troops. 
   The third period January 1, 1944 to May 9, 1945 including winter-autumn campaign 1944, summer-autumn 1944 and campaign of 1945 in Europe.  By the beginning of that period Germany and other Axis Powers had accumulated 4,834,000 men, 54,570 artillery pieces and mortars, 3,700 tanks and assault guns, 3,073 airplanes and about 300 ships on the Eastern Front

    Meanwhile, the Soviet active forces numbered 6,165,000 men, 92,650 artillery pieces and mortars, 5,357 tanks and SPA, 8,506 planes and more than 300 ships of basic types. 

   The period included 3 campaigns: winter 1944, summer-autumn 1944, and 1945 European campaign. 

   In winter 1944 the Red Army carried out an offensive in the Ukraine, completely destroyed the Army Group South, then approached the Romanian border and carried the war into its territory. Almost simultaneously another offensive was launched in the Leningrad and Novgorod regions ending the siege of Leningrad. The Crimea was liberated as a result of the Crimea offensive operation. 

   In the course of that campaign the Soviet troops advanced 250-450 km and eventually came to the Czechoslovak frontier. 

  During summer — autumn 1944 compaign the Soviet troops completely liberated Belorussia, the Ukraine and the Baltic republics, and partially liberated Czechoslovakia; Romania was forced to capitulate and entered the war against Germany; the occupants were drawn out of the Soviet transpolar territories and northern regions of Norway.

   Successes scored by the Soviet army contributed to the progress made by the leaders of the USSR, Great Britain and the USA at the Yalta Conference in the Crimea

   The 1945 campaign in Europe ended in the German unconditional surrender. 

  On June 24 there was a Victory Parade held in Moscow. 

   An agreement on the post-war arrangement for Europe was reached by the leaders of the three Great Powers at the Potsdam Conference which took place from July to August 1945. 

   On August 9, 1945 the USSR, honoring its commitments to the Allies, launched hostilities against Japan. In the course of the Manchuria operation the Soviet forces destroyed the Kwantung Army, the enemy's major force, and liberated southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. Those successes were crucial to get Japan out of the war, which formalized its unconditional surrender on September 2, 1945. 

   The Great Patriotic War is one of the greatest events in the world history. By its scale, violent character, human losses and material damage incurred it is unmatched. That armed conflict unprecedented in human history covered a period of 1,418 days and nights. 

   At various stages of the war both sides of the Soviet-German front engaged from 8 to 12,800,000 men, 84,000 to 163,000 artillery pieces and mortars, and from 5,700 to 20,000 armored vehicles. 

   Over the four years of war 29,500,000 people were mobilized in the USSR, which adds up to 34,400,000 counting those in military service at the beginning of the war. The Soviet Army carried out more than 50 strategic and 259 front-line operations, as well as some 1,000 army operations, 75 per cent of which were offensive. The Red Army destroyed 607 divisions — the main forces of the Third Reich. 

   All the belligerents suffered substantial human casualties in the Great Patriotic War. 

   Some 27,000,000 Soviet people were killed in battle, in captivity or in the occupied territories. The German aggressors completely or partially destroyed and burnt 1,710 towns, more than 70,000 villages as well as over 6 millions buildings. 25,000,000 people were rendered homeless. The industrial infrastructure suffered heavily. About 32,000 plants and 65,000 km of railways were left in ruins. Agriculture was seriously damaged. The occupants devastated 98,000 collective farms, 1,876 state farms and 2,890 machine-and-tractor plants.

   Germany and its satellites lost over 10,000,000 men on the Eastern Front, while its overall death toll in World War II amounted to 13,600,000. In WWII Hitler's Germany suffered severe materiel losses, of which 75 per cent occurred on the Soviet-German front, including 50,878 armored vehicles, 493,439 artillery pieces and mortars, and 101,671 warplanes. 

   The key outcome of the Great Patriotic War is that the Soviet people and their armed forces withstood the extremely fierce and violent struggle, smashed Germany's mighty war machine and beat the nazi ideology, a spiritual basis for planning and waging annexation wars. 

   The consequences of the German defeat proved to be unprecedented, the country lost its territorial integrity and remained stateless for a number of years. 

   Experience of international cooperation, gained by the states forming the anti-Hitler coalition during that war, enriched human history. The system established by the Allies at the final phase of the war had a lot of positive aspects which paved the way for new developments in the field of international relations, such as the establishment of the United Nations, joint actions to eradicate nazism and militarism in Germany, and formation of various international mechanisms for discussing international problems. 

   On the threshold of the 55th anniversary of the Victory legislative acts been issued in Russia to support the veterans.

   On December 27, 1999 the President of the Russian Federation signed a Decree on Additional Measures of Social Assistance to Heroes of the Soviet Union and Heroes of the Russian Federation and Full Holders of Order of Glory, Veterans of the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War

   As of January 1, 2000 this Decree provides for additional life-long monthly financial assistance in the amount equivalent to ten times the minimum old-age pension.

   The Federal Law on Amendments and Additions to the Federal Law on Veterans was enacted on January 2, 2000. It envisages funding for programs of social security for veterans of war and persons who worked in the rear, families of killed servicemen, etc.

   Finally, on March 20, 2000 the President of the Russian Federation signed a Decree on Lump-Sum Payment to Certain Categories of Citizens of the RF on the Occasion of the 55th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945. The Decree stipulates that all the Great Patriotic War veterans and former under-age prisoners of concentration camps and ghettoes, who reside within the Russian Federation, shall receive a lump-sum payment in April 2000.

   Numerous events will be held nationwide to commemorate the anniversary of the Victory. 

   And the most important of them is to take place in the Red Square, where the Russian servicemen and young people, winners of the Looking-for-Trails-of-Our-Peers contest, are to join the veterans of the Great Patriotic War in the parade at the Red Square.

Post-Soviet Russia

   After more than seven decades of Soviet rule, the regime of President Gorbachev marked the end of repressive political controls and permitted nationalist movements to arise in the constituent republics of the USSR. In 1990, Boris Yeltsin and other nationalists and reformers were elected to the Russian parliament; Yeltsin was subsequently chosen Russian president. Under Yeltsin, Russia declared its sovereignty (but not its independence) and began to challenge the central government's authority. In 1991, Yeltsin was reelected in the first popular election for president in the history of the Russian Republic. 
  Yeltsin and the leaders of eight other republics reached a power-sharing agreement with Gorbachev, but its imminent signing provoked a coup attempt (Aug., 1991) by Soviet hard-liners. In the aftermath, the USSR disintegrated. With Ukraine and Belarus, Russia established the Commonwealth of Independent States. When Gorbachev resigned (Dec., 1991), Yeltsin had already taken control of most of the central government, and Russia assumed the USSR's UN seat. 
  Yeltsin moved rapidly to end or reduce state control of the economy, but control of parliament by former Communists led to conflicts and power struggles. On Sept. 21, 1993, Yeltsin suspended the parliament and called for new elections. Parliament retaliated by naming Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi as acting president, and anti-Yeltsin forces barricaded themselves inside the parliament building. On Oct. 3, supporters of the anti-Yeltsin group broke through a security cordon to join the occupation, and also attacked other sites in the capital. The military interceded on Yeltsin's side, and on Oct. 4, after a bloody battle, troops recaptured the parliament building. Many people were jailed, and the parliament was dissolved.  
   In Dec., 1993, voters approved a new constitution that strengthened presidential power, establishing a mixed presidential-parliamentary system similar to that of France. In legislative elections at the same time, Yeltsin supporters fell short of a majority, as voters also supported ultranationalists, radical reformers, Communists, and others. The Russian government, under Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, generally advocated moderate reform. The program made slow but discernible progress in stimulating growth and halting rampant inflation, but the economy continued to suffer from serious malfunctions, including a weak banking system and widespread corruption. 
  In Feb., 1994, parliament granted amnesty to persons implicated in the Aug., 1991, coup attempt and the Oct., 1993, rebellion. In the Dec., 1995, legislative elections the Communist party won the largest share of the vote (22%) and more than a third of the seats in the State Duma. The results were a new rebuff to Yeltsin and his government, and he subsequently replaced the more liberal ministers in the government with pragmatists and conservatives. Although his popularity had significantly diminished since he was first elected president, he ran again in June, 1996. He finished ahead of his chief rival, Communist Gennady Zyuganov, in the first round and was reelected after a runoff in July. Ministerial replacements continued, and in Mar., 1998, Yeltsin dismissed his entire cabinet, hiring a new group of economic reformers and naming Sergei Kiriyenko as prime minister. By August he had dismissed many of his top aides and attempted to reinstate Chernomyrdin as prime minister. The nomination was rejected by parliament, however, and Yevgeny Primakov, a compromise candidate agreeable to reformers and Communists, became the prime minister in September; two Communists became ministers in the government. 
  Primakov acted as a stabilizing influence, avoiding economic disaster in the wake of Russia's Aug., 1998, financial crisis, but his increasing popularity and his public support for the Communists in his government even as their party was mounting an impeachment of Yeltsin in the Duma led to his firing in May, 1999. Yeltsin appointed Sergei Stepashin as prime minister, and the impeachment failed to win the necessary votes. A sense of political crisis returned in August when Islamic militants from Chechnya invaded Dagestan (see below), and Yeltsin replaced Stepashin with Vladimir Putin. After a series of terrorist bombings in Moscow and elsewhere that were blamed on Chechen militants, Putin launched an invasion of Chechnya. That action bolstered his popularity, as did a slight upturn in the economy due to rising prices for oil, Russia's most important export (industrial output continued to contract). Although with slightly less than a quarter of the vote the Communist party remained the single largest vote-getter in the Dec., 1999, parliamentary elections, center-right parties allied with Putin won nearly a third, and the vote was regarded as a mandate for Putin. On Dec. 31, Yeltsin resigned as president, and Putin became acting president. 
  One of Putin's first acts was to form an alliance with the Communists in the Duma; together his supporters (the Unity bloc) and the Communists held about 40% of the seats. In the elections of Mar., 2000, Putin bested ten other candidates to win election as Russia's president. Putin introduced several measures designed to increase central government control over the various Russian administrative units, including grouping them in seven large regional districts, ending the right of the units' executives to serve in the Federation Council, and suspending a number of laws that conflicted with federal law. He also won the authority to remove governors and dissolve legislatures that enact laws that conflict with the national constitution. Mikhail M. Kasyanov, a liberal, was appointed prime minister, and a broad plan for liberal economic reforms was enacted. The alliance with the Communists lasted until 2002, when Unity, which had earlier absorbed the populist Fatherland bloc, was strong enough to control the Duma alone.  
   Putin secured parliamentary ratification of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty and the SALT II treaty (see disarmament, nuclear), and actively opposed modifying the ABM treaty so that the United States could build a larger missile defense system than the agreement permitted. Russia has proposed, however, a mobile, pan-European missile defense system that would function similarly, although it would not violate the ABM treaty. Significant reductions in the size of the armed forces also have been undertaken. 
  Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia has had to confront separatist movements in several ethnically based republics and other areas, including Tatarstan and, most notably, Chechnya, which declared independence upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in Dec., 1991. Russian troops were sent there in Dec., 1994; subsequent fighting resulted in heavy casualties, with the Chechen capital of Grozny reduced to rubble by Russian bombardment. A peace accord between Russia and Chechnya was signed in Moscow in May, 1996. The invasion of Dagestan by Islamic militants from Chechnya in 1999 and a series of terrorist bombings in Russia during Aug.–Sept., 1999, however, led to Russian air raids on Chechnya in Sept., 1999, and a subsequent full-scale ground invasion of the breakaway republic that again devastated its capital and resulted in ongoing guerrilla warfare. Chechen terrorists have also continued to mount attacks outside Chechnya, including the seizure of a crowded Moscow theater in Oct., 2002, and a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in Sept, 2004.
   In the mid- and late 1990s, Russia took steps toward closer relations with some of the former Soviet republics. Several agreements designed to bring about economic, military, and political integration with Belarus were signed, but progress toward that goal has been slow. Both nations also signed an agreement with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that called for establishing stronger ties. Tajikistan later joined the customs union the four established, and in 2000 the union became the Eurasian Economic Community. Years of negotiations with Ukraine over the disposition of the Black Sea fleet ended in an accord in 1997 that divided the ships between them and permitted Russia to base its fleet in Sevastopol for 20 years. 
  The agreement with Ukraine was seen in part as an attempt to forestall closer Ukrainian ties with NATO. Russia has objected to any NATO expansion that excludes Russia; in June, 1994, Russia reluctantly agreed to an association with NATO under the arrangement known as the Partnership for Peace. Although several former Eastern European satellites joined NATO in 1999, any expansion that included nations once part of the Soviet Union would be highly sensitive. In the civil war and subsequent clashes in the former Yugoslavia, Russia was sympathetic toward the Serbs, a traditional ally, and there was considerable Russian opposition to such policies as NATO's bombing of Serb positions, especially in 1999. 
  Under Putin, Russia also has revived its ties with many former Soviet client states, and used its economic leverage to reassert its sway over the more independent-minded former Soviet republics, particularly Georgia. The country has nonetheless continued to maintain warmer ties with the West than the old Soviet Union did. Putin was an earlier supporter of the U.S. “war on terrorism”, and in 2001 Russia began to explore establishing closer ties with NATO, which culminated in the establishment (2002) of a NATO-Russia Council through which Russia could participate in NATO discussions on many nondefense issues. Russia even returned to Afghanistan, providing aid in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Taliban. Russia did, however, resist the idea of resorting to military intervention in Iraq in order to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and as the United States pressed in 2003 for a Security Council resolution supporting the use of force, Russia joined France in vowing to veto such a resolution. By the end of 2003, Russia had experienced five years of steady economic growth, and recovered (and even seen benefits) from the collapse of the ruble in 1998.
   In 2003 tensions flared with Ukraine over the Kerch Strait, sparked by Russia's building of a sea dike there, but the conflict was peacefully resolved. In Sept., 2003, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine signed an agreement to create a common economic space. Internally, there was a conflict between the government and the extremely rich tycoons known as the oligarchs over the extent of the role business executives would be allowed to play in politics. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, chairman of the Russian oil giant Yukos, was arrested in October on charges of fraud and tax evasion, but his political aspirations and the government's desire to regain control over valuable resources were believed to have had as much to due with the government's move against him as any crime. In Dec., 2004, Yukos assests were sold to a little-known, newly established company that was soon acquired by a state-run oil company, and Khodorkovsky was convicted in May, 2005, in a verdict that took the judges 12 days to read. Meanwhile, the Dec., 2003, elections resulted in a major victory for the United Russia bloc and its allies. The loose group of Putin supporters ultimately secured two thirds of the seats, but outside observers criticized the election campaign for being strongly biased toward pro-government candidates and parties. 
  Prior to the Mar., 2004 presidential elections Putin dismissed Prime Minister Kasyanov and his government; the prime minister had been critical of Yukos investigation. Mikhail Y. Fradkov, who had served largely in a number of economic and trade positions, was named to replace Kasyanov. Putin was reelected by a landslide in Mar., 2004, but observers again criticized the campaign as biased. A series of deadly, Chechnya-related terror attacks during the summer culminated in the seizure of a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, which ended with the deaths more of more than 300 people, many of them children. Putin responded by calling for, among other changes, an end to the election of Duma representatives from districts and the appointment (instead of election) of the executives of oblasts and similar divisions of Russia. These moves, which were subsequently enacted, further centralized power in the Russian Federation and diminished its federal aspects. The federal government also sought to reduce the number of oblasts and regions by encouraging the merger of smaller units into larger ones.
   In Oct., 2004, Russia and China, whose relations had continued to improve, signed a number of agreements and finally resolved all disputes concerning their common border. Russia's reputation suffered internationally, however, in late 2004 when it threw its support behind government candidates in Ukraine and the Georgian region of Abkhazia; in both elections, the candidates Moscow opposed ultimately succeeded despite strong resistance on the part of the existing governments to change. Russia subsequently (Mar., 2005) moved quickly to side with opponents of Kyrgyzstan president Akayev when he was forced from office. Large-scale violence re-erupted in the Caucasus in Oct., 2005, when militants with ties to the Chechen rebels mounted coordinated attacks in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria.


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