Russian Political History

Joseph Stalin

Russian History is politically complex. From its earliest emergence to the present Russian Federation, the country’s long story is fascinating.

Modern day Russia has emerged over centuries of complicated history spurned by evolving political views and shifts in government. Beginning with its emergence from the Dark Ages, the geographical area of Russia has been heavily influenced by powerful rulers who have overseen its path from kingdom, to empire, to Soviet Republic, to modern state on the global scene.

Emergence Through Russian Empire

Dating back to the 12th century, the Principality of Muscovy, emerged from over 200 years of Mongol domination (13th-15th centuries). Muscovy expanded by conquering and absorbing surrounding principalities. In the 14th century, Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, was the first Russian ruler to call himself tsar. By the early 17th century, the Romanov Dynasty continued to conquer and expanded across Siberia to the Pacific. Under Peter I (ruled 1682-1725), territory was extended to the Baltic Sea, and the country was renamed the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great, followed by Alexander I continued the expansion and established Russia as a European power.

Russian Revolution and Soviet Union

During the later 19th century, the beginnings of civil unrest began to occur. Its economy could not keep up with those of other Western countries, and there were repeated attempts at reform and liberation by various national movements. Then, the defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 contributed to the Revolution of 1905, resulting in the formation of a parliament and other reforms. The overwhelming defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire. It eventually culminated into the 1917 Russian Revolution that overthrew the Romanov royal family and allowed the Bolshevik party to take over the country.

Vladimir Lenin seized control and established the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. After Lenin, “…the brutal rule of Josef Stalin (1928-53) strengthened Communist rule and Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. In the 1930s, Stalin oversaw the forced collectivization of tens of millions of its citizens in state agricultural and industrial enterprises. Millions died in the process. Millions more died in political purges, the vast penal and labor system, and in state-created famines.” (Russia, globalEdge) The Soviet economy and society declined in the next 30 or so years until General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91) introduced “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (restructuring) in an attempt to improve the government, but his policies failed to please the people, who were not satisfied with half-freedoms. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned as Soviet President; the U.S.S.R. was formally dissolved eleven days later.

Russia Today

Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to replace the social, political, and economic controls of the Communist period.In the last eight years, we have seen a recentralization of power under Vladimir Putin and democratic institutions remain weak. Putin attained popularity by instituting some economic reforms that rescued the economy and halted hyperinflation, and by stabilizing the government.


  1. “Russia Country Insight”. globalEDGE.
  2. “Russian Federation:Country Web Pages”. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.