From 1237 to 1480, following an invasion. the Russian principalities were subjected to rule by Mongols and Tatars (this period is often referred to as the ‘Mongol Yoke’.) Prince Dmitiri of Moscow led the fightback with a spectacular victory at Kulikova in 1380. This year is marked as the start of the Mongol decline; from this point, the Russian principalities, particularly Muscovy, consolidated their power. It was from this time that Russia started to be thought of as an independent nation.
Under rulers such as Ivan IV (‘the Terrible’), the Russian principalities seized control of numerous khanates, gaining huge swathes of territory in northern Asia. By this time, Moscow was by far the most dominant principality. During Peter the Great's reign in the 18th century, victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War led to Russia becoming a major European power. This position was further bolstered by the rule of Catherine the Great, who pushed the Russian border further into Central Europe. Russia also expanded its territory into North and North-East Asia at this time.
The late 19th century saw a substantial increase in Russia's industrial development. There was a concomitant rise of various socialist movements, which culminated in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the creation of the world's first socialist country, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics or Soviet Union. There followed a civil war in which the communists eventually prevailed.
In 1924, Joseph Stalin became the effective dictator of an increasingly brutal totalitarian state. Millions were forcibly repatriated, persecuted or killed. Following his death in 1953, the oppression eased slowly. Meanwhile, from 1945, tensions between the USSR-led Warsaw Pact and the USA-led NATO had escalated into the Cold War. Both sides vied for supremacy, often using whatever means available, though the Soviet Union was the more ruthless of the two sides.
In 1985, President Gorbachev started the decommissioning of the totalitarian state in earnest, and in 1991 the USSR was dissolved. The Russian Federation, the largest of the 15 Soviet republics, was widely accepted as the USSR’s successor state in diplomatic affairs, assuming its permanent membership and veto in the UN Security Council. In the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union’s downfall, Russia became more liberal and seemed to be heading towards a more stable, democratic future.
However, Russia has (quite reasonably) viewed the continuing eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union as a threat, and, under President Putin, has (less than reasonably) shown aggression towards its neighbours. Both Georgia and the Ukraine have been attacked; in 2014 the Ukrainian province of Crimea was annexed. Such actions are an unwelcome reminder of the dark days of the Soviet era.
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