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  Discover Russia History


Russian History: brief guide

From Slavic tribes to power
of Grand Duchy of Moscow
(7th - 17th Centuries)

Russian Empire
(18-beg. the 20th centuries)

Soviet Times

Modern Russia

From Slavic tribes to power of Grand Duchy of Moscow (7th - 17th Centuries)

Kievan Rus, Baptism of the Rus, Tatar-Mongols invasion, Rise of Moscow Principality, Ivan the Terrible, Time of Troubles, Romanovs on the throne

7-8 century: The Tribes of Eastern Slavs – the ancient ancestors of Russians occupied Eastern European Valley around 7th century, step by step they became the dominant power. Russians or Ruses were one of the Slavic tribes, but later this name was applied for the great number of people who settled in the area between Baltic, White, Caspian and Black seas.

9 century: Kievan Rus', a predecessor state to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, was established. According to Russian chronicles, Rurik was elected as a ruler of Novgorod in 862. His successor Oleg the Prophet moved south and founded the state with the capital in town Kiev. That is why the country was called Kievan Rus’. Other major cities of Slavs were Suzdal, Chernigov, Rostov, Vladimir, Novgorod. Kievan Rus’ soon united most of East Slavic lands.

10-11 centuries: Kievan Rus' became the largest and most prosperous state in Europe. In 988 ruler of Kievan Rus’ prince Vladimir adopted Christianity from Byzantium as a dominant religion of the state.

12 century: Time by time, regional centers became powerful enough to claim independence from Kiev. Finally Kievan Rus’ transformed into the bulk of independent principalities. Kiev's dominance was lost, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, Novgorod in the north-west and Galicia-Volhynia in the south-west.

13th century: Kievan Rus’ was attacked by Mongols. The separate armies of principalities were defeated one by one. The result was the destruction of Kiev and the death of about a half of total population of Rus'. The invaders, later known as Tatars, formed the state of the Golden Horde, which vassalized the Russian principalities for over three centuries. Pskov and Republic of Novgorod were the only regions which remained independent. Led by 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 colonize the Northern Rus'.

14 century: The most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus' was the Grand Duchy of Moscow or "Moscovy" as it was called in the Western chronicles, initially a part of Vladimir-Suzdal principality. The advantage of Moscow was a remote and forested location, which prevented frequent Mongol attacks. Moscow began to assert its influence in Western Russia in the early 14th century. Moscow Princes managed to establish a good relations with Mongols and used it to increase the wealth and power of Moscow. Prince Dmitri Donskoy of Moscow, supported by Russian Orthodox Church gathered the united army of Russian principalities to beat the Mongols in the severe Battle of Kulikovo in 1380.

15 century: Ivan III (called Ivan the Great) finished the Tatar’s control and consolidated the whole of Central and Northern Rus' under Moscow's dominion. He was the first to take the title "Grand Duke of all the Russia". 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 Russian, coat-of-arms. Finally, to the end of 15th century Moscovy gained control over the most of Russian lands and started exploring further. Kremlin walls and towers of red brick were built in Moscow with the help of Italian architects.

16 century: In development of the Third Rome ideas, the Grand Duke Ivan IV was officially crowned the first Tzar (Russian version of Byzantium "Caesar") of Russia in 1547. He went to history chronicles as Ivan the Terrible for his brutal and cruel treatment with his opponents and enemies. Under his reign Russia doubled its territory by conquering Tartar states along Volga river colonization of Siberia. By the end of the 16th century Russia was transformed into a multiethnic, multiconfessional and transcontinental state. Magnificent St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red square was built to commemorate victory over Kazan Khanate.

17 century: The death of Ivan's son marked the end of the old Rurik’s Dynasty wich led to the period of chaos and civil called Smutnoye Vremya (Time of Troubles). There were many candidates who fought for the crown. Unstable situation was used by Sweden and Poland, who invaded Russian territories and even captured Moscow in 1610. However Russia managed to fight back, with the help of merchant Minin and Prince Pozharsky (see the monument to them on the Red Square) who led the militia army and drove Poles out, reclaiming all the lost territory. The new Tzar was chosen in 1613. It was Mikhail Romanov who started 300 years reign of Romanov’s dynasty, which lasted until the revolution in 1917.

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