The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia, spanned Eurasia from 1721 to 1917 and also held colonies in North America between 1799 and 1867. It succeeded the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad, which ended the Great Northern War, and its rise coincided with the decline of neighbouring rival powers: the Swedish Empire, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Qajar Iran, the Ottoman Empire, and Qing China. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Russian Empire and the February Revolution, the short-lived Russian Provisional Government proclaimed the establishment of the Russian Republic as a successor across its territories. Covering an area of approximately 22,800,000 square kilometres (8,800,000 sq mi), it remains the third-largest empire in history, surpassed only by the British Empire and the Mongol Empire; it ruled over a population of 125.6 million people per the 1897 Russian census, which was the only census carried out during the entire imperial period. Like all empires, it featured great ethnic, linguistic, religious, and economic diversity.
|Motto: "Съ нами Богъ!"|
S nami Bog! ("God is with us!")
"Громъ побҍды, раздавайся!"
Grom pobedy, razdavaysia! (1791–1816)
("Let the Thunder of Victory Rumble!") (unofficial)
"Коль славенъ нашъ Господь в Сіонҍ"
Kol' slaven nash Gospod' v Sione (1794–1816)
("How Glorious Is Our Lord in Zion") (unofficial)
Molitva russkikh (1816–1833)
("The Prayer of Russians")
"Боже, Царя храни!"
Bozhe Tsarya khrani! (1833–1917)
("God Save the Tsar!")
|Greater coat of arms (1882–1917):|
|Largest city||Saint Petersburg|
|Recognised languages||Polish, German (in Baltic provinces), Finnish, Swedish, Ukrainian, Chinese (in Dalian)|
71.10% Orthodox (official)
|Government||Unitary absolute monarchy|
Unitary parliamentary semi-constitutional monarchy
• 1721–1725 (first)
• 1894–1917 (last)
• 1810–1812 (first)
• 1917 (last)
|10 September 1721|
|2 November 1721|
|4 February 1722|
|26 December 1825|
|3 March 1861|
|18 October 1867|
|January 1905 – July 1907|
|30 October 1905|
• Constitution adopted
|6 May 1906|
|8–16 March 1917|
• Republic proclaimed
|14 September 1917|
|1895||22,800,000 km2 (8,800,000 sq mi)|
From the 10th–17th centuries, the land was ruled by a noble class known as the boyars, above whom was a tsar (later adapted as the "Emperor of all the Russias"). The groundwork leading up to the establishment of the Russian Empire was laid by Ivan III (1462–1505): he tripled the territory of the Russian state and laid its foundation, renovating the Moscow Kremlin and also ending the dominance of the Golden Horde. From 1721 until 1762, the Russian Empire was ruled by the House of Romanov; its matrilineal branch of patrilineal German descent, the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov, ruled from 1762 until 1917. At the beginning of the 19th century, the territory of the Russian Empire extended from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea in the south, and from the Baltic Sea in the west to Alaska, Hawaii, and California in the east. By the end of the 19th century, it had expanded its control over most of Central Asia and parts of Northeast Asia.
Peter I (1682–1725) fought numerous wars and expanded an already vast empire into a major power of Europe. During his rule, he moved the Russian capital from Moscow to the new model city of Saint Petersburg, which was largely built according to designs of the Western world; he also led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval socio-political customs with a modern, scientific, rationalist, and Western-oriented system. Catherine the Great (1762–1796) presided over a golden age: she expanded the Russian state by conquest, colonization, and diplomacy, while continuing Peter I's policy of modernization towards a Western model. Alexander I (1801–1825) played a major role in defeating the militaristic ambitions of Napoleon and subsequently constituting the Holy Alliance, which aimed to restrain the rise of secularism and liberalism across Europe. The Russian Empire further expanded to the west, south, and east, concurrently establishing itself as one of the most powerful European powers. Its victories in the Russo-Turkish Wars were later checked by defeat in the Crimean War (1853–1856), leading to a period of reform and intensified expansion into Central Asia. Alexander II (1855–1881) initiated numerous reforms, most notably the 1861 emancipation of all 23 million serfs. His official policy involved the responsibility of the Russian Empire towards the protection of Eastern Orthodox Christians residing within the Ottoman-ruled territories of Europe; this was one factor that later led to the Russian entry into World War I on the side of the Allied Powers against the Central Powers.
Until the 1905 Russian Revolution, the Russian Empire functioned as an absolute monarchy, following which a semi-constitutional monarchy was nominally established. However, it functioned poorly during World War I, leading to the February Revolution. With the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917, the monarchy was abolished. The October Revolution saw the Bolsheviks seize power in the Russian Republic, sparking the Russian Civil War. In 1918, the Bolsheviks executed the Romanov family, and after emerging victorious from the Russian Civil War in 1922–1923, they established the Soviet Union across most of the territory of the former Russian Empire.