In 1613 the Assembly of the Land elected Michael Romanov tsar. Michael was the son of the patriarch of Moscow and a great-nephew of Ivan IV’s wife. The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia until 1917, when a revolution ended imperial rule in Russia.
During the three centuries of Romanov rule, the dominant thread was the state’s determination that Russia become and remain a great European power. Since Central and Western Europe were economically and culturally more advanced than Russia, this policy demanded great ingenuity from the rulers and even greater sacrifice and suffering from the population. The law code of 1649 effectively divided the society into ranks and occupational classes from which neither the individual nor his or her descendants could move. Previous laws prohibiting the movement of peasants from estates were extended to include movement from cities and towns. Thus, the law code froze not only social status but also residency. By the mid-18th century the state had succeeded in making Russia militarily and economically powerful, but at the cost of imposing a harsh form of serfdom and despotic rule.
In the early 19th century, French emperor Napoleon I invaded Russia and was defeated. Russia was then widely viewed, both at home and abroad, as continental Europe’s most powerful empire. Other European countries subsequently became more powerful, however, as their economies underwent the vast changes of the Industrial Revolution, which began in England and took a number of generations to spread across Europe. The Industrial Revolution did not reach Russia until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Crimean War (1853-1856), in which Russia was defeated by France and Britain, showed that industrialized countries could equip, arm, transport, and pay for much more formidable armies and fleets than largely agricultural countries such as Russia.
After the war the Romanov regime was forced to rapidly modernize the economy in order to ensure the country’s security and its position among the Great Powers, which also included Austria, Britain, France, and Prussia.
At the beginning of World War I in 1914, Russia’s economy was more industrialized and its people were more urbanized and literate than they had been before the Crimean War. Still, Russia was well behind Germany and Britain. In addition, rapid modernization created acute conflicts between classes and nationalities. The strains of World War I caused internal conflicts and brought down the Romanov dynasty in 1917. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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