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Peter I the Great (1672–1725) Peter I the Great (1672–1725), Russias first emperor and the most celebrated one of the Romanov dynasty. The world history knew not many brilliant reformers like Peter. His sweeping reform modernized all sides of Russia including legislation, courts, finances, cities, church, army and social life. The Great Northern War of 1700 – 1721, during which Russia with its allies Denmark and Saxony opposed Sweden to seize the Baltic coast, became the engine of Peters reform. In order to win, Peter needed a strong, trained army well provided with ammunition, uniform, money, etc. That was the period when Russian industry was born and administration and financial systems were changed. In 1703, after Russia re-captured the Neva River mouth during the Northern War, the new capital Saint Petersburg was founded. From its first day, Peter had the idea of surrounding it with a number of luxurious suburban estates and palaces. One of the remote estates was Saarskaya Myza, which was to become the famous Tsarskoye Selo. After the Northern War, Peter was proclaimed Emperor of All the Russias. Russia became an empire. Peter the Great died on 28 January 1725 (Old Style) without naming a successor.
Empress Catherine I (1684–1727) The life of Empress Catherine I (1684–1727) was like a Cinderella story. A commoner doing laundry and kitchen work, she took her lucky chance to ascend the Russian throne. An orphan early, Martha Skavronska was a servant at the Lutheran pastor Ernst Glücks house in Marienburg (now Alūksne, Latvia). At the age of seventeen, she was married off to a Swedish dragoon, but only for eight days until the town was captured by Russian forces during the Northern War. I n 1705, while visiting his favourite Menshikovs house, Peter the Great met Martha, and shortly after, he took her as his own mistress. She converted to Orthodoxy, changed her name to Yekaterina Alexeyevna, and soon became Peters closest partner. They officially married in Catherine became Peters second wife, while his first one, Eudoxia Lopukhina, who did not understand his reforms and rejected them, had been forced by Peter to become a nun back in After Peters death in 1725, Catherine was the first woman to rule Imperial Russia. The real power, however, lay with His Serene Highness Prince Menshikov, who dominated the Supreme Privy Council, an executive innovation. Catherine Is reign did not last long. She died in 1727, just two years after Peter.
Peter II ( ) Peter II Alexeyevich ( ), the only son of Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich ( ) and Princess Charlotte of Brunswick-Lüneburg ( ) and the only male-line grandson of Peter I ( ) and his first wife Evdokia Lopukhina ( ). He succeeded the throne after Catherine I, Peter Is second wife, in 1727 and was Emperor of Russia until his death of smallpox. Anna Ivanovna ( ) Anna Ivanovna ( ), daughter of Peter the Greats half-brother and co-ruler, Ivan V ( ), and his wife, Praskovia Saltykova ( ). She became Empress of Russia in 1730 after the death of her first cousin once removed, Emperor Peter II ( ).
Ivan VI ( ) Ivan VI Antonovich ( ) was born in St Petersburg to Prince Antony Ulrich of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Duchess Anna Leopoldovna of Mecklenburg, niece of Empress Anna of Russia and grand-daughter of Tsar Ivan V. He was proclaimed Emperor as an infant in October 1740, according to the last will of his great-aunt, Empress Anna. On 9 November 1940, his mother declared herself Empress of Russia. Within less than a year, she and Ivan were overthrown by Peter the Greats daughter, Elizabeth. Ivan spent his life as a prisoner since 1741 to 1764 and was killed by his guards during an attempt made to free him.
Elizabeth (1709 – 1761) Elizabeth (1709 – 1761), the second-oldest daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine I of Russia, was born during the period of Peters military victories. In autumn 1741, she overthrew Tsar Ivan VI of Russia, arrested and exiled the Brunswick-Lüneburg family, and usurped the throne. Her reign was one of the calmest, with no natural disasters or social riots. Even the European Seven Years War, which started in 1756, lasted only four years for Russia, and was victorious for the Russian army. Not one person was executed on Elizabeths orders during her reign. She continued Peter the Great's policies in modernizing Russia, repealed all acts enabled after her fathers death, enhanced the importance of the Senate, established first Russian loan banks for the merchant class, etc. However, she did not trouble about affairs too often. Extraordinarily beautiful and fashion-conscious, Elizabeth adored fineries, balls, masquerades, concerts and other entertainments. Her life of endless enjoyment required luxurious scenery. The brilliant Italian architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli built for the Empress about twenty grandiose baroque palaces. At one of them, the Winter Palace, she died.
Peter III ( ) Peter III Fiodorovich ( ), or Karl Peter Ulrich before his conversion to Russian Orthodoxy, was Emperor of Russia for six months within His parents were Duke Karl Friedrich of Holstein-Gottorp (nephew of Charles XII of Sweden) and Anna Petrovna ( ), a daughter of Emperor Peter the Great of Russia and his second wife, Catherine I of Russia. He was the first of the Romanov-Holstein-Gottorp line which ruled Russia until In 1745, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna arranged Peters marriage with Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst (later Catherine the Great), by whom he had two children: Paul ( ), later Emperor Paul I of Russia, and Anna ( ). As a result of the 1726 palace coup led by his wife, Peter III was dethroned and assassinated.
Catherine II (1729–1796) Catherine II (1729–1796) went down in Russian history as the Great: her reign became Russias Golden Age, the time of great reforms and glorious victories. Born Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst, she was settled on by the Empress Elizabeth of Russia as a bride for her nephew. The young Princess was brought to Russia in 1744, given the name Cathrine Alexeyevna on her conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church, and married off to the future Emperor Peter III of Russia in In 1762, Catherines loyal Leib Guard (Imperial Russian Guard) revolted, deposed Peter, and proclaimed her the ruler of Russia. Catherine II had a remarkable way with people and knew how to be liked and surrounded with outstanding and loyal companions. During her 34 years reign, Russia gained several glorious victories in the Russo-Turkish Wars (1768 – 1774 and 1787 – 1791), defeated the Ottoman Empire forces, annexed the Crimea and obtained access to the Black Sea shores, where the Russians founded many new cities, including Sevastopol. Russia expanded south and west and become a multinational empire. In spite of Catherines image as an enlightened despot, in the last years the degree of her growing intolerance and conservatism became evident in her harsh treatment of such social writers as Alexander Radischev, Nikolai Novikov, and others. Baneful was also the influence of Catherines last favourites, especially Prince Platon Zubov. The Empress suffered a sudden stroke in 1796 and died intestate.
Paul I (1754–1801) Paul I (1754–1801), the only legitimate son of Catherine II, should have become emperor right after his father Peter IIIs death, but he ascended the throne only after the death of his mother. While she ruled, he resided in Gatchina at an estate which Catherine had granted to her favourite Grigory Orlov first, and then, after Orlovs death in 1781, to Paul. There, far from the always intriguing court, he tried to build his own regular kingdom based on strict discipline – a prototype of his future empire. When he became emperor, Paul attempted to extend his estates order to the whole country. His reforms were meant to heal Russia: he fought embezzlement of state funds, tried to restrain serfdom, and established the strict principle of primogeniture in the House of Romanov. Paul Is reign lasted only for 4 years, 4 months and 6 days. Most of his policies were viewed as a great annoyance to the losing their privileges nobility and army brass, and induced a conspiracy against him. On the night of 23 March 1801, a band of conspirators headed by St. Petersburg Military Governor Count Peter Pahlen charged into Pauls bedroom in the newly built St Michael's Castle and strangled him. According to another version of the story, Pauls death resulted from a stroke at his temple with a golden snuffbox.
Alexander I ( ) Alexander I was Catherine IIs eldest grandson whom she greatly favoured and intended to leave the crown to, instead of her son Paul. Alexander succeeded to the throne after his father Emperor Paul Is assassination by noble conspirators. Russian liberals had high hopes for the young Emperor Alexander I. One of the first acts of his reign was to appoint the Private Committee, comprising young and enthusiastic friends of his own, to draw up a scheme of internal reform, which was supposed to result in an establishing of constitutional monarchy. But he did not venture to restrict autocracy, and in time lost interest in reform. His reign was also marked by the French invasion of Russia in 1812, when the Russian army routed Napoleons considered invincible Grande Armée. After the war, Alexander incredibly raised his meticulous will-follower Count Alexey Arakcheyev, who managed army supplies and organized military-agricultural colonies. In his last years, the Emperor became very devout and dreamed of solitude. He died in 1825 on the way to Taganrog in the south of Russia, where the Emperor undertook a voyage due to the increasing illness of his wife.
Nicholas I (1796 – 1855) Nicholas I (1796 – 1855) was not brought up to be the Emperor of Russia as he had two elder brothers before him, Emperor Alexander I and Grand Duke Constantine, both childless. He had to accept the throne after his first-eldest brothers sudden death and his second-eldest brothers refusal. His reign started with the bloody suppressing of the Decembrist Revolt in December 14, Nicholas sincerely whished to do a lot of good for Russia but didnt know how. Nicholas was called Don Quixote of autocracy because he saw his main role in keeping the existing social system firm. The guiding principle of his regime was the program of autocracy, Orthodoxy, and nationality devised by the minister of education, Sergey Uvarov. Nicholas Is 30 years reign left his contemporaries with a feeling of regret for neglected opportunities. However, those were the years when the expanding Russian Empire included Georgia and almost all Transcaucasia, and Russian culture rose extraordinarily and saw the success of poets Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov, writers Nikolai Gogol and Aleksey Khomyakov, artists Karl Briullov and Orest Kiprensky, composers Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Dargomyzhsky, and many others.
Alexander II ( ) Alexander II became known as Tsar the Liberator able to implement the most challenging reforms undertaken in Russia since the reign of Peter the Great. During his reign, Russia continued its expansion into Central Asia. Alexander IIs most important reform was the abolition of serfdom with the Tsar's Emancipation Manifesto of February 19, Then other reforms followed: jury trial; local self-government for rural districts and larger towns possessing restricted rights; more or less independent printed media; higher education available to the lower classes, etc. In the 1860s, a Russian revolutionary organization of Narodniki (close to the people, populists) appeared, lead by a party called Land and Liberty. Its supporters of the political struggle against autocracy split off as a party called Narodnaya Volya (Peoples Will) and were keen to kill the Emperor. They made seven thwarted attempts on his life, but the eighths one of March 1, 1881 resulted in Alexanders fatal wounding. His consequent death was taken by many as a national catastrophe.
Alexander III (1845–1894) Alexander III (1845–1894) was a born conservator; his fathers assassination by terrorists only assured him that Russia was not ready for a more liberal society. He turned Russia back to the old ideals of patriotism and populism protected by autocracy. Under the reign of Alexander III, Russias prestige was enormously high, and the country lived peacefully and orderly. Keeping Russia from war conflicts, he went down in Russian history as Tsar the Peacemaker whose reign gave the country a powerful upsurge in economic and cultural activity at the turn of the twentieth century. An enthusiastic art lover and one of the major patrons of Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers or The Itinerants, a group of Russian realist artists), Alexander III gathered a remarkable collection of Russian paintings which formed the nucleus of fine art holdings of Alexander IIIs visual arts museum at the Mikhailovsky Palace (now the State Russian Museum). Noted for his immense height and physical strength, the nearly 50-year-old Emperor died of nephritis at his favourite Livadia Palace in the Crimea, amongst his loving wife and children.
Nicholas II (1868–1918) Nicholas II (1868–1918) saw his monarchic duty in protecting autocracy. The early years of his reign were distinguished by Russian industrial unprecedented growth rate, exceeding that of all other countries in the world. The House of Romanovs tercentennial anniversary in 1913 saw Russia on the rise. The outbreak of World War I in summer 1914 revealed Russias lack of modern military technology. By 1916, Russia was on the verge of collapse. Acute food shortages made life in cities unbearable. Revolutionaries agitated the troops against the Tsar. In February 1917, the Petrograd garrison mutinied. The Provisional Government, formed by members of the Parliament (Duma), failed to stop the revolution and save the monarchy. Nicholas II was forced to abdicate. The Russian monarchy fell. The last Russian emperor was arrested on March 8, 1917 and in July moved together with his family to Tobolsk in the Urals, and then to Yekaterinburg in May 1918, where they were shot on the order of the Bolsheviks.