Cohorts of Ivan IV executed a series of bloody battles, and, coupled with additional epidemics and poor harvests plaguing the country, Russia became severely weakened in the late 1500s.
Following the death of Ivan IV, troubled times prevailed across Russia, as extremely cold summers led to a famine and civil wars broke out across the country. Further adding to their misfortune, on September 21, 1610 Poland invaded Moscow, savagely repressing riots, and setting the city on fire.
A volunteer army, led by Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, pushed out the Polish forces in 1612, and the following year Michael Romanov was elected to the throne (thus beginning the 300 year control of the Romanov family).
Czar Peter I brought autocracy into Russia, and really began the transformation of the Russian Empire. After the reign of Queen Catherine II, it emerged as an influential and powerful European force.
Under Catherine the Great, Russia's political control was extended to cover the Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth, and a war was waged that completely decayed the Ottoman Empire, thus advancing Russia's southern boundary to the Black Sea.
In the early 19th century, Nicholas I succeeded the throne, only to be confronted by an uprising; conflicting views from Peter the Great's order of action to westernize Russia garnered widely varied opinions on whether to imitate Europe or return to the traditions of the past.
Despite the civil dispute, Russia was ultimately pressured into the involvement of European affairs as part of the "Holy Alliance."
After the death of Tsar Nicholas, Russia became involved in a series of wars, including the Crimean War (1853) and the Russo-Turkish War (1877).
In the midst of the Industrial Revolution, one that significantly influenced the country, Nicholas II gained control of Russia, and opposition forces began to organize into competing parties.
As World War I reared its ugly head in the early 20th century, Russia, bound by treaty, entered the war at the defense of Serbia. The impact of the war crippled Russia, as food and fuel grew short in supply, casualties amassed, and inflation grew steadily.
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