The Fall of the Last European Empire

Ken Briggs
Current History
Published in
6 min readMar 28, 2022

--

Expansion of the Russian Empire. Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

At one point, the Russian Empire was the largest contiguous empire on Earth, covering 1/6th of the world’s land area. It stretched from Warsaw all the way to the Americas and, when Alaska was sold, down into the ancient Silk Road crossroads of Central Asia. But, like the other colonial empires of Europe, it was a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural empire.

This history of a racial elite dominating an underprivileged minority was a trademark of the empire from the beginning. The ancient eastern Slavic kingdoms had been founded by Viking raiders who made their home among the native Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe. The two cultures eventually merged, however, and just in time for the Grand Duchy of Moscow to absorb its neighbors and drive east into Siberia, conquering and subjugating the indigenous peoples as it went. This began under Ivan IV (“The Terrible”) in the mid-16th century (1547–1584).

At one point, Russia was expanding up to 50 square miles a day. It maintained this pace for 200 years, almost exclusively into areas that were not ethnically Russian.

Areas around Crimea and the northern Black Sea were populated by Cossacks and Tatars. In the Caucasus, the Georgians, Armenians, Circassians, Chechnyans, and others were subjugated. Towards the east, Turkic peoples like the Bashkirs, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Tuvans, and others fell under the…

--

--

Ken Briggs
Current History

Engineer, tech co-founder, writer, and student of foreign policy. Talks about the intersection of technology, politics, business, foreign affairs, and history