Civilizations: Russia

The frozen lands of the north have been strongly influenced by its natural environment and the early tribes that once inhabited the frozen waste known as Russia.

It was not until the 14th and 15th centuries, however that a powerful Russian state began to grow. Russia gradually began expanding to the southwest, and by the 18th century, the Russians had gained control of numerous major rivers, thereby giving Russia access to both the Black and the Baltic seas. With these routes open, the Russian economy prospered and the Russian Empire continued to grow at a steady rate.

By the early 19th century, Russia had become widely known as one of the most powerful empires in all of Europe. The glorious defeat of French emperor Napoleon I only furthered these views.

However, as the industrial revolution hit Europe, nations such as England prospered. Falling behind the rest of Europe, didn't reach the Industrial Revolution until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Although the Russian economy had become more industrialized by the beginning of World War I, they were still relatively weak in comparison to Germany and Great Britain, and isolated from their allies, the Russians had to fight the technologically advanced Axis on three separate fronts. But that was the least of their troubles.

In February of 1917, a revolution broke out in Russia. Czar Nicholas II was forced to out of power, and he and his family were executed.

With the fall of the Russian monarchy and the victory of the Russian Civil War in 1921, the communists established the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922.

Under the rule of Joseph Stalin, the USSR signed a nonaggression treaty with Germany that lasted until June of 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded Russia.

After losing much ground and countless men, it appeared the end was near for the soviets. However, there was one key city that would effectively determine the outcome of Russia. On August 20, 1942, after preceding air raids by the Luftwaffe, the Wehrmacht stormed through the city of Stalingrad. After a month of bloodshed, a German victory seemed imminent, but at the end of July 1942, Premier Joseph Stalin declared "Not a step back!" and with renewed determination, the soviets fought to their deaths; like advancing cattle to the slaughter. The Red Army fought long and hard, and on November 19, a successful counteroffensive ensued. For months, the onslaught continued, until the German invaders finally surrendered on February 2, 1943, leaving over 1,500,000 casualties, the city in complete disrepair, and Nazi Germany at a great disadvantage.

On April 23, 1945, Soviet troops marched on Berlin with over a million men. Adolph Hitler foreseeing the collapse of the Third Reich, committed suicide in his bunker on April 30. After days of fighting, the Soviets secured Berlin from the besieged Germans and the war in Europe had ended.

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