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Russia Engages the World, 1453-1825
1453 Through the Reign of Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584) The Time of Troubles to the First Romanovs (1598-1682) Peter the Great and His Legacy (1682-1762) The Age of Catherine the Great (1762-1801) The Reign of Emperor Alexander I (1801-1825)


Explore this Section:

Enlightened Absolutism in Russia
The Polish Question in Russian History

Russia's Globalization:
A Key

Events marked Russia Symbol are specific to Muscovy/Russia's internal development.
Those marked World Symbol are important world historical or cultural events.
Engagement Symbol indicates specific points of sociocultural or military engagement between Muscovy/Russia and foreign powers or individuals.




In the 18th century, Poland was partitioned out of existence by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. These countries took advantage of Poland’s weakness, caused by having an elected king, a parliament made disfunctional by the liberum veto (meaning that any single deputy could prevent passage of a measure), a hidebound nobility, and a multiethnic and multiconfessional population. In 1772, the first partition deprived Poland of one-third of its population. A period of reforms followed, culminating in Poland’s constitution of May 3, 1791, which was a model document of the Enlightenment, providing for a hereditary monarch, a two-chambered diet with middle-class representation, majority vote, and a cabinet responsible to the diet.

Fearful of a regenerated Poland, Russia and Prussia carried out a second partition in 1793. The Poles then waged a courageous rebellion, led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746–1817), also a hero of the American Revolution, but they proved no match for the Prussians and Russians. Austria joined for the third partition in 1795, and Poland ceased to exist.

As a result of the post-Napoleonic settlement at the Congress of Vienna, the Kingdom of Poland was created, with Alexander I of Russia as its head. Although the tsar awarded the Poles a liberal constitution, Poles continued to chafe at Russian domination. Once revolutions broke out throughout Europe in 1830, the Poles rebelled against Russian domination, and an all-out war ensued. It took about a year for the Russians to put down the rebellion; after this was accomplished, Poland was made an integral part of the Russian Empire and administered brutally, with russification a dominant cultural and political policy. Another rebellion followed in 1863; it took a year and a half to suppress and was likewise followed by brutal measures. Poland finally had its independence restored during World War I, in 1917.