Russia can refer either to the Russian Empire established by Peter the Great in 1721, or to the Russophone successor states established after the empire's collapse in 1900.
Expansion and Insurrection
At the time of the North American Rebellion in the 1770s, the Russian Empire had spread across northern Asia to occupy the Pacific coast north of Manchuria and Korea, and crossed the Bering Strait to occupy Alaska. In Europe, Russia had absorbed most of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and extended its rule to the Black Sea in a series of wars with the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Khanate. Russian expansion down the Pacific coast of North America in the 1780s absorbed the attention of King Charles III of Spain, preventing him from asserting control over the newly-established State of Jefferson. Sobel does not say whether the Russian Empire participated in the Trans-Oceanic War in the late 1790s, although it may have been at this time that Russia completed the annexation of Poland that began in 1772.
Following the formation of the United States of Mexico in 1820, Russian Alaska shared a border with the Mexican state of California. While speaking in San Francisco on 24 December 1823, Mexican President Andrew Jackson said that California might have "the greatest frontier of all the Mexican states," which some interpreted as a desire to conquer Alaska. In his Scorpions in a Bottle speech on 7 May 1843, Pedro Hermión stated that "Russia looks longingly at California". At the Liberty Party convention in April 1875, Governor Henry Colbert called for strong action against the Russians, "who even now are threatening the borders of California."
During the Bloody Eighties, St. Petersburg was the only European capital other than London not to suffer from destructive mob violence, due to the presence there of loyal troops. Sobel states that Russia was able to survive the turbulence of the 1880s due to the strength of its army and the backwardness of its population. However, in 1888 there were uprisings in Moscow and St. Petersburg, which the government believed to be the work of French radicals who had entered the country and were being protected by their Russian counterparts. Tsar Nicholas II ordered his secret police to put down the insurrection, and they did so with what Sobel calls brutal thoroughness. By 1893, over 2 million Russians had been put to death by the police or the army, and another 80,000 democrats, republicans, and socialists had been arrested and sent to prison camps in Kamchatka without trial. In addition, hundreds of thousands of poor Russian peasants, many of them Jews, crossed into the Ottoman Empire. Some of these eventually found their way to North Africa, where a large Russian community was formed by the end of the century.
War and Revolution
In 1894, Diego Cortez y Catalán, the President of Kramer Associates, approached the Russian Foreign Minister, Prince Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirsky, to arrange for K.A. to receive the mineral concession in the Yukon area of Alaska. Under the terms of the agreement, K.A. would search for copper "and whatever other minerals might be found," and would pay all operational costs while sharing any profits evenly with the Russian government. When Winston Carew discovered major gold deposits in July 1896, the reaction in St. Petersburg was initially favorable. However, in a memorandum of 21 October 1897, Prince Sviatopolk-Mirsky claimed that K.A.'s concession only covered copper, and that the Yukon gold mines would be controlled by the Russian government.
Cortez traveled to Mexico City to meet Chief of State Benito Hermión on 25 October, but was unable to persuade Hermión to take strong measures against the Russian government. Instead, Cortez ordered California Governor Alberto Puente to provoke a war with the Russians, which Hermión would be forced to respond to. On 27 February 1898, Puente notified Hermión of "repeated violations of the border by Russian Imperial forces." A mild note of protest by Hermión led to a series of communications with Prince Sviatopolk-Mirksy, which were later found to be deliberately mistranslated by a State Department official who was secretly in the employ of K.A. By May a Russian regiment had invaded California, and the Great Northern War between Russia and the U.S.M. had begun.
The Russian regiment was defeated in battle twenty miles north of San Francisco, and the U.S.M. Pacific Fleet under Admiral Ephraim Small landed at Nikolaevsk, Alaska on 5 July, trapping the Russian army. By early October 1898 all of mainland Alaska was under Mexican control. Peace negotiations with the Russians in January 1899 proved fruitless. The Mexican Navy began occupying the Aleutian Islands on 28 May 1899, and began landings on the Siberian coast in June and July. The political prisoners being held in Kamchatka prison camps were freed by the Mexicans, and 7000 prisoners were formed into the Free Russian Brigade, which fought alongside the Mexican marines against government forces. Admiral Small was named Administrator of Siberia in October 1899, and the following month he established a "Provisional Free Russian Government" made up of the freed political prisoners.
Word of the string of defeats suffered by Russian forces in the Far East sparked a revolution in St. Petersburgh on 2 February 1900, which quickly spread throughout European Russia. By early July the Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states had broken away, and on 17 July Nicholas II abdicated in favor of his brother, who became Tsar Michael II. However, Michael was unable to regain control of events, and he abdicated in his turn in September 1900, an event that marked the end of the Russian Empire. The Russian Revolution would continue for five years, until a joint intervention by Great Britain, France, the Germanic Confederation, and Austria brought an end to the fighting.
By 1912, several of the Russian successor states had allied themselves with other countries. Free Russia, or Siberia, was allied with the U.S.M., the Ukrainian Republic was allied with France, and the Germanic Confederation had organized an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, Poland, and the Baltic states against the other successor states. In 1922, Mexican President Emiliano Calles suggested that Siberia hold a plebiscite on whether to seek statehood in the U.S.M. Siberian Premier Oleg Khmirinovsky rejected the suggestion and affirmed Siberia's independence.
When the Global War began in October 1939, the Ukraine and several of the Russian states formed an anti-German Coalition, but most remained neutral, while the Siberian Republic formed a secret alliance with the U.S.M. and the two nations launched a joint attack on Japan on 1 January 1942. The Siberians and Mexicans had gained control of northern China by 1944, but then were driven back, and Siberia was invaded by two Japanese armies in 1947, which sparked a general war known as the Time of Troubles among the Russian successor states, including the Ukrainian Empire and the Russian Confederation, that lasted until 1955. Siberia had become a Japanese client state by the end of 1948. On 20 November 1965 several European Russian states formed the Associated Russian Republics, apparently under German control, as the first German atomic bomb test was conducted in eastern Russia. Moscow was the site of an anti-German riot in 1969.
This was the Featured Article for the month of June 2022.