Early Russia consisted of several important cities that grew and developed into a unified nation. One of the first of these powerful cities began in the 9th century. A group of Scandinavian people, known as the Varangians, crossed the Baltic Sea and landed in Eastern Europe. The leader, a warrior named Rurik, led his people in 862 to the city of Novgorod on the Volkhov River. From this roaming clan, more leaders came and their area extended. Rurik's successor, Oleg, extended the city's borders till it encompassed Kiev, a powerful Slavic city. This marked the change from multiple cities to a larger unified nation.
The first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus, adopted Christianity in 988 which reaffirmed their significant control of the region. It is rumoured that many religions were carefully considered and one of the factors that determined this choice (and not other popular religions like Islam) is that the current leader, Vladimir I, believed his people would not stand for a religion that prohibited alcohol. This move was successful in uniting Byzantine and Slavic cultures.
Various events, including Vladmir's decision to leave the kingdom divided between his children, caused this beginning nation to fracture. Invading Mongols of the 1230s further fragmented the region. Also known as the Tartars, they destroyed many beautiful cities and forced the regional princes to send tributes to the Tatar state, bankrupting their nation. This also encouraged other nations to try to overrun the region and various attacks by other countries were repeatedly put down.
Despite these attacks, it was shortly after this time that Moscow began to appear as a cultural center. Named after the river, the city has been sporadically sacked and rebuilt. The patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church was also transferred to the city, making it the spiritual capital of Russia. Unlike other principalities, Moscow was not divided among Vladmir's sons but was passed intact to his eldest. By the 18th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow had become the huge Russian Empire.
The plague of 1654-1656 reversed Moscow's good fortune as half the population of Moscow was killed. The city ceased to be Russia's capital in 1712, after the founding of Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great. Through the 19th century Russia developed, while at the same time it intermittently repressed its people. Russian serfdom was abolished in 1861, but gave little else to the peasants. On the other hand, the Stolypin reforms, constitution of 1906 and State Duma introduced positive change to Russia.
The Russian Revolution in 1917 was a result of economic breakdown, strain from the World War, and discontent with the autocracy. In this time of political unease, the Communist Bolsheviks seized power. Beginning in March 1918, the USSR embraced communism. On 12 March 1918, Moscow once again became the capitol, this time of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and of the Soviet Union less than five years later.
In 1980, it hosted the Summer Olympic Games, which was boycotted by the United States and several other Western countries due to the Soviet Union's involvement in Afghanistan in late 1979. This was merely one event symbolizing the unease the rest of the world felt about the USSR. By the late 1980s the people were once again strained by economic and political weakness. Communist leaders embarked on major reforms, which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The USSR was dissolved in 1989 and Moscow continued to be the capital of Russia. Since then, the market economy has allowed Moscow to be brought to the forefront as a world city and the seat of power for the Russian Federation.
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