For thousands of years, the lands known todayas Russia and Ukraine were inhabited by nomadic tribes and mysterious Bronze Age cultures.

The only record they left were their graves.

In the great open grasslands of the south,the steppe, they buried their chieftains beneath huge mounds called kurgans.

The Ancient Greek historian Herodotus calledthese people 'Scythians'.

Their lands were overrun by the same nomadicwarriors who brought down the Roman Empire.

The land was then settled by Slavs.

They shared some language and culture, butwere divided into many different tribes.

Vikings from Scandinavia, known in the eastas Varangians, rowed up Russia's long rivers on daring raids and trading expeditions.

According to legend, the East Slavs askeda Varangian chief named Rurik to be their prince and unite the tribes.

He accepted and made his capital at Novgorod.

His dynasty, the Rurikids, would rule Russiafor 700 years.

His people called themselves the Rus, andgave their name to the land.

Rurik's successor, Oleg, captured Kiev, makingit the capital of a new state, Kievan Rus.

A century later, seeking closer ties withthe Byzantine Empire to the south, Vladimir the Great adopted their religion, and convertedto Orthodox Christianity.

He is still venerated today as the man whobrought Christianity to Ukraine and Russia.

Yaroslav the Wise codified laws and conquerednew lands.

His reign marked the golden age of KievanRus.

It was amongst the most sophisticated andpowerful states in Europe.

But after Yaroslav's death his sons foughtamongst themselves.

Kievan Rus disintegrated into a patchworkof feuding princedoms.

just as a deadly new threat emerged from the east.

The Mongols under Genghis Khan had overrunmuch of Asia.

Now they launched a great raid across theCaucasus Mountains, and defeated the Kievan princes at the Battle of the Kalka River,but then withdrew.

14 years later, the Mongols returned.

A gigantic army led by Batu Khan overran theland.

Cities that resisted were burnt, their peopleslaughtered.

The city of Novgorod was spared because itsubmitted to the Mongols.

Its prince, Alexander Nevsky, then saved thecity again, defeating the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of the Ice, fought above a frozenlake.

He remains one of Russia's most revered heroes.

The Mongols ruled the land as conquerors.

Their new empire was called the Golden Horde,ruled by a Khan from his new capital at Sarai.

The Rus princes were his vassals.

They were forced to pay tribute or sufferdevastating reprisal raids.

They called their oppressors 'Tatars' – theylived under 'the Tatar yoke'.

Alexander Nevsky's son, Daniel, founded theGrand Principality of Moscow, which quickly grew in power.

18 years later, Dmitri Donskoi, Grand Princeof Moscow, also defeated the Tartars.

at the great Battle of Kulikovo Field.

After years of infighting, the Golden Hordenow began to disintegrate into rival khanates.

Constantinople, capital and last outpost ofthe once-great Byzantine Empire, fell to the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Some hailed Moscow as the 'Third Rome', theseat of Orthodox Christian faith, now Rome and Constantinople had fallen.

Meanwhile, the Grand Princes of Moscow continuedto expand their power, annexing Novgorod, and forging the first Russian state.

At the Ugra River, Ivan III of Moscow faceddown the Tatar army and forced it to retreat.

Russia had finally cast off the 'Tatar yoke'.

Under Grand Prince Vasili III, Moscow continuedto grow in size and power.

His son, Ivan IV, was crowned the first Tsarof Russia.

He would be remembered as Ivan the Terrible.

Ivan conquered Tatar lands in Kazan and Astrakahan,but was defeated in the Livonian War by Sweden and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Ivan's modernising reforms gave way to a reignof terror and mass executions, fuelled by his violent paranoia.

Russia was still vulnerable.

Raiders from the Crimean Khanate were ableto burn Moscow itself.

But the next year Russian forces routed theTatars at Molodi, just south of the city.

Cossacks now lived on the open steppe, a lawlessregion between three warring states.

They were skilled horsemen who lived freely,and were often recruited by Russia and Poland to fight as mercenaries.

Ivan the Terrible's own son, the Tsarevich,fell victim to one of his father's violent rages – bludgeoned to death with the royalsceptre.

The Cossack adventurer Yermak Timofeyevichled the Russian conquest of Siberia, defeating Tatars and subjugating indigenous tribes.

In the north, Archangelsk was founded, forthe time being Russia's only sea-port linking it to western Europe, though it was iceboundin winter.

Ivan the Terrible was succeeded by his sonFeodor I, who died childless.

It was the end of the Rurikid dynasty.

Ivan's advisor Boris Godunov became Tsar.

But after his sudden death, his widow andteenage son were brutally murdered, and the throne seized by an impostor claiming to beIvan the Terrible's son.

He too was soon murdered.

Russia slid into anarchy, the so-called 'Timeof Troubles'.

Rebels and foreign armies laid waste to theland, and the population was decimated by famine and plague.

Polish troops occupied Moscow; Swedish troopsseized Novgorod.

The Russian state seemed on the verge of extinction.

In 1612, Russia was in a state of anarchy.

They called it 'The Time of Troubles'.

The people were terrorised by war, famineand plague – up to a third of them perished.

Foreign troops occupied Moscow, Smolensk andNovgorod.

But then, Russia fought back.

Prince Pozharsky and a merchant, Kuzma Minin,led the Russian militia to Moscow, and threw out the Polish garrison.

Since 2005, this event has been commemoratedevery 4th November, as Russian National Unity Day.

The Russian assembly, the Zemsky Sobor, realisedthe country had to unite behind a new ruler, and elected a 16 year old noble, Mikhail Romanov,as the next Tsar.

His dynasty would rule Russia for the next300 years.

Tsar Mikhail exchanged territory for peace,winning Russia much-needed breathing-space.

His son, Tsar Alexei, implemented a new legalcode, the Sobornoye Ulozheniye.

It turned all Russian peasants, 80% of thepopulation, into serfs – effectively slaves – their status inherited by their children,and with no freedom to travel or choose their master.

It was a system that dominated Russian rurallife for the next 200 years.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, PatriarchNikon, imposed religious reforms that split the church between Reformers and 'Old Believers'.

It's a schism that continues to this day.

Ukrainian Cossacks, rebelling against thePolish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, recognised Tsar Alexei as overlord in exchange for hismilitary support.

It led to the Thirteen Years War between Russiaand the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Russia emerged victorious, reclaiming Smolenskand taking control of eastern Ukraine.

A revolt against Tsarist government, led bya renegade Cossack, Stenka Razin, brought anarchy to southern Russia.

It was finally suppressed: Razin was broughtto Moscow and executed by quartering.

The sickly but highly-educated Feodor IIIpassed many reforms.

He abolished mestnichestvo, the system thathad awarded government posts according to nobility rather than merit, and symbolicallyburned the ancient books of rank.

But Feodor died aged just 19.

His sister Sofia became Princess Regent, rulingon behalf of her younger brothers, the joint Tsars Ivan V and Peter I.

After centuries of conflict, Russia and thePolish-Lithuanian Commonwealth signed a Treaty of Eternal Peace.

Russia then joined 'the Holy League' in itswar against the Ottoman Empire.

Sofia's reign also saw the first treaty betweenRussia and China, establishing the frontier between the two states.

At age 17, Peter I seized power from his half-sister,Sofia.

Peter became the first Russian ruler to travelabroad.

He toured Europe with his 'Grand Embassy',seeking allies for Russia's war against Turkey, and learning the latest developments in scienceand shipbuilding.

The war against Turkey was successfully concludedby the Treaty of Constantinople: Russia gained Azov from Turkey's ally, the Crimean Khanate,and with it, a foothold on the Black Sea.

Peter made many reforms, seeking to turn Russiainto a modern, European state.

He demanded Russian nobles dress and behavelike Europeans.

He made those who refused to shave pay a beardtax.

Peter built the first Russian navy; reformedthe army and government; and promoted industry, trade and education.

In the Great Northern War, Russia, Poland-Lithuaniaand Denmark took on the dominant power in the Baltic, Sweden.

The war began badly for Russia, with a disastrousdefeat to Charles XII of Sweden at Narva.

But Russia won a second battle of Narva.

Before crushing Charles XII's army at theBattle of Poltava.

On the Baltic coast, Peter completed constructionof a new capital, St.

Petersburg.

The building of what would become Russia'ssecond largest city among coastal marshes was a remarkable achievement, though it costthe lives of many thousands of serfs.

The Great Northern War ended with the Treatyof Nystad: Russia's gains at Sweden's expense made it the new, dominant Baltic power.

Four years before his death, Peter was declared'Peter the Great, Father of His Country, Emperor of All the Russias'.

Peter was succeeded by his wife Catherine;then his grandson Peter II, who died of smallpox aged just 14.

Empress Anna Ioannovna, daughter of Peterthe Great's half-brother Ivan V, was famed for her decadence and the influence of herGerman lover, Ernst Biron.

During Anna's reign, Vitus Bering, a Danishexplorer in Russian service, led the first expedition to chart the coast of Alaska.

He also discovered the Aleutian Islands, andlater gave his name to the sea that separates Russia and America.

After Anna's death, her infant grand-nephew,Ivan VI, was deposed by Peter the Great's daughter, Elizabeth.

Ivan VI spent his entire life in captivity,until aged 23, he was murdered by his guards during a failed rescue attempt.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, was famed for her vanity,extravagance, and many young lovers.

But she was also capable of decisive leadership:in alliance with France and Austria, Elizabeth led Russia into the Seven Years War againstFrederick the Great of Prussia.

The Russian army inflicted a crushing defeaton Frederick at the Battle of Kunersdorf, but failed to exploit its victory.

Meanwhile in St.

Petersburg, the Winter Palacewas completed at vast expense.

It would remain the monarch's official residence,right up until the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Peter III was Peter the Great's grandson byhis elder daughter Anna Petrovna, who'd died as a consequence of childbirth.

Raised in Denmark, Peter spoke hardly anyRussian, and greatly admired Russia's enemy, Frederick the Great – so he had Russia swapsides in the Seven Years War, saving Frederick from almost certain defeat.

Peter's actions angered many army officers.

And he'd always been despised by his Germanwife, Catherine.

Together they deposed Peter III, who dieda week later in suspicious circumstances.

His wife Catherine became Empress of Russia.

Her reign would be remembered as one of Russia'smost glorious.

In the early 1700s, Peter the Great's reformsput Russia on the path to becoming a great European power.

But it was his grandson's German wife, Catherine,who deposed her husband to become Empress of Russia, who oversaw the completion of thattransformation.

Like Peter, she too would be remembered as'the Great'.

Catherine was a student and admirer of theFrench Enlightenment, and even corresponded with the French philosopher Voltaire.

She reigned as an 'enlightened autocrat' – herpower was unchecked, but she pursued ideals of reason, tolerance and progress: Catherine became a great patron of the arts,and learning.

Schools and colleges were built, the Bolshoitheatre was founded, as well as the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, while her own magnificentcollection of artwork now forms the basis of the world-famous Hermitage museum.

Catherine encouraged Europeans to move toRussia to share their expertise, and helped German migrants to settle in the Volga region,where they became known as 'Volga Germans'.

Their communities survived nearly 200 years,until on Stalin's orders, they were deported east at the start of World War 2.

Catherine's reign also saw enormous territorialexpansion.

In the south, Russia defeated the OttomanEmpire, winning new lands, and the fortresses of Azov and Kerch.

But then Catherine faced a major peasant revoltled by the renegade cossack Yemelyan Pugachev.

The rebels took many fortresses and towns,and stormed the city of Kazan, before they were finally defeated by the Russian army.

Catherine then forcibly incorporated the ZaporozhianCossacks into the Russian Empire, and annexed the Crimean Khanate – a thorn in Russia'sside for 300 years.

Russia's new lands in the south were namedNovorossiya – 'New Russia'.

Sparsely populated, they were settled by Russiancolonists under the supervision of Prince Potemkin, Catherine's advisor and lover.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, exhaustedby war and at the mercy of its neighbours, was carved up in a series of partitions, withRussia taking the lion's share.

Poland did not re-emerge as an independentnation until 1918.

Russia inherited a large Jewish populationfrom Poland, who, Catherine decreed, could live only in the so-called 'Pale of Settlement',and were excluded from most cities.

In France, the French Revolution led to theexecution of King Louis XVI.

Catherine was horrified, and in the last yearsof her reign, completely turned her back on the liberal idealism of her youth.

Three years later, Catherine died, endingone of the most glorious reigns in Russian history.

She was succeeded by her son, Paul, a manobsessed by military discipline and detail, and opposed to all his mother's works.

Russia joined the coalition of European powersfighting Revolutionary France.

Marshal Suvorov, one of Russia's greatestmilitary commanders, won a series of victories against the French in Northern Italy, butthe wider war was a failure.

Meanwhile, Paul's reforms had alienated Russia'sarmy and nobility, and he was murdered in a palace coup.

He was succeeded by his 23 year old son Alexander,who shared his grandmother Catherine's vision for a more modern Russian state.

His advisor, the brilliant Count Mikhail Speranksy,reformed administration and finance, yet the Emperor refused to back his plans for a liberalconstitution.

Ultimately, it was war with France that woulddominate Alexander's reign.

France had a new emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte,who inflicted a series of defeats on Russia and her allies at Austerlitz, Eylau and Friedland.

But at Tilsit in 1807, the two young emperorsmet, and made an alliance.

Russia attacked Sweden, annexing Finland,which became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire.

But then, in 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia.

At Borodino, French and Russian armies clashedin a gigantic battle, one of the bloodiest of the age.

Napoleon emerged victorious, but the Russianarmy escaped intact.

Napoleon occupied Moscow, which was destroyedby fire.

And when Alexander refused to negotiate, theFrench army was forced to make a long retreat through the Russian winter, and was annihilated.

Napoleon had been dealt a mortal blow.

And Russia, alongside Prussia, Austria andBritain, then led the fight back, which ended in the capture of Paris and Napoleon's abdication.

At the Congress of Vienna, as part of thespoils of war, Alexander became 'King of Poland'.

Then, with Austria, and Prussia, he formed'The Holy Alliance', with the aim of preventing further revolutions in Europe.

Meanwhile, in the Balkans and Caucasus, Russiahad been waging intermittent wars against the Ottoman Empire, Persia and local tribes.

The frontier had been pushed south to incorporateBessarabia, Circassia, Chechnya, and much of modern Georgia, Dagestan, Azerbaijan, andArmenia.

But the peoples of the Caucasus bitterly resistedRussian rule.

Russia's attempt to impose its authority onthe region led to the Caucasian War, a brutal conflict, fought amongst the mountains andforests, that would drag on for nearly 50 years.

Alexander was succeeded by his brother Nicholas,a conservative and reactionary.

But parts of Russian society had now developedan appetite for European-style liberalism – including certain army officers, who'dseen other ways of doing things during the Napoleonic Wars.

They saw Nicholas as an obstacle, and thenew Emperor's first challenge.

would be military revolt.

1825.

Victory over Napoleon had confirmed Russia'sstatus as a world power.

But there was discontent within Russia amongstintellectuals and army officers, some of whom had formed secret societies, to plot the overthrowof Russia's autocratic system.

When Emperor Alexander was succeeded not,as expected, by his brother Constantine, but by a younger brother, Nicholas, one of thesesecret societies used the confusion to launch a military coup.

But the Decembrist Revolt, as it became known,was defeated by loyalist troops, and the ringleaders were hanged.

Others were sent into 'internal exile' inSiberia.

This was to become a common sentence for criminalsand political prisoners in Tsarist Russia.

Nicholas went on to adopt an official doctrineof 'Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality' – the state was to rest on the pillars ofchurch, Tsar, and the Russian national spirit – a clear rejection of the values of Europeanliberalism.

In the Caucasus, border clashes with Persialed to a war which ended in complete Russian victory.

The Treaty of Turkmenchay forced Persia tocede all its territories in the region to Russia, and pay a large indemnity.

Russian support for Greece in its War of Independenceagainst the Ottomans, led to war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Russian victory brought further gains in theBlack Sea region.

A Polish revolt, led by young army officers,was crushed by Russian troops.

Alexander Pushkin, Russia's greatest poet,was shot in a duel, and two days later died from his wounds.

Nicholas sent troops to help put down a Hungarianrevolt against Austrian rule.

The Emperor's willingness to help suppressliberal revolts won him the nickname, 'the Gendarme', or policeman, of Europe.

Russia's first major railway was opened, connectingSt.

Petersburg and Moscow.

Alexander Herzen, a leading intellectual criticof Russia's autocracy, emigrated to London, where he continued to call for reform in hishomeland.

He'd later be described as 'the father ofRussian socialism'.

The Ottoman Empire, now known as 'the sickman of Europe', reacted to further Russian provocations by declaring war.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet inflicted a crushingdefeat on the Turks at the Battle of Sinope.

But Britain and France – alarmed at Russia'ssouthern expansion, and potential control of Constantinople – declared war on Russia.

The Allies landed troops in Crimea and besiegedthe naval base of Sevastopol, which fell after a gruelling, year-long siege.

In the Baltic, British and French warshipsblockaded the Russian capital, St.

Petersburg.

Russia was forced to sign a humiliating peace,withdraw its forces from the Black Sea, and put on hold plans for further southern expansion.

Nicholas I was succeeded by his son, AlexanderII.

The Crimean War had exposed Russia's weakness– the country lagged far behind its European rivals in industry, infrastructure and militarypower.

So Alexander, unlike his father, decided toembrace reform.

The most obvious sign of Russia's backwardnesswas serfdom.

According to the 1857 census, more than athird of Russians were serfs, forced to work their masters' land, with few rights, restrictionson movement, and their status passed down to their children.

They were slaves in all but name.

In 1861, Alexander II abolished serfdom inRussia.

He was hailed as 'The Liberator'.

But in reality, most former-serfs remainedtrapped in servitude and poverty.

Alexander's reforms would continue, with thecreation of the zemstva – provincial assemblies with authority over local affairs, includingeducation and social welfare.

In the Far East, Russia forced territorialconcessions from a weakened China, leading to the founding of Vladivostok, Russia's majorPacific port.

Another uprising by Poles and Lithuaniansagainst Russian rule was once more crushed by the Russian army.

In the Caucasus, Russia's long and brutalwar against local tribes came to an end, with their leaders swearing oaths of loyalty tothe Tsar.

In Central Asia, the Russian Empire was graduallyexpanding southwards.

Russian armies defeated the Emirate of Bukhara,and the Khanate of Khiva, and by the 1880s, Russia had conquered most of what was thencalled Turkestan – today, the countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,and Turkmenistan.

Imperial rivalry in Central Asia between Russiaand Britain led to 'the Great Game' – a 19th century version of the Cold War.

Centred on Afghanistan, diplomats and spieson both sides tried to win local support, extend their own influence, and limit theexpansion of their rival – while avoiding direct military confrontation.

Russia decided to sell Alaska to America for7.

2 million dollars.

Many Americans thought it was a waste of money– gold and oil were only discovered there much later.

Leo Tolstoy's 'War & Peace' was published,still regarded as one of the world's greatest works of literature.

The late 19th century was a cultural goldenage for Russia: a period of literary greats, and outstanding composers.

Russia, in support of nationalist revoltsin the Balkans against Ottoman rule, went to war with the Ottoman Empire once more.

Russian troops crossed the Danube.

then,with Bulgarian help, fought to secure the vital Shipka Pass.

Then they launched a bloody, five-month siegeof Plevna, in Bulgaria.

Russia and her allies finally won victory,with their troops threatening Constantinople itself.

But at the Congress of Berlin, Russia bowedto international pressure, and accepted limited gains, in a settlement that also led to independencefor Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, and later, Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, within Russia, radical politicalgroups were increasingly frustrated by Alexander II's limited reforms.

There were several failed attempts to assassinatethe Emperor.

But as he prepared to approve new constitutionalreforms, he was killed in St.

Petersburg by a bomb thrown by members of the People's Will– one of the world's first modern terrorist groups.

This act of violence would lead only to anew era of repression.

In 1881, Russian Emperor Alexander II wasassassinated by left-wing terrorists in St.

Petersburg.

Today, the place where he was fatally woundedis marked by the magnificent Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.

Alexander II had been a reformer, hailed as'the Liberator' for freeing Russia's serfs.

But his son and successor, Alexander III,believed his father's reforms had unleashed dangerous forces within Russia, that ultimatelyled to his death.

As Emperor, he publicly vowed to reassertautocratic rule, declaring that, 'in the midst of our great grief, the voice of God ordersus to undertake courageously the task of ruling, with faith in the strength and rightness ofautocratic power.

' The Tsar's secret police, the so-called 'Okhranka',was ordered to infiltrate Russia's many revolutionary groups.

Those found guilty of plotting against thegovernment were hanged or sent into 'internal exile' in Siberia.

Alexander III was a pious man, who supportedthe Orthodox church, and the assertion of a strong Russian national identity.

Russia's Jews became victims of this policy.

They'd already been targeted in murderousrace riots known as 'pogroms', after false rumours were spread that they were responsiblefor the assassination of the emperor.

Now the government expelled 20,000 Jews fromMoscow, and many who could began to leave the country.

Over the next 40 years, around two millionJews would leave Russia, most bound for the USA.

Concerned by the growing power of Germany,Russia signed an alliance with France, both sides promising military aid if the otherwas attacked.

Sergei Witte was appointed Russia's new Ministerof Finance.

His reforms helped to modernise the Russianeconomy, and encourage foreign investment – particularly from its new ally, France.

French loans helped Russia to develop itsindustry and infrastructure: Work began on the Trans-Siberian railway.

Completed in 1916, it remains the world'slongest railway line, running 5,772 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok.

Alexander III was succeeded by his son NicholasII.

His coronation was marred by tragedy, when1,400 people were crushed to death at an open-air celebration in Moscow.

China granted Russia the right to build anaval base at Port Arthur.

When China faced a major revolt known as theBoxer Rebellion, Russia moved troops into Manchuria, under the pretext of defendingPort Arthur from the rebels.

This brought Russia into conflict with Japan,who also had designs over Manchuria, and Korea.

The Japanese made a surprise attack on PortArthur, then defeated the Russian army at the giant Battle of Mukden.

Russia's Baltic Fleet, meanwhile, had sailedhalf way around the world to reach the Pacific.

where it was immediately annihilated at theBattle of Tsushima.

Russia was left with no option but to signa humiliating peace, brokered by US President Theodore Roosevelt.

Meanwhile the Tsar faced another crisis muchcloser to home.

In St.

Petersburg, a strike by steel-workershad escalated, and plans were made for a mass demonstration.

Tens of thousands of protesters marched tothe Winter Palace to present a petition to the Tsar, asking for better workers' rightsand more political freedom.

But instead, troops opened fire on the crowds,killing more than 100.

'Bloody Sunday', as it became known, led tomore strikes and unrest across the country.

The crew of the battleship Potemkin mutinied,killing their officers and taking control of the ship.

To defuse the crisis, Nicholas II reluctantlyissued the October Manifesto, drafted under the supervision of Sergei Witte.

It promised an elected assembly and new politicalrights, including freedom of speech, and was welcomed by most moderates.

Russia's first constitution was drafted thenext year.

For the first time, the Tsar would share powerwith an elected assembly, the state duma – though the Tsar had the right to veto its legislation,and dissolve it at any time.

Sergei Witte finally lost the Tsar's confidence,and was dismissed.

The Tsar's new Prime Minister, Stolypin, introducedland reforms to help the peasants, while dealing severely with Russia's would-be revolutionaries.

So much so, that the hangman's noose got anew nickname – 'Stolypin's necktie'.

But having survived several attempts on hislife, Stolypin was shot and killed by an assassin at the Kiev Opera House.

Meanwhile, Grigori Rasputin, a Siberian faithhealer, had joined the Imperial family's inner circle, thanks to his unique ability to easethe suffering of the Tsar's haemophiliac son, Alexei.

Despite sporadic acts of terrorism, Russianow had the fastest growing economy in Europe.

Agricultural and industrial output were onthe rise.

Most ordinary Russians remained loyal to theTsar and his family.

Russia's future seemed bright.

In 1914, in Sarajevo, a Slav nationalist assassinatedArchduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, sparking a European crisis.

When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia,Emperor Nicholas ordered the Russian army to mobilise, to show his support for a fellowSlav nation.

Austria-Hungary's ally, Germany, saw Russianmobilisation as a threat, and declared war.

Europe's network of alliances came into effect,and soon all the major powers were marching to war.

World War One had begun.

Russia experienced a wave of patriotic fervour.

The capital, St.

Petersburg, was even renamedPetrograd, to sound less German.

An early Russian advance into East Prussiaended with heavy defeats at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes.

There was greater success against Austria-Hungary,but that too came at a high price.

Russian losses forced the army to make a generalretreat in 1915.

In 1916, Russia's Brusilov Offensive againstAustro-Hungarian forces was one of the most successful Allied attacks of the war.

But losses were so heavy, that the Russianarmy was unable to launch any more major operations.

In Petrograd, Rasputin, whose alleged influenceover the Tsar's family was despised by certain Russian aristocrats, was murdered, possiblywith the help of British agents.

The war put intolerable strains on Russia.

At the front, losses were enormous.

While in the cities, economic mismanagementled to rising prices and food shortages.

In Petrograd, the workers' frustration ledto strikes and demonstrations.

Troops ordered to disperse the crowds refused,and joined the protesters instead.

The government had lost control of the capital.

On board the imperial train at Pskov, seniorpoliticians and generals told the Emperor he must abdicate, or Russia would descendinto anarchy, and lose the war.

Nicholas accepted their advice, and renouncedthe throne in favour of his brother, Grand Duke Michael, who, effectively, declined theoffer.

300 years of Romanov rule were at an end.

Russia was now a republic.

A Provisional Government took power, but couldnot halt Russia's slide into economic and military chaos.

Meanwhile, workers, soldiers and peasantselected their own councils, known as 'soviets'.

The Petrograd Soviet was so powerful, it waseffectively a rival government, especially as discontent with the Provisional Governmentcontinued to grow.

The Bolsheviks, under Vladimir Lenin, attractedgrowing support, with their radical proposals for an immediate end to the war, the redistributionof land, and transfer of power to the soviets.

In October, they launched a coup, mastermindedby Leon Trotsky.

Bolshevik Red Guards stormed the Winter Palace,where the Provisional Government met, and arrested its members.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks were now in charge.

Russia had been thrown upon a bold and dangerouscourse – under a Marxist-inspired revolutionary party, it would now seek to create the world'sfirst communist state.

But first, it would have to survive the chaosand slaughter of one of history's bloodiest civil wars.

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