Romanov Russia: 1599–1689
Russia had just passed through the most difficult period in its history. It had been more painful than the 1917 revolution, the civil war, and the breakup of the Soviet Union would be centuries later. Plundering Cossacks had ravaged the lands. Native armies pillaged the countryside. Whole regions had been depopulated. Year after year, crops were destroyed. Towns were deserted. Men, women, and children had died horrible deaths. The reign of Ivan the Terrible and the Time of Troubles left Russia several generations behind western Europe intellectually and technically. The loss of territory also continued. The Swedes occupied Russian towns in the Baltic area, and took control of Novgorod. The Poles occupied western Russia and captured Smolensk. The Cossacks captured Samaria and Kazan. The first Romanov leader, Tsar Michael, began his reign in 1613.
Michael's first concern was to restore internal order, trade, and agriculture. He eased the threat from the Cossacks who lived in the southeast and made peace with Poland. Tsar Michael died in 1645. His successor, Alexis (1645–1676), incorporated Ukraine into Russia. With the help of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, the Russian Army captured much of Lithuania, recaptured Smolensk and the lands to the east of the Dnieper River, and recaptured Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga River. Russia expanded very rapidly to the east, following the Steppe “road,” the vast, flat, easy-to-cross steppe grasslands. Russians settled Okhotsk on the Pacific Ocean in 1649. In 1652, Irkutsk was founded, and a fort on the Amur River was constructed. That fort became the modern city of Khabarovsk. Upon his death in 1676, Alexis was succeeded by his 14-year-old, invalid son, Fyodor III (1676–1682), who reigned only six years. Alexis's two young sons—Ivan V and Peter I—succeeded Fyodor. Sophia, Ivan's sister, served as regent for them. In 1689, Peter I, the Great, deposed her.