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Russian History

#IStandwithUkraine (click here for Ukraine History and Blogs)

In order to understand the present we need to ensure we understand the past. 

Recently I seem to have covered a lot of Russian based stories from history so here they are in all of their tragedy and glory. 

Vigilius Eriksen, Catherine II of Russia in front of the mirror, 1762-1764, Hermitage Muse


Was Catherine the Great, Really Great?

Part One: The Birth of an Empress in 1729 to becoming an Empress in 1762

To read part one Click Here

Image: Catherine II of Russia in Front of Mirror by Vigilius Eriksen, c. 1763 (Source: Hermitage Museum)


The Six Empresses of Russia

There have been SIX female rulers of Russian but the first has largely been forgotten by history. The one often left off the list is Irina Godunova was the wife of Tsar Feodor I and the sister of Tsar Boris Godunov. The reason she is often forgotten is likely because she ruled for just nine days.

What about the other five? Read the blog (click here)!

Images (Left to Right: Empress Catherine I, c. 1717 by Jean-Marc Nattier (Source: UK Royal Collection Trust); Empress Anna, c. 1730 by Louis Caravaque the official Russian court painter (Source: The Hermitage) & Empress Elizabeth by Carle Vanloo, 1760 (Source: The Hermitage).



Was Catherine the Great, Really Great?

Part Two: From becoming Empress in 1762 to her death in 1796. 

To read the blog Click Here

Image: Coronation Portrait of Catherine II by Stefano Torelli (Source: Hermitage Museum), 1763-1766

Stefano Torelli, Coronation Portrait of Catherine II, 1763-1766, State Russian Museum, Sai
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What is an Autonomous Oblast?

Case Study: Adyghe

What is an Oblast and why should we care? Read this blog to find out the answers to these questions and more!

To read the blog on the Adydge Autonomous Republic click here

Image: Adyghe Flag


The World's First Non-Hereditary Female Head of State and her Country - Tuva

While reading about some of the first elected women to enter positions of prominence I came across the name Khertek Anchimaa-Toka.


This is a name I felt more people should at least have heard of given she was the first woman in the world to become a non-royal head of state. Despite this I’d never heard of her before either, and I was also unfamiliar with the nation she rose to prominence within – The Tuvan People’s Republic.

To read the blog on Khertek Anchimaa-Toka and Tuva click here

Image: Khertek Anchimaa-Toka and Tuvan Flag (1930s-1940s)


Facts on Russia's Oblasts:

Autonomous Rule within Russia

The Republics

Did you know that there are 21 republics within Russia? (Russia claims there are 22, however the 22nd is Crimea which is disputed by Ukraine).


These were established in the early twentieth century in regions that were not specifically “Russian”. In most cases the Republics were formed where there were historic ethnic enclaves however due to migration over the years in most places the ethnic group were no longer the majority with Russians comprising large portions of the population. As such, these Republics were in theory able to govern themselves under the rights of self-determination.

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The Okrug's

In addition to the republics there are four Okrug’s and one autonomous republic, all of these work in principle like a Republic.


There were more Okrugs but over the years these have been abolished as ethnicity within the Okrugs changed and economic reasons also played a part.

The four Okrug’s that remain are all in the north of Russia and maintain significant ethnic minorities. Three of the four are home to the indigenous Nenet people while the fourth is home to the Chukchi people. Both are indigenous to the Artic regions.

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The Autonomous Oblast

The sole autonomous oblast is located in the far south-east of Russia and is called the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.


Unlike the Republics and Okrug’s the Jews were not indigenous to the region, in fact until the late nineteenth century it was under Chinese rule. While the USSR set up the ethnic Republic’s they also created this Jewish settlement – yes, they basically shipped all of the Russian Jews off to this remote location.

During the 1940s Jews made up around 25% of the population but today they account f or barely 1% of the population, the vast majority (over 97%) being Russian.

Fact Time: 

The Flag of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast

One interesting feature of this Oblast is the flag which features a rainbow on a white background. The rainbow doesn’t represent inclusion in the same way it does around most of the world, instead each colour represents one candle of the Menorah, and the rainbow is reminiscent of the well-known for symbol for peace.

It is well known that Russia is not a LGBTQ friendly place and in 2013 the flag was actually put under scrutiny however it was able to remain in use as it has a white background.

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Is Abkhazia an Independent Country?

On 23 July 1992 Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia, which had only the year before declared independence from the Soviet Union.

To read the blog on the history of this former Soviet Union state Click Here

Image: Abkhazia Flag

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