History of Russia: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

Russia has been dominated by strong leaders throughout its history. From Ivan the IV to Vladimir Putin, these rulers have often expanded their power at the expense of the Russian people.

A Series of Strong Leaders

A strong leader is sometimes nice to have, if they use their power to protect the people they are leading. But what happens if they use that power to protect themselves from the people they are leading? Russian history has many examples of leaders taking great power to protect Russians, then using that power for themselves.

Early Russian History

In the 9th century AD, a small group of Slavic tribes formed Russia's earliest organized government with the city of Kiev. Because Kiev was easy to attack, these tribes began to take control of the territory around them. These Slavic tribes controlled most of Russia for 200 years before breaking up and forming the countries of Ukraine, Belarus, and Muscovy. Muscovy's city of Moscow would become the center of the Russian empire after becoming a rallying point against Mongol raiders. The Mongols were a collection of Asian tribes who attacked cities, then looted for whatever supplies they needed.

The First Russian Tsar

Ivan the IV triumphed over the invading Mongol hordes by uniting the region, which allowed him to become Russia's first tsar in 150 years. A tsar is like a king or emperor. Over 100 years later, at the age of 10, Peter the Great became tsar. As tsar he modernized Russia, updating the country's schools with a focus on science, and changed government so it ran smoother.

The Fall of the Tsars

The people of Russia in 1917 overthrew the government of tsars and formed a communist government, based on communist principles of sharing the land and wealth of a country. This group was led by Vladimir Lenin and united Russia with 11 neighboring countries, forming the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, also known as the U.S.S.R.

The U.S.S.R. fought on the side of the United States in World War II, but relations between the two powers and their allies became strained soon after the war ended in 1945, leading to the Cold War. In this conflict, neither country ever directly attacked each other.

The Cold War

The U.S.S.R. and U.S. never directly attacked the other because each country had nuclear weapons. Both the United States and the Soviet Union feared neither country would survive a nuclear war. This policy was known as MAD: 'Mutually Assured Destruction.' The Cold War lasted from 1945 until 1991.

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