These Russian artists have depicted the most vital and dramatic events of Russia’s ten centuries of existence.
Vasilij Perov. The first Christians in Kyiv (1880)
State Russian Museum
Christianity, which comes from the Byzantine Empire, began to spread across Russia long before the country’s official baptism of Kiev’s Prince Vladimir 988. According to some sources, as early as the end of the ninth century, the Kiev rulers Askold and Dir adopted new faith, along with the nobility and part of the people. The baptism of Princess Olga, who ruled Kievan Rus in the mid-ninth century, is also a known fact.
2. Pavel Ryzhenko. Kalka (1996)
The first military conflict between Russia and the Mongol Empire took place on 31 May 1223 on the Kalk River (located in present-day eastern Ukraine). United with the nomadic Kipchaks, the Russians tried to stop the invaders on the outskirts of their lands, but suffered a crushing defeat: twelve princes were killed and only a tenth of the entire army survived. But despite the defeat, the Mongols’ invasion of Russia did not follow at that time – it only happened fourteen years later.
3. Mikhail Avilov. The duel between Peresvet and Chelubei at Kulikovo Field (1943)
State Russian Museum
On September 8, 1380, Dmitry Ivanovich, Prince of Moscow, defeated the Mongolian Technik (warlord) Mamay’s army at the Battle of the Kulikovo Field (270 km south of Moscow), taking an important step to liberate Russia from power. of the khans. According to legend, the battle was preceded by a duel between the strongest warriors from both sides: the monk Peresvet and the warrior Chelubei. The enemies killed each other with spears, after which Chelubei immediately fell out of his saddle, while the monk’s horse trotted his deceased master back to the ranks of the Russian army.
Vasilij Surikov. Stenka Razin (1908)
State Russian Museum
In the late 1660s, a large-scale uprising of peasants and Cossacks opposed the strengthening of feudal oppression swept through Russia. The leader of this so-called “peasant war” was the Cossack ataman Stepan Razin. The rebels successfully operated in the area around the Volga River and were even about to march on Moscow, but were defeated near the walls of Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk). Razin himself was captured in April 1671 and sent immediately to the capital. After being brutally tortured, he was cut in the Red Square.
5. Alexandro Kotzebue. The Battle of Narva (1846)
Military History Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps
In the early 18th century, Russia, Saxony, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Danish-Norwegian Empire challenged Swedish supremacy on the Baltic Sea. Yet the Great Northern War did not begin smoothly for the Allies. On November 30, 1700, at the Battle of Narva, a young King Charles XII defeated the Russian army. The victory, however, made a cruel joke for the Swedes: they thought that Tsar Peter I was off the table. In reality, after experiencing the shameful defeat at Narva, the monarch began to modernize and arm his army, which eventually led to his triumph at the Battle of Poltava in 1709.
Vasilij Surikov. Menshikov and Berezov (1883)
Alexander Menshikov, a close associate of Peter the Great, was one of the most influential Russian civil servants of the first half of the 18th century. The prince became de facto the country’s leader after Peter’s death in 1725, when his wife, Catherine I, ascended the throne. However, Menshikov’s reign was very short. After the empress’s death in 1727, he lost the battle for power and was deported to Siberia, where he died two years later.
7. Vasily Vereshchagin. Napoleon and Marshal Lauriston (Peace at Any Price) (1900)
State Historical Museum
The conquest of Moscow by Napoleon’s Grand Army during the Patriotic War of 1812 did not lead to the capitulation of Russia, as the French emperor had hoped. For almost three weeks, Bonaparte remained in the city, waiting in vain for an envoy from Tsar Alexander I to propose peace. Meanwhile, as the cold weather approached, the situation for his army began to become critical. On October 3, he sent Count Jacques Alexandre Lo de Ariston to Commander Mikhail Kutuzov in the Russian army camp near the village of Tarutino with words: “I need peace, I absolutely need it at all costs, just save our honor.” However, an agreement with the Russians was not reached and on October 19, the Grande Armee left Moscow.
8. Ilya Repin. Emperor Alexander III hosts the Volost elder on the courtyard of the Petrovsky Palace in Moscow (1885)
The reign of Emperor Alexander III (1881-1894) was one of the quietest periods in Russia’s history – the empire did not wage a single war. With the nickname ‘peacemaker’, the tsar formed a military-political alliance with France, which laid the foundation for the future entente. However, it took a little longer to agree with the British. Cooperation with them was not established until the 20th century, during the reign of Nicholas II.
9. Ilya Repin. Demonstration on October 17, 1905 (1911)
State Russian Museum
After a heavy defeat in the war against Japan came the first Russian revolution 1905-1907. Unable to cope with the rising wave of public discontent, the authorities began to back down. On October 17, 1905, Nicholas II issued a manifesto granting freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, assembly and association, which extended the powers of the State Duma and transformed it from an advisory body to a legislative body. Nevertheless, as the autocrat later did everything to somehow eliminate the restrictions on his power, social tensions remained among the Russians until the 1917 revolution.
10. Mikhail Khmelko. The triumph of the victorious motherland (1949)
On June 24, 1945, a parade was held in Red Square to commemorate the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War. Two hundred captured German flags and banners were thrown at the foot of the mausoleum, on which the country’s leadership and supreme Soviet military commander stood. According to one version, the historian Eugene Tarle proposed such a ceremony to Stalin and told him of a Roman tradition of throwing the banners of the defeated enemy at Caesar’s feet.
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