AKA the Russian Empire and before that, Czarist Russia. ("Czar" or "Tsar" being a Slavic form of "Caesar", this title also existed in medieval Bulgaria and Serbia, but was most historically important in Russia) Massive in size (sometimes bigger than even the USSR was and at one time reaching as far as northern California) and lasted for about 400 years. Its history is divided into two parts: the Muscovite Tsardom period and the Imperial period.
The Muscovite Tsardom began under the 15th-century grand prince Ivan III "The Great" (who used the tsar title only occasionally) and was established fully under his grandson, Ivan IV "The Terrible", who was crowned as a Tsar from the very beginning. It was a convoluted, very conservative realm that considered itself a successor state to the Byzantine Empire and by extension The Roman Empire.
Then there was the Time of Troubles—a Succession Crisis-cum-Civil War. Not only did Ivan the Terrible kill his son and crown prince in a fit of a blind rage, but his second son, the weak and simpleminded Feodor Ivanovich, was more interested in religion than in ruling the realm, and was childless to boot. The original Rurikid dynasty fell, and the Godunovs (relatives of Feodor's wife) took the throne. They didn't make it, and after an interregnum and a war with Poland, Romanovs (relatives of one of Ivan the Terrible's wives) became the tsars. In an interesting aside, during the Muscovite era, Russia was ruled by a double-decker aristocracy that consisted of two classes: the Boyars, who were the feudal rulers and councilors of the Tsar, and the Dvoryans, who served as military officers and civil servants, somewhat similar to the Japanese system where also existed two separate nobilities, based on the court aristocracy (kazoku) and the military class (shizoku).
The 17th century was an age of riots and turmoil, and is still known to Russian historians as the Buntashny vek (The Age of Rebellions). The most notable rebellion of this century was one of Stepan Razin, an adventurous Cossack pirate who tried to topple the throne of the tsars. The early 18th century was the time of the tsar Peter the Great, who was obsessed with transforming Russia into an European power and later replaced the "tsar" title with "Emperor" (but the word "tsar" remained in unofficial usage and was retained as a secondary title note ). The Muscovite period was over and the Imperial age began. Russia was westernized, Western customs and noble titles were introduced. Peter the Great dismissed the Boyar class and made the Dvoryans into the only nobles of the realm, introducing the Table of Ranks, a legal mechanism that allowed lower-class people to achieve nobility by military or civil service. Since then, the word "Dvoryanin" was the only word for "noble" in Russia.
After Peter's death, the Age of Palace Revolutions came into being. The succession law introduced by Peter allowed emperors to nominate a successor of their choicenote , which unintentionally encouraged ambitious princes and (especially) princesses to seize the throne by force. Most of the rulers of Russia after Peter during the 18th century were women, culminating with Catherine the Great, who wasn't even Romanov by birth (she was a German princess and a Romanov by marriage—though, ironically, she was a Rurikid by a direct male succession). The Catherinian age is often seen as the golden age of Imperial Russia. After Catherine, her son Paul I, who had never forgiven his mother for the death of his fathernote , introduced a new succession law that was very strict, ending the Palace Revolutions age.
During the 19th century, the Russian Empire was relatively stable and growing, but the old feudal traditions impeded its progress, much like Peter the Great felt the old Orthodox Church traditions impeded progress in the late 17th century. During the early part of his reign, Alexander I and his chief minister Speransky flirted with liberal reforms, but the massive trauma of the Napoleonic invasion of 1812 undermined these efforts, and the liberal Speransky was dismissed and replaced by the reactionary Arakcheyev.
The death (or a secret abdication—there was a persistent rumor at the time that Alexander I faked his own death and entered a monastery, and later the famous monk Feodor was said to be the abdicated Emperor) of Alexander I far from the capital engendered a coup attempt by liberal army officers known as the Decembrists, who tried to exploit the last Succession Crisis in the history of the Tsars.note They tried to put in place a democratic constitution—though it would probably strike the modern reader as rather stretching this definition. Nicholas I crushed the revolt and became a hated reactionary ("the Policeman of Europe"), and lost the Crimean War. Under Alexander II, many important reforms were implemented and the last vestiges of feudalism were removed, but a lot of these reforms were of the "too little too late" mold, and made it difficult for the country to adapt well to capitalism.
To add insult to injury, the later emperors Alexander III (a very conservative giant of a man, a reactionary and a roaring drunk, though a shrewd and cautious ruler and a good diplomat) and his son Nicholas II—a weak and indecisive ruler, who constantly varied his policy and was basically a Tsar Focus Group—reversed many of these reforms. The fact that Alexander II had been thanked for his efforts by being blown to pieces probably had something to do with that. However it resulted in an impoverished country. Well, the economy was booming, but the political climate was stifling, the wealth distribution unbelievably skewed and the intellectual classes (intelligentsiya) widely believed the country to be a basket case (sounds familiar?)—which caused them to adopt a "the worse the better" attitude, and dive into the revolutionary ideas. A desire to take power away from the Tsar and his bureaucracy probably had something to do with radicalism too.
As the old regime got into costly wars against Japan (1905) and the Central Powers (1914-1917) massive revolts broke out, culminating in the overthrow of the Tsar and the Red October. And the rest is the matter of another article.
It was an absolute monarchy (between the 17th century and 1905), ruled by a Tsar or a Tsaritsa until the Russian Empire and an Emperor or Empress after that, but the latter were still commonly referred to by the old titles.
Some notable Tsars:
- Ivan IV, better known as Ivan The Terrible. Often portrayed as The Caligula, he was more like a ruthless Machiavellian tyrant, not unlike Medici or Borgia, who struggled for absolute power with boyar factions. He became paranoid—and often, Properly Paranoid—after a number of attempts to poison him, and he never hesitated to torture or execute his opponents. Infamously assaulted his pregnant daughter-in-law, which caused her to miscarry, and killed his son and heir, Ivan Ivanovich, in the same fit of rage. Ivan was definitely smart and, despite his ruthless brutality, his reign is a great one in Russian history books; he established the absolute monarchy and conquered Volga Region and Siberia. Ivan was called Grozny, which has always been translated to "the Terrible", but is technically closer to "terrifying yet awesome", in the same way as a thunderstorm (groza in Russian) is. Also notable for softening the attempts at the Christianization of the Turkic peoples under Muscovite rule.
- Boris Godunov. The man who tried to found a new dynasty but failed. He was a good, shrewd ruler, and a kind one compared to Ivan the Terrible, but his reputation of a manipulator didn't make the people like him, and famines of the worst kind happened during his reign. He also instituted the Enserfment of Russia, the process by which peasants with rights of movement and work, had their rights taken away by them and forced to work on land.
- Lzhedmitri (Pseudo-Demetrius) I. An adventurer of unknown identity (thought to be Grigori Otrepiev, an ex-monk) who pretended to be the tsarevich Dmitri, the last heir of the Rurikid dynasty, who mysteriously died some time before. Backed by the Poles, he led a successful revolution against Boris Godunov's son and heir Feodor II and became tsar. His fondness for all things Polish, though, led to his popularity quickly dropping down and eventual exposure as a fraud. He was executed, cremated, and his ashes shot from a cannon pointed westward, to Poland. Later, another Pseudo-Demetrius appeared, claiming to be both the real thing and the first Pseudo-Demetrius, and finally, to get rid of the frauds, the real tsarevich was canonized as a saint (so anyone pretending to be him could be proclaimed a heretic).
- Peter (Pyotr) I, also known as Peter the Great. Most notable for making Russia a great power, partly via creating its modern navy. He also defeated the Swedish Empire in a long and hard war in order to seize the eastern Baltic coast and thereafter had the new capital of Saint Petersburg built almost from scratch on the formerly Swedish town Nyenskans. Accordingly, a Kirov-class heavy battlecruiser (Pyotr Velikiy) is named after him. A giant of a man at 6'7, he had an interest in science and engineering and an adventurous streak that saw him travel around Europe to learn about that stuff, and later had him fighting on the front lines as a soldier in his own wars. He was also a sociopath who forced his cronies into drinking contests and once tortured his own son to death for suspected treason. Had an extremely traumatic childhood which basically involved treasonous royal guards storming the palace and hacking their way through his family before putting him and his half-brother, Ivan, on the throne as puppets so his half-sister Sofiya could rule, and forcing Peter and Ivan to promise not to take revenge (they weren't a particularly bright bunch).
- Catherine (Yekaterina) II, Catherine the Great, also known as The Semiramis of the North. Born Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst, she was a German, Lutheran Princess who converted to the Orthodox Church and learned the Russian language upon her marriage to the future Peter III. She took the throne after a successful coup d'état staged with the help of the Imperial Guard and the murder of her husband, who according to the most popular theory was strangled by Count Alexey Orlov, brother of one of Catherine's lovers. Often described as "an enlightened despot", she massively expanded the Russian Empire, massively promoted Russian culture but squashed dissent. Catherine tends to be admired more abroad than at home, where many people prefer to refer to her as Catherine II rather than Catherine the Great. There are two main reasons for this: One, she was pals with prominent writers of the Enlightenment such as Diderot and Voltaire, who flattered her from afar, and two, although she paid lip-service to the idea of improving the lot of the serfs, she soon left them to the "mercies" of their lords and even took away their right to complain about their treatment. Rumors about her sex life persist as Urban Legends, but do contain elements of truth.
- Paul (Pavel) I. The son of Catherine the Great, though they always had a strained relationship. He meant well, but because he refused to listen to advice, he managed to piss off every social group in Russia. Pavel also was a great fan of all things Prussian, which did little to endear him to the nobles. He built a European-style castle that was supposed to keep him safe from assassins. Didn't work out that way: he was assassinated by members of his inner circle. He established a strict male-line descent law, and since then there were no women on the Russian throne.
- Alexander I, also known as Alexander the Blessed. Son and successor of Paul, and Catherine the Great's favourite grandchild. Was probably not involved in the latter's murder. Alexander began his reign with plans for liberalizing Russia and granting her a constitution. Unfortunately, the Napoleonic Wars got in the way, but Alexander did display resolve in refusing to surrender to Napoleon and leading his nation to victory. Russia became probably the most powerful European country after peace was concluded. Alexander I. Is featured in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and in most movies about the Napoleonic era. Died relatively young in unclear circumstances and was widely believed to fake his death to enter a monastery.
- Alexander II, known as Alexander the Liberator. A failed reformer. He freed the serfs (see below) established trial by jury, created elected local government bodies, granted universities (limited) freedom of the press and, during the last year of his life, contemplated turning Russia into constitutional monarchy. Unfortunately, the anarchists thought he didn't go far enough and tried to kill him. They eventually succeeded, and Alexander II's heir, Alexander III, would up reversing or scaling down most of the policies his father put in place.
- Nicholas II (Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov), aka Nicholas The Martyr, Bloody Nicholas, Saint Nicholas The Passion Bearer and the cousin of George V. Last Emperor of Russia. Presided over Romanovs And Revolutions, was shot (along with his family) and was later made a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000. He continued the trend of Alexander III of reversing Alexander II's liberal reforms, and was first humiliated by Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. However, his execution by revolutionaries has most colored his legacy, especially when compared to the Soviet rule. Though he is often compared favorably in the West to the Soviets, his rule was definitely not free of oppression and it saw some of the worst pogroms (race riots, mainly against Jews) in Russian history. Arguably the personification of "Well Done, Son!" Guy, having been given very little preparation for ruling the country and always cowed by his much stronger father. Also known for looking like a twin brother to his first cousin, King George V of England.
Russia was an autocratic state, which wasn't a nice thing if you disagreed with the government. They had a Secret Police (the Okhranka) and the Orthodox Church chipped in with the help that most peasants were illiterate.
Heir Club for Men, and Sometimes Women too
The succession laws of the Russian monarchy enjoyed a turbulent history, including one major succession crisis. The original succession law of Kievan Rus was the rota, a complex form of seniority succession with constantly rotating princes: when the oldest prince in Kiev died, the next oldest moved to Kiev, the second oldest moved to the place vacated by that guy, etc. Eventually, the system became too confusing, and the XII-century Council of Lubech abolished it, replacing it with votchina and udel.
Votchina is traditional inheritance from father to son. It would be good, if only udel wouldn't come packaged with it: udel is a tradition of giving land to younger sons, too. This word is usually translated as "appanage", and shares similarity with the Frankish Salic partition and British gavelkind. The mess of petty princedoms that resulted from udel is called the Appanage Rus, to distinguish it from the united Kievan Rus. The tradition of udel remained under the Mongols, very beneficial to the conquerors who didn't want the Russians to unite.
Ivan the Great's father, Vasily II the Blind, started conquering petty appanage princedoms, but he did not abolish the udel tradition altogether. However, from Ivan the Great to Ivan the Terrible, the number and size of appanages granted to younger princes diminished steadily, and under Ivan the Terrible, exactly one appanage was granted: to the tsarevich Dmitri. Russia became an agnatic primogeniture after that, which means, it was transferred to the Tsar's oldest son in its entirety, without partitioning.
The introduction of primogeniture would certainly result in a long and stable dynasty... but Ivan the Terrible was not particularly known for rationality in his later years. His oldest son Ivan was murdered by his own hand, leaving the weak-minded second son Feodor heir. And the youngest son Dmitri, he of the last appanage, mysteriously died, allegedly by accident involving a game with knives and a fit of epilepsy.
Feodor, nicknamed "the Blissful" for his ignorance, died with no heir, and the Rurikids of Moscow were no more. A dynastic crisis ensued, involving one failed dynasty (the Godunovs), several non-dynastic Tsars and pretenders claiming to be the Dmitri of the dubious knife game fame. Eventually, the Zemsky Sobor, the Russian parliament, elected the Romanovs to be the new Tsars. Initially they followed Ivan the Terrible's agnatic primogeniture, until another famous Tsar, Peter the Great.
Peter the Great named himself Emperor and introduced a new succession law inspired by ancient Rome: the emperor had the right to name his successor. However, he died without designating one, and during the following decades, a number of weak emperors and empresses ruled, with the courtiers enforcing their own ideas on who should be the heir on them (again, like in Rome and Byzantium). Any arguments were resolved by the Life Guard which arrested, imprisoned or even killed the loser and crowned the winner (again, mimicking the Roman Praetorian Guard).
As we said, nothing in Peter's Law said there should be no empress regnant, and there were several. In fact, this era is called both the Age of Palace Revolutions, and the Age of the Empresses. The chain of weak and unremarkable rulers eventually produced Catherine the Great, who had nothing to do with the Romanovs by birth but was exceptionally talented. However, she too came to power through the Life Guard, traumatizing her son and heir Paul. When Paul became emperor, he wrote a new succession law reintroducing agnatic primogeniture to Russia. It was not strictly agnatic but semi-Salic, only allowing women to inherit if there are no male heir at all, but there were no regnant empresses in Russia ever since. The Pauline Law remained in effect until 1917.
There were two systems of aristocracy in Russia: the Muscovite one, abolished by Peter The Great, and the Imperial one created by him.
The Muscovite system was a double-decker consisting of two noble estates: the Boyar class (the feudal rulers) and the Dvoryan class (officers and state officials). The Boyars were further subdivided into two titles. The title of Prince (Knyaz) was reserved for descendants of the House of Rurik and its cadet branches, or for descendants of non-Russian royalty incorporated into Russia (such as Tatar khans). For the rest, the title of Boyar proper (equivalent to Count or Baron) was used.
The Dvoryans were also subdivided into sub-classes. The Dvoryans proper served the Tsar. The "Boyar's Sons" (Deti Boyarskie) were a kind of vassal knights serving Boyars and Princes. There existed even lower noble classes, like Odnodvortsy ("One-courtyard men") and Sluzhilye Lyudi ("Serving men"), which were close to the Holy Roman Empire's Ministerials class, in what they were considered minor nobility and allowed to own land and serfs, but didn't have personal freedom themselves, and can be freely ordered to move to settle the newly acquired lands or to wage the Tsar's wars. Later these lower classes of nobility were essentially folded into Cossacks with whom they always were in a very close relation.
This system was ditched by Peter I, who invented the "Table of Ranks" and the Imperial titles. According to the new system, the Boyars no longer existed, and all aristocrats were Dvoryans (since then, the word "Dvoryanin" meant simply "noble"). The title of Prince, however, was preserved, and most of the former Boyars received the European title of Count.
The Imperial system consisted of the following titles, from highest to lowest: Serene Prince, Prince, Count, Baron, Untitled Noble. The untitled nobles were further subdivided into the "Ancient Nobility" (descending from old princely lines, but somehow not titled themselves), "Hereditary Nobility" (the usual kind) and "Personal Nobility" (non-inheritable, roughly equivalent to modern British knighthood).
The Table of Ranks allowed entry into the noble class by military or civil service. Attaining the first enlisted officer rank or the first so-called "class rank" of civil service granted you the status of a personal noble. Attaining a senior rank such as Colonel or Collegial Assessor granted you the hereditary noble status. Actual titles, however, were granted on an individual basis by the Emperor, there wasn't any automatic mechanism that distributed them.
Several famous Russian noble houses were the Romanovs (before they got royal status), the Godunovs, the Shuiskys, the Miloslavskys, the Golitzines, the Obolenskys, the Gagarins (no, not that one)note , the Ignatievs.
Note that many Bolshevik and other revolutionaries were actually petty nobles and not urban commoners. Among those were the Moscow Centre founder Felix Dzerzhinsky and Vladimir Lenin himselfnote . The anarchist Peter Kropotkin was born a prince descended from the Rurikids. There is also a persistent theory that Joseph Stalin was a bastard son of the Polish-Russian noble and famous explorer Przhevalsky (as they show an uncanny likeness).
Tell the teacher we're Serfing:
Serfs, not just found in Russia but also in, for example, Prussia and Denmark, were bonded farm labourers, with little or no economic freedom. Originally, in the Muscovite period, it was not quite slavery but close, serfs did have their own land and housing, but usually had to give the best of their crop to their lord. Serfdom was abolished in most of Europe during the Renaissance, mainly because the economic pressure from the lack of working hands after the Black Death and latter improving agricultural techniques made it unprofitable. The relative weakness of the Plague in Russia and shitty climate that made new farming technologies unreliable, requiring a lot of backbreaking manual labor for farming to be even remotely sustainable, meant that it remained in Russia for much longer. It's worth noting that in the Muscovite period, Russia had BOTH slavery and serfdom. The slaves in Russia were legally converted into serfs by Peter the Great in 1723, but the only thing caused by this humane reform was serfdom becoming essentially slavery.
Serfdom's descent to slavery began during the Muscovite period, when the St.George's Day custom, that allowed serfs to leave their masters that day, was banned. Hence the Russian expression "'Vot tebe, babushka, i Yuriev den'" (That's all of St.George's day for you, grandma), used in a situation of plans suddenly changing or things becoming worse. During the heyday of the serfdom, in the early 19th century, it became slavery in anything but name; the serfs didn't own land, didn't have any rights (even the right to choose a spouse) and could be sold and bought freely. Alexander II, seeing that the system was extremely backwards (and wishing to prevent possible peasant uprisings), ended it in Russia in 1861. Peacefully, unlike they did in a certain other country that decade. Russia was an empire, not a democracy, so Russian serf-owning aristocrats didn't even think about opposing that decision (especially after seeing what happened to the Decembrists). Unfortunately, emancipation left many former serfs without land or means to support themselves, as well as being burdened by the introduction of sharecropping and "redemption payments", and ended up contributing to a major revolution anyway.
A state (well, a micronation) was created in the XXI century by Russian monarchists under the name of "Russian Empire". It originally claimed the atoll Suwarrow and also claimed ownership of the entire Antarctic (justifiable, since the continent was first discovered by a Russian expedition). Later it renamed itself "The Sovereign State of the Imperial Throne", dropped its claims on the atoll and found a Romanov descendant (Karl Emich zu Leiningen, a German prince related to the Romanovs) as a monarch. The micronation now tries (unsuccessfully, because Putin) to promote restoration of the monarchy in The New Russia.
Tropes often associated with Tsarist Russia
- All Jews Are Ashkenazi: The Russian Empire had the highest population of Jews of any nation prior to the Holocaust and later the foundation of Israel. The only state that may have had more Jews was The Roman Empire. That being said, nearly all of them were Ashkenazi. Strangely, the Jews in Russia were somewhat of a recent phenomenon. While small communities had existed here or there before the 18th century, it was the Partitions of Poland in the mid and late 18th century that brought a large amount of Jews into the control of the Russian Empire. The Jews of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the heirs to an advanced society of high literary and urbanization never quite managed to find acceptance in the Russian Empire.
- Badass Beard: As the picture above shows, Russian nobles in the Muscovite period were extremely proud of their beards, which they regarded as symbolic of awesomeness. Peter the Great disagreed and banned them as part of his reforms although he was forced to allow priests to keep theirs so that they became Holy Beards instead.
- Big Fancy House: The Tsars and Russian nobles in general were fans of this. Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg is the most famous example. Russia is still peppered with old crumbling manor houses and estates, some of which were repurposed by the Soviets as resorts.
- Butt-Monkey: Russian peasants, and ironically, the military and royals during the reign of Nicholas II post-1905. Jews in the Russian Empire were even bigger Butt Monkeys, frequently subjected to both spontaneous pogroms and at times even instances where the Russian government would deliberately whip up antisemitic hysteria against its Jewish community (in times of trouble, the Russian government would drag out antisemitism as a cynical means of directing the people's ire away from the government and towards a readily-available scapegoat).
- Christianity Is Catholic: Averted, the Russian Orthodox Church was the official state religion of the Russian Empire, and Catholics under Russian rule experienced anything from a sort of uneasy coexistence to outright persecution (as often happened after the Catholic Poles were brought into the Russian Empire).
- Church Militant: The Oprichniks were the State Sec of Ivan the Terrible and had some paramilitary functions as well. They were all insane (and very well-armed) warrior monks from a fraternal order organized along the Russian Orthodox Church lines (but not exactly belonging to it).
- Conspicuous Consumption: A major problem with tsars, nobles, and cossacks. Especially considering that the Russian Empire's peasants were among the poorest in Europe.
- Dress Code: Women of court, in the last couple centuries of this era, were required to wear certain clothes, to help show the distinctiveness of Russian Fashion. Some women were not silent about how uncomfortable it could be.
- A God Am I: Ivan IV (better known as Ivan The Terrible) believed he was the Archangel Michael reborn in mortal form.
- Lower-Class Lout: Russian peasants were extremely poor, even compared to other European peasants, and in fiction are often portrayed as brutes and easily-riled hicks. Or they're portrayed as horribly oppressed, sympathetic Butt-Monkey figures.
- The Dung Ages: Subverted, while Russia's lower class was destitute even by the standards of other European nations, Russians did bathe more than Western Europeans in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.
- Hidden Backup Prince: The two Pseudo-Demetriuses (see above) claimed to be this, as did Yemelyan Pugachev, who led the biggest popular uprising (1773-1775) during the reign of Empress Catherine II. He claimed that he was actually Peter III, who miraculously escaped the palace revolution staged by his consort, and thereby managed to increase his popular base. And in the 20th century a number of women pretended to be Princess Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Nicholas II.
- Modern Major General: Russian military commanders during World War I
- Pimped-Out Dress: Including a distinctive style with the cut of the sleeves and skirt.
- Pretty in Mink: Fur-trimmed outfits were not unique to Russia, but it became part of the distinctive look.
- The Remnant: The White Army during Red October is often portrayed as this to Tsarist Russia, the truth is very different, as the White Army was a coalition of monarchists, liberals (many of whom advocated democracy!), aristocrats and other wealthy figures, Cossacks, former Russian military officers (the grunts generally gravitated towards the Reds), and generally anyone who wasn't a communist, anarchist, or Ukranian nationalist. But despite the fact that hardline Tsarists were a minority among the Whites, they continued to enforce most of the law, discipline, customs etc of the dead Empire, which gives a legitimate reason to call them a remnant thereof (and gave the masses a legitimate reason to hate them, which led to their defeat).
- Ironically, a case could be made of the Reds also being The Remnant, as after the first attempts at fighting with the untrained worker militias (the original Red Guards) failed quite spectacularly, Leon Trotsky, who was responsible for creating the Soviet military, had to resort to bringing the Former Regime Personnel aboard to help organize and train it. So, in the end, the new Red Army was essentially organized by the former Tsarist officers along the former Imperial Army lines. The Reds, however, emphatically denied any succession, down to the Insistent Terminology (e.g., they rejected the word "officer" as too Tsarist and called their officers "commanders").
- Sailor Fuku: Nicholas II's son, Alexsei, was often wearing the male version in photographs, probably because of his young age.
Tsarist Russia and the Romanov dynasty in fiction:
- The Scarlet Empress is a factionalized version of Catherine the Great's rise to power, with particular emphasis on her Really Gets Around nature.
- The books entitled The Adventures of Baron Münchhausen (or variants of that title) to a large extent deal with the Baron's adventures during his service in the Imperial Russian Army, which helps to explain their success in Russia. Many film and television adaptations also include Russian themes, e. g. the 1943 German film Münchhausen is set during the reign of Catherine the Greatnote .
- German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller was working on a play about the Pseudo-Demetrius when he died. Other writers have tried their hands at producing an ending.
- Most of the works of the "father of Russian literature", Alexander Pushkin, qualify, for instance:
- The tragedy Boris Godunov is set during the Time of Troubles, ending with the accession to the throne of the Pseudo-Demtrius. It was turned into an opera by Modest Musorgsky.
- Peter the Great appears in the epic poem Poltava (about his victory against King Charles XII of Sweden), his unfinished novel The Moor of Peter the Great (about Pushkin's great-grandfather), and—as his own statue—in the poem The Bronze Rider.
- The Captain's Daughter is told against the backdrop of Pugachev's rebellion under Catherine the Great. Pushkin also described that uprising in a non-fiction book.
- Eugene Onegin, set in Pushkin's present. Also an opera by Peter Tchaikovsky.
- Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls, The Inspector General, The Nevsky Prospect etc. etc.
- Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov.
- Mikhail Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar (Ivan Susanin makes a heroic sacrifice to save Tsar Michael Romanov from a dastardly Polish attack at the end of the Time of Troubles, by using himself as a false escort).
- Modest Mussorgsky, apart from his famous adaptation of Pushkin's Boris Godunov, also wrote the opera Khovanshchina, which deals with the rebellion of the Old Believers led by Prince Ivan Khovansky in 1682.
- Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment.
- Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace takes place from about 1804-1821, during the monarchy's glory days. The reader experiences the glamor and beauty of imperial balls and palaces. This novel was adapted into several movies and television series, as well as an opera by Sergei Prokofiev.
- Jules Verne's Michael Strogoff.
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea's Captain Nemo was originally supposed to be from Poland, rebelling against the oppressive Russian regime, but as France was an ally of Russia, his publisher made him change it to an Indian noble fighting the oppressive English (a perennial Acceptable Target for the French).
- Sergei Eisenstein's films Strike, The Battleship Potemkin, October (it begins before World War I), and Ivan the Terrible.
- As the quote suggests, Fiddler on the Roof, which ends with Anatevka being destroyed in a pogrom.
- Mikhail Sholokhov's And Quiet Flows the Don is set from pre-World War I Russia to the end of the Russian Civil War.
- Then there's Woody Allen's spoof of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Eisenstein, Love And Death.
- Dersu Uzala, Akira Kurosawa's film version of Vladimir Arsenyev's non-fiction book about a nomadic hunter he befriended during his scientific expeditions in Eastern Siberia.
- Nicholas and Alexandra dramatizes Red October and the overthrow and murder of the Romanovs.
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's novel August 1914.
- Assassin's Creed: The Fall is set during this time in the historical portion.
- Shadow Hearts 2
- The Erast Fandorin series of novels, which follows master detective Fandorin from 1876 to 1914 as the country slowly crumbles.
- The short story "New Archangel" by Desmond Warzel, set in Alaska, takes place partly during this period of Russian history and its rule over that territory.
- Alexander Romanov from Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 is a distant relative of Nicholas II—and is the Premier of the Soviet Union and the successor of Joseph Stalin. Following the events of Yuri's Revenge, he and the USSR either joins the Allies against Yuri (Allied campaign), or after the Soviets defeat Yuri on their own (Soviet campaign), uses the latter's advanced space technology to force the Allies to surrender and to spread communism over the planet, across the solar system, and beyond
- Warhammer 40,000's Vostroyan Firstborn regiments are based on tzarist armies, with lots of Bling of War, sabers, and big furry hats.
- The Royal Diaries series has 2 books that take place during this time period, one about Catherine the Great and the other about Anastasia Romanova.
- Nikolai Dante presents a version of tsarist Russia, set in the far future. The house of Romanov is heavily featured and that's about where similarities end.
- Some scenes involving Russia/Ivan in Axis Powers Hetalia are set during this period. Even under the Tsars, he's shown to be not quite all there in the head for the most part. On the other hand, his Start of Darkness is also depicted as happening during the later years leading up to the Russian Revolution. More specifically, Bloody Sunday 1905.
- Mutant Chronicles: Bauhaus is very strongly based on pre-Revolution Russia, and House Romanov is one of Bauhaus' four leading families. The Romanovs are explicitly a Russian family as of the third edition, but their link to the Tsars is unclear.
- The setting of the 1972 British/Spanish horror film Horror Express (which is another work based off of the landmark 1938 science fiction story "Who Goes There?" that 1951 and 1982 The Thing adaptations were based off of). Set on the Orient Express going from China to Moscow in 1906, it involves a body-possessing alien organism that starts off hidden in the frozen remains of an early hominid being transported by British archeologists.
- The human-hunting General Zaroff from The Most Dangerous Game is an aristocratic Cossack who like many anti-communist White Russians fled from the Bolshevik takeover.
- The 1928 film The Last Command, starring Emil Jannings, the plot of which revolves heavily around World War I and the last days of the regime.
- Too many works of fiction involving Grigori Rasputin to list.
- The 1916 American drama film "Sold For Marriage," which involves an impoverished Russian girl being forcibly sold by her tyrannical father into a forced marriage in America, and which played heavily on American perceptions of Russia at the time as being a backwards, feudal land. One of the production stills is a very emblematic image of a babushka-wearing Lillian Gish cowering before the lecherous-looking Cossack Colonel Gregioff, played by Walter Long.
- A Russian and a French spy play surprisingly small parts in Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim.
- The 1936 film The Charge of the Light Brigade grants considerable artistic licence to history by having the famous charge be an act of vengeance against a villainous Indian prince who had earlier in the film been responsible for a massacre of British troops in India, and who is now in cahoots with a standard crafty Tsarist general.
- The decline of the Tsars is covered from Alexander III onwards in Fall of Eagles.
- Mata Hari, as played by Greta Garbo, becomes involved with a Russian aviator in the 1933 film of the same name.
- Catherine The Great appears in an episode of Jack of All Trades (in line with the show's dubious record of historical accuracy, she appears despite it being set five years after her death and portrayed as a much younger woman.) The entire purpose of the episode seems to be to repeat all those nasty rumours about her having had sex with a horse.
- Groundbreaking Stop Motion Animation film The Cameraman's Revenge was actually made in Tsarist Russia, namely in 1912. It satirizes the cheesy melodramas that were popular in early Russian cinema.
- The Eagle stars Rudolph Valentino as a dashing cavalryman during the reign of Catherine the Great.