Today Russia is one of the most powerful nations in the world. But it was not always so. Earlier till the 19th century, Russia was ruled by several “Tsars” for over almost 400 years.
What ‘Tsar’ means
Czar is the Russian word for Caesar. In English, the closest word you can come to the meaning of Tsar/Czar is “emperor.” The title of Tsar was made the official designation of all the leaders that came after Ivan the Terrible, until 1917 when the Tsar’s rule came to an end with the Bolshevik Revolution of Russia and the abdication of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia.
The ‘Tsars’ of Russia
Russia had been once under the rule of the Mongols, and their neighbors to the east and west were still the hostile Khanates Mongols. Ivan IV became the first Tsar of Russia, declared himself monarch, and based himself in Moscow. He associated himself with the Russian orthodox church, took away all powers from the Russian Nobles, and made rules and regulations that ensured all power rested in the hands of the Tsar.
Ivan IV had some great military successes by annexing the Mongol Khanate of Sibir, Kazan, and Astrakhan and gaining control of the Volga River and Caspian Sea. He is known as Ivan the Terrible. He beat his own son to death, and his conflicts with the Russian nobility reached horrifying heights. The Boyars, who were the strongest nobles in the country, were brutally subjugated by him.
The rule of the all-powerful autocratic Tsars of Russia spanned an era of almost 400 years, beginning from the middle of the 16th century to the early 20th century. There were during this time not only male Tsars but also a couple of female Tsarinas who became the autocratic rulers of the kingdom.
Elizabeth of Russia was Tsar from 1741 to 1762. She is known for the establishment of the University of Moscow and spent vast amounts of money on her palaces. She reigned for twenty years, and during that time, not even a single person was executed. But, Russia did become tangled in the Seven Years War and the War of the Australian Succession during her reign.
Catherine the Great came into power as Tsar after her husband’s assassination in 1762 and ruled till 1796. Catherine’s rule is considered the golden age of the Russian Empire.
The End of the ‘Tsars’
The Romanov Family was the last of the Tsars to rule Russia. The medieval Rurik Dynasty’s fall gave rise to the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty. After coming to power in 1613, they ruled the Russian Empire for over 3 centuries. Altogether, there were 18 members of the Romanov Family who took the Russian throne. Catherine the Great, Alexander I, Peter the Great, and Nicholas II are prominent Romanov Tsars. The Romanov Dynasty’s rule came to a tragic end when the monarchy was overthrown during the Russian Revolution of 1917, and all the members of Tsar Nicholas II’s family, including his young children, were executed by the Bolshevik Revolutionaries.