After Catherine the Great
Czar Paul and Napoleon
By 1801 the Russians decided Paul was hopeless. They killed Paul and replaced him with his 23 year old son, Alexander (Catherine’s grandson). Alexander did well at first. He invaded Georgia. Thanks to his new cannons, he took a lot of land away from Iran. But that didn’t stop Napoleon. Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, and about half a million Russian soldiers died. Maybe about another half a million people who were not soldiers died too.
Russia defeats Napoleon
But in the end the Russian army succeeded in defeating Napoleon. Most of Napoleon’s army died of cold and hunger and typhus trying to get back to France from Russia.
Czar Nicholas and the Ottomans
When Alexander also died of typhus in 1825, his younger brother Nicholas – also Catherine’s grandson – became Czar. Nicholas took advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire to try to take over the Ottoman Empire and form a much bigger, more powerful kingdom. He tried to help Iran’s Shah Mohammed reconquer Afghanistan, too.
Europe and the Crimean War
Although Nicholas won at first, the idea of such a big powerful kingdom scared Britain and France, and they helped the Ottoman Empire to fight off the Russians in the Crimean War. Britain also helped the Sikhs to fight Afghanistan, to squelch Russian power there. Russians thought it was super unfair for Britain to push them around like that.
Czar Alexander II
Nicholas died of pneumonia in 1855. His son Alexander II – Catherine’s great-grandson – became the new czar.
Alexander frees Russian serfs
Poor farmers now had more freedom to quit their jobs, or move to another town, but, like the freed African-Americans in the United States, they still didn’t own their own land. And they still didn’t have any political power. But, like people in Europe and the Americas, they were starting to fight for power.
What else did Alexander do?
With British help, Alexander also opened up coal mining in Russia. In 1867, Alexander sold the Russian settlements in Alaska to the United States, because they were just too far away for the Russian army to protect them.
Czar Alexander III
In 1881, Russian people who wanted more democracy killed Alexander II was killed with a bomb. His son Alexander III became the new czar. Alexander III was frightened by the revolutionaries who had killed his father. He tried to keep all the power for himself. He wanted to control everything that happened in Russia.
Czar Nicholas II – Russia’s last czar
When Alexander III died in 1894, his son Nicholas II became the new czar – and the last one, because the revolutionaries finally forced Nicholas to abdicate (quit) in 1917.