This Russian Empire Timeline gives a brief overview of key events during the history of the Russian Empire, with a particular focus on its expansion and conflicts with other countries and empires.
1721 After defeating Sweden, Russia gains control of Estonia, Livonia and Ingria. Tsar Peter I (later known as Peter the Great) is proclaimed as the first Emperor of all Russia
1772 The First Partition of Poland sees almost a third of Poland divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia. The full partition of Poland was completed by 1795.
1799 The Russian American Company is founded, and begins constructing settlements in North America, particularly in Alaska and California.
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1809 The Finnish War concludes, and Sweden cedes Finland to the Russian Empire.
1812 Under the leadership of Napoleon, France invades Russia in June. After reaching Moscow, French forces are pushed back and defeated by the end of the year.
1829 The Russo-Turkish war of 1828-1829 concludes. Defeated Turkey cedes the Eastern Black Sea shore to Russia, plus territory at the mouth of the river Danube.
1831 Polish November uprising is defeated.
1853 – 1856 Russia fights France and the British Empire in the Crimean War. Russia is defeated, and loses control of its Danube territory. Defeat leads to domestic reform, including Alexander II’s 1861 emancipation of the serfs.
1858 Treaty of Aigun signed. Border between China and Russia is fixed at the Amur River
1860 Convention of Peking grants control of Ussuri krai to Russia.
1864 – 1865 A Russian military expedition gains control over much of Central Asia. The city of Tashkent is captured in 1865, and the Guberniya of Turkestan is established in 1867.
The Russian Empire reached its largest territorial size of 23.7 million square kilometers. The third largest empire in history, Russia’s only rival at the time was the larger but very different British Empire. See the map of the Russian Empire in 1866 which accompanies this article.
1867 Alaska is sold to the United States for $7.2 million, reducing the size of the Russian empire by 1.5 million square kilometers.
1873 Burkhara and Khiva become Russian protectorates
1877 – 1878 Russia defeats the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War. Although Russia sees some territorial gains in the Caucasus, the war weakens Russia’s main South-Western rival.
1899 Russification of Finland begins, reducing Finnish autonomy, and Russian is declared the official language of Finland. The policy meets resistance and weakens Russian control over the territory.
1904 – 1905 Japan unexpectedly defeats Russian in the Russo-Japanese War. Russia is forced to cede part of the Sakhalin Islands, and control over Port Arthur in China.
1905 Nicholas II signs the October Manifesto, following widespread protests during what became known as the 1905 Revolution.
1914 The First World War begins. Despite initial successes, Russia begins to suffer increasingly heavy defeats to the German military
1917 The Russian Revolution. Tsar Nicholas II abdicates in the February 1917 Revolution. The Russian Provisional Government (which itself falls to the Bolsheviks in the second Russian Revolution in October 1917) declares Russia a republic and the Russian Empire no longer formally exists.