Sparked by frustration with the social and economic conditions in Russia during the country’s involvement in World War I, the Russian people rioted against Tsar Nicholas II. The Tsar’s government collapsed in February 1917, and this “February Revolution” brought a new socialist economic system spearheaded by the Bolsheviks to what would become known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The USSR was initially led by Joseph Stalin, whose reign was marked by economic growth and strict regional policy. Stalin faced significant resistance particularly in Ukraine, which suffered greatly due to the forced collectivization of the new socialist system. Stalin was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev. The USSR weakened over time, falling finally after a coup in August 1991.
Following the dissolution of the USSR on December 25, 1991, the Russian Federation established itself as the region’s largest successor state. Many former Soviet territories also established themselves as independent states, such as the Ukraine, yet the region remained heavily under the control of the new Russian government. Boris Yeltsin, elected President of Russia prior to the Soviet Union’s dissolution, instituted reforms to replace the previous state-controlled economy with a market-controlled economy. The radical market changes of the Russian Federation resulted in a severe economic depression. Russia’s economic situation did not improve until Yeltsin’s resignation in 2000 and the election of Vladimir Putin.
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was formed in the wake of the USSR’s collapse in order to act as a forum with the numerous former Soviet republics. Russia attempted to continue influencing these states through methods such as economic pressure on the Ukraine. The CIS, however, accomplished little, and relations between Russia and the former Soviet republics continued to be strained.
Putin’s presidency lasted until March 2, 2008, when he became Prime Minister and was succeeded in the presidency by Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev’s presidency, however, was tumultuous. Medvedev faced military conflicts in Georgia, Chechnya and other separatist Russian states, and it was announced 2011 that Putin would run for president in the 2012 election, intending to appoint Medvedev to the Prime Minister seat. Despite public resistance leading up to voting, Putin was elected to his second presidential term on March 4, 2012.