From the early part of the Paleolithic, a few places of discovery are known in the southernmost part of the Federation, while the later Paleolithic settlements (see Sungir) are scattered throughout most of the area. Beginning in the Neolithic, the area’s prehistory can best be followed divided into four zones: 1) the Black Sea coast and the North Caucasus; 2) the steppe and parts of the forest steppe; 3) southern forest zone; 4) the rope and connecting parts of the tundra. The earliest farmer sites, dating from the fifth millennium BC, have been surveyed on the Black Sea coast, while agriculture and livestock management were on the steppes in the fourth millennium. In the forest zones, trapping cultures were trained with ceramic pottery, such as the Sperrings- and Narva groups with connections to Finland and the Baltics. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Russia.
During the third millennium, the so-called pit grave culture was in the steppe zone. The horse was important, and sometimes carriages were reduced in the tombs, which were covered by piles (see the Kurgan culture). Copper deposits in the Caucasus and Kazakhstan had already been utilized and copper objects were now commonplace. In the northern Caucasus, societies emerged with a complicated social structure (see Majkop). During the Bronze Age, metallic wealth in Ural played a major role, and already at the end of the Bronze Age, iron technology was developed in the European part of the area (see the Ananino culture). In the middle and southern forest areas, cultural areas were trained that were given continuity to historical times. On the steppes a number of people followed each other: shooters, sarmats, females, avars and Bulgarians. The emergence of the kingdom of the Volga Bulgarians can be followed in the archaeological finds from the 7th century AD. Slavic colonization from the southwest hardly reached the present Russian Federation territory until the 700-800s. The former population of the forest zone was Baltic and Finnish.
For history before 1991 see Russia (History) and Soviet Union (History) respectively.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union
When the Soviet Union disbanded, several new states were formed, with the Russian Federation being the largest country.
Initially, the hopes were high for a calm and effective transition to democracy and human rights as well as a functioning economy and a reliable rule of law. These expectations were for Russian reform advocates, those who were positive about closer contacts with the West, and many ordinary Russians. Decision-makers and citizens of other countries also hoped for a rapid and positive development in the Russian Federation.
Instead, the 1990s in the Russian Federation in many ways became chaotic, both financially and democratically and socially. Extensive economic problems, political opposition from a conservative Duma, cumbersome bureaucracy and widespread corruption slowed down reform efforts.
The collapse of the Soviet Union came as a surprise to large sections of the population, which created hopes but also uncertainty and insecurity. Society would undergo sweeping reforms in the economy, public institutions, political governance and foreign policy, but also in employment, healthcare, ownership, housing, transport and more. There was widespread concern and uncertainty about the major changes that would both occur quickly and which it was difficult to get accurate information about.
Within ethnic and linguistic groups, there was a concern about what it would mean to be a linguistic minority or not to live in the country that is primarily associated with one’s language.
In 1993, a constitutional crisis was going on between President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian parliament. Yeltsin was held responsible for deteriorating living conditions for ordinary citizens, economic crises, widespread corruption and widespread problems in, for example, public health care.
Popular protests took place around the parliament building and a TV station. Finally, the Russian military intervened. The so-called ten-day conflict became the bloodiest street battle since the Russian Revolution of 1917 and resulted in dozens of dead and 100s injured.
The Russian Federation was then given a constitution that gave the President great powers of power (compare Russian Federation: State Condition and Politics). The President further strengthened his power through cooperation with the financiers who created great private wealth during the Russian economic transformation in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the so-called oligarchs (see further oligarchy).
1990s economic crisis
Dissatisfaction in the country continued to increase, not only over the close contacts between political and economic power, but also with the widening gaps between social groups and between Moscow and the rest of the country. The Russians were also critical of how the economy was deteriorating. For example, wages were no longer paid regularly, which hit many citizens hard.
In the summer of 1998, the Russian Federation suffered an acute economic collapse, the so-called ruble crisis. This was caused, among other things, by the fact that individuals and companies had moved capital abroad. The falling world market price of raw materials such as oil, natural gas, metals and timber hit the Russian Federation hard, as the country was and is economically dependent on such exports.
The financial crisis in Asia last year also had a negative impact on the economy, as did the large Russian spending during the first war in Chechnya (see also the Chechnya war). The ruble was devalued, inflation rose and several banks closed as a result of the financial crisis.
However, the Russian economy recovered unexpectedly quickly. This was mainly due to the fact that the world market price of oil rose sharply in 1999-2000, but also that Russian industry had made a profit on the currency devaluation, which made imported goods more expensive for Russians.
Russian superpower ambitions
During the 1990s, discussions were underway on what role the Russian Federation would play internationally. For example, the country’s attempt to assert a role as an international superpower was marked by its actions during the Balkan wars.
The Russian Federation established a clear attitude towards Russian-speaking citizens in neighboring countries and tried in various ways to continue to hold together the former Soviet territory, which had been divided into countries that during this period tried to create functioning new or restored states.
On two occasions, in 1994 and 1999, the military conflict and thus the civil war in Chechnya intensified. Chechens wanted independence, which the Russian central authority did not approve. Many, mainly civilians, were killed and injured during the bloody battles. The Chechnya war came to play an important role in Russian politics during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Chechnya was one of the main issues facing Vladimir Putin in his presidency at the turn of the millennium.
Russian cultural life and educational system have changed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Patriotic values have been increasingly emphasized. A new type of Russian nationalism, or post-imperial identity, became increasingly popular with some Russians during the 1990s. This entailed a process of homogenization, increased unity and emphasis on nationalist values and military capabilities. This development has been associated with Vladimir Putin’s leadership both within the Russian Federation and abroad. Putin was president in 2000-08 and then prime minister until 2012, when, according to the constitution, he could be re-elected president.
Putin has received support for his policies within the Russian Federation and has long been a popular leader among Russian citizens, which should be partly seen in the light of his first eight years as president of a successful economy. The political and economic turmoil in the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union was followed by a stabilization and positive development of the Russian economy that was able to benefit from high energy prices in the world.
Oil and natural gas have also gained foreign policy significance, as the supply of oil and gas, mainly winter time, to both neighboring countries and other European countries has been used as a political weapon. Neighboring countries such as Ukraine and Georgia have sought to reduce the potential for such Russian influence. The EU has also acted to make countries less vulnerable to Russian influence in the energy sector.
The fact that Dmitry Medvedev held the presidential post 2008-12 did not mean a major political change. Putin continued to hold a strong position until he was re-elected as President in 2012.
Military conflicts and foreign policy
The aggressive attitude towards neighboring countries that, through their politics, has turned away from the Russian Federation has increased. In 2008, Russian troops entered Georgian territory, formally in support of the separatist territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two areas have been recognized as independent from Georgia by the Russian Federation but by few other states.
Putin’s third term in 2012-18 was marked by increasing foreign policy tensions and more international involvement, in parallel with restrictions on democracy and human rights within the country.
In the spring of 2014, the Russian Federation illegally annexed the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea. The Russian Federation was authorized to have a military base in the city of Sevastopol, but Crimea was Ukrainian territory. Ukraine was at this time weakened by a domestic political crisis, which later developed into a war with Russian intervention in Ukrainian territory even in eastern Ukraine. Today, Crimea is still deported from Moscow, despite international condemnations.
The Russian Federation motivated the actions in Ukraine, among other things, with a need to ensure the security of the so-called ethnic Russians in Crimea, which were reported to be threatened because Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych no longer had the same power. Under the supervision of the Russian military, a referendum was held on the legal status of Crimea. According to the Russian Federation, overwhelming support was given to incorporate Crimea into the Russian Federation. The referendum was regarded by the outside world as illegitimate.
In connection with the annexation of Crimea, the Russian Federation made official statements that the state reserves the right to intervene in countries where it is considered that the so-called Russian population is being discriminated against. In retrospect, Russian action in Georgia has been seen as the start of a more aggressive Russian foreign policy, mainly towards neighboring countries and former Soviet republics. The image of a strong Russian defense has become increasingly important to the country’s political leadership. Following the annexation of Crimea, Russian military allies were kept in readiness near the Ukrainian border. Preparedness exercises were organized on Russian bases in Armenia, Tajikistan, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and with the so-called peacekeeping force in the Transnistrian outbreak region of Moldova.
In the fall of 2015, Putin approved a military intervention in Syria following a formal request from the Syrian government (see also Syrian Civil War).
In early 2017, statements from the US intelligence service came that Putin personally had ordered an impact campaign to make it difficult for Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 US presidential election (compare US: State of the Law and Politics). In parallel with this, several countries have expressed that the Russian Federation has carried out campaign campaigns and propaganda in both the Russian Federation and other countries. US Special Prosecutor Robert Miller (born 1944) filed a lawsuit against Russian citizens and institutions in 2018 for the influence of the 2016 US presidential election.
Human rights restrictions
Developments against democracy and a functioning rule of law have been adversely affected when more and more of the country’s political power is concentrated in the office of president and a number of institutions close to the president. Many institutions are led by people who had made careers in the Soviet Union’s security police and defense forces.
Political opponents’ ability to express themselves or to organize themselves in different ways has diminished and the freedom of the media has been restricted.
At the beginning of his presidency, Putin secured an increased influence over the media by giving large TV channels to Putin-friendly owners and controlling the reporting of the head of state. Putin’s changes towards more censorship met international criticism in connection with the murder of the famous Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.
Putin’s third presidential term was marked by repression and increased control. For example, a law from November 2012 forces organizations that receive some form of financial assistance from abroad, such as project grants, to register as so-called “foreign agents”.
Several protests and other protests have taken place around the Russian Federation several times. For example, the demonstrations were extensive after Putin was elected president in 2012, in an election that was considered to have been conducted with several shortcomings.
The opposition has difficulty working in the Russian Federation. Opposition leader Aleksey Navalnyj has been repeatedly imprisoned, according to himself and many others for purely political reasons and not based on criminal acts. He was prevented from taking part in the 2018 presidential election. Navalnyj is critical of the United Russia Party and the widespread corruption in the country.
The Soviet Union’s special corruption, which permeated many parts of society and was a reaction to the Soviet system, is still noticeable (2018). At the same time, corruption has also increased in more sectors, as a result of the attempts to convert to market economy. The organization Transparency International estimated in its latest ranking of countries’ estimated corruption levels of the Russian Federation as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Putin ran for office in the March 2018 presidential election, winning about 76 percent of the vote. Reports of electoral fraud appeared, which is not uncommon in Russian elections. Compare Russian Federation (Politics).