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Russian Empire

Soldiers turn on protesters in St Petersburg, 1905The modern history of Russia, beginning in the late 17th century, is largely the story of the Romanov ruling house of czars—and the attempts made to overthrow them. For long periods of history the Romanovs ruled unchallenged, but in 1905 they were shaken by a popular uprising, and in 1917 they were finally overthrown. This period is also marked by a massive expansion of the Russian Empire west into Europe and east into Siberia and central Asia.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great

Perhaps the greatest Romanov ruler of Russia was Peter the Great. He reigned from 1682 until his death in 1725. An extremely tall man with great energy, he dragged Russia into the modern world. In 1697–98 he travelled in disguise throughout Western Europe, learning about manufacturing, how to build ships and new cities, and how to modernize his country along western lines. When he returned to Russia, he set about building a new capital city at St Petersburg (founded in 1703) on the Baltic Sea—then, as now, one of the most beautiful cites in Europe.

Peter the Great was 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) tall—although it was said he had a small head, out of proportion with the rest of his huge body.

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