Famous Czars of Russia

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The word czar or tsar is a Russian corruption of the old Latin name Caesar (used as a title for the Roman emperors). Even to this day, Russian history is little known in Europe and the rest of the world but just like any other former imperial nation it has a rich political and social history with some truly great monarchs. Here is a list of some of the best-known


1. Nicholas II


The final czar of Russia whose life ended when the country descended into bitter revolution in 1914, Nicholas was a deeply unpopular monarch. Considered increasingly out of touch and using the army to suppress rebellion time and time again ‘ earning himself the nickname Bloody Nicholas ‘ he was also distrusted because of his association with Rasputin. Entry into WWI was the final straw when over 3 million Russians were killed. Lenin who was the ringleader of the revolution immediately withdrew the country in order to restore stability

2. Catherine II (The Great)


One of the greatest female monarchs of history, she had ruled jointly with her husband Peter III until his assassination in 1763. She was so celebrated and Russia’s expansion so vast that her period of sole reign is referred to as ‘Russia’s Golden Age’. Many new towns and cities were founded during her reign and she sought to emulate the other European powers. Despite this, Russia was the only European power that relied on serfdom and they would continue to do so into the 19th century

3. Peter I (The Great)


Until his arrival, Russia was considered a backward country ‘ reliant on serfs with the lowest literacy levels anywhere in Europe and considered ‘medieval’ in a world becoming more rationalist and hurtling towards the Enlightenment. In one lifetime, Peter made Russia a force to be reckoned with, introduced an aggressive literacy and education drive and modernised the military to make them a formidable world power that would see them compete for power for the next few centuries. A bladder infection turned gangrenous in 1725 and he died at the age of 52

4. Ivan IV (The Terrible)


The most infamous of all czars with the exception of Nicholas, he started what Peter the Great completed and despite being nicknamed ‘The Terrible’ he is credited with pushing Russia forward on a path to becoming a world power. He was actually very popular amongst common Russian people and got his nickname because of his harsh treatment of the nobility ‘ persistent paranoia. Some scholars have suggested that the ‘Terrible’ name has been mistranslated and it actually means courageous or determined

5. Michael I


The founder of the Romanov dynasty after a period of instability known as ‘The Time of Troubles’ in which a series of usurpers deposed and then were deposed by a succession of wannabe rulers, his grandfather had been a chief advisor to Ivan the Terrible so the Romanov family were highly regarded. Michael was actually elected into the role by a national assembly and was considered a good administrator and shrewd statesman. He successfully reintroduced the stability that Russia craved, organising peace treaties with Sweden and Poland

6. Boris I


Boris had a troubled reign, he was regent for a number of years before ascension to the position of czar and was the first not of the Rurikid line. It is acknowledged that he was of Tartar descent, one of the tribes that invaded Russia as part of The Golden Hoard. He started as an Archer of the Guard during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and was quickly promoted into the czar’s personal guard. He rose through the ranks and became one of the regents but when his nearest rival died, and with the unpopular nature of Feodor I, Boris’ power just grew and grew

7. Anna of Russia


She was Duchess of Courland for nearly 20 years before becoming empress and therefore czarina of all Russia in 1730. She had such a mean streak that she was nicknamed ‘Ivan the Terrible’ and was ordered to St. Petersburg by Peter the Great (her uncle). She was considered an autocratic ruler and the nobility made many attempts to limit her power and introduce the sort of constitutional monarchies that were developing throughout Europe at the time. Her love for the city of St. Petersburg mean that she continued the building programme

8. Alexander I


If there was ever a czar big on ideas and of little action, Alexander was the man. Split between understanding the necessity for absolutist power but wanting to liberalise some of Russia’s internal policies in order that it did not slip behind other European powers, he came up with so many grand ideas but initiated very little. He sided first with Britain against Napoleon, and then with Napoleon against Britain but eventually oversaw a fine victory against the French Emperor. In later life he undid what few reforms he had introduced in his earlier life

9. Alexander III (The Peacemaker)


He may be the only king in history anywhere not to have overseen a single conflict. The father of Nicholas II who would be the final czar of Russia was a highly respected man. He was a stark contrast to both his father and great uncle who truly embraced the high society of the position of czar. This Alexander almost seemed to enjoy putting out the air of a man of the people. He might never have made it to the throne too but an elder brother died of cerebral meningitis.

10. Paul I


Every nation that has had a king or queen has felt the shock and disruption that comes from assassination of said monarch ‘ we call it regicide. He was the only son of Peter III and Catherine the Great and was naturally overshadowed by both of these celebrated monarchs. His own reign lasted just five years after he considerably and persistently upset the nobility. He also identified corruption within some of the country’s institutions so his fears of assassination were well-founded



Imperial Russia came to a crashing end in 1917 and its final Czar Nicholas II was executed along with his family. The rumour abounded for many years of the survival of the youngest daughter Anastasia, and that no fewer than ten women claimed to be her, it brought to an end centuries of imperial history for the country.

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