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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

Modern Russia (Russian Federation)
AD 1991 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1991-2024)

Modern Russia is a federal, semi-presidential republic in Eastern Europe which was founded in 1991 in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Despite bearing the resemblance of a democratic state in terms of its offices and elections, it has always managed to convey the impression that old habits die hard in terms of its tendencies towards strong centralist control.

It is neighboured by Japan along its eastern coast, shares its long Eurasian southern border with China, Outer Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and shares its western border with Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Norway. To the north lies the Arctic Circle.

Russia as a concept had been forged through Viking control of those lands lying to the east and south of the Baltic lands. A number of ancient towns such as Old Ladoga, Novgorod, Pskov, Polotsk, and Kyiv emerged on the shores of the great rivers. The close of the ninth century witnessed the formation of an Old Russian state, accompanied by the rise of Russians as the dominant force in this society.

Territory which became the core of 'the Russias' encompassed many regions and often a large number of principalities, all of which vied for superiority. An eventual later Russian state emerged under the grand dukes of Moscow, followed by the Russian Czarate which soon fell under Romanov control.

Today's Russian Federation lies at the heart of the CIS, the Commonwealth of Independent States. This was a voluntary organisation of those republics which had formed part of the Soviet empire. Its creation in the late-Soviet era scramble for identity and control was masterminded by Boris Yeltsin as the president of the Russian republic, Leonid Kravchuk, president of the Ukrainian republic, and Stanislav Shushkevich, director of the supreme council of the Belarus republic. The work had been carried out behind the back of Mikhail Gorbachev, leaving him with no choice other than to announce the dissolution of the Soviet state.

Not all former Soviet republics joined the CIS. The Baltic states and several central and Eastern European countries forged ahead, enjoying the restoration of their independence from Moscow. Millions of ethnic Russians suddenly found themselves living in foreign countries, often without the legal standing which they had formerly enjoyed. Large numbers of Jews suddenly opted to emigrate to Israel.

While the post-Soviet Russian economy could be fragile at times, until 2022 it still ranked as one of the world's top ten. Its expensive mineral and oil reserves made it one of the world's largest producers of gas and oil, but it showed an unsettling ability to be able to use its power in this area as an economic weapon.

The country also possesses the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons thanks to its Cold War heritage. Its post-Yeltsin dominance by Vladimir Putin led it increasingly towards dictatorship and rule-by-fear. Its 2022 invasion of Ukraine turned it almost into a pariah state which faced levels of isolation never before seen in European politics.

Successors of the last czar of the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov are shown with a shaded background. Opponents, pretenders, and other disqualified claimants are shown in green or red text. The true power in Russia is the elected president, although this post is usually filled by a typically strong figure who appears to pull many of the government's strings. These individuals are shown in black with no shading.

The rise to power of Vladimir Putin saw decreasingly less value or influence being available through elections as he gradually tightened his grip. By 2020 his rule could easily be seen as a dictatorship. By 2022 it certainly was, as he masterminded a failed attempt to conquer Ukraine, instead finding himself mired in a prolonged war with forces which looked increasingly third world.


The arrival of the Rus

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UCLA International Institute, Reuters, from the Almanach de Gotha (2012), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Christianity faces biggest schism in a millennium (The Week), and Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia (Russian Legitimist), and Vladimir Putin passes law (The Guardian), and Ukraine announces independent Orthodox church (The Guardian), and Eastern Ukraine on peacekeeping duties (The Guardian), and Finland joins Nato (The Guardian).)

1991 - 1999

Boris Yeltsin

First directly elected president. Fell ill and died.

1991 - 1993

Boris Yeltsin wins Russia's first ever direct elections for a head of state. He promises to convert the country's former socialist-led economy into a free market economy, but the economic shock therapy required to enact it leads to a major economic crisis, with a massive decline in industrial output and GDP.

Boris Yeltsin in 1991
Boris Yeltsin won mass popular support in Russia during his leading role in thwarting the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991

Control of formerly nationalised resources is switched to a handful of people with connections to government members, creating a wave of powerful billionaires who soon start moving the bulk of their wealth outside the country, further deepening the economic crisis.

In the same year the remains of the murdered Romanov imperial family are discovered in an unmarked mass grave in the Urals. The bones are removed for tests to be carried out to authenticate their identities. The tests prove positive.

1992 - Present

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

Daughter of Vladimir. Born 23 Dec 1953. Opposed.

1992

Upon the death of Vladimir Cyrilovich as heir to the Romanov throne, his daughter Maria Vladimirovna proclaims herself the new head of the imperial house. She assumes the senior position in the House of Romanov and proclaims her son, George Mikhailovich, to be the heir-apparent.

However, her mother is Princess Leonida Bagration-Moukransky (died 2010), a daughter of a line of the Georgian royal house which has not ruled since 1505 and which had already been a junior (cadet) branch when Georgia had been conquered by Russia in 1810.

Maria Vladimirovna Romanov
Maria Vladimirovna Romanov claimed to be the new head of the House of Romanov in 1992, although there was some opposition due to the fact that she hailed from a cadet branch of the family

Due to this, some opponents see the marriage as unequal, and Maria's claim as illegal. Maria is opposed by Prince Nicholas Romanovich as the choice of a greater proportion of the rest of the House of Romanov, and the already complicated line of hereditary succession now has two main branches claiming the senior position.

Fortunately for her, Maria's claim to be the head of the Romanovs is supported by just about everyone outside the House of Romanov, including most monarchist groups, most other societies of Russian nobles, and by the Russian Orthodox Church.

To differentiate between the two opposing lines of succession, claimants who arise from this opposing faction - led by Nicholas and supported by the majority of Romanovs - are shown in green. All claimants are shown on a shaded background to highlight the fact that none of them hold any power.

Michael Romanov
Michael Romanov was the first Russian czar of the House of Romanov, but it would be his successors who turned the czarate of the Russias into an empire

1992 - 2014

Prince Nicholas Romanovich

Son of Prince Roman Romanov. Born 26 Sep 1922.

1993

Matters come to a head as many of Yeltsin's key supporters turn against him. In October 1993 he orders the dissolution of parliament, an act which is outside his remit. Parliament moves to remove him from office.

Troops loyal to Yeltsin put down an armed uprising by his opponents outside the parliament building, and he scraps the constitution, replacing it with one which increases his presidential powers. This sets a trend for the future.

1994 - 1997

The Chechen republic has proclaimed the 'Chechen Republic of Ichkeria' and seeks full independence from the Russian federation. The First Chechen War is triggered when Boris Yeltsin sends in the army in December 1994.

The 1995 campaign results in the brutal and devastating Battle of Grozny, but Russian federation forces are unable to win the subsequent guerrilla war against the Chechens. Troops become demoralised and public opinion almost fully swings against the fighting. Yeltsin declares a ceasefire with the Chechens in 1996 and signs a peace treaty in 1997.

First Chechen War
The First Chechen War, seen here, highlighted limitations in the ability of the Russian armed forces to defeat a determined guerrilla war, something which had also been apparent in the Afghan adventure of 1979

1998

The investigation into the identity of those remains found in a mass grave in the Urals in 1991 has been completed. Satisfied with DNA results which show that the remains are indeed those of the immediate imperial family, they are given a burial in St Petersburg's St Peter & St Paul Cathedral.

1999

Still unpopular with the majority of the Russian population, Yeltsin surprises everyone by announcing his resignation. His chosen successor is ex-KGB man and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Elections in 2000 confirm his position in the post.

He is strongly in favour of reconstituting the Russian empire, in deed if not in name, and his many actions seem to back up that claim as he increases the power of his office and attempts to impose a more authoritarian governance of the population and the Russian federation. However, his first two terms of office oversee a marked improvement in the standard of living of many Russians.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin, a former KGB lieutenant-colonel, came to power in 2000 and was determined to hold onto it in the fashion of the former imperial family, whether from the 'throne' itself or behind the scenes due to the restrictions of the constitution

The year is also marked by the start of the Second Chechen War, following the invasion of Dagestan by the so-called Islamic International Brigade of militants. The campaign ends the de facto independence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and restores the region to federation control.

Grozny is again decimated, the Islamic Brigade is effectively destroyed, and the Chechen guerrillas are severely crippled as an effective fighting force. Instead their survivors switch to an occasional terrorist campaign in Russia proper, carrying out seemingly indiscriminate operations which are designed to result in the greatest number of casualties.

Often heavy-handed counter-terrorist operations by the Russian military response seems designed to help in this respect, but overall the Chechen desire for independence is silenced.

2000 - 2008

Vladimir Putin

Former KGB lieutenant-colonel. Served two terms of office.

2007

DNA tests which have been carried out on the remains of the imperial family have not convinced some Russian Orthodox Church members. Their doubts are further fuelled by the discovery now of two further bodies - those of Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria - at a different spot in the Urals.

Lenin and the October Revolution
Vladimir Lenin was the figurehead of the October Revolution and also its key instigator and controller, but the revolution plunged Russia into three years of bitter civil war

FeatureFurther DNA tests will be required before they can be buried alongside the now-canonised remainder of the family in St Petersburg's St Peter & St Paul Cathedral (see feature link for more).

2008

Thanks to the restrictions of the constitution, Putin is unable to stand for a third consecutive four year term of office. Instead, his preferred candidate is elected, Dmitry Medvedev, who is widely seen as little more than Putin's 'yes man'.

This period is known as the 'duumvirate', an alliance of two strong leaders (which can include two leaders who have both declared themselves to be the sole leader), or the 'tandemocracy', from 'tandem' and democracy', showing two leaders working together. Putin himself returns to his former role of prime minister, his political dominance of Russia apparently undimmed.

Also in 2008, partially fooled by Russia into attempting a military recovery of South Ossetia, Georgia is humiliated as a pre-prepared Russian taskforce crushes its forces and occupies South Ossetia under the pretence of protecting Russian passport-holders. This and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian region, are organised into 'independent' states. This brief conflict is later known as the Russo-Georgian War.

2011 Russian protests
Putin's apparent 2011 'seizure' of the post of president for an extra two year term raised suspicions that he intended to remain in the post for as long as possible, something which worried many Russians

2008 - 2012

Dmitry Medvedev

Former prime minister. Essentially a Putin puppet.

2011 - 2012

In 2011 the law on the length of a term of office for the president is changed from four to six years. Putin announces his intention to stand for a third, non-consecutive term of office and in due course wins the 2012 elections despite strong protests in many Russian cities (including the notorious 'Pussy Riot' protests and subsequent arrests).

2012 - Present

Vladimir Putin

Returned to post. Extended it indefinitely. Dictator.

2013

A meteor strike known as the Tschebarkul 2013 super bolide hits the city of Tscheljabinsk in Russia. The event is seen by many thousands of people in the region and lights up the sky with the blazing trail it leaves across the daytime sky.

It is also filmed by dozens of people with camera phones and is equated by some scholars with the Chiemgau impact of prehistoric Central Europe which must have greatly disrupted the lives of the Celtic tribes in the region.

Chiemgau Crater
The largest crater in the Chiemgau field in Bavaria is the water-filled TŁttensee which is located near the village of Marwang

In the same year, a third claimant to the hereditary imperial throne puts himself forward. Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen issues his claim under the name of Prince Nikolai Kirillovich of Leiningen. He is the grandson of Grand Duchess Maria Cyrillovna of Russia, (the sister of Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrillovich (died 1992 - see above), and the aunt of current legitimist claimant Maria Vladimirovna - again, see above).

This makes him the great-grandson of Cyril Vladimirovich, grand duke of Russia and recognised claimant until his death in 1938. Karl is supported by the Monarchist Party of Russia, which sees both current claimants as pretenders.

However, he has already been bypassed as prince of Leiningen by his younger brother due to a morganatic marriage, which should also disbar him from claiming the Russian throne. This third line of claimants is shown in red.

2013 - Present

Prince Nikolai Kirillovich of Leiningen

Brother of Prince Nicholas. Born 12 Jun 1952.

2013 - 2014

Mass protests in Kyiv over Ukraine's pro-Russian policy eventually force the collapse and flight of the Yanukovych government after four months of violent chaos. Moscow reacts to Ukraine's domestic turmoil by sending troops to annexe the former Russian territory of Crimea while stoking separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian separatists
The separatists in eastern Ukraine carried weapons, used equipment, and even had troops which were supplied directly from Russia, although Russia continued to deny any involvement

The pro-Russian separatist eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk form their own republican governments and, with military aid from Russia, manage to hold onto a core territory in the face of Ukrainian attempts to end the rebellion. The USA and the European Union impose sanctions which are targeted at individuals rather than the state, but they still hit hard, especially when oil and gas prices suffer a dramatic fall at the end of 2014.

2014 - 2016

Prince Dimitri Romanov

Brother of Prince Nicholas. 17 May 1926 to 31 Dec 2016.

2016

The death of Prince Dimitri Romanov ends the Nicholaevich branch of the Romanovs. With no children to succeed him, his particular side of the claim to the Romanov titles passes to Andrew Romanov, of the Mikhailovich branch which descends directly from Czar Nicholas I.

2016 - 2021

Prince Andrew Romanov

Great-great-grandson of Nicholas I. Born 21 Jan 1923.

2018

Ukraine secures approval from the global head of Orthodox Christianity in Istanbul (Constantinople) to create its own Orthodox Church structure, independent of Russia's patriarchate for the first time since the seventeenth century. The change is driven by Russia's occupation of Crimea, its invasion by proxy of eastern Ukraine, and many years of bullying and interfering in Ukrainian affairs. It sparks the expected negative reaction in Moscow.

Ukraine's Orthodox church splits with Moscow in 2018
Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv in 2018 in a show of support for the decision to detach the country's Orthodox church establishment from Moscow's increasingly belligerent control

2021

At the start of April, President Putin signs a law which allows him to run for the presidency twice more in his lifetime, potentially keeping him in office until 2036. The law also 'resets' any previous count of terms of office back to zero.

The kind of president-to-prime-minister-and-back shuffling of 2008-2013 is no longer permitted. The new law generously affords him and former president, Dmitry Medvedev, lifetime immunity from prosecution.

2021 - Present

Prince Alexis Romanov

Son of Andrew. Born 27 April 1953.

2022

On Monday 22 February, after months of increasing pressure from his side, President Putin takes the politically manipulative step of formally recognising as independent states the Russian-created breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. They are now - according to Moscow - to be known as the Luhansk and Donetsk people's republics.

A Russian tank burns in Ukraine in 2022
Despite outnumbering the more lightly-armed Ukrainian forces by at least three-to-one, Russian forces continued to suffer far heavier casualties, with tank losses surprisingly high as Ukrainian units undertook ambushes against them

Almost immediately, Putin orders Russian troops which had been massing along Ukraine's borders (and even its Belarussian border) to enter Ukraine on a 'peacekeeping' mission. Initial thoughts are that Luhansk and Donetsk are to be secured so that they can later be 'allowed' to apply to join the Russian federation. The invasion, though, comes from all along the Russian border, including occupied Crimea, and targets several cities, including Kyiv.

The scale of Ukrainian resistance surprises and delays the Russian forces, while Belarus is also included in the unprecedented international backlash against an increasingly isolated Russia.

Realising a swift victory has become impossible but still refusing to back down, Putin directs his forces to undertake a slow and brutal siege-warfare approach which devastates Ukrainian cities. By then Ukraine's popular President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, former actor and comedian, has long since won support from large areas of the rest of the world.

Ukraine's forces fire artillery
Russia's 2023 campaign was very much one of defence and 'meat-grinder' forms of badly-coordinated attacks which were often beaten off with proportionally huge losses, while Ukraine's versatile artillery (shown here) proved to be excellent

In September 2022, the weak Russian forces are being beaten back on at least two major fronts. Putin initiates a conscription process throughout Russia which triggers widespread but still weak resistance in the form of the torching of recruitment centres and even the shooting of recruiters. Then he illegally annexes the occupied Ukrainian territory without even the pretence of a free and fair referendum on the matter.

2023

Having submitted its application in May 2022 to join Nato alongside an equally-alarmed Sweden, Finland becomes Nato's thirty-first member on Tuesday 4 April 2023. The move is a direct result of the Russian attack on Ukraine, and it brings Nato right up to the northern edge of Russia - precisely the opposite of Putin's initial intentions.

FeatureIn the same year, on 23 June, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the controversial and brutal mercenary movement known as Wagner, stages an apparent coup attempt. His forces walk into Rostov-on-Don, to the immediate east of Ukraine's border, seemingly without opposition (see feature link).

Nato accession for Finland
Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto (left) hands over his nation's accession document to Nato chief, Jens Stoltenberg, in Brussels

He further humiliates Putin by sending units on a march towards Moscow, downing several Russian aircraft on the way, and coming close to the city's outskirts before calling off the attack.

A deal of some sort is arranged, and Putin spends the next two months degrading Wagner's resources before Prigozhin is assassinated in a missile strike on his private jet, on 23 August 2023. Even so, Putin's reputation is weakened by the affair.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich

Son of Maria. Born 13 Mar 1981. Heir apparent. Opposed.

 
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