What wars has Russia fought in?
Russia has been in numerous conflicts throughout the centuries which over time has put one eighth of the Earth’s inhabitable land within its borders.
Russia is an immense nation covering around one eighth of the inhabitable land on Earth. But the nation began as the Grand Duchy of Moscow a small portion of the Kievan Rus.
Over the centuries, through countless wars the duchy grew to become the one of the most powerful nations in Europe. Here are some of the wars that shaped the Russian nation.
From a vassal state to unification of Russian principalities
The Golden Horde rolled across the Eurasian steppes to reach into Eastern Europe in the 13th century extending the frontiers of the Mongol Empire. The Grand Duchy of Moscow was a vassal to this sprawling empire.
Prince of Moscow Dmitry Ivanovich, who would later use the surname Donskoi, managed to unite the Rus principalities to throw off the Tartar Yoke. Although he wouldn’t be the one to win full independence from the Mongols, he successfully led Russian troops against them in a series of battles that culminated in the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380.
A hundred years later, Moscow would gain full independence when the Tartar Golden Horde was defeated at the "Great Stand" on the Ugra River during the reign of Ivan III, also known as Ivan the Great.
Russia gets a “window to Europe”
Moscow sits at the crossroad of several river systems that gives it access to the Baltic Sea and Black Sea as well as the Caucasus region. By the time of Peter the Great, Russia extended all the way to the Pacific but lacked a port in the west or south.
In order to gain a “window to Europe” Russia fought the Great Northern War with Sweden, a military hegemon of the time, between 1700 and 1721. Upon its conclusion Russia was an empire and a major power player in Europe.
Russia spreads south
In search of a warm water port the Russian Empire fought numerous wars with the Ottoman Empire. During the 1770s a series of clashes would result in Russia making significant gains. In 1783 under Catherine the Great, Russia finally gained a permanent hold of the northern coast of the Black Sea and the strategic Crimea peninsula.
The Napoleonic Wars
Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia in 1812 with his Grande Armée but instead of facing him outright the Russians practiced a scorched earth tactic. When Napoleon was forced to retreat or let his army starve in a burnt-out Moscow the Russians harried his forces trudging through the unforgiving Russian winter.
Russia’s army followed him all the way back to Paris where they defeated the French in 1814. Emperor Alexander I of Russia stayed on in Paris while the French state was reordered and a new constitution written up. That occupation by the Russians would sow the seeds of the Russian revolution and the end of the Tsars.
The World Wars
Russia fought against Germany in both World Wars. The first saw the country thrown into turmoil with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 that would result in the Soviet Union after a bloody civil war. During the second, after suffering early loses to the invading German forces, the Russians came back to crush the Nazis, eventually occupying East Germany.
The Cold War
Success in World War II made the Soviet Union one of the two global superpowers. Although Russia and the United States never came into direct military conflict they would fight proxy wars around the periphery. Russia was instrumental in helping Vietnam defeat the US. The favor was returned when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The grinding war that resulted in the loss of thousands of Russian soldiers and a collapsing economy helped bring about the end of the Soviet Union.
Post-Soviet Union conflicts
After the Soviet Union broke up and the Iron Curtain came down Russia has played role in many of the conflicts in post-Soviet bloc nations. Early in President Vladimir Putin’s reign, Russia put down a rebellion in Chechnya for a second time with brutal force. It has invaded two of its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine. The former in 2008 and the later in 2014 and again recently.
Russia has been accused of using tactics in Ukraine that it has employed in Syria as it helps the Assad regime fight forces opposed to his brutal rule. These include shelling civilian neighborhoods and hospitals which Ukraine has asked be tried as War Crimes at the International Criminal Court.