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  • For thousands of years, the lands known today as Russia and Ukraine were inhabited by nomadic

  • tribes and mysterious Bronze Age cultures.

  • The only record they left were their graves. In the great open grasslands of the south,

  • the steppe, they buried their chieftains beneath huge mounds called kurgans.

  • The Ancient Greek historian Herodotus called these people 'Scythians'.

  • Their lands were overrun by the same nomadic warriors who brought down the Roman Empire.

  • The land was then settled by Slavs. They shared some language and culture, but were divided

  • into many different tribes.

  • Vikings from Scandinavia, known in the east as Varangians, rowed up Russia's long rivers

  • on daring raids and trading expeditions.

  • According to legend, the East Slavs asked a Varangian chief named Rurik to be their

  • prince and unite the tribes. He accepted and made his capital at Novgorod. His dynasty,

  • the Rurikids, would rule Russia for 700 years. His people called themselves the Rus, and

  • gave their name to the land.

  • Rurik's successor, Oleg, captured Kiev, making it the capital of a new state, Kievan Rus.

  • A century later, seeking closer ties with the Byzantine Empire to the south, Vladimir

  • the Great adopted their religion, and converted to Orthodox Christianity.

  • He is still venerated today as the man who brought Christianity to Ukraine and Russia.

  • Yaroslav the Wise codified laws and conquered new lands. His reign marked the golden age

  • of Kievan Rus. It was amongst the most sophisticated and powerful states in Europe.

  • But after Yaroslav's death his sons fought amongst themselves. Kievan Rus disintegrated

  • into a patchwork of feuding princedoms... just as a deadly new threat emerged from the

  • east.

  • The Mongols under Genghis Khan had overrun much of Asia. Now they launched a great raid

  • across the Caucasus Mountains, and defeated the Kievan princes at the Battle of the Kalka

  • River, but then withdrew.

  • 14 years later, the Mongols returned. A gigantic army led by Batu Khan overran the land. Cities

  • that resisted were burnt, their people slaughtered.

  • The city of Novgorod was spared because it submitted to the Mongols. Its prince, Alexander

  • Nevsky, then saved the city again, defeating the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of the

  • Ice, fought above a frozen lake.

  • He remains one of Russia's most revered heroes.

  • The Mongols ruled the land as conquerors. Their new empire was called the Golden Horde,

  • ruled by a Khan from his new capital at Sarai.

  • The Rus princes were his vassals. They were forced to pay tribute or suffer devastating

  • reprisal raids. They called their oppressors 'Tatars' - they lived under 'the Tatar yoke'.

  • Alexander Nevsky's son, Daniel, founded the Grand Principality of Moscow, which quickly

  • grew in power.

  • Under the great Uzbeg Khan, the Tatars converted to Islam.

  • A rising power, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, defeated the Tatars at the Battle of Blue

  • Waters, and conquered Kiev.

  • 18 years later, Dmitri Donskoi, Grand Prince of Moscow, also defeated the Tartars... at

  • the great Battle of Kulikovo Field.

  • After years of infighting, the Golden Horde now began to disintegrate into rival khanates.

  • Constantinople, capital and last outpost of the once-great Byzantine Empire, fell to the

  • Turkish Ottoman Empire.

  • Some hailed Moscow as the 'Third Rome', the seat of Orthodox Christian faith, now Rome

  • and Constantinople had fallen.

  • Meanwhile, the Grand Princes of Moscow continued to expand their power, annexing Novgorod,

  • and forging the first Russian state.

  • At the Ugra River, Ivan III of Moscow faced down the Tatar army and forced it to retreat.

  • Russia had finally cast off the 'Tatar yoke'.

  • Under Grand Prince Vasili III, Moscow continued to grow in size and power.

  • His son, Ivan IV, was crowned the first Tsar of Russia. He would be remembered as Ivan

  • the Terrible.

  • Ivan conquered Tatar lands in Kazan and Astrakahan, but was defeated in the Livonian War by Sweden

  • and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

  • Ivan's modernising reforms gave way to a reign of terror and mass executions, fuelled by

  • his violent paranoia.

  • Russia was still vulnerable. Raiders from the Crimean Khanate were able to burn Moscow

  • itself. But the next year Russian forces routed the Tatars at Molodi, just south of the city.

  • Cossacks now lived on the open steppe, a lawless region between three warring states. They

  • were skilled horsemen who lived freely, and were often recruited by Russia and Poland

  • to fight as mercenaries.

  • Ivan the Terrible's own son, the Tsarevich, fell victim to one of his father's violent

  • rages - bludgeoned to death with the royal sceptre.

  • The Cossack adventurer Yermak Timofeyevich led the Russian conquest of Siberia, defeating

  • Tatars and subjugating indigenous tribes.

  • In the north, Archangelsk was founded, for the time being Russia's only sea-port linking

  • it to western Europe, though it was icebound in winter.

  • Ivan the Terrible was succeeded by his son Feodor I, who died childless. It was the end

  • of the Rurikid dynasty. Ivan's advisor Boris Godunov became Tsar. But after his sudden

  • death, his widow and teenage son were brutally murdered, and the throne seized by an impostor

  • claiming to be Ivan the Terrible's son. He too was soon murdered.

  • Russia slid into anarchy, the so-called 'Time of Troubles'. Rebels and foreign armies laid

  • waste to the land, and the population was decimated by famine and plague.

  • Polish troops occupied Moscow; Swedish troops seized Novgorod.

  • The Russian state seemed on the verge of extinction.

  • If you liked this video, why not visit Epic History TV's Patreon page to find out how

  • you can help us to make more great history videos.

For thousands of years, the lands known today as Russia and Ukraine were inhabited by nomadic


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史詩般的歷史。俄羅斯第一部 (Epic History: Russia Part 1)

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