The Empress of Russia for almost 35 years, Catherine the Great was the country's longest-ruling female leader. An ambitious ruler, she rapidly expanded the Russian Empire and is credited with modernizing the country along Western European lines. She supported the ideals of the Enlightenment and the period of her rule—the Catherinian Era—is considered the Golden Age of Russia.
Vladimir Lenin played a key role in the history of Russian politics by developing a political ideology called Leninism. During and after his lifetime, Lenin had a massive influence over international communist movement. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and significant personalities of the 20th century.
Nicholas II reigned as the last Emperor of All Russia from 1894 until his abdication in 1917. His reign oversaw a series of reforms in Russia. These reforms included the introduction of literacy programs, civil liberties, and methods to modernize the empire's infrastructure. However, these reforms were eventually undermined by Nicholas' love for autocratic rule.
Alexander II of Russia was the Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland, and King of Poland from 1855 to 1881. He became known as Alexander the Liberator for his most significant reform, which was the Emancipation Reform of 1861. He is also credited with reorganizing the judicial system, abolishing corporal punishment, and imposing universal military service in Russia.
Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Emperor Nicholas II, was the last Russian tsarina and reigned from 1894 to 1917. She suffered from hemophilia. Alexandra and her entire family were murdered by the Bolshevik revolutionaries. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized her as Saint Alexandra the Passion Bearer.
Alexander I was the emperor of Russia and the eldest son of Paul I. While he was initially a friend of Napoleon Bonaparte, he later joined hands with his opponents to defeat him. He was also part of the Congress of Vienna and later contributed to the formation of the Holy Alliance.
Nicholas I of Russia reigned as Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland, and King of Poland from 1825 to 1855. Nicholas I is remembered for his controversial reign, under which the Russian Empire achieved great geographical expansion. He also played a key role in creating an independent Greek state and was successful in ending the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–1829.
Peter III of Russia reigned over Russia as the emperor for just six months in 1762 before being deposed by people loyal to his wife Catherine II, who then succeeded him. In his short reign, Peter made progressive reforms, including the abolishment of the secret police, which was renowned for its extreme violence. Peter is often portrayed in films.
Maria Feodorovna was a Danish princess who married Emperor Alexander III and became Empress of Russia. She was the second daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and Louise of Hesse-Kassel. She grew up to be a beautiful and charming woman. She was married to Alexander Alexandrovich, the son of Emperor Alexander II and his first wife Maria Alexandrovna.
Catherine I of Russia was the second wife and Empress consort of Peter the Great. She served as the Empress regnant of Russia from 1725 until her death in 1727. The daughter of a peasant, she had an adventurous life as a young woman and eventually married Peter the Great who was taken by her beauty. They had 12 children.
Felix Yusupov was a Russian prince and count from the Yusupov family. He participated in the assassination of the controversial mystic Grigori Rasputin. He was born into a wealthy family and led a flamboyant life. He was happily married to Princess Irina of Russia, the niece of Tsar Nicholas II, for more than 50 years.
Daughter of Ivan V and niece of Peter I, Anna of Russia did not have much interest in the governance of her kingdom and left it in the hands of her beloved Ernst Johann Biron and her advisors. Her “dark reign” witnessed costly wars such as the Russo-Turkish War.
Ivan III of Russia was a Grand Prince of Moscow and Grand Prince of all Rus'. He initially served as the co-ruler and regent for his blind father, Vasily II, before officially occupying the throne. He vastly expanded his kingdom and laid the foundations of the Russian state. His reign—lasting 43 years—was one of the longests in Russian history.
Viking prince Rurik is part of Norse legends and finds mention in The Russian Primary Chronicle of the 12th century. The founder of the Rurik dynasty, he is said to have been invited by the people of Novgorod too form an orderly government, though historians deny his existence.
Yakov Yurovsky was a Russian Old Bolshevik. Also a Soviet Revolutionary, he acted as the chief executioner of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and his family on the night of 17 July 1918. A watchmaker by trade, he was a Chekist for a short time. In his later life, he allegedly expressed remorse over his role in the executions.
Alexandra Feodorovna Romanova was the daughter of Frederick William III, King of Prussia, and Duchess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She had a difficult childhood and lost her mother when she was just 12. She married Nicholas I, who later reigned as Emperor of Russia. The couple had a happy marriage that lasted till Nicholas’ death in 1855.
Born as the youngest daughter of Paul I of Russia, Anna Pavlovna was given in a political marriage to William II of the Netherlands, becoming the Queen Consort when her husband ascended the throne. Never at home in Netherlands, which was more egalitarian than Russia, she always identified herself as a Russian Grand Duchess rather than as a Dutch queen.
The third wife of King Henry I of France, Queen Anne of Keiv ruled France as a coregent of their minor son King Philip I until her controversial second marriage to Count Ralph IV of Valois. Also the founder of Abbey of St. Vincent, Senlis, she signed royal charters in Cyrillic, one of which is held in French National Library.
Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was the daughter of Grand Duke Frederick Francis II. Renowned for her sense of style and attractiveness, Marie was also popular for her sociability and wittiness. Marie was widely recognized and she received honors from several kingdoms and empires, including the Russian Empire.
The first wife of Emperor Peter I of Russia, Eudoxia Lopukhina was chosen by the emperor’s mother as his bride when the emperor was 17. Unfortunately, the marriage ended disastrously, and her husband left her for a mistress. After the emperor’s death, she was imprisoned in a dungeon before being released later.
Apart from being the wife of Prince Alexander of Hesse, Julia, Princess of Battenberg, was also the daughter of German-Polish general Hans Moritz Hauke. Her lack of royal descent was a matter of concern initially, but Alexander eventually married the 6-month pregnant Julia he had fallen in love with.
Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia, largely remembered as one of the granddaughters of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, and as the wife of Friedrich Franz III, the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. A talented tennis player, she had several tennis courts built. She also had an illegitimate child with her secretary.
Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg was the daughter of Duchess Amelia of Württemberg and Joseph, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg. A high-spirited and conservative personality, Alexandra had an interest in music. Unlike most royal members, Princess Alexandra had a difficult personal life and is credited with bringing up her children almost single-handedly.
Catherine Pavlovna of Russia was the daughter of Duchess Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg and Tsar Paul I of Russia. Through her marriage with her first cousin Crown Prince William, she became Queen Catharina Pavlovna of Württemberg in 1816 when Prince William became King William I of Württemberg. Catherine died of erysipelas complicated by pneumonia, at the age of 30.
Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna of Russia was the daughter of Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna and Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia. Her parents were in exile at the time of her birth as their marriage was yet to be approved by Tsar Nicholas II. Maria married Karl, Prince of Leiningen, and had seven children, including Prince Peter Victor of Leiningen.
Anna Leopoldovna, or Anna Carlovna, was the wife of Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick, and is best known for her reign as a regent for their son, Ivan VI, for a year. She was eventually imprisoned by Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth, and died in exile.
Irina Godunova was a Tsaritsa of Russia who reigned from 1584 to 1598. In 1598, after the death of her husband Feodor I of Russia, Irina Godunova served as de facto autocrat for nine days.
Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia was the daughter of Nicholas I of Russia. An art collector, Maria served as the president of the Russian Academy of Arts. She was married to Maximilian de Beauharnais, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg from 1839 until his death in 1852. In 1854, Maria married Count Grigori Aleksandrovich Stroganov.
Olga Nikolaevna of Russia was the daughter of Charlotte of Prussia and Nicholas I of Russia. A member of the House of Romanov, Olga became the Kingdom of Württemberg's queen consort. She dedicated herself to social causes, including the issues surrounding the education of girls. She also played a major role in supporting and helping the disabled and wounded veterans.