After the 13th century, Moscow became a cultural center of Moscovia. By the 18th century, the Tsardom of Russia had become the large Russian Empire, stretching from eastern Poland all the way eastward towards the Pacific Ocean. Expansion and imperialism in the western direction sharpened Russia's awareness of its separation from much of the rest of Europe and shattered the isolation in which the initial stages of expansion had occurred. Successive regimes of the 19th century responded to such pressures with a combination of halfhearted reform and repression. Peasant revolts were common, and all were fiercely suppressed. Russian serfdom was abolished in 1861, but the peasant fared poorly and often turned to revolutionary pressures. In following decades of reform efforts such as the Stolypin reforms, the constitution of 1906, and the State Duma attempted to open and liberalize the economy and political system, but the tsars refused to relinquish autocratic rule or share their power.
The Russian Revolution in 1917 was triggered by a combination of economic breakdown, war-weariness, and discontent with the autocratic system of government, and it first brought a coalition of liberals and moderate socialists to power, but their failed policies led to seizure of power by the communist Bolsheviks on 25 October. Between 1922 and 1991, the history of Russia is essentially the history of the Soviet Union, effectively an ideologically based state which was roughly conterminous with the Russian Empire before the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The approach to the building of socialism, however, varied over different periods in Soviet history, from the mixed economy and diverse society and culture of the 1920s to the command economy and repressions of the Joseph Stalin era to the "era of stagnation" in the 1980s. From its first years, government in the Soviet Union was based on the one-party rule of the Communists, as the Bolsheviks called themselves, beginning in March 1918.
By the mid-1980s, with the weaknesses of its economic and political structures becoming acute, Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on major reforms, which led to the overthrow of the communist party and the breakup of the USSR, leaving Russia again on its own and marking the start of the history of post-Soviet Russia. The Russian Federation began in January 1992 as the legal successor to the USSR. Russia retained its nuclear arsenal but lost its superpower status. Scrapping the socialist central planning and state ownership of property of the socialist era, new leaders, led by President Vladimir Putin, took political and economic power after 2000 and engaged in an energetic foreign policy. Russia's recent annexation of the Crimean peninsula has led to severe economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union.
In 2006, 1.5-million-year-old Oldowan flint tools were discovered in the Dagestan Akusha region of the north Caucasus, demonstrating the presence of early humans in Russia from a very early time. The discovery of some of the earliest evidence for the presence of anatomically modern humans found anywhere in Europe was reported in 2007 from the deepest levels of the Kostenki archaeological site near the Don River in Russia, which has been dated to at least 40,000 years ago. Arctic Russia was reached by 40,000 years ago. That Russia was also home to some of the last surviving Neanderthals was revealed by the discovery of the partial skeleton of a Neanderthal infant in Mezmaiskaya cave in Adygea, which was carbon dated to only 29,000 years ago. In 2008, Russian archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of Novosibirsk, working at the site of Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, uncovered a 40,000-year-old small bone fragment from the fifth finger of a juvenile hominin, which DNA analysis revealed to be a previously unknown species of human, which was named the Denisova hominin.
During the prehistoric eras the vast steppes of Southern Russia were home to tribes of nomadic pastoralists. In classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia. Remnants of these long gone steppe cultures were discovered in the course of the 20th century in such places as Ipatovo, Sintashta, Arkaim, and Pazyryk.
In the later part of the 8th century BCE, Greek merchants brought classical civilization to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria. Gelonus was described by Herodotos as a huge (Europe's biggest) earth- and wood-fortified grad inhabited around 500 BCE by Heloni and Budini. The Bosporan Kingdom was incorporated as part of the Roman province of Moesia Inferior from 63 to 68 ad, under Emperor Nero. At about the 2nd century CE Goths migrated to the Black Sea, and in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, a semi-legendary Gothic kingdom of Oium existed in Southern Russia until it was overrun by Huns. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries CE, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was also overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes which would often move on to Europe, as was the case with the Huns and Turkish Avars.
A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas through to the 8th century. Noted for their laws, tolerance, and cosmopolitanism, the Khazars were the main commercial link between the Baltic and the Muslim Abbasid empire centered in Baghdad. They were important allies of the Byzantine Empire, and waged a series of successful wars against the Arab Caliphates. In the 8th century, the Khazars embraced Judaism.