In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Russian Military History, 1762-1825

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • The Russian Army
  • The Eastern Question
  • Russo-Turkish War, 1768–1774
  • Russo-Turkish War, 1787–1792
  • War of the Second Coalition, 1799–1800
  • Russo-Iranian Wars, 1804–1813
  • Russo-Turkish War, 1806–1812
  • Russia’s “Other” Wars

Military History Russian Military History, 1762-1825
Alexander Mikaberidze
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 May 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0083


The sixty-three years between the accession of Catherine II and the death of Alexander I mark a key moment in Russian history. The Russian state enjoyed a long streak of successful wars and territorial acquisitions and fully established itself as a great European power. The reigns of Catherine II and Alexander I saw Russian conquest and annexation of Poland, Finland, Bessarabia, Moldavia, Georgia, and territories on both sides of the Great Caucasian Gorge. Russia also successfully projected its power well beyond its traditional boundary. In 1799, the Russian troops appeared for the first time on the plains of Italy and the mountain valleys of Switzerland while, in 1814, they marched triumphantly along the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Warfare was an almost constant feature of this period as Russia fought three wars against the Ottoman Turks (1768–1774, 1787–1792, 1806–1812), two wars against Sweden (1788–1790, 1808–1809), four campaigns against the Poles (1768–1772, 1793–1795), five campaigns against France (1799–1800, 1805–1814), and one prolonged conflict with Iran (1804–1813). The strain of the Napoleonic Wars, when Russia was almost continually at war between 1805 and 1815, surpassed the impact of all other conflicts that had preceded them.

General Overviews

Kagan and Higham 2002 and Stone 2006 offer a concise but perceptive overview of the military history of the Russian Empire. Stevens 2007 offers a clear and accessible discussion of Russian military history between the 15th and 18th centuries. Stevens 2007 can be complemented with Davies 2007, which focuses on Russia’s struggle for the Black Sea steppes up to 1700, and with Duffy 1981, which traces Russia’s rise as a great power in the 18th century and its relations with the West. For an in-depth discussion of Russian foreign policy and strategy in the 18th and early 19th centuries, see LeDonne 2004. Lohr and Poe 2002 contains a good selection of essays on imperial military history, while Keep 1985 remains a go-to source for the development of the Russian military, especially its officer corps, in the 18th and19th centuries. Hartley 2008 is useful for its discussion of traditional topics on army development, conscription, and the officer corps as well the impact of the wars on civilian life and on culture and identity.

  • Davies, Brian L. Warfare, State and Society on the Black Sea Steppe, 1500–1700. New York: Routledge, 2007.

    Davies provides an insightful overview of Russia’s struggle with the Crimean Khanate, Ottoman Empire, and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth over the fertile steppes of the Black Sea littoral. These campaigns shaped and defined Russian military and political policies and are crucial in understanding Russia’s empire-building enterprise in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Duffy, Christopher. Russia’s Military Way to the West: Origins and Nature of Russian Military Power, 1700–1800. Boston: Routledge, 1981.

    A well-written analysis of Russia’s rise as a major power and its relations with the West.

  • Hartley, Janet M. Russia, 1762–1825: Military Power, the State, and the People. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008.

    This is one of the most recent studies of the Russian army and society, offering a sweeping analysis and insightful details on Russia at war. Authors of chapters discuss not only army development, conscription, and the officer corps, but also the costs of war and the impact on civilian life and on culture and identity.

  • Kagan, Frederick W., and Robin Higham, eds. The Military History of Tsarist Russia. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

    A very useful collection of essays, written by leading historians, covering the entire tsarist period. Of particular interest are articles by Bruce W. Menning on the Imperial Russian army (1725–1796) and the military legacy of Catherine II and Paul I and by Frederick W. Kagan on Russia’s wars with Napoleon.

  • Keep, John L. Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia. Oxford: Clarendon, 1985.

    A classic study of the development of the Russian military between the 17th and 19th centuries. Highly recommended.

  • LeDonne, John P. The Grand Strategy of the Russian Empire, 1650–1831. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    The book argues that while never formally defining its grand strategy, Russia in practice pursued an offensive strategy to gain hegemony in Eurasia. The work has been criticized as deterministic, but it raises many interesting questions and should be used in conjunction with other studies (i.e., Hartley 2008).

  • Lohr, Eric, and Marshall Poe, eds. The Military and Society in Russia, 1450–1917. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

    The first two parts of this excellent collection of essays delve into military and society in Muscovy and Imperial Russia. Written by leading experts, topics of essays range include strategy, military mobilization, and civil-military relationships.

  • Stevens, Carol Belkin. Russia’s Wars of Emergence, 1460–1730. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.

    This book remains the only narrative history of Russian military history between the 15th and 18th centuries. Stevens argues that Russia developed a unique strategy and social-military structures due to its geographic location, resources, and the nature of its conflicts with neighboring powers such as Sweden and Turkey.

  • Stone, David R. A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.

    The only broad narrative history of Russia from the 16th century to the end of the 20th century. Essential introductory text.

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