Rulers of Russia Since 1533

Updated July 1, 2020 | Logan Chamberlain

The Tsars and Emperors of All the Russias (and their successors)

The oldest known royalty in Russia were the Rurik dynasty who ruled the Kievan Rus, a kingdom of Norse and Russian people centered on Kiev. 

The country of Russia, as we know it today, took form in the late 1400s in the Grand Duchy of Muscovy (Moscow). Muscovy was an autonomous state that ran independently, at a time when most of Russia was conquered by the Mongol Golden Horde. Its rulers, Grand Dukes Ivan I through Ivan III, started out as enforcers and tax collectors for the Horde--some say that Ivan III was the wealthiest man in all of Europe. They used their wealth and influence to overthrow the Tatars (and other Russian states like the Novgorod Republic). They consolidated the former Tatar territory by cracking down on dissent and taking away the powers of the boyars, the local nobility.

Through the reign of Ivan III, the rulers of Russia were called the Grand Princes. Upon the rise of Ivan the Terrible, they took the title Tsar of All the Russias (Tsar or Czar coming from Caesar). The Russias in the name refer to different ethnic Russian regions, today usually equated with Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. We've listed all of the rulers beginning with the first Tsar. 

We've also included the Time of Troubles in the list, despite it not being a ruler. The Time of Troubles was a period where the rule of Russia was interrupted, and Catholic Poland-Lithuania had a puppet ruler installed instead. This ended with the execution of the Polish sponsored royal family, and the rise of the Romanov dynasty.

Tsardom of Russia

Name Ruled1 Born
Ivan IV the Terrible 1533–1584 1530
Theodore I 1584–1598 1557
Boris Godunov 1598–1605 c.1551
Theodore II 1605–1605 1589
Demetrius I2 1605–1606 ?
Basil IV Shuiski 1606–16103 ?
“Time of Troubles” 1610–1613
Michael Romanov 1613–1645 1596
Alexis I 1645–1676 1629
Theodore III 1676–1682 1656
Ivan V4 1682–16895 1666

Russian Empire

After Russia's victory against Sweden in the Great Northern War, Peter the Great adopted the title of Emperor. Peter was greatly concerned with modernizing Russia, and raising its cultural prestige--at the time, despite its strength, Russia was seen as a fairly backwater country. This marked a turning point in the art and culture of Russia, and in its stark class divides. The most glaring gap between Russia and the rest of imperial Europe was the continued use of serfs, which had been abolished elsewhere by Napoleon.

Name Ruled1 Born
Peter I the Great4 1682–1725 1672
Catherine I 1725–1727 c.1684
Peter II 1727–1730 1715
Anna 1730–1740 1693
Ivan VI 1740–17416 1740
Elizabeth 1741–1762 1709
Peter III 1762–1762 1728
Catherine II the Great 1762–1796 1729
Paul I 1796–1801 1754
Alexander I 1801–1825 1777
Nicholas I 1825–1855 1796
Alexander II 1855–1881 1818
Alexander III 1881–1894 1845
Nicholas II 1894–19177 1868

Provisional Government

After the overthrow of the Tsar in the February Revolution, there was a short-lived government put in place that tried to transition the country to Western liberal democracy. The government was crushed beneath accusations of corruption and greed, and was swiftly overthrown in the October Revolution.

Name Ruled1 Born
Prince Georgi Lvov 1917–1917 1861
Alexander Kerensky 1917–1917 1881

Political Leaders of the USSR

Many political groups, especially the Communist-aligned Bolshevik party, fought for control after the fall of the Tsar. The Bolsheviks succeeded, and created the Soviet Union. This marks a distinct break in Russian history in terms of size, policies, and global politics. The USSR would become one of the world's two superpowers, counter to the United States.

Name Ruled1 Born
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin 1917–1924 1870
Aleksei Rykov 1924–1930 1881
Vyacheslav Molotov 1930–1941 1890
Joseph Stalin8 1941–1953 1879
Georgi M. Malenkov 1953–1955 1902
Nikolai A. Bulganin 1955–1958 1895
Nikita S. Khrushchev 1958–1964 1894
Leonid I. Brezhnev 1964–1982 1906
Yuri V. Andropov 1982–1984 1914
Konstantin U. Chernenko 1984–1985 1912
Mikhail S. Gorbachev 1985–1991 1931

Presidents of Russia

Although the USSR was dissolved nearly thirty years ago, there have only been 3 presidents. Boris Yeltsin, the first, and Vladimir Putin. Putin left office in 2008 due to term limits, but resumed his presidency after one term leading the legislature. His presidency is expected to continue for several more years.

Name Ruled1 Born
Boris Yeltsin 1991–1999 1931
Vladimir Putin 1998–2008 1952
Dmitry Medvedev 2008–2012 1965
Vladimir Putin 2012– 1952
1. For czars through Nicholas II, year of end of rule is also that of death, unless otherwise indicated.
2. Also known as Pseudo-Demetrius.
3. Died 1612.
4. Ivan V and Peter I the Great ruled jointly until 1689, when Ivan was deposed.
5. Died 1696.
6. Died 1764.
7. Killed 1918.
8. General secretary of Communist Party, 1924–1953.
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