Emperor of all the Russias

Emperor of all the Russias
Император Всероссийский
Imperial Standard of the Emperor of Russia (1858–1917).svg
Император Николай II.jpg
Last to reign: Nicholas II
1 November 1894 – 15 March 1917
Style His/Her Imperial Majesty
First monarch Peter I
Last monarch Nicholas II
Formation 2 November 1721
Abolition 15 March 1917
Residence Winter Palace
Catherine Palace
Appointer Hereditary

The emperor or empress of all the Russias or All Russia[a] (often titled Tsar or Tsarina/Tsaritsa) was the monarch of the Russian Empire.

The title originated in connection with Russia's victory in the Great Northern War of 1700–1721 and appeared as the adaptation of the tsar's title under the accepted system of titling in Europe. The suffix "of all the Russias" was transformed from the previous version "(Tsar) of All Rus'".


Article 1 of the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire stated that "the Emperor of All Russia is an autocratic and unrestricted monarch. To obey his supreme authority, not only out of fear but out of conscience as well, God himself commands".[1]

The full title of the emperor in the 20th century (Art.37 of the Fundamental Laws) was:

By the Grace of God, We, NN, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod; Tsar of Kazan, Tsar of Astrakhan, Tsar of Poland, Tsar of Siberia, Tsar of Chersonese Taurian, Tsar of Georgia; Lord of Pskov and Grand Prince of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, Finland; Prince of Estland, Livland, Courland, Semigalia, Samogitia, Belostok, Karelia, Tver, Yugra, Perm, Vyatka, Bolgar and others; Lord and Grand Prince of Nizhny Novgorod, Chernigov, Ryazan, Polotsk, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Beloozero, Udoria, Obdoria, Kondia, Vitebsk, Mstislav, and all of the northern countries Master; and Lord of Iberia, Kartli, and Kabardia lands and Armenian provinces; hereditary Sovereign and ruler of the Circassian and Mountainous Princes and of others; Lord of Turkestan; Heir of Norway; Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Stormarn, Dithmarschen, and Oldenburg, and others, and others, and others.[2]

Tsarist autocracy

The person of the tsar himself, a sovereign with absolute authority, stood at the center of the tsarist autocracy.[3] The rights of state power in their entire extent belonged to the tsar. The autocrat further entrusted power to persons and institutions, acting in his name, by his orders, and within the limits laid down for them by law. The purpose of the system was to supposedly benefit the entire country of Russia.[3] A metaphor existed likening the tsar to a father, and all of the subjects of the Empire, to his children; this metaphor even appeared in Orthodox primers.[4] This metaphor is present in the common Russian expression "царь-батюшка" tsar-batyushka, literally "tsar-dear father".

Furthermore, unlike the future theoretical separation of church and state in West European monarchies, the Russian Empire combined monarchy with the supreme authority on religious issues (see Church reform of Peter I and caesaropapism for details).

Another key feature related to patrimonialism. In Russia the tsar owned a much higher proportion of the state (lands, enterprises, etc.) than did Western monarchs.[5][6][7][8][9][10]

The tsarist autocracy had many supporters within Russia. Major Russian advocates and theorists of the autocracy included writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky,[11][12] Mikhail Katkov,[13] Konstantin Aksakov,[14] Nikolay Karamzin,[12] Konstantin Pobedonostsev[11][3] and Pyotr Semyonov. They all argued that a strong and prosperous Russia needed a strong tsar, and that philosophies of republicanism and liberal democracy did not fit Russia.[11]

List of emperors

Name Lifespan Reign start Reign end Notes Family Image
Peter I
  • Пётр Вели́кий
    Peter the Great
9 June 1672

8 February 1725
as a tsar:
2 June 1682
as an emperor:
2 November 1721
8 February 1725 Son of Alexis I and Natalya Naryshkina
Younger brother of Sophia Alekseyevna, Feodor III and Ivan V
He ruled jointly with Ivan V
Regarded as one of the greatest Russian monarchs
Catherine I
  • Екатери́на I Алексе́евна
15 April 1684

17 May 1727
8 February 1725 17 May 1727 Wife of Peter I Skavronsky
Peter II
  • Пётр II Алексеевич
23 October 1715

30 January 1730
18 May 1727 30 January 1730 Grandson of Peter I via the murdered Tsesarevich Alexei. Last of the direct male Romanov line. Romanov
  • Анна Иоанновна
7 February 1693

28 October 1740
15 February 1730 28 October 1740 Daughter of Ivan V Romanov
Ivan VI
  • Иван VI
23 August 1740

16 July 1764
28 October 1740 6 December 1741 Great-grandson of Ivan V
Deposed as a baby, imprisoned and later murdered
  • Елизаве́та
29 December 1709

5 January 1762
6 December 1741 5 January 1762 Daughter of Peter I and Catherine I, usurped the throne. Romanov
Peter III
  • Пётр III Фёдорович
21 February 1728

17 July 1762
9 January 1762 9 July 1762 Grandson of Peter I
Nephew of Elizabeth
Catherine II
  • Екатерина Алексеевна
    Catherine the Great
2 May 1729

17 November 1796
9 July 1762 17 November 1796 Wife of Peter III Ascania
Paul I
  • Па́вел I Петро́вич
1 October 1754

23 March 1801
17 November 1796 23 March 1801 Son of Peter III and Catherine II
Alexander I
  • Александр Павлович
23 December 1777

1 December 1825
23 March 1801 1 December 1825 Son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg
First Romanov King of Poland and Grand Prince of Finland
Nicholas I
  • Николай I Павлович
6 July 1796

2 March 1855
1 December 1825 2 March 1855 Son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg
Younger brother of Alexander I and Constantine Pavlovich
Alexander II
  • Алекса́ндр II Никола́евич
29 April 1818

13 March 1881
2 March 1855 13 March 1881 Son of Nicholas I and Alexandra Feodrovna
Nephew of Alexander I
Alexander III
  • Алекса́ндр III Алекса́ндрович
10 March 1845

1 November 1894
13 March 1881 1 November 1894 Son of Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Nicholas II
  • Николай II Алекса́ндрович
18 May 1868

17 July 1918
1 November 1894 15 March 1917 Son of Alexander III and Maria Feodorovna
Abdicated the throne during the February Revolution
Murdered by the Bolsheviks

Nicholas II abdicated in favour of his brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, but the next day, after a nominal reign of only 18 hours, "Emperor Michael II" declined power, ending dynastic rule in Russia forever.

See List of leaders of Russia for the continuation of leadership.


The title of the Emperor of All Russia was introduced for Peter the Great. After the victory at the Great Northern War and signing the Treaty of Nystad, in September 1721 Senate and Synod decided to award Peter with the title of the Emperor of All Russia with the following statement: "in the manner of the Roman Senate for the noble cause of emperors such titles publicly given them as a gift and into statues for the everlasting generations inscribed".

On this 20th day of October, after a consultation of the Senate together with the Holy Synod accepted the intention, to his majesty, in the testimony of a proper gratitude for his high grace and paternalism and effort which he for the welfare of state in all his glorious time of ruling and especially during the past Swedish War, deigned to manifest, and all-Russian state in such a strong and good fortune, and his people subjected to such fame over the whole world through his unique ruling led, as that to all quite known, by the name of all the Russian people to ask, so graciously to accept, following the example of others, from them title: the Father of the Fatherland, the Emperor of All Russia, Peter the Great ...

— Laws of the Russian Empire at Large. Vol.VI. No.3840

On November 2, 1721 Peter I accepted the title. The Dutch Republic and Kingdom of Prussia immediately recognized the new title of the Russian Tsar, followed by the Kingdom of Sweden in 1723, the Ottoman Empire in 1739, the United Kingdom and the Holy Roman Empire in 1742, the Kingdom of France and the Spain in 1745, and finally the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1764. Since then the Russian State was referred to as the Russian Empire.

On February 16, 1722 Peter I issued the Decree of Succession by which he abolished the old custom of passing the throne to the direct descendants in the male line, but allowed the appointment of an heir through any decent person, at the will of the monarch.

Coronation ceremony

Coronations in the Russian Empire involved a highly developed religious ceremony in which the Emperor was crowned and invested with regalia, then anointed with chrism and formally blessed by the church to commence his reign. Although rulers of Muscovy had been crowned prior to the reign of Ivan III, their coronation rituals assumed overt Byzantine overtones as the result of the influence of Ivan's wife Sophia Paleologue, and the imperial ambitions of his grandson, Ivan IV.[15] The modern coronation, introducing "European-style" elements, replaced the previous "crowning" ceremony and was first used for Catherine I in 1724.[16][17] Since czarist Russia claimed to be the "Third Rome" and the replacement of Byzantium as the true Christian state,[18] the Russian rite was designed to link its rulers and prerogatives to those of the so-called "Second Rome" (Constantinople).[19]

While months or even years could pass between the initial accession of the sovereign and the performance of this ritual, church policy held that the monarch must be anointed and crowned according to the Orthodox rite to have a successful tenure.[20] As the church and state were essentially one in Imperial Russia, this service invested the Tsars with political legitimacy; however, this was not its only intent. It was equally perceived as conferring a genuine spiritual benefit that mystically wedded sovereign to subjects, bestowing divine authority upon the new ruler. As such, it was similar in purpose to other European coronation ceremonies from the medieval era.

Even when the imperial capital was located at St. Petersburg (1713–1728, 1732–1917), Russian coronations were always held in Moscow at the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin. The last coronation service in Russia was held on 26 May 1896 for Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, who would be the final Tsar and Tsaritsa of Russia. The Russian Imperial regalia survived the subsequent Russian Revolution and the Communist period, and are currently on exhibit in a museum at the Kremlin Armoury.

See also