List of Russian monarchs

Monarchy of Russia
Lesser CoA of the empire of Russia.svg
Цари и правители земли Русской от Рюрика до Александра III.(хромлит.Абрамова) (p)1886г ГИМ e1t3.jpg
Tree of Russian rulers
Style His/Her Imperial Majesty
First monarch Rurik (as Prince)
Last monarch Nicholas II (as Emperor)
Formation 862
Abolition 15 March 1917
Residence Winter Palace, Moscow Kremlin
Appointer Hereditary

This is a list of all reigning monarchs in the history of Russia. It includes the princes of medieval Rus′ state (both centralised, known as Kievan Rus′ and feudal, when the political center moved northeast to Vladimir and finally to Moscow), tsars, and emperors of Russia. The list begins with the semi-legendary prince Rurik of Novgorod, sometime in the mid 9th century (c. 862) and ends with emperor Nicholas II who abdicated in 1917, and was executed with his family in 1918.

The vast territory known today as Russia covers an area that has been known historically by various names, including Rus', Kievan Rus',[1] the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, and the sovereigns of these many nations and throughout their histories have used likewise as wide a range of titles in their positions as chief magistrates of a country. Some of the earliest titles include kniaz and velikiy kniaz, which mean "prince" and "grand prince" respectively but are often rendered as "duke" and "grand duke" in Western literature; then the title of tsar, meaning "caesar", which was disputed to be the equal of either a king or emperor; finally culminating in the title of emperor. According to Article 59 of the 1906 Russian Constitution, the Russian emperor held several dozen titles, each one representing a region which the monarch governed.

Rurikids, 862–1598

Parts of the land that is today known as Russia was populated by various East Slavic peoples from before the 9th century. The first states to exert hegemony over the region were those of the Rus' people, a branch of Nordic Varangians who entered the region occupied by modern Russia sometime in the ninth century, and set up a series of states starting with the Rus' Khaganate circa 830. Little is known of the Rus' Khaganate beyond its existence, including the extent of its territory or any reliable list of its khagans (rulers).

Princes of Novgorod

Traditionally, Rus' statehood is traced to Rurik, a Rus' leader of Novgorod (modern Veliky Novgorod), a different Rus' state.

Grand princes of Kiev

Rurik's successor Oleg moved his capital to Kiev (now Ukraine), founding the state of Kievan Rus'. Over the next several centuries, the most important titles were Grand Prince of Kiev and Grand Prince of Novgorod whose holder (often the same person) could claim hegemony.

The gradual disintegration of Rus' began in the 11th century, after the death of Yaroslav the Wise. The position of the Grand Prince was weakened by the growing influence of regional clans. In 1097, the Council of Liubech formalized the feudal nature of the Rus' lands.

After Mstislav's death in 1132, the Kievan Rus' fell into recession and a rapid decline. The throne of Kiev became an object of struggle between various territorial associations of Rurikid princes.

In March 1169, a coalition of native princes led by Andrei of Vladimir sacked Kiev and forced Mstislav II to flee in Volhynia. Andrei's brother Gleb was appointed as prince of Kiev while Andrei himself continued to rule his realm from Vladimir on Klyazma. Since that time, Northeastern Rus′ centered in Vladimir has become one of the most influential Rus′ lands. In the southwest, Galicia-Volhynia had emerged as the local successor to Kiev. In the mid-14th century, Galicia-Volhynia fell under pressure from neighboring powers; Poland conquered Galicia and Lithuania took other Western Rus′ lands including Kiev.

Grand Princes of Vladimir

By the 12th century, the Grand Duchy of Vladimir became the dominant principality in Northwest Rus, adding its name to those of Novgorod and Kiev, culminating with the rule of Alexander Nevsky. In 1169 Prince Andrey I of Vladimir sacked the city of Kiev and took over the title of the grand prince to claim primacy in Rus'.

Rus state finally disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1242. Its successor principalities started paying tribute to the Golden Horde (the so-called Tatar Yoke). From the mid-13th to mid-15th centuries, princes of North-Eastern Rus received a yarlyk (a special edict of Golden Horde khan).

Alexander Nevsky was the last prince to reign directly from Vladimir. After his death, Northeastern Rus′ fell apart into a dozen principalities. The territory of the Grand Duchy of Vladimir proper was received by the Horde to one of the appanage princes, who performed the enthronement ceremony in Vladimir, but remained to live and reign in his own principality. By the end of the century, only three cities – Moscow, Tver, and Nizhny Novgorod – still contended for the title of Grand Prince of Vladimir.

After Dmitry the throne of Vladimir was succeeded only by princes of Moscow.

Grand Princes of Moscow

The Grand Duchy of Moscow, founded by Alexander Nevsky's youngest son Daniel, began to consolidate control over the entire Rus' territory in the 14th century. The Russians began to exert independence from the Mongols, culminating with Ivan III ceasing tribute to the Horde, effectively declaring his independence. His son Vasili III completed the task of uniting all of Russia by annexing the last few independent states in the 1520s.

Name Lifespan Reign start Reign end Notes Family Image
Vasily I
  • Василий Дмитриевич
30 December 1371

27 February 1425
19 May 1389 27 February 1425 Son of Dmitry I and Eudoxia Dmitriyevna Rurikids
Vasily II
  • Василий Васильевич (Василий Тёмный)
10 March 1415

27 March 1462
27 February 1425 30 March 1434 Son of Vasily I and Sophia of Lithuania. Deposed
Regent: Sophia of Lithuania (1425–1432)
Yuri (IV)
  • of Zvenigorod
    Юрий Дмитриевич
26 November 1374

5 June 1434
31 March 1434 5 June 1434 Son of Dmitry I and Eudoxia Dmitriyevna
Younger brother of Vasily I
  • the Squint
  • of Zvenigorod
    Василий Юрьевич (Василий Косой)
1421 – 1448 5 June 1434 1435 Son of Yury of Zvenigorod and Anastasia of Smolensk Rurikids
Vasily II
  • the Dark
  • Василий Васильевич (Василий Тёмный)
10 March 1415

27 March 1462
1435 1446 Restored Rurikids
  • Shemyaka
  • Дмитрий Юрьевич (Дмитрий Шемяка)

17 July 1453
1446 26 March 1447 Son of Yury of Zvenigorod and Anastasia of Smolensk, brother of Vasily the Squint
First to use the title of Sovereign of all the Rus[sia]
Vasily II
  • the Dark
  • Василий Васильевич (Василий Тёмный)
10 March 1415

27 March 1462
27 February 1447 27 March 1462 Restored
Co-ruler: Ivan (since 1449)
Ivan III
  • the Great
  • Иван Васильевич (Иван Великий)
22 January 1440

6 November 1505
5 April 1462 6 November 1505 Son of Vasily II and Maria of Borovsk
Co-rulers: Ivan the Young (1471–1490), Dmitry the Grandson (1498–1502), Vasily (since 1502)
Vasily III
  • Василий Иванович
25 March 1479

13 December 1533
6 November 1505 13 December 1533 Son of Ivan III and Sophia Paleologue Rurikids
Ivan IV
  • Иван Васильевич
25 August 1530

28 March 1584
13 December 1533 26 January 1547 Son of Vasily III and Elena Glinskaya
Regent: Elena Glinskaya (1533–1538)

Tsars of Russia

Vasili's son Ivan the Terrible formalized the situation by assuming the title Tsar of All Rus' in 1547, when the state of Russia (apart from its constituent principalities) came into formal being.

Godunovs, 1598—1605

Following the death of the Feodor I, the son of Ivan the Terrible and the last of the Rurik dynasty, Russia fell into a succession crisis. As Feodor left no male heirs, the Russian Zemsky Sobor (feudal parliament) elected his brother-in-law Boris Godunov to be Tsar.

Tsars of Russia

Name Lifespan Reign start Reign end Notes Family Image
  • Борис Фёдорович Годунов

13 April 1605
21 February 1598 13 April 1605 Brother-in-law of Feodor I
Elected by Zemsky Sobor
Feodor II
  • Фёдор Борисович Годунов

20 June 1605
13 April 1605 10 June 1605 Son of Boris Godunov and Maria Grigorievna Skuratova-Belskaya

Time of Troubles

Devastated by famine, rule under Boris descended into anarchy. A series of impostors, known as the False Dmitrys, each claimed to be Feodor I's long deceased younger brother; however, only the first impostor ever took the capital and sat on the throne. A distant Rurikid cousin, Vasily Shuysky, also took power for a time. During this period, foreign powers deeply involved themselves in Russian politics, under the leadership of the Vasa monarchs of Sweden and Poland-Lithuania, including Sigismund III Vasa and his son Władysław. As a child, Władysław was even chosen as Tsar by the council of aristocracy, though he was prevented by his father from formally taking the throne. The Time of Troubles is considered to have ended with the election of Michael Romanov to the throne in February 1613.

Tsars of Russia

Name Lifespan Reign start Reign end Notes Family Image
False Dmitry I
  • Лжедмитрий I

17 May 1606
20 June 1605 17 May 1606 Claiming to be son of Ivan IV, he was the only imposter to actually sit on the throne of a major power. Backed by Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Murdered. Rurikids
Vasily IV
  • Василий Иванович Шуйский
22 September 1552

12 September 1612
19 May 1606 17 July 1610 Orchestrated a conspiracy against False Dmitry, proclaimed Tsar by the nobles. Deposed and sent to Poland
Pretender: False Dmitry II (since June 1607)
  • Владислав Жигимонтович
9 June 1595

20 May 1648
6 September 1610 November 1612
(resigned his claim in 1634)
King of Poland since 1632
Son of Sigismund III Vasa and Anne of Austria
Elected by the Seven Boyars, never assumed the throne
Pretenders: False Dmitry II (until 21 December 1610), False Dmitry III (July 1611 – May 1612)

Romanovs, 1613–1917

Tsars of Russia

The Time of Troubles came to a close with the election of Michael Romanov as Tsar in 1613. Michael officially reigned as Tsar, though his father, the Patriarch Philaret (died 1633) initially held the real power. However, Michael's descendants would rule Russia, first as Tsars and later as Emperors, until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Peter the Great (reigned 1682–1725), a grandson of Michael Romanov, reorganized the Russian state along more Western lines, establishing the Russian Empire in 1721.

Emperors of Russia

(Also Grand Princes of Finland from 1809 until 1917; and Kings of Poland from 1815 until 1917)

The Empire of Russia was declared by Peter the Great in 1721. Officially, Russia would be ruled by the Romanov dynasty until the Russian Revolution of 1917. However, direct male descendants of Michael Romanov came to an end in 1730 with the death of Peter II of Russia, grandson of Peter the Great. The throne passed to Anna, a niece of Peter the Great, and after the brief rule of her niece's infant son Ivan VI, the throne was seized by Elizabeth, a daughter of Peter the Great. Elizabeth would be the last of the direct Romanovs to rule Russia. Elizabeth declared her nephew, Peter, to be her heir. Peter (who would rule as Peter III) spoke little Russian, having been a German prince of the House of Holstein-Gottorp before arriving in Russia to assume the Imperial title. He and his German wife Sophia changed their name to Romanov upon inheriting the throne. Peter was ill-liked, and he was assassinated within six months of assuming the throne, in a coup orchestrated by his wife, who became Empress in her own right and ruled as Catherine the Great (both Peter and Catherine were descended from the House of Rurik). Following the confused successions of the descendants of Peter the Great, Catherine's son Paul I established clear succession laws which governed the rules of primogeniture over the Imperial throne until the fall of the Empire in 1917.

Name Lifespan Reign start Reign end Notes Family Image
Peter I
  • the Great
  • Пётр I Алексеевич (Пётр Великий)
9 June 1672

8 February 1725
2 November 1721 8 February 1725 Son of Alexis and Natalya Naryshkina
Younger half-brother of Feodor III, Sophia and Ivan V
Regarded as one of the greatest Russian monarchs
Catherine I
  • Екатерина I Алексеевна
15 April 1684

17 May 1727
8 February 1725 17 May 1727 Second wife of Peter I Skowroński;
Romanov (by marriage)
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 male of the direct Romanov line
  • Анна Иоанновна
7 February 1693

28 October 1740
13 February 1730 28 October 1740 Daughter of Ivan V and Praskovia Saltykova Romanov
Ivan VI
  • Иван VI Антонович
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
Regents: E. J. von Biron (until 20 November 1740), Anna Leopoldovna (since 20 November 1740)
  • Елизавета Петровна
29 December 1709

5 January 1762
6 December 1741 5 January 1762 Daughter of Peter I and Catherine I 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
Deposed and later murdered
Catherine II
  • the Great
  • Екатерина II Алексеевна (Екатерина Великая)
2 May 1729

17 November 1796
9 July 1762 17 November 1796 Wife of Peter III Ascania; Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov (by marriage)
Paul I
  • Павел I Петрович
1 October 1754

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

1 December 1825
23 March 1801 1 December 1825 Son of Paul I and Maria Feodorovna
First Romanov King of Poland and Grand Duke of Finland
  • Константин Павлович
27 April 1779

27 June 1831
1 December 1825 26 December 1825 Son of Paul I and Maria Feodorovna
Younger brother and heir presumptive of Alexander I
Secretly abdicated in 1823, proclaimed emperor in capital, abdicated again)
Nicholas I
  • Николай I Павлович
6 July 1796

2 March 1855
26 December 1825 2 March 1855 Son of Paul I and Maria Feodorovna
Younger brother of Alexander I and Constantine
Alexander II
  • the Liberator
  • Александр II Николаевич (Александр Освободитель)
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
  • the Peacemaker
  • Александр III Александрович (Александр Миротворец)
10 March 1845

1 November 1894
13 March 1881 1 November 1894 Son of Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Saint Nicholas II
  • Николай II Александрович
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

Pretenders after Nicholas II

Name Lifespan Reign start Reign end Notes Family Image
Michael Aleksandrovich
  • Михаил Александрович
4 December 1878

13 June 1918
15 March 1917 16 March 1917 Younger brother of Nicholas II
Abdicated after a nominal reign of only 18 hours,
ending dynastic rule in Russia[4]
He is not usually recognised as an emperor, as Russian law did not allow Nicholas II to disinherit his son
Nikolai Nikolaevich
  • Николай Николаевич
6 November 1856

5 January 1929
8 August 1922 25 October 1922 Grandson of Nicholas I
Proclaimed Emperor of Russia by the Zemsky Sobor of the Provisional Priamurye Government while being in exile
His nominal rule came to an end when the areas controlled by the Provisional Priamurye Government were overrun by the communists
Kirill Vladimirovich
"Cyril I"
  • Кирилл Владимирович
30 September 1876

12 October 1938
31 August 1924 12 October 1938 Grandson of Alexander II
Claimed the title Emperor of All the Russias while in exile[6]
Recognised by a congress of legitimists delegates in Paris in 1926[7]

The rights of Kirill Vladimirovich and his heirs to the imperial throne of Russia have been repeatedly questioned following his marriage with Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The principles laid down by Paul I in the Act of Succession 1797 turned out to be not completely flawlessly formulated, and, as a result, the interpretation of these is not always obvious, and Russia now has no indisputable contender for the throne. Moreover, for more than a hundred years the throne itself does not exist.

Timeline of monarchs

See also