influence in Europe was disrupted by defeat in the Crimean War. Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855–1881) enacted significant reforms, including the abolition of serfdom in 1861; these Great Reforms spurred industrialization and modernized the Russian army, which had successfully liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War.
Between 1850 and 1900, Russia's population doubled, but it remained chiefly rural. Eleven major famines scourged Russia between 1845 and 1922, one of the worst being the famine of 1891–2.
Many socio-economic conflicts were aggravated during Alexander III’s reign (1881–1894) and under his son, Nicholas II (1894–1917). Harsh conditions in factories created mass support for the revolutionary socialist movement. In January 1905, striking workers peaceably demonstrated for reforms in Saint
Petersburg but were fired upon by troops, killing and wounding hundreds. This event, known as "Bloody Sunday", along with the abject failure of the Tsar's military forces in the initially popular Russo-Japanese War, ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905.
Although the uprising was put down and Nicholas II retained much of his power, he was forced to concede major reforms, including granting the freedoms of speech and assembly, the legalization of political parties and the creation of an elected legislative assembly, the Duma; however, the hopes for basic improvements in the lives of industrial workers were mainly unfulfilled.
In 1914 Russia entered World War I in response to Austria's declaration of war on Russia's ally Serbia, and fought across multiple fronts while isolated from its Triple Entente allies. The Russian army achieved such successes as the Brusilov Offensive in 1916, destroying the military of Austria-Hungary almost completely.
However, the already-existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by the rising costs of war, casualties (Russia suffered the highest number of both military and civilian deaths of the Entente Powers), and rumors of corruption and treason, leading to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917, carried out in two major acts.
A series of uprisings were organized by workers and peasants throughout the country, as well as by soldiers in the Russian army, who were mainly of peasant origin; many of them were led by democratically elected councils called Soviets. This first revolution, or February
An approximate map of the cultures in European Russia at the arrival of the Varangians.