Welcome to The History of the Russian Empire Podcast

The history of the Russian Empire is not just the history of the Russians. It is the history of the Tatars, Balts, Mongols and others who helped shape the Russian state, the peoples of the Caucasus, Siberia and Central Asia who were incorporated into the Empire.

This podcast traces the development of the peoples of the forest and the steppe, waves of migration from the east, and their interactions with each other. Not just a tale of kings, generals, and battlefields, it considers social and cultural history, religion and the arts. It will look at what made the Russian Empire different to overseas empires like the Spanish or British Empires, and how they were similar, and why “Russian" remains an ethnic, rather than national identity.

I, JP Bristow, host of this podcast, studied Russian in the United Kingdom and in Russia, and have spent almost 20 years living and working in Russia. My interest in the non-Russian peoples of Russia was first sparked almost 30 years ago while studying in Kazan, capital of the Tatars, Russia's second largest ethnic group. Marrying a Tatar only encouraged this interest, which grew over the years to include other peoples and cultures of Russia, the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. 

Although historians have studied the Russian minorities, the Caucasus and Central Asia, increasingly so since the fall of the Soviet Union, they remain little known to the wider public. The terrible events of 2022, with Russia invading Ukraine and its dictator Vladimir Putin asserting that Ukraine is not a country, make knowing the true story of Russian imperialism more important than ever. We will follow that story from the origins of the Empire through to the Russian Federation today.

Of course, we will still have the tsars and generals and battles, Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great and Napoleon too. 

So, join me for a bigger picture of the biggest country on earth.