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Ivan the Terrible (or formidable to Russians) was the first monarch to consistently call himself the Tsar, and he set the precedent of Tsarist rule, deeming himself the ruler of all Russians. He created a centrally controlled Russian state imposed by military dominance.
Peter the Great was responsible for westernizing Russia. He conquered the Eastern coast of the Baltic Sea and, in doing so, he created ports that connected Russia to Western Europe.
Catherine the Great continued Peter the Great's modernization/westernization of Russia. She drafted laws based on the ideas of the Enlightenment. She was the longest ruling woman. She made the church part of the state. She also pushed to outlaw capital punishment and torture.
Alexander the Second started much needed reforms in Russia, such as outlawing serfdom. Before Alexander, serfdom existed in Russia for centuries whereas in the Europe serfdom was abolished. His son's rule help push greater industrial development in Russia. Thus, modernizing Russia and its economy.
Tsar Nicholas II was an ineffective leader. Russia's loss in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, and the causalities from WWI (2.5 million died out of 12 million combatants) compounded by economic problems, food and work shortages and high inflation, made Russians lose faith in both Nicholas II and tsardom. Planting seeds the revolution that was to come in 1917
You're a terrible leader Nicholas II. You listen to a monk but not us...
Nicholas II Losses which made people mad. WWI
Each of these tsars are important because each helped consolidate the power of state. More importantly, each tsar helped integrate Russia to be part of Europe, allowing for western thought and philosophy to exist in Russia. One philosophy, communism, would later be important in later event, which could only be possible if Russia was westernized and part of the west.
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