Why did Russia have so many foreign rulers?

The colonization vector of Russia’s history made it natural for the rulers to surround themselves with foreigners and seek familial bonds with foreign royals

Actually, there were not too many “pure” foreigners among Russia’s rulers. Apart from a few Vikings as heads of the Kievan Rus, a Tatar Simeon Bekbulatovich, a few Poles in the beginning of XVII century, and Ekaterina II with her husband Peter III, the rest of our rulers were Russia-born and Russian-speaking. Not an overkill for soon 1,200 years of known royal history.

Colonization project

Yet, Russia started out as a Varangian colonial project. The framework of the established legacy required:

  • Foreign provenance of the ruling monarch. Up to the end of the XVI century our Czars were descendants of the Scandinavian chieftain Hroerik.
  • Imported religion: Greek Orthodoxy
  • Imported script: Greek/Bulgarian with elements of Hebrew/Khazarian
  • Imported state ideology: “Moscow is the Third Rome”, “Czar” as a derivative from Caesar.
  • Imported national symbols: St. George and the Byzantine two-headed eagle

Russian names, foreign blood

Characteristically, when a new dynasty was picked for the throne in the XVII century, their family name was Romanovy (“Romans”). When the Russian empire was proclaimed by Peter the Great, its new capital city got a German name St. Petersburg. In the middle of the XVIII century, ethnic Russians in the dynasty were supplanted by their German relatives.

Elite status

Due to the colonial nature of the Russian imperial rule, the class distinction of the ruling elite were Western clothes, lifestyle and education. Along with it came the propensity to select foreign nationals for the highest echelons of power. Even though Catherine the Great was the last foreign-born individual on the Russian throne, the subsequent Czars retained the tradition to marry daughters of German aristocrats with royal credentials.

Below, a Soviet movie poster “The Youth of Peter the Great“. The Czar’s European hairstyle and clothing are contrasted with the ethnic Oriental clothing of his boyars (top aristocracy) and his sister Sofia.

Soviet movie poster The Youth of Peter the Great
Soviet movie poster “The Youth of Peter the Great“. The movie was released in 1980.

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