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The Soviet Union reached its military, diplomatic, and economic peak during the closing years of Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982).
But increasing slowdown in economic growth marched inexorably to a crisis that eventually led General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91) to introduce glasnost (openness) and perestroika (economic transformation- literally: rebuilding).
The first leader of the newly formed nation was Boris Yeltsin, who rose to power by standing up to an attempted putsch.
Yeltsin largely succeeded in transferring control over the country from the old Soviet elite to a newly formed cabinet of ministers.
Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, proved to be feckless, weak, and distracted by personal tragedies and the burdens of the war.
Having served his constitutionally limited terms (2000-2008), Putin stepped down as President, endorsing another candidate, Dmitry Medvedev, who won the 2008 election.
Putin proved to be a successful and popular leader and was re-elected for the third term when eligible again in 2012.
Since 2000, all government institutions underwent a dramatic positive transformation, the economy has bounced back from crisis, thanks in no small part to five-fold increases in the prices of raw materials Russia has in abundance.
Following a brief interim government headed by social democrat Alexander Kerensky, the Bolshevik faction of the Communist Party under Marxist Vladimir Lenin seized power, with the money provided by the German establishement, withdrew Russia from the war, and launched a purge of clerics, political dissidents, aristocrats, the bourgeoise, and the wealthy independent farmers.
A brutal civil war between the "Red Army" of the communist leadership and the "White Army" largely consisting of foreign interventionists back by Britain, Germany and France lasted until late 1920.
In October 1957 the USSR became the first country to launch an artificial satellite into space.