The Russians' civilization ability is Mother Russia, which provides them with extra territory (8 tiles) when they found their cities and extra Faith and Production from tundra tiles, but not City Centers. Their unique unit is the Cossack (which replaces the Cavalry), and their unique district is the Lavra (which replaces the Holy Site).
This ability allows Russian cities to quickly expand their territories, and make use of the tundra which everyone else hates. Note that even with the bonuses Russia receives from tundra tiles, it is far more preferable to go for non-tundra cities whenever possible, particularly in the early game. In the later stages of the game when most of the world is filled with cities, Russia can keep expanding to the tundra parts that other civilizations will be loath to touch.
The City Center doesn't get the Production bonus (though it sometimes gets the Faith bonus – a random bug perhaps) for being on tundra. The problem with this ability is not only the City Center, it's that the tundra doesn't house as much of use in the way of resources as non-tundra, and flat tundra does not support Farms. It will require considerable luck to find a good spot for a city near the tundra, and on the tundra this will be even less likely. Your best chance is probably a coastal tile with access to a lot of Fish and other sea resources – the lack of Food on tundra is a big deal. Acquiring the follower belief Feed the World for your religion will help if you get the opportunity, but the worship belief Gurdwara is not good, since it's too expensive for only +2 Food. Mosque goes well with the strong fast religion you should get from Lavra, mostly because you only really have to build one Mosque, so the high Production/ Faith purchase cost isn't an issue.
The real bonus of Mother Russia is the extra territory. This helps starting cities gain access to all nearby bonuses and luxury resources.
In the Gathering Storm Canada Gameplay Stream, Ed Beach talks about Russia's newly updated abilities. Russia now is safer settling in the cold environment by having all their units being immune to damage caused by blizzards. Any units belonging to civilizations at war with Russia will also receive double the damage from blizzards.
The Lavra is effectively an improved Holy Site. It requires only half as much production to build and it provides double Great Prophet points, as well as Great Writer, Great Artist, and Great Musician points. Finally, activating a Great Person in a city with a Lavra adds an additional tile to the city for free.
The bonus Great Prophet points will help ensure that you get to establish a religion before all the religions in the world are taken. Later, the Lavra helps generate a lot of Great Works, so make sure you build enough Theater Squares to accommodate all the art you will be producing.
While most other cities activate their Great People in the Capital Capital, Russia can utilize the Lavra ability to expand the cities they need expanded, unless creating a humongous Capital Capital is your goal.
Finally, the fact that it is cheap and offers artistic Great People points makes it a good addition to most cities. Even without any buildings in it, it's still a great source for Great Works, as well as adjacency bonus for other districts.
The Grand Embassy
This is underwhelming, unless playing on the higher difficulties (Emperor or higher). While it could certainly be used by going straight up one branch of the tree to get more expensive (and thus less numerous) civics or techs that will tie one hand behind your back regarding the other aspects of your empire. It will also tend to reduce the number of boosts you get to use until you start to back-fill. If you accidentally end up behind your trading partners then it will help, but deliberately planning to use it will be tricky – in order to trade you'll need to have at least reached Currency or Celestial Navigation. If you deliberately skip on the bottom half of the tech tree you're asking to be rolled over by an aggressive civ, and to reach Political Philosophy you need most of the civics tree. Combine that with the religious civics which are at least advisable, and it's clear that deliberately leaving cheap techs or civics behind is not going to be easy without losing more than you'd gain. That said, it may be easier to exploit in the late game.
On the higher difficulties, the AI isn't necessarily smarter; it cheats to make up for its deficiencies. Particularly at Immortal or higher, you will lag behind in either Culture or Science unless you invest heavily in it...and that leaves your military lacking, which the AI will quickly exploit. This makes Russia a great civilization to conquer the higher difficulties.
Surviving the Early Game (Rise and Fall)
Since Russia's set of uniques play counter-intuitively, this guide is written to help players get through the early game, which is Russia's weakest point. Having the Lavra district and the ability to found a religion quickly means Russia has an important choice to make: go for a Classical Era Golden Age, or intentionally fall into a Classical Era Dark Age to win a Medieval Era Heroic Age. Both strategies have their merits and their weaknesses.
Generally speaking, you want to walk into a game aiming for a Medieval Era Heroic Age. Delaying your first Lavra until after the Classical Ara Dark Age starts allows you to get a Campus district up and running in your Capital Capital instead, which will help you remain competitive in combat. If you find yourself swimming in a high Era Score with low effort, however (i.e. got lucky with tribal villages, barbarian camps and natural wonders), you can instead gun for the Classical Era Golden Age, using the large Era Score the Lavra and religion founding affords you to secure a large Era Score.
If you manage to earn the Classical Era Golden Age, the Monumentality dedication will allow you to expand and improve your land at low cost to the construction of districts and military, allowing you to build loads of Lavra districts to expand rapidly, supported by a large, defensive standing army. in such an instance, Oligarchy is typically the best government to aid in the defense of your land, and the Ancestral Hall is the best government building to give free Builders and allow you a 50% Production bonus to Settlers, helping you to get a few initial cities out without spending Faith. This strategy will yield a high amount of Faith in the late game, as you are building Lavra districts everywhere for more Faith, to buy more Builders and Settlers to feedback on itself.
If you have instead decided to go for Medieval Era Heroic Age, your Classical Era game plan will look very different. Your dedication of choice should be Monumentality, as you will want to build a few Lavras to quickly found a religion, and also Encampments/Commercial Hubs to support an army to defend yourself. You will still want to expand a bit so you can get the most out of Monumentality; however, Loyalty struggles will limit your expansion potential. The best government of choice here is Autocracy, to help fend off aggressive early civs and for the +1 bonus in your Capital Capital. It is advised to build the Government Plaza in your second city so when you get Autocratic Legacy, you can use it to get a +2 to all yields in 2 cities, a fairly powerful bonus at this stage of the game. What this means is you have 2 stronger cities earlier on, as they have bonus Production and Food to support more productive tiles, and the bonus of +4 Science, Culture and Gold acts as a buffer to aid you through this difficult time. The 4 Faith will be less immediately helpful but will build a stockpile of Faith for later. Assuming you avoid Loyalty issues, your government building of choice should be the Audience Chamber to help your smaller number of cities grow larger and build more districts.
The difficult phase is (hopefully) over by the time Russia hits the Medieval Era. In the instance of the Classical Era Golden Age, Russia has hopefully taken all the land they need to secure to ensure they are relevant for the rest of the game. In the instance of the Classical Era Dark Age, you are now in a Golden Age and will be able to take Pen, Brush and Voice, Free Inquiry AND Monumentality to buffer your Science and Culture further and focus on military production instead of Builders and Settlers to conquer your neighbours with little cost to your infrastructure.
Governments (Rise and Fall)
As detailed in the Early Game guide written above, your best government choices in the early game are Autocracy and Oligarchy, depending on the situation you find yourself in. While city spamming and fast Lavras with Great Writer points has great synergy with Classical Republic, surviving the early game should be your priority. If at any point you start to get ahead of the competition and no longer need to fear wars, switching to Classical Republic for a little bit to bolster your economy before Tier 2 governments kick in isn't a bad idea.
In the mid game, all three government choices are viable, however Monarchy and Theocracy are recommended. If you have all the land you need to win, Monarchy continues on the theme of stacking defensive bonuses, allowing your cities to grow larger and increasing your influence gain to woo city-states and gain an advantage that way. The Intelligence Agency is the government building of choice, unless you feel threatened by nearby neighbours. If your neighbours are still quite threatening, you can build the Foreign Ministry instead, allowing you to use city-state units to defend yourself as well. The synergy here is that Monarchy's 50% influence gain helps you get and maintain Suzerain status. If you feel you need to go on the offensive (whether religiously or militaristically) then Theocracy is better. You should have a healthy Faith economy by this point in the game which will work well with Theocracy's reduced Faith costs, and if you want to conquer a neighbour, building the Grand Master's Chapel allows you to fuel a military with Faith, allowing your Gold and Production to fuel your infrastructure.
In the late game, take whichever government and government building which aids your chosen victory type. The options for this should be a no-brainer.
As Russia, your Lavra district is both cheap to build and founds you a religion quickly. Because most of your strength is funneled into being able to cherry pick your beliefs, choosing the right beliefs can be the difference between winning and losing. While all beliefs are useful in the right situation, here is a brief overview of the most consistently useful.
Your strongest options are Religious Settlements and City Patron Goddess. Religious Settlements has synergy with Russia's larger land acquisition, helping them suffocate neighbours of resources. City Patron Goddess is also consistently useful, however note that it is stronger when NOT building Lavras first, so you get the 25% production bonus for longer. It is best used to construct either Commercial Hubs or Industrial Zones first to speed up construction of further districts. Special mention to Dance of the Aurora, as Russia gets more out of Tundra than other civs.
Feed the World and Choral Music are the best choices if you are going to build Lavras in every city. Take Feed the World if you are settling cities on tundra, as it helps you support your cities' infrastructure without internal Trade Routes and allows you to get some use out of the Grand Embassy. Take Choral Music if Housing/ Amenities are a struggle and you won't be building Theater Squares for some time.
Cathedrals is the obvious choice, allowing you to slot their Religious Great Works of Art without Theater Squares. The Hermitage can be built to slot other Great Works of Art if you aren't planning to win a Culture Victory and want to deny other civs as many Great Works as you can. If for some reason Cathedrals is already taken, pick whichever building best suits your needs.
Church Property, Tithe and Pilgrimage are the best options here. take Pilgrimage if you are planning to a win a Religious Victory; take Church Property otherwise. If you are planning to use Faith to buy Great People, units or Naturalists you aren't spreading your religion so you want beliefs that work on cities you own. If Church Property is taken, Tithe is the next best.
Defender of the Faith is the safest option, especially if you are near strong early game civs. However, if you are near other early game civs who are unlikely to declare war then pick whichever belief helps further your current plans.
Even if you aren't planning to win a Culture Victory, Great Work wonders are a good bet. The Apadana, Great Library, Oxford University, Hermitage and Sydney Opera House allow you to use Great Artists, Writers and Musicians without building Theater Squares and your Lavra districts will leave you with a few of those. The advantage here is that these Great Works can't be stolen as they aren't in a Theater Square. On a similar theme, Bolshoi Theatre and Broadway will help deny cultural civs Great Works housed in these as well; however, these require Theater Squares.
St. Basil's Cathedral allows you to turn a Tundra city into a super-city when combined with Russia's bonus yields on Tundra. Add forest Lumber Mills or City-State improvements and you have a large number of high yield tiles. Build with Mont St. Michel to grant all Apostles Martyr, and have 5 Relic slots, aiding you in defensive religious combat.
Other than these wonders, Russia doesn't deviate from the norm too much. The usual suspects, like Big Ben, Forbidden City and Potala Palace are a must build if given the opportunity. Russia is not dependent on wonders to win.
With its bonuses to Great Artist, Great Writer, and Great Musician points, Russia has great potential to go for a Cultural Victory. Its cheap Lavra and Faith from tundra aids in the pursuit of a Religious Victory. While there is nothing preventing Russia from going for a Scientific or Domination Victory, Russia has no special bonuses that help in this regard. In fact, it can be argued that not leaning too hard on the science might actually be an advantage.
Russia's greatest strength (but also its biggest weakness) is the versatility their religion affords them. Building Lavra districts in half the usual time and generating double Great Prophet points mean that typically Russia is the first to a religion, and can pick whichever beliefs suit their needs at that time. While Religious Victories might seem like the obvious choice initially, picking Russia in multiplayer typically means other players will thwart your victory attempts if you focus on religion too much. Instead, what the Russia player should be doing is to only build Lavra districts in their strongest cities, the ones that can build plenty of districts to maximise the land grabbing bonus the Lavra offers. Outside of founding an early religion and Faith on tundra, Russia has no bonuses to Faith generation and as such their only advantage in the religious game is a head start. Building Commercial Hubs and Industrial Zones in cities in place of Lavras will allow you to remain more competitive.
Being able to cherry pick your first few beliefs allows you to turn your niche religious focus into an all round advantage. Taking Cathedrals gives you a building to put great works of art in while you flog off great works of writing, and Feed the World allows you to grow larger cities or support cities on tundra. As a bonus, Cathedrals is generally an unfavoured belief as a result of Great Artist generation typically being slow, allowing you to pick other, stronger beliefs that suit your immediate needs (such as Defender of the Faith). Defender of the Faith is almost a given early in the game, especially since Russia has no military help until all the way into the Industrial Era. This allows you to survive the onslaught of aggressive early neighbours while you build up your infrastructure. When picking a worship building later, if it isn't there you aren't hurt too hard. If you aren't settling many cities in tundra, Choral Music can be used in conjunction with Cathedrals to allow you a strong Culture output without building Theater Squares, allowing you to build Campuses and Encampments instead. This will be more useful to you than Feed the World if Housing and Amenities are in short supply, and very soon you'll be able to win payback against the neighbours who harassed you early into the game.
The point to remember is just because Peter's ability rewards you for being behind in science and culture doesn't mean you want to be forever. The goal is to set yourself behind temporarily in order to win a long term advantage (through extremely rapid expansion, military defense and Commercial Hubs/Industrial Zones). Play it right, and Russia can snowball out of control and play for any victory condition you desire. Play it wrong and fade into obscurity.
Boyars, Cossacks, onion domes, snow-covered landscapes, the “wasteland” of Siberia, carefree serfs, stirring compositions, endless winter, and ice-chilled vodka. The romance of Russia may be appealing, but its true history is somewhat less so … especially if one listens to those serfs. With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Russia has influenced the course of world civilization like few other nation-states. The roots of Russia lay in the initial settlement of Novgorod by the Norse and the establishment of the Kievan Rus kingdom around 882 AD by Oleg, who managed to conquer the Ilmen Slavs, Finno-Ugris, Veps and Votes who inhabited the region – but they were all just a bunch of uncivilized savages. So, let’s begin with the rise of the Grand Duchy of Muscovy.
It all got started with Prince Daniil Aleksandrovich, fourth and youngest son of the famed Alexandre Nevsky; when the old man died in 1263 AD, the two-year-old Daniil received the least valuable of his holdings, a small and backward principality named Moscow. He spent the next decades fending off his greedy brothers and the westward galloping Mongols. Despite all this internecine sibling squabbling and Mongol incursions, Daniil managed to largely keep his duchy out of the general bloodshed (in fact, he was canonized in 1652 by the Orthodox Church for his “meekness, humility and peacefulness”). Among other things, he did this by paying tribute to the Golden Horde, a smart move as it turned out. The prince “peacefully” added various bits to his lands as his relatives, direct and distant, died off – to the point that when St. Daniil died in 1303 Moscow became a “Grand Duchy.”
Daniil was followed by a series of able – if not quite so pacific – grand dukes. But it was Grand Duke Ivan III (also known as “the Great”) who really put Muscovy on the map. During his 40-year reign (1462 to 1505), he tripled the size of Muscovy by annexing the Novgorod Republic and the Grand Duchy of Tver among others, ended tribute to the Horde, created a bare-bones central administration, limited the independence of the boyars, renovated the Kremlin (the citadel that served as the seat of the Rurik dynasty). Having consolidated the core of Russia, Ivan took for himself the titles of Tsar and “Ruler of all the Rus.” Although Ivan IV (lovingly known as “the Terrible”) was the first to be officially crowned as “Tsar,” the “gathering” of Russia was begun by Ivan III.
Being a megalomaniac and a sociopath, Ivan IV had a tough time as a child. As he was three and sickly at the time of his father's death, a prolonged regency was subject to a great deal of political intrigue, and Ivan suffered accordingly. Once Ivan achieved maturity, things went from bad to exceptionally bad – one might even say “terrible.” Very little is actually known of Ivan the man, except that he was unwell and he married six times. At last crowned in his own right, Ivan began a program to dramatically increase his power at the expense of virtually everybody else. The Imperial Court was swept of independent-minded nobility and stocked with sycophantic bullies. The upper echelons of the military were similarly purged. Ivan declared millions of acres of the best land to be oprichnina – or crown land – subject to his direct control only. Ivan was about as good a military leader as he was a humanitarian: he virtually destroyed the army and bankrupted the country in the disastrous Livonian War, which dragged on for some twenty-five years. He died in 1584 … and not a moment too soon.
A generation later, the Rurik dynasty would be replaced by the Romanov. Following the death of Feodor I (the son of Ivan IV), Russian toppled into the “Time of Troubles,” a crisis in the succession as Feodor had no male heirs. The Russian parliament eventually elected Boris Godunov to be the new tsar; he reigned for seven years, troubled by a series of imposters known as the “False Dmitriys (each claiming to be Feodor’s long-dead younger brother). All this, including claims by foreign pretenders, was finally put to rest when the boyars elected Michael Romanov to take the throne in 1613 AD. The Romanovs would rule in an unbroken line until the last of them were shot by Bolsheviks in a basement in Yekaterinburg.
As tyrannical despots go, the Romanov tsars weren’t too bad. In fact, several of them earned the sobriquet “the Great” and several others probably deserve that acclaim, save that another of the same name already had it. The first Romanovs managed to conclude treaties with Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Ukrainian Cossacks, who agreed to serve under the tsar’s direction. Unfortunately, thanks to new, harsher restrictions on the serfs, there were also a lot of peasant uprisings, such as the Salt Riot, Copper Riot and Moscow Uprising. These were put down with the usual reserve of the time and place. And Russia continued to grow in size, notably through the conquest and colonization eastward to Siberia.
Then came the Greats. Peter the Great, through a series of successful wars against the Ottomans and the Swedes, gained warm-water ports for the tsardom, and so ready access to Europe. And thus he dragged Russia – kicking and screaming, as the saying goes – into the Renaissance. Forty years after Peter’s death, Catherine the Great – who wasn’t even Russian-born – initiated the empire’s acknowledged “golden age,” made Russia a major European power … and, for some unfathomable reason, began the colonization of distant Alaska. Known as “the Blessed,” Tsar Alexander I guided Russia through the upheavals of the Napoleonic Wars, defeated Napoleon during the invasion (mainly by avoiding battle and torching everything in front of the French), and firmly embedded his nation in the quagmire of the Balkans after the “Revolt of the Greeks” in 1821 AD. Next up, Alexander “the Liberator,” who, despite his many accomplishments (notably the “liberation” of the serfs) managed to get himself assassinated.
During these long years, Russia developed a culture unique, a tradition of excellence in literature, music, dance and architecture. For centuries before Peter the Great threw the doors wide to European influence, Russian folklore and folk-crafts were distinctly Slavic, heavily tinted (or tainted) with Orthodox Christianity. Constantinople’s first and greatest outreach program of proselytizing was the dispatch of missionaries into Kievan Rus; by the middle of the 10th Century the Greek Orthodox Church had its hooks into a large number of the Russian common folk, and it hasn’t turned loose yet. Other influences, especially Scandinavian and Asiatic, were added to the cultural pot under the Rurik and early Romanov dynasties. Expatriates have since carried Russian culture across the globe, and few peoples have been as pivotal in the world’s appreciation of the finer things.
In literature, Slavic bylinas gave way to the epically massive works of Gogol, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy … although the great Chekov managed to keep his word-count down. The simple harmonies of ethnic folk music played on the likes of the balalaika, garmon and zhaleika evolved into the complex and sweeping compositions of Glinka, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky, perhaps the greatest composer of the Romantic Era. The peasant khorovod and barynya, folk dances still enjoyed throughout Russia, made room for the ballet – first brought to St. Petersburg by, who else, Peter the Great – so beloved by the cultural elite.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable aspects of Russian culture (at least for the average sap) is its architecture. With Orthodoxy came Byzantine architectural forms, displayed in the only stone buildings: fortifications and churches. When Peter the Great opened the country to the West and supported a renaissance in the arts, a taste for the rococo fastened on Russian architects. Under Catherine and the Alexanders, the capital at St. Petersburg was transformed into a museum for Neo-Classical buildings (before the slab-and-drab Soviet style was mandated).
Russia has produced few great or even recognizable artists in paint or sculpture. But nearly anyone can spot its folk art. The Matryoshka Doll, a series of brightly-painted nesting figures, is beloved everywhere and now manufactured wholesale for holiday sales worldwide. Russian icons, the painting of religious images on wood, slipped into the Slavic mindset with Orthodox Christianity; elaborate and often gilded, these became an art in themselves, and the great masters of early Russia turned their skills to these venerated icons. While few may recognize the term “gzhel,” most people would recognize the distinctive style of ceramics to which it refers.
Following the Liberator’s son, termed Alexander “the Peacemaker,” came the last recognized Romanov to rule Russia, the familial but inept Nicholas II (not given a moniker for obvious reasons). Nicholas inherited a Russia beset with all sorts of problems, both internal and external. He was a firm believer in “benevolent” autocratic rule, seeing the Tsar as “Little Father” to his people. He retained the conservative policies and politics of his father, a mistake not helped by his marriage to an unpopular German princess.
By 1900, Russia was in desperate need of reform and modernization; what it got was oppression and bloodshed. Insulated from reality by sycophants (the thoroughly unlikeable Gregori Rasputin among them), Nicholas failed to advance agricultural or industrial production, leaving Russia the most backward of European nations. Worse still, he lacked the vision to bring political reform – despite being highly impressed by the British version of democracy – in an age of growing discontent. He alienated the Duma, an advisory council he himself had created.
Nicholas II, when he did try to right the floundering ship of state, only made matters worse. He would be condemned by most of his subjects due to such incidents as the Khodynka Tragedy, Bloody Sunday, anti-Semitic pogroms, the repression of the abortive 1905 Revolution, and his proclivity for executing vocal opponents. Moreover, he managed to embroil Russia in disastrous military campaigns, especially the humiliating defeat at the hands of Imperial Japan in 1905. Although this indicated how desperate the Russian military was in need of reform and modernization (in terms of tactics, training, equipment and everything else), none came – leading to such incidents as the Potemkin mutiny. Coupled with all this, the Russian entry into the cauldron of World War I completed his miscalculations.
In February 1917, when police in St. Petersburg began to fire on starving (due to acute food shortages in the cities) and freezing (a severe winter coupled with a lack of coal and wood) citizens, riots broke out with an outcry for an end to the war and abdication of the tsar. Despite initial efforts to maintain control, when the army’s Volinsky Regiment mutinied and refused to follow orders – soon joined by other units – order in the capital broke down completely. The Duma formed a provisional democratic government, and Nicholas abdicated (his brother Michael wisely declined the throne when the Duma offered it). The democracy that replaced the empire was soon enough itself replaced by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
- Main article: Russian cities (Civ6)
- The Russian civilization's symbol is a double-headed eagle, which also appears on the Russian coat of arms.