Welcome to The Face of Russia Website.

Who are the Russian people? How have they expressed their character and inner conflicts in their art and culture? And, as Russia’s long-awaited democracy develops, how will the Russian people redefine themselves culturally, spiritually, and politically?

Experience Russian culture and history through an interactive timeline from 850 A.D. to present day with hundreds of images, movies and audio tracks.

The Series
Learn about the PBS series and the people behind it with biographies, location maps, program summaries, air dates, and indexes to the interviews and artwork from the series.

Explore Russia and Russian culture within this section which includes a glossary, bibliography, media index, Web links and lesson plans

Connect with others to discuss topics inspired by the series and the site in the Viewer’s Forum at PBS.

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This Interactive Timeline is a companion to The Face of Russia series, tracing the general chronology of Russian culture. This remarkable journey through ten centuries of art, architecture, music, dance and cinema reveals the major events that shaped Russian culture.

Click on highlighted text or images to explore expanded descriptions and media-rich content. Scroll through the timeline chronologically, or jump directly to a specific period using the “timeline key” at the top.

860 The Cyrillic Alphabet invented by Cyril and Methodius.
862 The Norseman Oleg occupies Kiev and establishes the Rurik dynasty.
9th C Revival of icon painting.
988 Prince Vladimir converts to Christianity.
Pre-12 C Domovoi
1037 Cathedral of St. Sophia, Kiev.
1113 Primary Chronicle completed
1147 Moscow is founded as a defense outpost.
1156 A fortification built on the site of the present Kremlin in Moscow
12th C Our Lady of Vladimir (icon).
13th C Church of the Protection of the Virgin.
1240 Kiev is sacked by the Mongols.
1242 Prince Alexander Nevsky defeats the Teutonic Knights.
1367 Wooden Kremlin walls were replaced with limestone and extended to their present length
1380 Prince Dmitry Donskoi defeats the Mongols.
1420 Andrei Rublev’s painting The Old Testament Trinity.
1470-1500 The Cathedral of the Assumption.
1480 Prince Ivan III renounces Russia’s allegiance to the Mongols.
1497 The first Muscovite legal code is written.
1502 Dionysius; paints frescoes in Ferapontovo Church.
1510 Moscow dubbed as “The Third Rome.”
1533-84 Tsar Ivan the Terrible rules Russia.
1555-60 Church of St. Basil the Blessed is built in Red Square.
1581 Tsar Ivan the Terrible kills his son Ivan.
1598 Tsar Ivan the Terrible’s son Fedor dies.
1598-1613 The Time of Troubles.
1598-1605 Boris Godunov rules Russia.
1613 Mikhail Romanov is elected Tsar.
1667 Schism in the Orthodox Church.
1682-1725 Peter I (The Great) rules Russia.
1703 St. Petersburg founded.
1714 Bartolomeo Rastrelli’s Peterhof.
1714 Church of Transfiguration, Kizhai Island.
1726 The Academy of Sciences is established.
1730-40 Anne rules Russia.
1735 Bronze Bell (“Tsar Bell”) is cast.
1737-57 Tsarskoye Selo
1744 Church of St. Andrew
1755 Moscow University is founded.
1773 Pugachev Rebellion threatens Russia.
1790 Alexander Radishchev’s novel Journey from Petersburg to Moscow.
1801-25 Alexander I rules Russia.
1812 Napoleon invades Russia.
1825 Decembrist uprising.
1825-55 Nicholas I rules Russia.
1832 Church of Christ the Savior is built in Moscow.
1837 Alexander Pushkin’s poem The Bronze Horseman.
1837-57 Alexander Ivanov’s painting Appearance of Christ to the People.
1842 Nikolai Gogol’s novel Dead Souls.
1855-81 Alexander II rules Russia.
1860s Populism is embraced by the intelligentsia.
1861 Alexander II abolishes serfdom.
1862-66 Conservatories are established in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
1866 Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment.
1869 Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
1870-73 Ilya Repin’s paints Barge Haulers on the Volga.
1874 Modest Musorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov.
1881 Alexander II is murdered.
1881-94 Alexander III rules Russia.
1894-1917 Nicholas II rules Russia.
1905 Revolution begins and the first parliament is elected.
1909 Ballets Russes founded by Sergy Diaghilev.
1911 Vassily Kandinsky’s painting St. George.
1913 Igor Stravinsky composes The Rite of Spring.
1913 Malevich’s painting The Black Square.
1914-17 World War I.
1917 Nicholas II and his family are executed.
1917 The Bolsheviks seize power in October.
1917-24 Vladimir Lenin rules Russia.
1922 The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established.
1924-53 Joseph Stalin rules the USSR.
1925 Sergy Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin.
1932 Creative unions are established, beginning strict state control of all the arts.
1941-45 World War II.
1954-64 Nikita Khrushchev rules the USSR.
1957 Sputnik is launched.
1958 Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago.
1962 Cuban missile crisis.
1962 Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
1964-82 Leonid Brezhnev rules the USSR.
1984 Tengiz Abuladze’s film Repentence.
1985-91 Mikhail Gorbachev rules the USSR.
1991 The USSR dissolves.
1993 Yeltsin bombs the White House.
1994 Max Kantor’s painting Rebellion of Pygmies.
1995 Parliamentary elections are held.
1996 Boris Yeltsin wins election to another presidential term.

The Series

For more than a millenium, Russia has struggled with issues and ideas that have altered and shaped its culture and art. Russia’s ten centuries tell a tale of enduring ambivalence towards the West in all its manifestations: from ancient Byzantium, to autocratic Prussia, to revolutionary France, NATO, and contemporary America. From the West came religion, military prowess, radical ideas, architectural forms, art, and music. To the West Russia gave ethereal icons, beautiful art and churches, haunting music, brilliant prose and poetry, supreme athletes and dancers, and path-breaking cinema. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Communist alliance in 1991, Russia is again undergoing great changes, attempting to blend traditional ways with ideas from abroad.

Who are the Russian people? How have they expressed their character and inner conflicts in their art and culture? And, as Russia’s long-awaited democracy develops, how will the Russian people redefine themselves culturally, spiritually, and politically?

The Face of Russia takes viewers on a remarkable journey through history—to sacred monasteries and magnificent churches that have served as monuments to Christianity since late in the tenth century; to grand palaces of St. Petersburg and the great architectural masterpieces that dot the shoreline of the Baltic Sea; and to twentieth-century Russia where new forms of music and cinema are emerging. Along the way, the series reveals how the Russian people find inspiration in the evocative art of their past—and hope in the emerging images of their future.

Expansion over the centuries made Russia an empire filled with dozens of nationalities, each with its own distinctive culture. The Face of Russia explores the dominant strains of Russian culture, essentially a tale of three cities: Kiev, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. The series draws upon the resources of Russia’s major cultural institutions and details spectacular new discoveries and restorations in architecture and archaeology. The footage, combined with recordings from rare Russian scores and the Library of Congress, provides a remarkable look at both the historical and human aspects of Russian art and culture.

Companion book

The Face of Russia, by Dr. James H. Billington

A sweeping new analysis from the U.S. Librarian of Congress and preeminent expert on Russian culture. For bulk/institutional sales contact HarperCollins customer service at 1-800-242-7737


To order videos (single programs or boxed set of 3 programs) OR the companion book by Dr. Billington, call Video Finders at 1-800-343-4727, or write to: The Face of Russia, Video Finders, 425 East Colorado Blvd., Glendale, CA 91205.

Discussion Guide

For use in both formal and informal educational settings Available free of charge while supplies last from WETA, Educational Services & Outreach, 2775 South Quincy St., Arlington, VA 22206, or call 703-998-2827.

Air Dates

James Billington

The Crew

Behind the Scenes

Program Summaries





This section contains information for those who would like to learn more about Russia and Russian culture. The Glossary provides definitions of Russian words used in The Face of Russia television programs. The Bibliography and the Web links list additional sources of information, including maps and works of art. For teachers there are Lesson Plans for elementary through high school grades. And finally, for a bit of added interest, visitors can view the Cyrillic alphabet and find out about its origins.

Lesson Plans

Cyrillic Alphabet



Web Links

Media Index