After The Distemper Time - in the beginning of XVII century, Russia survived through the reign of two self-styled Tsars and Polish-Swedish intervention, regained its statehood with a new monarchical dynasty of the Romanovs who came to power in 1613. In the reign of Alexey Mikhailovich Romanov (the second Tsar of the dynasty), in the middle of XVII century, a national liberation war under the command of Bogdan Khmelnitsky was waged in Ukraine against Polish dominion.
When Bogdan Khmelnitsky died in 1657 Cossack leaders started power fight that entailed forming of pro-Moscow, pro-Polish and even pro-Turkish groups. Conflicts lasted till 80th years of XVII century and testified against necessary conditions for creation of independent Ukraine.
Right-bank Ukraine and Byelorussia remained under power of Rzeczpospolita. Their nationalization by Russia was due to division of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria. Thus Western Ukraine (Galitsia), and even earlier Transcarpathian Russia were given to the Austrian empire.
XVIII - XIX centuries were the time of further expansion of Russian borders to the west and south. In the reign of Peter the Great Russia became an empire (1721). The Northern War resulted in nationalization of a part of Baltic territories including Lithuania that joined Russia after the 3rd division of Rzeczpospolita in the time of Ekaterina II (1795). Gradual release of Estonian and Latvian culture from German influence and Lithuanian from Polish, however, didn't reduce West-European traditions in this region supported by Catholicism and Protestantism.
Territorial development of Russia in XVII - XVIII centuries was accompanied by the natural increase of population. Whereas nationalization of western territories and Ukraine didn't result in migration of population, expansion of Russia in southern direction opened new opportunities for colonization. Russian-Turkish Wars of XVIII century gave Russia an outlet to the Black Sea. Northern Pre-Black Sea territories, including the Crimean Khanate, were as well gained by Russia.
In the Northern Caucasus the border line followed the Kuban and Terek Rivers, and in some places even protruded from them. An intensive development began in steppe southern regions, south-eastern and pre-Ural territories of the European part of Russia. The quickest development was carried out in Novorussia - the official name of Northern pre-Black Sea and pre-Azov Sea territories. The most of re-settlers here were Russians and Ukrainians, but among colonists there were also Germans, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians who were invited to Russia. Many German colonists settled in the Volga region. Zaporozhye cossacks were resettled in Kuban.Process of nationalization of different regions had a dissimilar character.
New territories, as a rule, were gained by force, but in some cases it is possible to speak about voluntary joining. As in the case of Pereyaslavskaya Rada. Voluntary annexation of East Georgia was nothing else than an optimum historical choice in conditions of a threat of enslavement from more dangerous than Russia, aggressive neighbours. There were cases when feudal lords and tribal leaders took Russian citizenship hoping to protect themselves under the power of mighty state or changing one political dependence for the other.
Russia grew expanding its power over huge regions, and by the end of XIX century Russia possessed territories from the mouths of the Danube and Visla in the west, reached the Pacific Ocean in the east, began in the Euroasian tundra in the north and had borders with Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and China in the south. According to the size and population Russia was the largest power of the world. The total area of the Russian Empire equaled 21,3 million square kilometers. 128 million people were registered in national census of 1897 (Finland and Polish provinces included), by the year of 1914 population of Russia increased up to 178 millions.
Birth of the Empire - Peter the Great
Epoch of Palace Revolution
Russia in the second half of XVIII century
Epoch of Alexander I Reign
Epoch of Great Reforms
Alexander III Government
Russia in XIX-XX centuries. First World War