The Russian Empire's expansion towards the east and south meant conquering lots of local tribes along the way (Buryats, Yakuts, etc.). These peoples unwillingly became ethnic minorities in Russia. Which group put up the best fight defending its territory from Russian incursion, in terms of the time or cost taken to subjugate it?

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    Since the Afghans forced them to give up trying, I'd say that's the answer. Apr 19, 2017 at 20:57
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    Normally I'd consider a question like this subjective, but the OP stated parameters of "time and cost" that make this question answerable.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 20, 2017 at 14:42
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    Are you referring to the actual Russian Empire, or are you including the USSR?
    – justCal
    Apr 20, 2017 at 23:24
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    @TomAu This question is subjective since time and cost are not directly equatable. For example, if territory A is conquered at a cost of 100,000 men in 1 year and territory B is conquered at a cost of 10,000 men in 10 years, which territory put up the most resistance? Also, the question seems to assume that the only factor that determines the difficulty of conquering a land is the human element. One reason that some territories are difficult to conquer (e.g. Afghanistan) is a geographic one. The terrain makes large scale logistics difficult and makes it easy to defend. Apr 21, 2017 at 6:33
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    Also its hard to judge as the Russians were not uniform in their effectiveness. For example: how much of difficulties invading Finland were due to effective Finnish resistance and how much was down to ineffective post - purge leadership in the red army. Repeat this question for each Asian ethnic group. Apr 23, 2017 at 12:10

4 Answers 4


The peoples that put the best fight in resisting Russian invasion weren't those that ended included in the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, but those that could keep their feet and effectively resisted despite Russia trying a lot.

Some neighbours had wars with Russia but never got conquered in spite of losing some territory, like Persia and China, or Finland in 1940. Others even managed to be powerful enough that Russia didn't actually try to invade them, like Japan - although this could have been different if World War II had lasted for a few weeks more.

However, I'd say that taking in account the Russian effort, the longest and most effective resistance was that of the Turks. The Ottoman Empire and the Turk straits had been a goal of Russia since at least Catherine II, and despite a lot of wars, from the conquest of Crimea to the aftermath of World War I, Russia hasn't managed to this day to reach those goals.

  • Well, we have the inexorable strengthening of Russia and weakening of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries.
    – Spencer
    Oct 31, 2021 at 19:18

Apparently there is no consensus among scholars on this one, and several Pacific coast cultures substantially resisted Russian encroachment.

Beginning in 1640, the warlike Koriaks of Siberia's northeast allied with the neighboring Chukchi in the most successful attempt of any natives to oppose the Russians. [Lincoln, The Conquest of a Continent, pp. 54]

Stiffest of all was the resistance offered by the Amur River peoples. [Mote, Siberia: Worlds Apart, pp. 43]

... The Kolosh [Tlingits], like the Chukchi of Chukotka, were never fully subjugated by the Russians. [Gibson, Feeding the Russian Fur Trade, pp. 32]

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    Not a word for China and Japan? :-) Jul 29, 2017 at 5:59
  • Yeah, somehow they didn't manage to take Shandong. The Qing were by far the most difficult opponent Aug 3, 2017 at 6:25

Kazan was taken with severe warfare. Crimea also was taken with sever hardships. Then we also have North Caucasus.


A good question. I would answer that Finland did so most fiercely and determinedly. The Finnish fought the Russians multiple times over the course of history, and would warrant a good example. Finland's presence/occupation during The Great Northern War deserves a honorable mention.

In 1918, a Bolshevik-backed uprising threw Finland into civil war, resulting in a humiliating defeat for the communists by the Whites (the term for Anti-communist military forces during the Russian Civil War. To be fair though, not all of it was a "heroic defense against Russian imperialism"- in the city of Vyborg, 360-420 men were slaughtered, motivated simply because they were Russian (Stalin, in turn, would later commit genocide against the Ingrian Finns himself). Despite that, the Finns would still qualify as a people who fit this question very well.

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