Peter the Great officially proclaimed the existence of the Russian Empire in 1721. Under the Romanov dynasty and Peter I (Peter the Great), the Russian Empire became a world power. Ruling from 1682 to 1725, Peter defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War. He forced it to cede West Karelia and Ingria – the two regions lost by Russia in the Time of Troubles, Estland, and Livland. That secured Russia's access to the sea and sea trade. It was in Ingria that Peter founded a new capital, Saint Petersburg.
Catherine II (Catherine the Great) ruled from 1762 to 1796 and continued the efforts to establish Russia as one of the Great Powers of Europe.
In alliance with Prussia and Austria, Russia stood against Napoleon's France in the reign of Alexander I (1777 – 1825)(Alexander the Blessed).
The prevalence of serfdom and the conservative policies of Nicolas I (1796 – 1855) impeded the development of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century.
Nicholas's successor Alexander II (reign: 1855–1881) enacted significant reforms, including the abolition of serfdom in 1861. These "Great Reforms" spurred industrialization. However, many socio-economic conflicts were aggravated during Alexander III’s reign and under his son, Nicholas II. Those conflicts as well as World War I brought the Russian monarchy to its downfall.