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Proclaimed the Tsardom of Russia, by the end of the 16th century the state had colonized the easternmost territories of Europe by conquering the Khanate of Kazan in 1552 and the Khanate of Astrakhan in 1556, thus gaining full control of the Volga River valley.

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From the 11th century on, a group of Russians which settled the shores of the White Sea and became known as Pomors ("seaside-dwellers") began navigating in the freezing seas of the Arctic Ocean, gradually developing the first icebreaking ships known as kochi.

Russians were among those rare medieval Europeans who traveled deep into Central Asia or visited South Asia.

Prince Yaroslav II of Vladimir and his sons Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky and Andrey Yaroslavich traveled to Karakorum, the capital of the Mongolian Empire in the 1240s, By the beginning of the Age of Discovery, most of the former principalities of Kievan Rus were re-integrated by the Grand Duchy of Moscow.

By the early 18th century Russians under Vladimir Atlasov had colonised Kamchatka.

Peter the Great, who turned the country into the Russian Empire in 1721, ordered the first instrumental mapping of Russia, and conceived the Great Northern Expedition, which was carried out after the Emperor's death with Vitus Bering as the leader and main organizer.

The Academic Squad of the expedition, composed of the early members of the young Russian Academy of Sciences such as Gerhard Friedrich Müller, Johann Georg Gmelin and Stepan Krasheninnikov, inaugurated the first ethnographic, historic, and scientific research into Siberia and Kamchatka.

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