Following the settlement of East Slavs in the Russian Plain in the middle of the 1st millennium BC, through the next thousand years, most of European Russia came into the sphere of Slavic cultural and political influence, and finally became a part of the Russian state.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.
In the times of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire the country's share in the world's land mass reached 1/6.
Most of these territories were first discovered by Russian explorers (if indigenous peoples of inhabited territories are not counted).
The Russian conquest of Central Asia was accompanied by the penetration of many explorers into the depths of Eurasia, including Mongolia, Jungaria and Tibet.
Notable explorers in this direction included Chokan Valikhanov, Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky, Pyotr Chikhachyov, Nikolay Przhevalsky, Grigory Grumm-Grzhimaylo, Bronislav Grombchevsky and Pyotr Kozlov.
As early as the 11th century Russians from the Novgorod Republic had occasionally penetrated into Siberia.
In the 14th century the Novgorodians started exploring the Kara Sea and the West-Siberian river Ob.
Russians mapped most of the Alaskan coasts and nearby islands, explored the inner areas of the peninsula, and went as far south as Fort Ross in California.
In 1803–06 the first Russian circumnavigation was led by Ivan Kruzenshtern and Yury Lisyansky, partly with the aim of establishing direct marine communications between Saint Petersburg and Russian America.
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.
Many expeditions of that era met a tragic fate, like the voyages of Eduard Toll, Georgy Brusilov, Vladimir Rusanov and Georgy Sedov, yet brought some valuable geographic results.