Events Leading to Russia in WWII


Peter the Great Reign

1682 - 1725

Peter was 10 years old when he inherited the throne. He did not take control of the government until 1689. Peter was an absolute monarch who ruled with unlimited authority. His goals were to westernize and expand Russia. He also tried to seek warm water ports so Russia could increase trade, but he ultimately failed.

Russia Westernizes

1690 - 1790

Peter brought a group of technical experts, teachers, and soldiers to Russia to adopt Western ideas, technology, and culture. He persuaded Russians to change their way of life. Peter brought all Russian institutions under his control, including the church, in order to strengthen the military, expand borders, and centralize royal power. When Peter died, Catherine the Great took over an continued to modernize and expand Russia. Despite their efforts, Russia ended up being economically underdeveloped.

The Great Northern War

1700 - 1709

Russia was seeking warm water ports to trade in the winter. Peter began a war against Sweden. Early on Russia faced defeats, but Peter rebuilt his army and was able to win territory along the Baltic Sea.
The Battle of Poltava Video A major turning point for the Russians.

Berling's Exploration

1725 - 1729

Peter hired Danish navigator Vitus Bering to explore what became known as the Bering Strait between Serbia and Alaska.
The red line marks Berling's journey

Catherine the Great Reign

1762 - 1796

Catherine worked to embrace western ideas, culture, and politics. She was an absolute monarch who was also determined to expand Russian borders.

Partition Poland


Russia, Prussia, and Austria decided to divide up Poland instead of fighting each other. Catherine the Great took eastern Poland.

Gained warm-water port


Catherine the Great followed Peter's footsteps in expanding Russia. She waged the Russo-Turkish War against the Ottoman Empire gaining warm-water ports in the Black Sea.

The Crimean War

October 1853 - February 1856

Russia became the largest, most populous nation and was a great world power, but the tsars resisted needed reforms. During the Crimean War, Russia faced a major defeat when trying to takeover Ottoman lands. This proved to the Russian people that dramatic changes were necessary.
Crimean War Video

Revolution of 1905

January 1905 - June 1907

The revolution was sparked by peaceful protests. After, Tsar Nicholas was still unable to fix basic political, economic, and social problems because of his declining power. The revolutionist's goal was to overthrow the tsar regime. Nicholas ended the revolution when he announced reforms. He set up a Duma, elected legislatures, but it quickly dissolved.
The people were tired of the social structure which is represented by this picture. The Russians are carrying the most powerful, oppressive forces: the church, the czar, and the capitalist.

Russia in World War I

1914 - March 1918

At first, the war united Russians, but they ran out of resources a year later. Eventually, they pulled out of the war because a civil war began in Russia.

Tsar steps down

March 1917

The monarch collapsed due to disasters on the battlefield as well as food and fuel shortages. Politicians set up a provisional (temporary) government, and middle-class liberals created a constitution for the Russian Republic.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks Takeover

November 1917 - 1924

Armed factory workers joined sailors to attack the provisional government. Lenin's forces were able to easily defeat the government. They continued to seize land in other cities. When they took control of Russia they distributed land to peasants, gave workers control of factories and mines, and created a new flag. The Bolsheviks were renamed "The Communists". The New Flag

Russia's Civil War

June 1918 - 1921

A war between the Reds (communists) and the Whites (imperial officers and democrats). Due to the Reds strategic position in Russia, they were victorious.
Civil War Overview Animation

Soviet Union Forms


Lenin united the old Russian Empire. A democratic and socialist constitution was produced. The republics were said to be equal, but Russia and the Communists dominated.

Stalin in Power

1924 - 1953

When Lenin died their was a power struggle between Communists Stalin and Trotsky. Stalin was able to isolate Trotsky within the party. Trotsky fled the country and was later killed by one of Stalin's agent. When Stalin died, the Soviet Union was a military superpower and a world leader in industry. The Soviet people lived by brutal totalitarianism based on terror.

Trotsky (left) and Stalin (right)

Stalin's 1st Five-Year Plan

1928 - 1933

Stalin proposed this plan in order to build industry, improve transportation, and increase farm output. The government took control of all businesses and resources. This plan made Stalin more powerful, but feeding the large population of the Soviet Union remained a large problem. Russian Poverty

The Great Purge

1934 - 1938

Stalin feared that rivals parties could plot against him, so he and his secret police cracked down on Old Bolsheviks, army heroes, industrial managers, writes, and eventually, ordinary citizens. He would torture them or their families until they confessed to crimes. At least 4 million people were killed during this time. Stalin's power increased, but he killed many talented officials, writers, and industrialists.